Friday, August 6, 2010

More Fresh Snow On Both Sides Of The World (But More In The Southern Half)

Skiinfo reports that changeable weather in the Alps has led to a mix of rain and fresh snow on the 11 glacier ski areas that are currently open. Fortunately temperatures have dropped a lot from a fortnight ago when they were up in double figures at some areas, but they are still above freezing at some – which means thaw of course. It’s a brighter picture in the southern hemisphere where Australia in particular has benefitted from heavy snow, with around two feet falling at several areas.
In Austria only the upper slopes on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier are open with the snow cover still thin and temperature at 3 degrees Celcius, sleety snow is expected over the next few days. The Dachstein glacier has limited skiing and describes its 60cm base as ‘wet.’ On the Molltal glacier it’s not been great either, with runs closed on Tuesday as rain fell, but this should turn to snow when temperatures drop below the current 4 degrees on the glacier and the 9.5km of summer runs should re-open and much of the 1.5m (five foot) base should remain intact. Hintertux too has seen a mixture of fresh snow (5cm) ad rain. It’s base depth stands at 125cm (just over four feet) with nearly 700m of vertical still skiable at the year-round snow sports resort.
In France Tignes and Les 2 Alpes are still open with similar conditions to Austria, if a little less precipitation. Snow depths are 60-100cm (2-3.3 feet). It’s warm on Wednesday, but cooler yesterday down to -5 on the glacier with precipitation forecast that will hopefully fall as snow for the last few weeks of the summer ski season.
In Italy Val Senales received 5cm of fresh snow last week and has a one metre base and 8km of piste open. It’s a similar picture at Passo Stelvio and Cervinia, the other two Italian areas currently open.
The other two open glaciers are in Switzerland, neighbouring Saas Fee and Zermatt. Saas Fee has some of the best conditions in Europe right now with temperatures on the glacier around freezing, 8cm of fresh snow last Friday, four runs, the glacier half pipe and the terrain park open and a 126cm (over four foot) base.
No other outdoor ski areas are currently open in Europe, and in the USA only Timberline on Mt Hood in Oregon continues to offer snow sports, so for the best conditions you’ll need to head south of the equator.
It’s Australian ski areas that have been reporting the world’s best snow conditions over the past few days with more than 60cm (two feet) falling in 48 hours at one centre, truly epic by Aussie standards and by far the biggest snowfalls of winter so far – which had been mostly cold to date, allowing for lots of snowmaking, but with limited natural stuff until now. Perisher (picture attached) in New South Wales, Australia’s largest resort, has also reported the biggest snowfall of 64 centimetres (Two feet, two inches) of fresh snow in 48 hours from Sunday though Monday. Prior to the new snowfall, Perisher had achieved a new Australian record in snowmaking, producing over 800,000 cubic metres of snow with depths of up to three meters (10 feet) in some areas. With further falls of up to 20 centimetres forecast later this week by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the resort's greater natural snow reliability, Perisher can now provide skiers and snowboarders access to almost 1245 hectares of snow covered terrain.
"The four resort areas of Perisher, Blue Cow, Guthega and Smiggin Holes will be interconnected this weekend", said Gary Grant, General Manager. Perisher is planning additional investment in snowmaking to increase coverage to 110 hectares. The resort plans to have all trails linking its four ski areas covered throughout the winter season. Other Australian resorts have reported healthy snowfall too, if not on quite the same scale. Mt Buller reports 24cms (nine inches) of snow and Mt Hotham has had 51cm (21 inches) of fresh snow over the past week. Natural snowdepth now averages 66cm, with 98+cms in snowmaking areas. Seven lifts are in operation at Hotham with more lifts currently being assessed for opening in time for the weekend.
In New Zealand there’s been mixed weather but some fresh snow and conditions overall are good. Mt Hutt got 5cm (two inches) of new snow on Monday (Aug 2) and now has a 155cm (5.1 foot) base, at Coronet Peaks there’s a 90cm (three foot) base but there hasn’t been any new snow for over a week. The centre staged an FIS standard international race this morning (Aug 4) dominated by the Canfian squad who are currently training there and took the top four places. Racers from teams including the US, Great Britain, Spain and Korea also took part. Over at Mt Ruapehu, Turoa was closed today due to strong winds, but snow is expected over the next few days, the base depth is 135cm (4.5 feet). The lower mountain at sister resort Whakapapa was open however. It has a 90cm base and is also expecting fresh snow at the weekend.
In South America conditions remain good, but cold, at Catedral in Argentina, the continent’s biggest resort in terms of uplift. Here’s there’s 1.6 metres (over five feet) of snow lying on upper slopes but it has been cold, below -15C at times. It’s not quite as cold or quite as deep at another Argentinian resort, Chapelco, which has a 1.3m base and temperatures around -9C. The country’s other big resort, Las Lenas in the south, has 40cm (16 inches) at the base and 1.1m (3.7 feet) at the top of the lifts.
In Chile virtually all lifts and runs are operational at Valle Nevado which reports another 5cm of fresh snow, taking its season tally to 3.6m (12 feet), although the compacted base at present is rather less than that, if healthy enough at 70cm (2.3 feet). Chapa Verde reports an 80cm (2.6 feet) base and Portillo to the north is still not quite at the top of its game with an 80cm natural snow depth, low temperatures but not much of the off piste powder for which it’s most famous, although there has been 30cm (a foot) of new snow in the past week.
Over in Africa it has warmed up a little at Afriski in Lesotho and the snow guns are no longer able to operate after their long spate of snowmaking for most of the winter. However the accumulated base isn’t thawing too quickly and the snow surface is good in the morning after an overnight freeze, though it gets a bit sticky after lunchtime – much like an alpine glacier. There’s still a 600m main slope, 200m beginner slope and a terrain park open to enjoy with best snow depth 70cm (2.3 feet) on the main run.

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