Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snow Reaches 4 Metres Deep In The Alps

Skiinfo reports that Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is currently reporting the deepest snow in Europe with a four metre (13.35 feet) accumulation. The new snow last week, particularly on Friday, saw the French mountains receive healthy increases to their snow depths. About 41 Powder Alarms were triggered on Skiinfo France with over 80cm (2.65 feet) fell in Formiguères (picture attached), 60cm (two feet) in Puy St Vincent and 50cm (20 inches) in Alpe d’Huez. Carmen Hernandez, Communications Manager at Formiguères, commented, "with the exceptional snowfall on Friday we now have very good snow cover. At the moment, you can ski on a fresh snow with optimum conditions". Further snowfalls are expected for the end of the week, particularly on Thursday with around 30cm (a foot) more snow expected at Tignes and Val d'Isere with Argentière and La Clusaz expecting 25cm (10 inches) more. The Grand Massif area is also doing well with 270cm (nine feet) of snow lying. Pierre Claessen, Manager of Flaine Tourist Office said, "This year, we received the most important snowfalls at Christmas. The snow is really good but people have to be careful when free riding as conditions off piste are very dangerous at the moment". The avalanche risk is especially high (4/5) at Abriès, Alpe du Grand-Serre, Auron, Ax les Thermes, Isola 2000, Les 7Laux and Serre Chevalier.
Switzerland has seen good snow falls in the past week with 40cm (16 inches) of new snow at Gstaad – Glacier 3000, which now boasts some of the deepest snow in the country with 181cm (six feet) of snow on upper slopes and 45cm (18 inches) in the valley. The top snow depths in Switzerland however is at Andermatt-Gotthard with 220cm (over 7 feet). Saas Fee has 210 cm (7 feet) and St. Moritz just a little less with two metres (6.65 feet), it received 45cm (18 inches) more snow in the past seven days.
In Austria, Sölden had 37cm (15 inches) of new snow in the last week (it now has a 185cm/6.2 foot base)and Heiligenblut 35cm. The Mölltal G0acier still has the most snow in the country (3.1m/10.3 feet) with the Hintertux Glacier on 205cm (just under 7 feet).
Germany received a lot of new snow with several powder alarms in Bavaria yesterday. This came at the end of a week in which more than 80 German resorts reported 10-45cm (4-15 inches) of new snow. The Zugspitzplatt has the deepest snow depth with 180cm (six feet) Oberstdorf has a little less with 170 cm (5.7 feet).
Northern Italy has reported some of the biggest snowfalls in the past 24 hours with Courmayeur and Val Senales both reporting 40cm of new snow, La Thuile 30cm (a foot). These top off a week of heavy snow in the north of the country which has seen some of the biggest snow accumulations in Europe of the past seven days, with Limone Piemonte reporting 195cm (6.5 feet) and Arabba Marmolada 120 cm (four feet). The country also has some of the world’s greatest snow depths – the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale reporting 430cm (14.3 feet) and Bormio 3m (10 feet). Bormio will be staging a special non-competitive Peak to Creek event ( on January 16th at 10am with a 10km, 1800 vertical metre descent from Cima Bianca 3012m down to Bormio 1215m itself.
It’s been good news in the Pyrenees in the past week too with plenty of new snow boosting the previously rather average conditions in Andorra and helping Spain’s resorts open more runs.
In Eastern Europe conditions remain largely good in northern countries but less so in the south with some ski areas in Bulgaria such as Borovets and Pamporovo struggling with just a few centimeters of snow and warm temperatures. Bansko is not suffering as badly as it had built up a bigger snow base in December and most runs are open there.
In Northern Europe temperatures have been low across Scandinavia although there’s been less fresh snow than the previous week. In Sweden Hemavan broke the season record with - 40.8 C on Saturday night. More snow is expected across the region at the weekend.
One unusual twist on the cold weather that is affecting much of the northern hemisphere is the opening of a new 2km long ski run opened on January 9th in the southern Netherlands in northern Europe. The temporary trail winds down around the 90m high Wilhelmina mountain.
The ‘mountain' - which is in fact a spoil heap from a former mine - is already home to the world's largest year round indoor snow centre, Snow World Landgraaf, with its 550m slope. In a remarkable twist the centre allowed its indoor six-seater chairlift to be used by skiers and other snowsports fans to reach the top of Wilhelmina indoors, exiting the building through an emergency exit. Hot chocolate with whipped cream and mulled wine were served up to visitors.
It is not clear how long the snow and thus the ski run will last, but temperatures have remained around freezing, dropping to minus 5 Celcius at night, the same as the indoor temperature at SnowWorld.
Conditions are still generally good across North America. All the resorts in Tahoe as well as Mammoth in California are open and reporting fresh powder and a base of 6 to 9 feet (1.8-2.7m) in Mammoth, 3 to 6 feet (90cm -1.8m) in Squaw Valley and 2 to 3 feet (60-90cm) in Heavenly. It has been a dry winter in California to date with no threat of avalanches. At Vail Rob Katz, Chief Executive Officer commented on the start of the season, "We are pleased with our early season, particularly given the current state of the economy and since snowfall came late to our Colorado resorts this year. Below average snowfall at our Colorado resorts leading up to the holiday season limited the amount of terrain open, which negatively impacted skier visits, including pass visits, during the early season and the beginning of the holiday season. Fortunately, recent winter storms brought significant snowfall to our resorts, which allowed us to open the vast majority of our lift serviced terrain at our five resorts. For example, Vail Mountain on December 18, 2009, had only 19 of its lifts and 28% of its terrain open, whereas Vail Mountain now has 30 lifts open and 95% of its terrain open, including all of the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin".
Whistler in Canada has reported more fresh snow and the pattern has been repeated at many other Western Canadian resorts in resorts in Alberta and British Columbia. Whistler has a 2.35m (7.5 foot) base on the upper mountain and has received around 3cm (a foot) of new snow in the past few days. However further south Olympic venue Cypress Mountain was forced to close on Monday due to heavy rain – not a great sign with the Games three weeks away and the half pipe needing to be maintained in good shape. On the East Coast the weather has quietened down after the New Year storms with limited fresh snow in the past week. But most areas now have healthy bases and the weather has been cold enough for more snow making, so getting chance to clear access roads and prepare the pistes properly is seen as a good thing by most resorts.