Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cold Temperatures And Heavy Snow For Most Ski Areas

Skiinfo reports that the Alps, Scandinavia, Scotland and on both Eastern and Western sides of North America have again all reported heavy snow in the past seven days over New Year, building on last week’s accumulations. Colder weather in the Alps has meant snow at lower elevations which had previously reported rain. Even Mexico report temperatures dropping to -2C, it’s a shame they only have an artificial surface ski slope.
Skiinfo has released more than 100 Powder Alarms in the past few days to subscribers for resorts reporting at least 20cm (8 inches) off new snow in 24 hours. The heavy snow has continued to mean the avalanche risk is high off the marked piste and there have sadly been more widely-reported avalanche deaths in the past week in several countries.
The last two days Skiinfo has issued another dozen powder alarms in Switzerland with the biggest snowfalls in Diemtigtal - Wiriehorn (50cm in 48 hours) and Gstaad - Château-d'Oex (40cm on Tuesday). Top snow depths in Switzerland are at Lötschental 235cm (7.5 feet), Andermatt-Gotthard 220cm (7.3 feet) and Les Marécottes - Salvan 220cm (7.3 feet) with Leukerbad and Celerina both saying 200cm (6.3 feet). The most snowfalls in the last 7 days has been at Vercorin, which has reported the biggest falls in Europe in fact, with 180cm (six feet) and Evolène 170cm (5.7 feet).
Italy continues to report the deepest snow depths in the world with the Marmolada glacier at Arabba and the Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale and Pragelato on 3.8m (12.7 feet) andd 4.1m (13.7 feet) respectively. Aranbba has reported another 50cm (20 inches) of new snow in the poast week as has fellow Dolomites ski area, Cortina. However Courmayeur in the West has reported the largest snowfall in the country for the paast week with 60cm (two feet) off new cover.
Snow depths are also building in France with Flaine now at 2.7m (9 feet) on upprer slopes, La Clusaz on 2.5m (8.3 feet) and Orcieres on 2.1m (7 feet). The French Alps have also seen some of the heaviest falls of the past week with St Gervais reporting accumulations of 90cm (three feet) and the Paradiski region of La Plagne, Les Arcs and Peisey 70cm (2.3 feet). Most other areasd have reported at least a foot of new snow. On Monday 35cm (14 inches) fell at Serre-Eyraud and 30cm (a foot) at Pra Loup in the Southern Alps as well as atSainte-Foy in the Northern Alps. As a result of the new snow the snowdepth has already almost doubled since the end of 2009 at many French resorts.
In Austria, Kitzbühel issued a powder alarm on Saturday. Christoph Hirnschall of Bergbahn AG Kitzbühel said: "The 20cm of new snow on Saturday helped the winter’s atmosphere very much as they added a layer of natural snow to the already well-prepared slopes". Kitzbühel had up to 45cm of artificial snow on their mountain slopes before. Now the snow depths reach 65cm (2.2 feet) on upper slopes and 30cm (a foot) on lower slopes with 51 lifts in operation.
Top snow depths in Austria are still on the Mölltaler, Pitztal and Hintertux glaciers which all have base depths over two metres (6.7 feet). Snowfallk is continuing with Bad Kleinkirchheim reporting 10cm (four inches) of new snow today.
Conditions have improved dramatically in Spain and the Pyrenees after warmer weather brought rain and storm conditions to resorts around Christmas week. "The snow in Formigal has been falling all week and there are fantastic depths of up to 130cm and beautiful powder snow", said Formigal’s Catherine Dolan, "The predictions are for yet more snow to fall and at heights as low as 400m". The resort (picture attached) currently has some of the deepest snow in Spain at 130cm (4.3m) on upper slopes and the biggest single area open with 122km of slopes. However big falls at Boi Taull make it the first Spanish resort to reach a snowpack depth of two metres (6.7 feet). Sierra Nevada is reporting 20-150cm (.6-5 feet) of powder and 39km of runs, however due to extreme weather conditions in recent days upper station lifts remain closed until storm damage is repaired.
