Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More Fresh Snow as Ski Season Wind Down Continues

Skiinfo reports that the northern hemisphere’s ski season is continuing to wind down, with more areas closing last or next weekend. However mother nature hasn’t got the message that Spring is half-gone already as it’s still snowing on some of the still-open ski areas. Meanwhile in the southern hemisphere there are increasing signs that winter is not far away.
It may be May but temperatures are falling again in France and heavy snowfalls are expected in the Pyrenees over the next three days. It' a pity therefore that all the ski areas in that part of the country have now closed for snow sports. However four leading resorts in the departments of Savoie and Haute Savoie are open for a final weekend – closing on Monday, May 9th. Here the French resorts still open until 9/05: Chamonix Mont-Blanc (picture attached) is still open with 305cm (10.1 feet) of snow, while Orelle and Val Thorens at the top of the Three Valleys has 145cm (nearly five feet) and Tignes – which has been open for eight month since last September - 140cm (4.6 feet). All French ski areas will be closed from next Monday onwards but three - Val d'Isere, Tignes and Les 2 Alpes - will re-open for a couple of months in the latter half of June for summer skiing and boarding.
Three ski resorts are still open in Italy. Cervinia and Gressoney are open until this Sunday, 9th May, while the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale is open to the 26th of June. It currently has a four metre (13.3 feet) snow base so looks in good shape for the next few months. Monterosa where Gressoney is located saw 20cm (8 inches) of new snow in the past week.
In Switzerland the temperatures are well below freezing and it’s snowing heavily at still open Engelberg, where the snow is forecast to continue at least until the weekend. Saas Fee is also receiving new snow and has reported 20cm (8 inches) overnight but no lifts are operating. Zermatt remains open and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz has a 1000m+ vertical to enjoy still, with a metre (3.3 feet) of snow at the top and 20cm (8 inches) at the bottom.
It’s cold too in Austria where several glacier ski areas remain open and are receiving fresh snow showers. The Kaunertal glacier has highs of zero and has six lifts operating, it’s open all month and currently has up to 134cm (4.5 feet) of snow on upper slopes. It’s a similar picture at Austria’s highest ski area, Pitztal, at 3440, although it will end its long season which began last September in mid-May on the 16th. There are nine lifts and 1.2m (four feet) of snow on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, which will stage its annual ski and gold tournament next week. The Molltal glacier is alo open although it closes on Monday until the summer ski season begins in late June. Currently 30km of runs are open though and the snow i up to 3.6m (12 feet) deep still. A fifth Austrian option is the Stubai glacier near Innsbruck with 18 pistes open and 180cm (6 feet) of snow lying. You can also still ski on the Tux glacier in the Ziller valley.
The ski season ended at the weekend in Spain, with Europe’s most southerly resort wrapping up it winter despite still having several metres of snow lying on upper slopes. There are also no ski areas reported open in Andorra or on the Eastern side of Europe.
However in the north of the continent the lifts are still running in Scandinavia, Iceland and the UK.
A fresh spell of cool weather has brought new snow to Scotland for the mayday holiday period. CairnGorm mountain above Aviemore is the only Scottish ski centre still open for snow sports and it reported 2.5cm (an inch) of new snow. The centre has received 141,000 skier visits to date (more than double the 65,000 skier visits in 2009, recovering from worst season on record in 2007). So far the centre has been open 133 days open since the end of November 2009. Several hundred skiers enjoyed the fresh powder as Cairngorm entered its seventh calendar month of continuous operation in one of its busiest and most successful seasons in memory. CairnGorm Mountain will keep its winter sports facilities open for weekends in May if demand remained high - at least 300 skiers a day are needed. The best season for over 15 years has continued over the May Bank holiday weekend with over 700 skiers taking to the slopes at CairnGorm Mountain and over 1000 non-skiers enjoying the action. Fresh snow overnight on Saturday and Sunday has delighted skiing and non-skiing visitors alike as winter conditions continue to provide snowsports above the mid-mountain level. Skiing is still possible on runs including the White Lady, M1, Coire Cas and the nursery slope area at the top of the Mountain in the Ptarmigan Bowl. "The Bank holiday weekend has seen a return to wintry conditions and CairnGorm Mountain has welcomed both skiing visitors and non-skiers many of whom took the opportunity for some fun in the sledge park outside the top station". The area plans to continue to offer snow sports and sledging at weekends only throughout May.
In Scandinavia several top resorts are still open. Finland’s Ruka has 14 runs open served by five lifts, and up ion the Swedish Arctic, Riksgransen is nearing 24 hour daylight ahead of it midnight-un-ski-season beginning in the next few weeks.
Norway’s Folgenfonn ski centre opened on 1st May and immediately reported the deepest snow pretty well anywhere with 4m (13.3 feet) lying and 15cm (six inches) of fresh snow for opening day. It will be joined by a second Norwegian summer ski glacier area, Galdhoppigen, on May 13.
In North America more ski areas closed at the weekend including Loveland in Colorado and Mountain High in California. In the US however Squaw Valley in California is open for one more weekend, with lift tickets down to 45 dollars on the final day of the season – this Sunday. Snowbird in Utah plans to stay open at least through May and back in California, Mammoth is aiming to keep the slopes open until the 4th of July. In Colorado Arapahoe Basin is still open and in Oregon Mt Bachelor has reported eight inches (20cm) of new snow since the weekend. There’s still more than 10 feet (3 metres) of snow at village level and even more on the mountain. Another Oregon resort, Timberline, which normally remains open through spring and summer, is also looking good.
In Canada only Sunshine near Banff in Alberta and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia remain open.
South of the equator in New Zealand a cold front at the weekend reminded the country’s North Island skiers and riders that the southern hemisphere’s winter is just around the corner. Mt Ruapehu looked postcard perfect with a fresh layer of gleaming white snow.
In Australia’s mountains the warm, summery, weather has hibernated too, as it should in autumn. There's a distinctive nip in the air and the prospect of snow at Falls Creek ski resort has emerged in tandem with a forecasted first big cold front of season. There's only 40 days to go until the official opening date of another winter season at the resort in the province of Victoria.
In Southern Africa, Afriski in Lesotho has announced its 2010 season will begin on May 25th.