After two months with less than two dozen ski areas open in the northern hemisphere, the past few days have seen the 2011-12 ski season really take off with the first non-glacier ski areas open following heavy snowfalls in North America and more ski areas opening in the Alps. Over the next month hundreds of ski resorts will open for winter 2011-12. With the opening of five centres in the US at the weekend it now has nine ski areas open, equalling Austria.
Austria currently has eight glacier ski areas open along with a 1km long run at Schladming/Planai. Austria can also claim the deepest snow currently to be found north of the equator with 1.7m (nearly six feet)n on the country’s highest slopes at Pitztal. Good snowfalls in the country during October have kept conditions good. Skiinfo reports that the Dachstein, Kaunertal, Kitzsteinhorn (above Kaprun), Molltal, Solden, Stubai and Tux glaciers are also open. Grossglocker/Heiligenblut on the 12th and then Obergurgl and Obertauern expect to open on the 17th.
The ski season never ends at Zermatt (Switzerland), Europe’s highest ski centre, and Saas Fee has also been open since July and will remain so to late spring 2012. Engelberg and Laax have recently opened their glacier ski areas, the latter at weekends only through November. The Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz is also reported to be operating. Full resorts are scheduled to start opening on the 17th/18th November including Crans Montana and Davos – the latter offering free ski passes with packages up to Christmas. Les Diablerets is due to open at the weekend.
Only Tignes is currently open in France. Other resorts may open in the latter half of November, particularly Chamonix, if conditions are good and Val Thorens, Europe’s highest resort, plans to begin its 40th year anniversary season on the 19th.
Cervinia (Italy) opened at the weekend for weekend skiing and boarding through November. Passo Tonale is also due to open and join summerski areas Val Senales and Passo Stelvio. Most other Italian areas will open on the last weekend of the month although Madesimo expects to open on the 12th.
Warmer than usual temperatures have delayed the usual start to the Scandinavian ski season. Ruka in Finland began snowmaking in the middle of October but had to stop again and it looks like this will be the first year for more than a decade when the resort – which kept a run open to last June, hasn’t opened in October. Norway’s Kvitfjell is also waiting to open and it’s due to be joined next weekend by Bjorli and Hemsedal as well as Are in Sweden and Levi and Pyha in Finland.
US resorts normally rely on low temperatures to enable snowmaking guns to run and thus open a few trails, but this autumn the country has been surprised by several feet of snow falling on parts of the West Coast and most recently around a foot of ‘unseasonable’ snow in New England on the East. As a result, around nine centres are already open – more than any other country at the start of November - including Boreal in California; Loveland, Arapahoe Basin (picture attached) and Wolf Creek in Colorado, Timberline in Oregon, Killington in Vermont and Sunday River in Maine. The small area of Woodbury in Connecticut also announced it would open last weekend.
If conditions remain good most of the country’s resorts will open over the next four weeks in time for the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the month. Resorts due to open soon include Copper Mountain on 5th November and Breckenridge, for its 50th season, on 11.11.11 – both in Colorado.
Nakiska near Calgary was the first ski area to open in Canada for the season on 29 October. It’s due to be joined by Lake Louise on November 5th
The last ski area open in the southern hemisphere for the 2011 ski season is believed to be Turoa on Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand. It is scheduled to stay open until this Sunday, November 6th.