August is the month when the ski-obsessed can dare to start dreaming of the coming winter and hoping for a snowy one. Skiinfo reports there are only 10 places currently open to ski in the Northern Hemisphere but healthy snowfalls on the glaciers of the Alps in late July and the increasing flow of teasing news for next winter from resorts and tour operators can get pulses racing. And from now on more and more resorts will start opening from September on for winter 2011-12. Meanwhile in the southern hemisphere winter 2011 is now in full swing.
In Europe the ski season in Norway ended early when cracks appeared in the underlying ice beneath the snow so the only areas open are in the Alps.
Switzerland has some of Europe’s highest ski areas at Saas Fee (90cm, picture attached) and Zermatt (100cm0 with lifts operating to nearly 3,900m at the latter, among the 10 highest ski lift served points in the world. Both are now open right through to Spring 2012 (in fact Zermatt’s ski season never ends) and have benefitted from over 30cm (a foot) of fresh snow in the past few weeks.
In France Les 2 Alpes (125cm) and Tignes (30cm) will be open right through the month, well until the last weekend in Les 2 Alpes’ case anyway, it closes on the 28th. Hopefully the base at Tignes will last in to September as planned.
Austria was a major beneficiary of the big July snowfalls but three of those that reported receiving at least 30cm – Kaprun, Stubai and Solden are all closed until September. However you can ski on the Molltal glacier (160cm) and at year-round Hintertux (85cm).
Italy has three ski areas open and the deepest snow reported anywhere at present – 4m at Passo Stelvio. You can also ski above Cervinia (120cm) on the only cross-border summer ski area, linked to Zermatt and at Val Senales (60cm).
There were a dozen areas open at the start of July in North America, but a month later with the closure of Whistler’s glacier slope a few weeks ago, only the usual lone choice, Timberline (117cm) on Mt Hood in Oregon remains open through August.
In the southern hemisphere around 100 ski areas are open in Australia and New Zealand, Argentina and Chile and even Lesotho in Southern Africa (www.afriski.com).
Australian ski areas are so far having an epic winter with most boasting base depths of at least a metre and regular snowfall top ups.
New Zealand’s winter 2011 got off to a very poor start but that’s all changed now with some decent snowfalls through July building up bases albeit a month behind schedule. Most now have 60-90cm bases by Turoa has nearly reached two metres (196cm).
It’s not been a particularly memorable start to the season in South America either with limited early snowfall at most of Chile’s resorts and the continent’s biggest ski area, Catedral, one of several suffering from proximity to an erupting volcano which has caused air traffic chaos with its ash cloud and repeatedly coated the ski slopes in ash, meaning skiers have had to wear face protection to avoid breathing in the dust when the lifts have been able to open – a fairly surreal ski experience. The volcano is not a problem for most resorts however and Las Leñas in Argentina and Portillo and Valle Nevado in Chile are among those keen to stress they’re many hundreds of miles from the trouble. Snow depths across the continent are currently mostly in the 50-90cm range.