Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Warmer And Drier In The Alps But Getting Colder And Snowier Again

Skiinfo reports that it’s been milder in the Alps since the weekend with little new snowfall, however a new cold front is due to move in from tomorrow with 15-30cm (6-12 inches) forecast to fall.
In France it has generally been a good winter to date with three major snowfall periods to date in mid-December right in time for the start of the season, then in early January and during the school holidays in mid-February with frequent snowfalls across the country. "Winter 2009-2010 is positioning itself as one of snowiest in the last thirty years. The snowfalls have been substantial and regular during this winter", said Virginie Bernat of Skiinfo France. "Most French resorts are still open, the ski season is not over!". During the past week La Plagne and Chamonix reported the most new snow with 15-16cm (6 inches) each, La Clusaz had 8cm (3.5 inches). Chamonix Mont-Blanc has the most snow lying with 400cm (13.3 feet), La Grave la Meije is second with 300cm (10 feet), La Rosière 1850 has 285cm (9.5 feet), Alpe d'Huez 275cm (9.2 feet) and Montgenèvre 240cm (8 feet).
It’s been a dry week in Italy where the snowfall forecast for last weekend in the North of Italy failed to arrive. Arabba and the Marmolada glacier has the country’s deepest snow still with 540cm (18 feet) on upper slopes – they must be using a very long stick to measure it. The Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale, which will most likely stay open for several more months, has four metres (13.3 feet) and Sella Nevea on the Slovenian border 320cm (10.6 feet).
In Switzerland it may be warmer now but it’s been a cold winter with temperatures one degree below a long-term average in the Central Plateau and biggest snowfalls in the Southern Alps. Top snow depths this week are Engelberg with 270cm (nine feet), Lötschental with 256cm (8.5 feet) and Saas Fee with 222 cm (7.3 feet). There were some small snowfalls in Switzerland in the last seven days with Gstaad reporting 10cm (four inches) of new snow in a week.
The biggest snowfalls in Austria were reported from the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser. Ski resorts there – like Brixen or Going – typically received 30cm (a foot) in seven days. Brixental has a metre of snow on upper slopes and half a metre in the valley. The ski resorts with the top snow depths are still the glaciers: Mölltaler Gletscher 380cm (12.7 feet), Hintertuxer Gletscher 305cm (10.2 feet), Dachstein-Gletscher 290cm (9.7 feet).
In Germany a blanket of snow had covered some parts of the country for a period of more than two months this winter. For the ski resorts it has been a good season, though and it’s not over yet. The Zugspitze still reports up to 250cm (8.3 feet) of snow on its slopes and 110cm (3.7 feet) in Garmisch. The resort got 21cm (8.5 inches) of new snow in the last seven days. Another leading ski area, Oberstdorf - Nebelhorn has a snow depth of 180cm (6 feet).
In Spain, with Easter Holidays just round the corner ski resorts are preparing themselves for the last big days of the season. Most of them are going to close after Easter, only a few will remain open after April 18th (probably Sierra Nevada and Masella). Baqueira Beret has up to 175cm (six feet) of snow and 110km of piste open while Formigal has 240cm (8 feet) and 111 km of piste to enjoy.
It’s been much warmer in northern Europe. In Scotland this has meant some rain and there have also been gale force winds which closed Cairngorm and Glencoe earlier this week. Snow has thawed but all five centres are still open with two-three feet (60-90cm) of snow on upper slopes at most. The Scottish school Easter holidays start this weekend.
Despite warm weather across virtually all of Sweden there has been some new snow in both Ramundberget (15cm/6 inches) and Åre 12cm (4 inches) during the last week. Skiing conditions are looking great for the upcoming Easter holidays with 18 Swedish ski resorts reporting a snow depth of 85cm (three feet) or more. Riksgränsen has the moist at the moment with 148cm (five feet).
Norway has seen more snow with three powder alarms issued in the past few days for snowfalls of 20cm (eight inches) or more in 24 hours. Malselv reported 25cm (10 inches) on Monday, Voss had 20cm on Saturday.
After the return to cold weather a week ago in Eastern Europe, the temperatures have yoyo-ed back to "very mild" and the snow has melted away to reveal bare patches on lower slopes at Bulgaria’s resorts and even higher slopes are getting slushy too.
Across the Atlantic cities on the East Coast of North America saw snowfall once again at the start of the week but warmer weather meant not much of this translated in to snow on the slopes. However conditions are supposed to be turning colder this weekend and larger resorts like Sunday River in Maine have around 120 slopes still open. In the West there’s been fresh snow in Wyoming overnight with Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole both reporting 125-18cm (6-7 inches) of fresh powder. Vancouver’s Olympic training venue of Mt Washington in Western Canada reports the deepest snow in the world at the moment with 584cm (19.5 feet).