Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rising Temps But More Snow in the Alps, Huge Falls Continue in California

It’s the usual Springtime mix off rising temperatures combined with occasional heavy snowfalls across the Northern Hemisphere at present. In Europe it is becoming increasingly warm, leading to a widespread thaw at lower elevations, but cold spells have still brought snow showers, some of them heavy, throughout the week, as we enter April. In North America most resorts will be closing in the next two weeks but it’s still snowing, with up to yet another amazing three metres of new snow in the past week in California, far more than anywhere else. In Germany only Zugspitze (19cm) and Dammkar (10cm) reported snowfalls in the last week. About 20 ski resorts are still open in Germany. Resort like Zugspitze and Oberstorf have enough snow and good slopes but Temperatures are getting higher and snow bases lower. Hopefully snow stays until the Easter weekend. It’s a similar story in Scotland where temperatures have been well above freezing at most areas leading to an on-going thaw. Cairngorm is still managing top-to-bottom skiing thanks to some skilful groomer work, but the Lecht has very limited skiing remaining. In the last seven days, a few resorts in Austria got snowfall up to 12cm, including the glaciers at Mölltal (10cm), Pitztal (8cm) and Sölden (9cm). About 70-80 percent of the ski resorts are still open including Ischgl, St Anton, Schladming Dachstein, Kitzbühel and Serfauss Fiss Ladis – most of which plan to remain open to May 1st. Many smaller and lower resorts will be closing in the next two weeks however and it is expected to get warmer and warmer in Austria over the next few days. The snow is still falling in France, particularly on Risoul, which increased its snow depth the most in the past week with a 30cm accumulation. Many other resorts reported 10-15cm of new snow, including La Plagne, Valmorel and Alpe d’Huez. Isola 2000 has the country’s deepest snowbase at 241cm (eight feet), Cauterets in the Pyrenees is second with 2.3m, and Chamonix in the north which still has six weeks of the season left, is third with a two metre base. It has reported another 20cm of new snow this morning (Wednesday 30 March). Little new snow in Italy this week although Courmayeur and Cervinia in the west of the country each reported 20cm of new snow earlier this week and Cortina announced due to its great snow base it will be open until May 1st – having opened in the first half of November it will clock up nearly six months of operation this winter. Italian resorts also have the deepest snow bases in Europe, good news in the case of the Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale which reports a six metre base as it’s usually open until June. In Switzerland eight resorts reported snowfalls in the last seven days. Lötschental got the most with 11 cm, Zermatt and Verbier follow with 3-5 cm each. The end of the season is coming closer but most ski resorts are still open including popular destinations like Laax, Davos, Saas Fee and Gstaad. Temperatures are expected to hit 22 degrees in the valleys in the next few days but new snow is expected above 1600m in the south of the country on Thursday. The best snow depth continues to be at Engelberg with 350cm. It’s getting warmer in the Pyrenees like the Alps and there’s been little fresh snowfall for a couple of weeks, but accumulated bases are still good at most resorts in Spain. Grandvalira in Andorra has up to 1.6m snow depth. There have been regular snow falls in Scandinavia, today Meråker reported 20cm of new snow. The summerski area of Folgefonn in Norway, not yet open for 2011, has reported the deepest snow base of 4.5m, which bodes well for the months to come. Conditions remain good at most ski resorts in Canada. In Banff, Alberta, Sunshine Village’s Wild West free ride zone opened this week and, while not everyone will want to venture into this challenging riding terrain, the fact that it is open shows that conditions are excellent throughout the mountain. In fact, the settled snow pack sits at 210 cm (seven feet) of Rocky Mountain white gold. In addition to Sunshine’s famous Delirium Dive, this opening adds to the list of expert terrain open for all skiers and riders including the Back Bowls at The Lake Louise Ski Area and the North American at Mt. Norquay. The Wild West features three major rock-walled couloirs, steep crevices, and a series of cliffs – some reaching more than 30 metres. Entry is only permitted for those with a shovel, transceiver and buddy. Western North America continues to have the world’s best snow conditions. After breaking the highest season snowfall total on record with an accumulation of 691 inches (17.3m) so far this season, Squaw Valley USA has extended their ski season to May 30, 2011. Squaw Valley is widely known as North America’s spring skiing capital, however, conditions this year will be better than ever as a result of this season’s phenomenal snowfall. The storms of the last two weeks brought more than 150 inches (3.75m) of fresh powder to the resort. With records dating back to 1970, Squaw Valley has surpassed the highest season snowfall total on record of 662 inches (16.55) set in the 1994-1995 winter season. Nearing the 700 inch milestone, the resort has already exceeded the average total of 450 inches. More snow is sure to come with two more months until the season end.

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