After the heavy snowfall of last week, resorts in the Alps took a breather this week in most cases and in some cases even saw a thaw as temperatures rose. This led to rain as high as 2500m and high avalanche danger off piste as the freshly acquired snow became unstable. However temperatures are falling again and a return to ‘winter’ with more snow is now expected from Thursday.
It’s a little different in the far North East of Europe where snow conditions on slopes in England, Belgium and the Netherlands are as good as they get. In Scotland a fourth ski area, Nevis Range, opened two weeks early attracting 8,000 people and in northern England, the slopes of Weardale were busy. The country’s artificial surface year-round snow slopes saw booming business too as people arrived to use their uplift facilities for easy access to ski the snow that’s fallen across the country.
There’s snow in most parts of Holland and Belgium and last weekend the first alpine slopes opened their gates for their many winter sports fans. The most snow is reported at Belgium biggest alpine ski slope Baraque de Fraiture - currently 35cm after last weekend’s 15-20cm snow dump. Also the slopes of Ovifat opened, and have 25cm of snow on their slopes.
The last big snowfalls in Austria were reported last Friday with 30cm on the Mölltal glacier, 20cm in the Zillertal and 15cm in Serfaus. The country’s biggest snow depths are reported from the glaciers – the Mölltal glacier claims a snow depth of 220cm. The Kaunertal (196cm) and the Pitztal glacier (184 cm) are not far behind. Silvretta Montafon Nova will open this weekend with currently 60 cm of snow on their slopes. Gerlos/Zillertal Arena (where the season already began last weekend) will also celebrate its official opening from Friday to Monday. A snow cover of 50cm is reported from there. Other Austrian ski resorts about to open the next days are the Großglockner resort Kals/Matrei (snow depth 85 cm), Kleinwalsertal (50 cm) and Nauders (100 cm).
In France after the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall last week, a thaw and rain came in earlier this week to undermine the work of ski resorts in slope preparation. Thus, after snowfall of 60cm in the northern Alps and about 40 to 50cm in the southern Alps and the Pyrenees this weekend, the weather trend has completely reversed since Sunday resulted in two consecutive days of rain at high altitude (2500m). The gradual return of colder temperatures is expected from Thursday, reassuring ski resorts and skiers. The deepest snow depth are at ski resorts located in the Southern Alps (up to 210cm in Isola 2000, 180cm in Val d'Allos and 170cm in Montgenèvre). But the snow depth is also very good in the Northern Alps (140cm at the top of the Val Thorens's slopes, 130 cm in Sainte Foy and 125cm in Les 2 Alpes).
Italy continues to report the deepest snow depths in the world at present with five resorts including Aprica and the Presena Glacier reporting between 3 and 4.2m (10 and 14 feet) accumulated., Italian resorts are also claiming the biggest snow accumulations of the past seven days – up to 1.3m (four feet) of new snow.
In Switzerland Gstaad – Glacier 3000 issued a powder alarm on Tuesday with 25cm of fresh snow. The resort has up to 165cm of snow on its slopes now, one of the biggest snow depths in the country. Andermatt is on top of the list with a snow cover of 180cm at the top station. Zermatt has 173 cm on the mountain and still 70cm on lower slopes with 200km of ski runs open at the weekend, probably the most anywhere at present. Other resorts reporting big snow depths are Saas Fee (172 cm) and St Moritz (150 cm). In addition the Aletsch Arena reported a 15cm-snowfall yesterday bringing the snow depth there to 105 cm. The resort opened last weekend and has 18 lifts running at the moment.
There’s been little fresh snow in the Pyrenees and the snow depths have declined a little with most resorts having less than a metre accumulated. However the good snowfalls in late November is helping jeep things skiable. The deepest snow in Spain is currently at Europe’s most southerly resort, Sierra Nevada, which has a metre lying and received 20cm more in the past week. In the French Pyrenees there’s 100cm of snow in Font-Romeu, 80cm in Peyragudes.
It’s cold and snowy across most of Scandinavia, with Tryvann, the main local ski hill for Oslo, Norway, reporting the most snow of the past seven days – 35cm. It’s snowing today in Voss – another 10cm.
Kimberley Alpine Resort (picture attached) in British Columbia, Canada, is set to open for a special preview weekend this Saturday December 11th and Sunday December 12th. The resort has received over 70cm of snowfall already, and there’s more significant snowfall in the forecast for later this week. On The east Coast Mont Sutton in Quebec starts its 50th season at the weekend too, also boasting good conditions.
The snow is still great in most parts of the US. Smugglers Notch in Vermont on the East Coast has had some of the biggest falls of the past week, accumulating over 70cm (two feet plus) while the greatest snow depth in the country is now claimed by Mammoth, California, over on the West coast with over 2.4m (eight feet) already!