Andorra has benefitted from some of the new snow although depths remain quite modest on lower slopes. But Pal/Arinsal added another foot (30cm) taking its base up towards a metre (3.3 feet).
In Scandinavia more heavy snow over New Year casued two avalanches to set off in the East and West Ravines at the region’s most popular resort, Åre in Sweden, on Saturday. These are the two most popular off piste runs in Åre. Three people were caught but luckily there were no serious injuries – just a dislocated shoulder. The avalanche warning during the day was set to 3 on the 5 grade scale. Otherwise it´s is really cold in Sweden right now, in common with most of the world’s more northerly latitudes. The resort of Idre reported temps as low as -35C and the forecasts are for even colder temperatures in the mountains today and on Thursday. In the south off Sweden more snow is expected again today with up to 20cm (8 inches) and the mountains can expect still more snow at the end of the week.
Norway also has lots of fresh snow. Indeede the small area of Stordal has reported 70cm (2.3 feet) of new snow in the past week – the most in the country, although many other areas have repoprted 30—60cm (1-2 feet).
Scotland continues its best start to the winter in 14 years with CairnGorm Mountain’s thigh-deep powder offering "better skiing than Utah!" according to ski patroller Colin Matthew. Although The Lecht’s powder is "only" knee-deep, Lecht Managing Director, Pieter du Pon said "because the temperature’s not risen above freezing since before Christmas, it’s really staying nice and fluffy". The other ski areas too have the best early-season snow for a decade, and Glenshee, which has welcomed over 12,000 skiers and boarders since Christmas Eve, now has all three valleys and four mountains open. Across on the west side of Scotland, good early snow is relatively unusual, but both Glencoe Mountain and Nevis Range report an excellent start to the season, with good snow on the upper parts of their mountains.
Belgium’s biggest Alpine resort Baraque de Fraiture in the province of Luxembourg still has all slopes open. Last weekend 11 nordic ski resorts in the country could re-open again after 10cm (4 inches) of fresh snow. The on going cold temperatures have kept snow conditions in the Ardennes Forests good and 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) of new snow is expected for next weekend.
In Eastern Europe the more northerly ski countriews like the Czech and Slovak republics and Poland have seen the best conditions, with very low temperatures and fresh snow. Vratna in the Slovak Republic has had the biggest accumulations of 40cm (16 inbches) in the past week. Conditions are still rather marginal in Bulgaria however with little new snow reported and best base depths of 40—70cm (16-28 inches) at the top of the slopes, only 10cm (4 inches) at the bottom.
In North America the storm on the East Coast has conttinued to dump large quantities of snow creating great conditions in the region famous for its snowmaking. Up to 50cm (20 inches) more snow has fallen with the biggest resort – Killington in Vermont – notting it’s base has passed a mnatre (3.3 feet) on upper runs and has great off-piste skiing. Conditions are also continuing to improve in modt western US resorts. Snow Blast. A series of Rocky Mountain storms slammed into the Tetons this weekend dropping 30 inches (75cm) of new snow since Friday at Jackdon Hole in wyoming, allowing for even more acreage to open across the mountain. Skiers and riders took full advantage of the largest continuous vertical drop in the country via newly opened terrain including Cheyenne Bowl, Bernie’s Bowl and Riverton Bowl. "The snowfall is continuing and soft snow and deep tracks are the norm in Jackson this week, but beyond the powder skiing, there is reportred to be a lot of great cruising with virtually all the groomed runs open, posting outstanding conditions", said the resort’s Zahan Billimoria.
It’s been a similar picture to the north where resorts in Alberta and British Columbia (Canada) have some of the best snowbases in the world following nearly two months of mostly great conditions. Most are reporting 1.5-2.4m (5-9 feet) bases and several inches of fresh snow in recent days. Conditions are also continuing to improve on the East Coast with resorts in Quebec also reporting fresh snow.