Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Slopes Open for Europe’s glacier ski season as Southern Hemisphere Winter 2010 Only Days Away

Skiinfo reports that May, the 'quietest month' of the world’s ski year, is nearing its end with Canada joining the list of major skiing nations that currently have no ski areas officially open and the southern hemisphere’s winter, or the northern hemisphere’s summer glacier ski seasons yet to kick off. However it’s still possible to ski at around 25 ski areas in at least ten countries – the US, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Iceland, Japan, Scotland, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
In the Alps you have eight glacier ski areas to choose from, with a ninth choice opening this Saturday – marking a turning point! In Switzerland Europe’s highest lifts are operational for the summer (The two T Bars up to 3899m in Zermatt don’t usually run in winter) and there’s still skiing and boarding at the top of the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz.

In Italy the summit red and black run on the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale are still open, and they’ll be joined by a second Italian glacier ski choice, Passo Stelvio which opens for its annual summer ski season on the 29th.
But Austria continues to have the most choice of glacier ski slopes open and will add another option with the re-opening of the Dachstein Glacier on Saturday, taking the current tally to five. It is reporting a 2.9m (near 10 foot) base and has revamped the Horsefeathers Superpark for the occasion with the addition to a new 3-boxes-line so users will be able to slide down as many as four rails in a line, which should make all the down rail and double kinked – lovers happy. On top of the two renowned rails, an 11-meter down rail and a 14 meter double kinked rail, two new additions are already under construction at the park. Dachstein joins the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, the near-year-round open Tux glacier at the Stubai glacier near Innsbruck which all remain open. The Kaunertal glacier is also open and has up to 1.45m (five feet) of snow on it. National teams from Austria, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Lichtenstein and even Brazil have been training there in recent weeks.
Up in the north of Europe it was the hottest weekend of the year so far and at CairnGorm Mountain in Scotland, where temperatures at the top reached 20C on Saturday, snow sports enthusiasts were flocking to the high tops in their shorts, t – shirts and kilts to enjoy the unseasonal temperatures out on the ski slopes. Over two hundred skiers and five hundred ski spectators headed up the mountain where the sledge park, snow cross terrain park and Ptarmigan Ski Tow is still providing winter fun in what is set to become one of the longest skiing seasons on record. Skiing is still possible right down to mid mountain level and Colin Matthew (Operations Manager) said: "CairnGorm has had a real carnival atmosphere with the public out it shorts, shades , t shirts and even the occasional kilt. The sledge park and the fun park have both been really popular today. Snow conditions are soft and a bit like summer skiing on a European glacier with the temperature on the top slopes well into the lower 20’s – the only difference is that we’re short a few thousand feet on altitude here at CairnGorm". This week has seen a dramatic drop in temperature however, back down to single figures once again and more Easterly/Northerly airflows. Colin Matthew continued: "The beginning of the week sees a return to cooler temperatures which will help keep the snowpack in a reasonable condition, with careful management we hope that we can keep skiing going for at least the English Holiday weekend at the end of May".
Elsewhere in northern Europe there’s still skiing at Riksgransen in the Swedish Arctic where it’s currently the brief ski-under-the-midnight-sun period; also at the glacier areas of Folgefonn and Galdhoppigen in Norway and on the slopes of Ruka in Finland, maintained since last Autumn.
In the USA Snowbird ski resort in Utah has announced it aims to stay open for skiing and riding on weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) for another month through to June 20, conditions and weather permitting. The extension would mark 199 days of skiing and riding for the 2009/10 season, two days short of Snowbird’s record 2004/05 season when the resort stayed open for 201 days until July 4. As of May 20, Snowbird’s mid-mountain base stands at 117 inches with forecasts calling for flurries throughout the weekend. It’s the third year in a row that Snowbird has surpassed its annual average in snowfall. Other US resorts still open include Mammoth Mountain in California which has announced it will aim to stay open to July 4, and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, which reported a few inches iof fresh snow this week and plans to stay open in to June. Timberline Mountain in Oregon is open year round except for a few weeks maintenance closure each September.
North of the border the ski season has ended in Canada with Sunshine ski area (picture attached) near Banff the last to close on Monday, following Whistler Blackcomb’s season ending on Sunday. The famous British Columbian resort celebrated its second snowiest winter ever and will re-open for glacier skiing in a few weeks time.
In the southern hemisphere there are increasingly good signs for the coming winter. One of the first hoping to open is Afriski in Lesotho where temperatures are forecast to be in the range of -7 to +2C over the week up to its official opening date, next Tuesday, June 1st, a promising sign for the start of the 2010 season.

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