Skiinfo reports that over the past week the big snow news has been in the Western US where resorts in California have reported an average of almost a foot (30cm) of snow per day for the past week. Squaw Valley (picture attached) says it received more than six feet (1.9m) in seven days, and expects more at the weekend. The snow was greatly needed to boost base levels, which are now up around 1.5m (five feet) and represented nearly a fifth of the usual annual snowfall at the resort.
In Europe the best news of the past week has been a dramatic lowering in temperatures. This has led to double-digit below-zero temperatures at higher elevations, but more importantly means lower slopes are seeing subzero temperatures enabling the snowmaking guns to work even if mother nature isn’t providing enough of the natural stuff in some places.
It has been very cold since Sunday in France, just in time for the big increase in skier numbers expected at the weekend. Nearly all of the major resorts are now open, more than 40 in total and all are expected to open this weekend. Overall there has been little fresh snow in France in the past week with about 10cm (four inches) falling on the Pyrenees and both the north and the Southern Alps. A little more snowfall is expected this Friday. La Clusaz currently reports the deepest snow in the country with 140cm (4.6 feet). Cauterets, La Plagne and Alpe d'Huez all have at least a metre. World Snowboard Day returns for its 4th edition this Sunday, December 20th. The idea is to discover for free the joys of snowboarding and the snowboard culture.
Austria has had some new snow with lower temperatures helping to bring the freezing point further down the slopes. The glaciers still have the greatest snow depths was Molltal leading the way with a 230cm (7.6 foot) base. Kaunertal is not far behind with 1.9m (6.3 feet). The latest fresh snow in the country of 10-20cm (4-8 inches) has been reported at Eben, Zauchensee and Flachau. Most Austrian resorts that are not yet open will open this weekend: "We’ve had fresh snow but a little less than expected, at the moment there’s 35cm (14 inches) on upper slopes", said Anna-Christina Moser of Alpbacher Bergbahnen, "Snow conditions are good now not only because of the latest snowfalls but particularly because of the cold temperatures, allowing our 85 snow guns to produce snow 24 hours a day". Alpbach opens this Friday December 18th and will have their longest slope in operation and all the lifts at the Wiedersbergerhorn. Stuhleck Semmering and Kleinwalsertal celebrated their winter openings last weekend. Sandra Janser of Kleinwalsertal Tourismus said, "Last weekend we officially started the winter season and the long awaited snowfall arrived right on time. The slopes are in good condition now and we’ll open more lifts as soon as the snow will allow it". Currently Fellhorn/ Kanzelwand has eight lifts in operation, Ifen and Waldmendinger Horn are likely to join next weekend.
Parts of Switzerland have received up to 55cm (nearly two feet) of snow in the past week. Laax, which is reporting the second deepest snow base in the country at present with 168 cm (5.6 feet) was one of the major beneficiaries with 51cm (20 inches), Disentis got the 55cm. Arosa and Kanderstag added 30cm (a foot) each.
Italy continues to report some of the healthiest snowfalls in Europe, with another 70cm (2.3 feet) in Val Gardena in the Dolomites, and 60cm (two feet) for Limone Piemonte in the west of the country. This week the snow started to cover central Italy (Lazio e Abruzzo) and for next two days the forecast are for snowfall down to altitudes around 400-500m in these areas.
Arabba Marmolada has the greatest snow depth in the country, and in Europe at present with 312 cm (10.5 feet), the Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale has 300cm (10 feet) and Bormio 190cm (6.3 feet). The Sky Mountaineering World Cup will be staged this weekend (18 -20 December) in Pila and the Aosta Valley. The race makes ski mountaineering manageable in small stages and participation is limited to athletes with ski mountaineering licences from official bodies in Italy or any other country.
Cold weather has arrived in the Pyrenees too and last Monday has snowed in Madrid and today snow is expected again all over Spain. Aramon's Javalambre (opening Friday December 18) and Valdelinares ski resorts received the greatest snowfall. At the moment Baqueira Beret, with a 30-60cm (1-2 foot) base has the most terrain open with73km of runs, whilst Astun, has the most snow with an 85cm (nearly 3 foot) base on upper slopes. Most of the other resorts have similar bases to Baqueira but more limited terrain. Outside the Pyrenees in Spain only Sierra Nevada with 20-40cm (8-16 inches) and 10km of runs available is open for skiers. Aramon, which runs several leading Spanish ski areas, has announced a big event for this winter called "Pirineos Sur Winter". The First Edition of the Festival will take place in Formigal from February 12 until March 13 and feature a mix of local and International artists like Brazilian Carlinhos Brown on the programme.
It’s a similar snow picture in Andorra where snow depths are shallow and the snow hard packed, but again the current weather conditions should mean an improvement by the weekend.
In Eastern Europe, Bansko in Bulgaria had its annual celebrity opening last weekend with its biggest swathe of former ski stars yet in attendance including Pirmin Zurbriggen, Mark Girardelli, Paul Accola and Patrick Ortlieb. It reported 50cm of much needed snow arriving just in time for opening day and Bulgaria’s other leading resort, Borovets, has received fresh snow too and aims to open shortly.
In Northern Europe Germany has been enjoying its first good snowfalls of the winter. In many parts of the country it’s snowing again today and weather forecasters are predicting more over the next few days with temperatures below zero in most areas. The Central German Uplands currently have up to 25cm (10 inches) of snow. Snow making systems in Winterberg have delivered 20cm (8 inches) of snow and Wintersportzentrum Sellinghausen issued a powder alarm with 20cm of new snow. In the Schwarzwald, where the snow is falling, there is 20cm of snow on the Feldberg at the moment, in the Allgäu there’s up to 50cm (20 inches) of snow.
Further north in to Scandinavia resorts in Norway and Sweden have been reporting falls of 15-30cm (6-12 inches) through the last week. In Norway Voss was one of the big winners with 15cm (6 inches) of new snow. As with the alps it has also become very cold making good conditions for further snowmaking.
Across the North Sea to Scotland, Cairngorm above Aviemore remains open with a dusting of fresh snow, and more snow forecat over the next few days which could be good news for its neighbouring Eastern Highlands ski areas of Glenshee and The Lecht which have not been open to open so far.
As reported above the biggest snowfalls of the past seven days have been in the Western US states, but further north the snow is still falling with Whistler (Canada) reporting another 10cm (four inches) overnight. The picture has further improved on the East Coast too, especially in Quebec with resorts like Mont ste Anne and Stoneham reporting up to 50cm (20 inches) of fresh snow and new snow and lower temperatures in New England to the south too, where resorts like Attitash in New Hampshire, Stratton in Vermont and Sunday river in Maine have reports 12-18 cm (5-7 inches).