As the majority of the world’s ski areas open over the next two weeks, the start of the 2010-11 winter season is still looking good with resorts in the Alps, Rockies, Pyrenees, Scandinavia and Scotland, among others, all reporting good to excellent early season conditions. The biggest snowfall of the past week has come from California with Squaw Valley claiming more than 1.5 metres of new snow falling on its upper slopes over the weekend, but many other areas have reported at least 30cm of new snow too, resulting in superb conditions.
Austrian ski areas have reported some healthy snowfalls in the past 48 hours, with two of the already-open glacier ski areas, Sölden and the Stubai, issued powder alarms because of snowfalls. of 35cm (14 inches) each. Sölden got a further 10cm on Tuesday right down to village level and has a snow cover of 171cm (nearly six feet) on the glacier now with more than 75km of slopes open there. Many other areas have reported 20-30cm falls. This weekend Ischgl begins its five month season with this year’s "Top of the Mountain Opening Concert" featuring US indie band Gossip. Around 20,000 people are expected and they’ll get free entry to the show so long as they have a lift pass. Other areas opening include Lech and St Anton in the Arlberg.
A cold snap in France for the past week have brought a lot of snowfall through the past few days (up to 45cm in both the Pyrenees and Alps) and equally important they’ve enabled the country’s huge snowmaking arsenal to work at full tilt. Temperatures are ideal (almost always negative at any time of day) to ensure the grip of this sub-layer of snow that will preserve good snow conditions throughout the season. Currently only Tignes (open since September) and Val Thorens (which opened at the weekend) share the first skiers of the season with snow cover of 60 and 75cm respectively and nine trails open on each. It has snowed continuously at these two resorts over the past few days (15 cm during the past 72 hours and 20cm more expected over the next few days). This weekend the season really gets moving however with a dozen more French resorts planning to open in the Alps and Pyrenees including Val d'Isere, Les 2 Alpes, Cauterets, Barèges / La Mongie, Gourette, Luz Ardiden and Piau Engaly.
In Italy Alta Badia has had the most snow in the past week adding 1.2m (four feet) to its snow depth. Bormio and Cortina have had 75cm of new snow each in the past week. The Presena glacier claims the greatest snow depth in the world at present with four metres (13.3 feet).
In Switzerland conditions are good at most open ski areas. St Moritz in had fresh snowfall on Sunday and the snow depth there is reported to be 150cm (five feet) at the top station and 30cm (a foot) in the village. Saas Fee even has even more with 195cm (6.5 feet) of snow lying on its upper slopes and it has been snowing again in recent days.
Many resorts in the Pyrenees have had healthy snowfall in the past week. Snow has been falling since Friday in Formigal, Spain where 180 people are working to start the season this Saturday, November 27th. There are 15 trail groomers working two shifts, preparing the slopes which have 30cm of fresh snow at 1,500m. and nearly a metres at 2,000m. "We are hoping to open all four valleys. On Thursday evening we’ll know the exact number of kilometres and slopes that we will open", said Commercial Director Jose Luis del Valle.
In Norway the rate of snowfall has slowed in the past week with the maximum new accumulation only 8cm, but it is snowing in Geilo today. Voss has the deepest snow base with 60cm (two feet).
It’s a snowy start to winter in British Columbia, Canada. After Whistler opened six days early last weekend, after a week that brought it close to 70cm (27 inches) of fresh snow, along with Sun Peaks, and two BC areas have announced plans to open early thanks to the big pre-season snowfalls. Silver Star is set to open this Thursday, November 25th. Silver Star will open the Comet Express Six-Pack and The Silver Queen lifts starting at 8:30 a.m. With over 100cm of snow in the past week, Fernie Alpine Resort will open a week earlier than planned this weekend for skiing and snowboarding on Saturday November 27th and Sunday 28th. An estimated 44 runs will be open and 5 lifts: Elk Quad chair, Great Bear Express, Boomerang Triple, Mighty Moose and Haul Back T-bar. Most leading resorts in Alberta are open too and also reporting lots of fresh snow and resorts are opening on the East Coast too with Mont Ste Anne in Quebec on the list of resorts opening this weekend.
Dozens of resorts have opened right across the USA ahead of the coming weekend’s Thanksgiving holiday. Among the recent openings are Sugarloaf in Maine And Squaw Valley in California which has reported the biggest snowfall of the winter so far with five feet 1.5m) falling on its upper slopes over the weekend. Conditions are good in most areas with resorts in Utah already passing the 100 inches (2.5m) season-to-date snowfall figures and resorts from Alaska to Colorado reporting good conditions. Steamboat will be the next resort to open, this Wednesday, November 24th.