The 2011 ski season has begun in the southern hemisphere, with a 600m long slope at Afri-Ski in Lesotho the first to open, on Thursday, June 9th. Skiers and boarders who weren’t already resident at the ski area had difficulty reaching it though as access roads were closed by drifting snow. The ski area itself reported snow depths of 50cm thanks to 30cm off natural snowfall and over 150 hours of pre-season snowmaking.
Similar snow cover has been reported at ski areas in Australia, the largest of which, Perisher, opened early on June 10th (picture attached), with natural snowfall and low temperatures for snow making. It had in fact already opened for a weekend in May after record pre-season snow then. Mt Hotham will also be opening following what the resort describes as, "plentiful natural snowfalls and a good snowmaking run". Hotham will open three lifts, The Big D, Summit Trainer and Upper Playground this coming Saturday 11 June. The last time Hotham Alpine Resort opened three lifts on Opening Weekend was seven years ago, in 2003.
Things are looking promising in South America too where most resorts will start opening from next weekend. Chile’s Valle Nevado reported 15cm of new snow in 24 hours last week and Catedral, the continent’s largest ski area in Argentina has said it will open despite having its slopes coated in ash by an erupting volcano, which also grounded flights in the region.
New Zealand, where the season was due to start last weekend, is still waiting for cold enough weather for snowmaking, or natural snowfall, following its warmest ever May.