Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Week Of Warm Weather In The Northern Alps, Snow In The Southern Ones

Skiinfo reports that it’s still warm in the Alps which is bad news for snow cover on the 11 glacier ski areas that are currently open in Austria, France, Italy, and Switzerland. That’s down one on last week with the scheduled end of the summer season at Val d’Isere.
In Austria the snow has been melting fast on the four glaciers that are still open, with the Dachstein down to 70cm with two lifts and three runs open. At the Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun there’s only 18cm on top of the ice and temperatures are expected to again hit 8C. The Molltal glacier still claims 1.9m (over six feet) of snow and 9.5km of slopes open, but the glacier snowpark is closed. Tux has 1.2m (four feet) of snow and temperature up to 10C with 20km of runs and nine lifts open.
In France, following the closure of Val d’Isere’s summer ski area last weekend, two choices remain open for another month they hope – les 2Alpes which has a metre of snow at Le Signal, and Tignes is still reporting temperatures rather warm at 5 or 6 degrees on the glacier with rain forecast on Friday.
It’s a little cooler in Italy where there’s 1.4m of snow on Plateau Rosa above Cervinia and top temperatures should only be 3C. Val Senales has slightly less with 1.3m snow depth but more trails open, although all are currently showing closed today. Passo Stelvio is also reported to be open for snow ports.
In Switzerland the choice remains Saas Fee or neighbouring Zermatt which even have between 1.7 and two metres of snow lying and the same issues with warm weather on the glacier.
Hot weather in Norway has led to the premature closure of the resort’s three summer ski areas, two of which normally stay open right through to the Autumn. At Galdhøpiggen a resort statement on Monday said, "Galdhøpiggen summer ski area is unfortunately closed because of the blue ice on the glacier. We hope to re-open the centre in the autumn. We regret this situation greatly". Folgefonn had already closed a week earlier, "... because of too little snow". The third ski area, Stryn, normally opens until late July or August depeding on conition, but this isn’t a good summer and the entre closed earlier than expected, at the start of July. "The little snowfall in winter 2010 resulted unfortunately in our early closure after a short but excellent summer ski season, on July 4th", said a resort statement.
Across the Atlantic it’s the last week of the summer ski and board season at Whistler, Canada’s only summer snow destination. The resort’s Blackcomb Horstman Glacier remains open until this Sunday July 25 – with the best skiing and riding conditions seen in years. For the first time ever Whistler Blackcomb has been offering snowshoeing and tubing in July thanks to the record-breaking winter snowfall that has ensured plenty of white stuff is sticking to the alpine. Alpine hiking has been on hold for a few more weeks while Whistler Blackcomb has offered snow shoe hire instead and a three-lane tube park at the top of the Whistler Village Gondola.
In the US only Timberline in Oregion remains open for snowsports.
In the Southern Hemisphere is is continuing cold with snow fluirries at mount Australian ski areas. Typical base depths are at around 40-80cm across the country’s leading resorts. Perisher, Australia’s largest resort, plans to celebrate ‘Christmas in July’ this weekend July 24th and 25th. Mt Hotham reports that so far this winter it has produced 155% more snow than this time last year. To illustrate this, the resort suggests you imagine 111 Olympic swimming pools filled with snow. Or if you're more of a footy fan, that's the surface of a football pitch covered in 13.6 metres (about 45 feet) deep in snow. Hotham uses recycled water for snowmaking and snowmelt returns to Swindlers Creek.
It’s looking good in New Zealand too where good snow, good snowmaking conditions and a fantastic run of fine weather has seen the seven days from Saturday July 10th to Friday July 17th being the busiest period in Ruapehu Alpine Lifts in New Zealand’s 57 year history. Whakapapa and Turoa recorded 56,000 skier visits during the period, eclipsing the previous best of 51,000 recorded in 2007. Mt Ruapehu (picture attached) marketing manager Mike Smith says it was a fantastic week. "It’s unusual on Ruapehu to have such a long stretch of great weather and for this to coincide with the busy school holidays was quite exceptional", says Mr Smith. Snow is now falling on the mountain and is forecast to continue for the next couple of days. Whakapapa has a snow base of 63cm and Turoa has just hit the one meter mark. It’s a similar picture across the country where resorts have up to a 1.6m base.
It’s cold too in South America where most areas have reasonably good conditions. Although no new snow measurements have been taken as we go to press, Portillo in Chile, which has had an unusually poor start to the season, postponing the season by a week and currently with limited cover still, is reporting low temperatures (-3 to 110C) and snow falling with access roads closed, and more of the same forecast for the coming days, so piste conditions look set to improve dramatically. It’s very cold as well in Valle Nevado (-9 to -11) which has two feet of snow on the pistes and almost all of its runs and lifts open in one of the most extensive ski areas in South America.
Over in Argentina Las Leñas has 40-95cm of snow and is reporting great conditions, the country’s other big resort, Catedral, some of the continent’s deepest snow with 1.5m on upper slopes, and 5cm fresh in the past 12hours leaving great powder conditions.
In Africa, Lesotho’s Afriski is still enjoying a good season despite the lak of natural snowfall all winter so far! Instead they’ve heroically clocked up 366 hours of snowmaking, creating a 600m long slope with snow depth up to 70cm and a 200m long beginners slope, plus a terrain park too. Temperatures as low as -13C have helped maintained the itegrity of the manufactured snow.
In South Africa itself, Tiffindell still appears to be operating with machine made snow too, but it’s official status remains uncertain.

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