Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Huge August Snowfalls in the Swiss Alps, Argentina and New Zealand

Skiinfo reports that Saas Fee has reported half-a-metre of fresh powder falling on its glacier in the past few days and neighbouring resorts Zermatt and, over in Italy, Cervinia, have also seen big snowfalls setting off Skiinfo powder alarms. In the southern hemisphere there’s been snow in Australia, South America and New Zealand, where some areas are receiving heavy snowfall today.
Switzerland’s two open glacier ski areas have seen remarkable August snowfalls with Saas Fee reporting 45cm (18 inches) of new snow on Sunday, with more falling since, including another 5cm (two inches) yesterday. Neighbouring Zermatt, the only area open 365 days and home to Europe’s highest lifts, reported healthy snowfalls too. Saas Fee describes current conditions as "packed powder" and has a 1.6m (5.3 foot) base with terrain park and half pipe open. Both resorts set off Powder Alarms on, triggered for snowfall of 20cm or more, obviously a rare event in August. Zermatt triggered another powder alarm on Tuesday with another 28cm (nearly a foot) of snow reported.
The heavy snowfall spilled over in to Italy where Zermatt’s Italian neighbour, Cervinia, to which it is lift-linked, received a 20cm fall. Val Senales has also been receiving more snow, with another 5cm on Tuesday, the latest of about 10 days of regular snowfalls there, it currently has a one metre base. Passo Stelvio is also open.
In France the glacier ski areas at Tignes and Les 2 Alpes are both entering their last fortnight of summer operations. Les 2 Alpes has the better snow cover with a metre depth while Tignes has 30cm, both areas received a little new snow at the weekend.
The picture is a little less good in Austria where the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier remains closed for a second week due to warm temperatures ad a diminished snowpack – down to 10cm (four inches) on the glacier with temperatures above freezing still and rain falling. It’s a similar picture on the Dachstein Glacier where the lifts are running but downhill slopes and terrain park are closed – they report a 30cm (foot) base but that the snow is "wet". Two Austrian glacier areas are still open however, the largest one, Tux, had fresh snow on Sunday too and reports ‘powder’ conditions with 20km of slopes open, a 125cm (four foot) base and more than 600m summer vertical. The Molltal glacier continues to report 9.5km of trails open and a 1.2m (four feet) base.
In North America Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood in Oregon remains the only area open, despite temperatures hitting 75F. There’s a metre (3.3 feet) of snow and the public terrain park and several runs are open.
The snow has been falling in South America, where temperatures are generally a few degrees below zero at most ski areas. The continent’s largest ski area (in terms of uplift) Catedral in Argentina has received 30ccm (a foot) of new snow on its upper runs in the past 12 hours and now has a 1.6m (5.3 foot) base. Las Leñas has had 7cm of new snow too while Chapelco’s base is up to 1.2m (four feet) following fresh snow there.
Over in Chile Portillo has receive 13cm (five inches) of new snow in the past week but base depths remain lower than normal at around a metre (41 inches) on upper slopes with packed powder, 67cm (27 inches) at the base. Valle Nevado, part of the largest ski area in the continent in terms of terrain area, has an average 50cm (20 inch) base from a 3.7m (12.3 foot) snow fall so far this season. Chapa Verde has a similar base depth.
Conditions are mostly good at Australia’s resorts where snow has continued to fall over the past week with more predicted in coming days. Mt Hotham reports average snow depth is 89cm (three feet) but is a foot (30cm) deeper where there’s snow making. The resort has received 42cm (1.5 feet) of snow in the past week, 8cm (three inches) of it in the past 48 hours. The numbers are similar at Thredbo, which has had 38cm (1.3 feet) of new snow in the past week and has had 2.5m of snow in the past week. Falls Creek currently has a 77cm (2.5 feet) base of natural snow and all but one lift operating, in snowmaking areas snow depth is up to a metre greater at 177cm (6 feet).
In New Zealand there has been an exciting week of weather. Mt Hutt saw over 1000 guests stranded overnight last Thursday/Friday by 200kph winds but in the past 24 hours has received 19cm (eight inches) of new snow taking upper slope depths up to two metres (nearly seven feet). At Coronet Peak the figures are a little less impressive with 5cm of snow at the weekend taking depths to 1.1m (just under 4 feet), the Remarkables got 10cm yesterday and has a similar base depth. On Mt Ruapehu the lifts are closed today due to strong winds. The snow is falling to though with 5cm of fresh so far and base depths up to 1.3m (over four feet) at Turoa. Whakapapa has 81cm, both are expecting more snow for the resort of the week.
The eighth annual Burton New Zealand Open Halfpipe Finals (picture attached) took place under blue bird skies over the weekend at Cardrona Alpine Resort with Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI) taking first place in the men’s event and Kelly Clark (USA) winning the women’s competition. Podladtchikov and Clark both finished the day NZ$6,000 richer for their efforts and set themselves up nicely with solid early season results counting towards the 2010/11 Burton Global Open Series and the Swatch TTR World Rankings. Although the weather was perfect, warm temperatures meant the competition format had to be shortened, in order to keep Cardrona’s 22-foot Olympic sized halfpipe in top shape. All 38 men and 19 women semi-finalists went straight into a single final round, with the best of two runs counting for their final ranking.
In Africa conditions are little changed at Afriski in Lesotho. A cold weather window has allowed for another 20 hours snowmaking in the past 24, taking snowmaking hours season to date to 450! There’s been virtually no natural snowfall this winter but the ingenuity of the centre’s operators means there’s still a 600m long main slope open with a 70cm base, with an additional beginners area and terrain park to enjoy.

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