Skiinfo reports that there have been huge snowfalls of 60cm/two feet plus in Australia at the end of last week and in the Austrian, German and Italian Alps in the past 48 hours. Up to 70cm (2 feet, 4 inches) of snow has fallen in the past 36 hours on northern Alpine glaciers, so it’s slightly ironic that the number of ski areas open has dropped to seven, after the two French centres of Tignes and Les 2 Alpes ended the country’s summer ski season last weekend. Cervinia in Italy is due to follow suit this weekend. In Tignes case the closure is only for three weeks and It will be one of the first resorts in the world to open for ‘winter’ 2010-11 later this month.
However all is not lost as Solden (Austria) is currently hoping to start their winter 2010-11 season a month earlier than planned, this weekend September 4th, following the heavy snow fall there – they’ve currently got a 61cm (two foot) base. The Pitztal Glacier, which was due to be the first to open in September for 2010-11 on September 15th has not announced any plans to open early, but has announced 50cm (20 inches) of fresh snow. The Kitzsteinhorn Glacier above Kaprun which closed unexpectedly in August due to the snow on the glacier all but melting away, has still not re-opened as yet however, even though it too has had several feet of new snow and now boasts 55 – 65cm over a 500m vertical. It’s the same at present on the Dachstein glacier, although it reports a foot of new snow. The Molltal glacier has had 50cm (20 inches) of new snow and now has a 1.3m (4.3 feet) base, the falls have been less spectacular on the Tux glacier but it still has the most terrain open, with 20km of runs to enjoy and a 95cm (three foot) base.
In Germany the Zugspitz glacier has reported 70cm (28 inches) of new snow but is not yet open. It Italy Val Senales reports 30cm (a foot) of new snow taking its total base to a metre, but Cervinia has only had an inch or so of new snow, as has its Swiss neighbours Zermatt and Saas Fee, reporting 120cm (four foot) base and ‘Spring like’ conditions.
There’s no skiing today in North America as the only ski area due to be open, Timberline on Mt Oregon, is closed due to rain and wind. It’s due to close soon shortly anyway for it’s annual maintainance shut down for a few weeks in late September. On the upide Loveland in Colorado, one of the world’s highest resorts and typically one of the first to open in North America each year, usually in early October, has announced it has wheeled out its portable snowmaking guns on to the piste ready for temps to drop low enough for snowmaking to begin, which they think is imminent.
In the southern hemisphere the big news was Australia’s leading ski areas being dumped on big time at the end of last week (and still a little bit now) and in some cases reporting the best August snowfalls for more than two decades. "We smashed the record books with some of the best snow the mountain has seen in years! The resort received 34cms of snow, rendering it as the best August snowfall recorded since 1985!" said an excited spokesperson for Mt Buller. It’s a similar story at the country’s largest resort, Perisher, which thinks this August could still end up their snowiest ever as the snow is still falling. There has been no other August since 1984 where more snow has fallen. Perisher has had more than 30cm of fresh snow settle across the resort, that makes it 2.6m of accumulated snowfalls since 1st August with wind-drifts over 1.5m deep in places. For Mt Hotham it’s 102cm in the past week with 47cm of fresh snow overnight on Wednesday - the biggest single dump on record since 2003. 82cm fell in 48 hours last weekend making it the resort’s snowiest August since 1992. All 13 lifts are operating with plenty of powder stashes to be found.
In New Zealand there’s been less fresh snow but more world class competitions, with the FIS Junior World Championships at Cardrona and SnowParkNZ declared a success as they drew to a close. Mt Hutt continues to have some of the best snow in the country receiving yet another 14cm (six inches) yesterday taking base depts. Up to 205cm (nearly seven feet). There’s been fresh snow, if less of it, at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables which are both looking good though they have around half the snow depth. But Treble Cone (picture attached) went one better than Mt Hutt with 30cm (a foot) of snow falling in 30 hours last Friday, just in time for the weekend. The snow is still falling there with another 5cm in the past 12 hours and base depths past 180cm (six feet) so conditions are spectacular. Snow depths are also still good on Mt Ruapehu where Turoa has more than 1.6m (five feet) of snow and Whakapapa 112cm (nearly four feet). Cardrona has a 105cm base but rainbow unfortunately remains closed for nearly two weeks now while waiting more snow.
Across the pacific in South America there’s been fresh snow with Chapelco’s base depth on upper slopes hitting 225cm (7.5 feet). Conditions are fairly amazing at cathedral too, with base depth’s at the continent’s biggest ski resort up to an incredible 3.3m (11 feet) on upper slopes, 80cm (nearly three feet) at the base. Although it’s as cold as -10C at Las Leñas the snow is not so great 60cm (two feet) at the top but only 20cm (eight inches) at the base.
It’s snowing in parts of Chile too, Valle Nevado, another of the continent’s big areas, has had 9cm (four inches) in the past 24 hours, taking its season-long snowfall to 381cm – nearly 13 feet. At Portillo it’s still not a memorable season, but they’ve had 5cm (two inches) of new snow today, a small boost to the 80cm (32 inch) upper slope base depths, but the powder skiing for which the resort is most famous remains sadly limited.
Across the Atlantic, Afriski, the only ski area that’s been officially open in Africa for the southern hemisphere’s winter in the continent is due to close this weekend after a successful season. "Spring has arrived at the resort. The peach trees in the valley are blossoming and our snow is sadly melting. If you need a last snow fix, make use of our 70% discount on skiing and select accommodation for this weekend and enjoy a spring snow break with us", said a resort statement. Snow depth on the main run which had been above 70cm (2.3 feet) for several months has dropped to 45cm (18 inches) and the run length has also decreased to 440m. The snowpark and a diminished beginners area are still open though!. All of the snow this season has been machine made and Afriski’s snow guns got tantalisingly close to raking up 500 hours of operation, but it now looks like they‘ll finish the season with 496 hours. Temperatures are set to hit double figures for the final few days of the Lesotho ski area’s season.