Friday, July 16, 2010

Heavy Snow in Southern Hemisphere As Temps Hit Double Figures on Glaciers in the Alps

Skiinfo reports that it’s hot in the Alps and the Dachstein glacier’s report of snow conditions as ‘wet’ is one of the more accurate. It’s one of the dozen glacier ski areas currently open in the Alps, although most are battling to keep their slopes skiable with the snow cover becoming slushy earlier in the morning than usual because of the heat, it’s important to get out there early.

Austria has the most summer skiing open. Along with the Dachstein that has two slopes and three lifts open and a 90cm (three foot) base, the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, the Tux glacier in the Ziller Valley and the Molltal glacier are all open. At the Kitzsteinhorn runs are open to open to top station of Gratbahn and snow cover is down to 39cm (13 inches) as glacier temperatures touch double figures. The Mölltaler glaciers reports deeper snow of 1.9m (more than six feet) and 9km of runs open although temperatures are equally high. Tux reports similar snow depths, similar temperatures and 20km of runs open.
In Switzerland the choice is Saas Fee or Zermatt. Saas Fee again reports high temperatures (+7 at 3500m) but has a 2.1m (7 foot) base and is managing to keep its terrain park and half pipe operational. In Zermatt six blue and red runs are being served by five glacier drag lifts, including Europe’s highest reaching 3899m, which are usually only open in the summer, the lift connection to Cervinia is also now open. It’s currently reporting 1.4m (just under five feet) of snow lying on its summer slopes at Plateau Rosa and despite no fresh falls for weeks and temperatures of +8C on the glacier it describes conditions as "powder snow" – surely some technical error on the snow report there?
It’s very hot elsewhere in Italy too. At Val Senales its20C at 2000m and 10C at the top of the glacier at 3200m, but there is still a 2.4m (8 foot) snow base which should survive the current thaw. Passo Stelvio is also still open.
Over in France the choice of glacier ski areas open for summer snow sports remains Les 2 Alpes, Tignes and Val d’Isere.
It’s been rather warm on Norway’s three glaciers ski areas too. Strynn decided to finish its season last week after a ‘short but spectacular’ season. Folgefonn reports temperatures up to 14 degrees and rain and its looking distinctly soggy at Galdhøpiggen as well.
Across the Atlantic in the US only Timberline on Mt Hood in Oregon remains open as Mammoth Mountain in California finally stopped operating their ski lifts after the Independence Day holiday weekend, ending an opening period in nine consecutive months. Another Californian resort, Boreal, did open for last weekend only, on the 10th/11th July. Lifts were open from 10am - 2pm so locals and visitors could enjoy the abundance of snow left from the snowy spring. A full terrain park was built, accessed via the Castle Peak Quad.
North of the border, in Canada, Whistler's summer skiing and boarding area on the Blackcomb glacier remains open and the resort is also offering summer snowshoeing and tubing.
In the southern hemisphere resorts across Australia have been reporting heavy snowfall over the past few days. In New South Wales the biggest resort, Perisher, has had more than fourteen inches (35cm) of fresh snow so far, with more falling. "It's really chucking it down in Perisher right now! We've had 35cm of fresh snowfalls today, with heavy falls this afternoon and it is still coming down!", said a resort spokesperson. The resort has a natural snow depth of 44cm (18 inches) but deeper snow in areas covered by snowmaking, temperatures are around -2C.
24 lifts are planned for operation tomorrow, with Club Penguin Tube Town, the PlayStation Slopestyle Park, a mini park at Blue Cow and a Rider X course at Yabby Flat all open. Other ski resorts in the region are also reporting good snow falls, Mt Buller had had 25cm (10 inches) of new snow over the past 36 hours and much more (as yet unmeasured – everyone was out skiing) during the day.
In New Zealand conditions continue to be relatively good at most resorts with base depths typically between 60cm and 1.8m (2-6 feet) on upper slopes acrosthe country and good cover down to resort bases in most cases. Many areas had some snowfall last weekend and in most cases more is forecast in the next 72 hours, with temperatures hovering down around zero or just below. Of the larger centres Turoa on Mt Ruapehu has a 98cm (3.3 feet) base, Mt hutt 125cm (4.2 feet).
In South America, several resorts in Chile are reporting the deepest snow in the southern hemisphere at the moment with up to 2.7m (nine feet) of snow lying in the Three Valleys area of Valle Nevado (picture attached) and la Parva and further south in Termas de Chillan. Most of this is due to heavy falls earlier this month with have eased now leaving great powder conditions on the slopes. The figures are less impressive further north hoever where Chapa Verde as well as the top resort of Portillo have much less snow than usual – only 30 – 80cm (1-2.6 feet), they’e expecting heavy falls imminently however and temperatures are low – down to -16C! Portillo is limiting ticket sales to hotel guests only at present to minimise use of what snow there is.
Conditions are relatively good in Argentina too, the continent’s best lift-served resort of Catedral has 1.5m (five feet) of snow on higher slopes and another top resort, Las Lenas to the south, has 90cm (three feet) on upper runs. Chapelco also has 90cm (three feet) deep snow on upper runs and all three centres describe snow conditions as ‘powder.’
Finally, Africa, Lesotho’s Afriski ski area is still lacking natural snowfall but consistently low temperatures have allowed for lots of snowmaking and it curretly has a 500m slope open, plus a beginners run and its terrain park with 60cm (two foot) deep snow. In South Africa Tifindell’ official operational status is uncertain but the slopes are still snow covered.

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