Thursday, April 29, 2010

2009-10 Season, For Some Resorts Their Longest Ever, Continues to Wind Down

Skiinfo reports that hundreds more ski areas around the world closed their lifts for the final time for winter 2009-10 last weekend. However more than 100 resorts remain open in over a dozen European, North American and Asian countries and many have plans for big celebrations this weekend to mark the start of May.
Eight ski areas are still open in France. Bonneval sur Arc, La Grave la Meije and Val d'Isère will close after this weekend, but Argentière, Chamonix Mont-Blanc, Orelle, Tignes and Europe’s highest ski resort, Val Thorens, will stay open another week to the 9th. The snow remains very good for this time of year. Marinoël Turc, manager of the Tourist office of Val Thorens, commented on the snow this season thus, "Skiers could fully enjoy the pleasures of skiing early in the season because the snow fell in mid-November, in both a good quantity and of a good quality, so we opened the ski resort a week ahead of schedule, on November 14th. Today, we still have winter-like conditions and you can still enjoy the snow. Then at the end of the season the snow is still present in Val Thorens". Chamonix Mont-Blanc still has the greatest snow depth in France on its upper slopes with 355cm (12 feet) lying. The other areas have between 1.6 and 2 metres (5.3 and 6.6 feet). There’ll be no ski areas open in France for about five weeks after May 9th, after which Tignes, Les 2 Alpes and Val d’Isere will offer summer skiing and boarding from mid-June.
In Italy five ski resorts are still open. Livigno and Abetone will close after this weekend on 2nd May, Cervinia and Gressoney will stay open until 9th May. The Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale plans to stay open until 26th June however and has some of the deepest snow in the country with a 4.2m (14 foot) base.
Skiing in Austria is now largely concentrated on the glaciers. There’s 210cm (7 feet) of snow reported on the upper slopes at the Pitztal glacier which is open to mid-May, while the Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun has 136cm (4.5 feet) left. A spokesperson from the tourism association of Tiroler Oberland comments, "There’s still good snow conditions on the Kaunertal glacier while spring has come to the valley". The Mölltal Glacier will stay open to May 16th, at the moment there are six lifts in operation there and 45km of slopes skiable. The glacier reports a snow depth of 370cm (12.3 feet), the biggest in Austria. St. Anton and Lech Zürs am Arlberg have closed last weekend. Ischgl, Austria’s capital of event tourism in the Alps, will celebrate its season finale together with the Swiss resort of Samnaun on Saturday when Alicia Keys will perform at the famous "Top of the Mountain Concert" with 20,000 fans expected to attend.
In Germany the Nebelhorn ski area is open until Sunday with 5km (three miles) of slopes still skiable with up to 170cm (6 feet) of snow. The local mountain railways reports that... "On the higher slopes that are open skiing conditions are still very good". On the Zugspitze glacier with 275cm (8 feet) of snow lying on the glacier, the ski resort near Garmisch will celebrate the end of its winter season on Saturday and Sunday with live music.
In Switzerland Zermatt and Saas Fee both reported 5 cm (two inches) of fresh snow yesterday. Saas Fee has 261cm (8.6 feet) of snow on the glacier with 10 lifts still in operation. Just as Gstaad and Andermatt, the ski resort will remain open until this Sunday, May 2nd. The glacier near Zermatt offers skiing all year round and Engelberg – with 290cm (9.7 feet) of snow on the mountain – won’t end its winter season before May 24th.
In Northern Europe there are still slopes open in Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and easy-to-reach Iceland.
Norway still has 12 ski resorts open, but seven of them will be closing up this weekend. Snow is expected in many parts of Norway this weekend, so there are good prospects for a memorable season-ending. Aksel Lund Svindal and the rest of the Norwegian World Cup team are currently skiing in Hemsedal after participating in the last World Cup race of the season. Hemsedal is throwing their somewhat legendary "end of season" party on Saturday 1st May and over 6,000 ski enthusiasts are expected, as that many took part in last year's celebration. It has the most slopes open with 42 runs. Voss received a foot of new snow in the past week and has the country’s greatest snow depth with a two metre (6.7 foot) base.
Sweden has 12 ski resorts open through to the 2nd of May and Björkliden will be open another week until 9th May and Riksgränsen right through to 27th June with its famous midnight-sun skiing coming up in May. The snow coverage is generally still good with Spring skiing at most resorts (except for Riksgränsen and Björkliden) which added another 5cm (two inches) of fresh snow yesterday. The season ending is celebrated with a Hot Dog Challenge in Scandinavia’s most popular resort, Åre. Here there will be live music at the top station in Ramundberget and a lot of other events/competitions on the resorts. In Åre, the summer season kicks in as Åre Bike Park opens some trails this weekend.
At Cairngorm in Scotland you can still ski top to bottom although lower runs are getting narrow and thin in places. The centre is currently operating the Ptarmigan, Ciste, Cas, M1, and West Wall lifts along with the train. The slopes will be open daily to 3rd May and then every weekend in May, conditions permitting .
The season is over in most of the rest of Europe but the continent’s most southerly resort, Sierra Nevada in Spain remains open this weekend with 20-400cm (.7-13.3 feet) off snow and 32km of slopes open. In the Pyrenees Masella is also open for a last weekend blast with 30-80 cm (1-3 feet) of snow and 22 km of runs to enjoy.
Several dozen ski areas remain open across North America and some have announced that 2010-11 will be their longest winter season ever. In Colorado (US) Echo Mountain will close for the season after this weekend, as will Loveland, one of the world’s highest resorts. Echo reported 17cm (7 inches) of new snow last weekend. In Utah, Snowbird has passed its 1250cm (500 inches) of snowfall target for the third consecutive year. A recent storm brought another 15cm (6 inches) to the slopes. Snowbird is now the only ski area in Utah still open for skiing and snowboarding and plans to remain open to late May. In California Squaw Valley (picture attached) and Mammoth remain open, as does Mountain High in the south of the state which now plans to remain open through to May 2nd making this the longest season in its history. The resort will have been open a total of 186 days beating out the winter of 2004/05 by five days. "Yup, it’s been a long winter. Once we hit May, we’ll have operated in eight different months. Not many resorts in the world can say that", said John McColly, Director of Marketing. The majority of Mountain High’s West Resort is still open with good coverage, and there is a chance for even more snow next Tuesday and Wednesday. Up to four lifts are currently in operation accessing 28 trails with terrain for all levels and abilities.
In Canada Lake Louise and Sunshine in Alberta and Whistler in British Columbia are still open.
Across the Pacific, Niseko remains open until May 5th and reports an amazing season with January and February providing the waist deep powder the resort is renowned for but surprisingly December and March provided some of the best skiing conditions of the season. Statistics show the famous Japanese resort had the snowiest March since 2005 and the coldest March since 1999 with a total accumulation of over 16 metres of snowfall for the season. There’s still three metres (10 feet) of snow at the top of the resort and a metre at the base of the lifts making for some great spring skiing conditions.