Friday, December 2, 2011

Big Snow Again Out West While Europe Battles To Open Slopes

Resorts in Europe continue to struggle to provide adequate snow to be able to open and an increasing number are postponing their opening for the ski season. St Anton has decided to delay opening for at least a week, and the Skiwelt to the 15th December. It’s not all bad news as resorts in Scandinavia have reported up to 55cm of fresh snow in the past week, Zermatt says it has 117km of pistes open and a 1500m+ vertical on the Italian side and Ischgl spend €1m on snowmaking last week to create 81km of piste. Solden reported 24cm of fresh snow during the 24 hours to Wednesday, 30th November.
In Austria despite challenging conditions and some resorts having to delay their openings, others are managing to open on time, most notably Ischgl with its 81km (50 miles) of piste open for around 18,000 fans at the Roxette season opening concert at the weekend, nearly 15,000 of whom had taken to the slopes during the day. Further good news is the fresh snow reported at Solden and that Serfaus Fiss Ladis can start as planed at the 2nd December, with enough artificial snow the resort will be prepared for the first skiers. Nassfeld Hermagor is also optimistic to start next weekend. Snow machines are running all the time and the valley run is already prepared.Otherwise the country’s 8 or so glacier areas continue to offer good skiing. The Pitztal Glacier has the most with 1-1.55m but you can also ski now at Kaprun, Kaunertal, Tux, Dachstein, Molltal, Solden and Stubai and non-glacier Obergurgl has up to 60cm of snow cover.
Conditions remain very challenging in France with four areas now open, mostly with man made snow at high altitude, ranging in depth at up to 60cm. The options are Isola 2000, Tignes, Val Thorens and Val d’Isere.
Around 15 resorts are now open in Italy which continues to have one of the deepest snow bases in Europe with the Presana Glacier above Passo Tonale reporting a 2m base – deeper than anywhere else. Cervinia is also doing well with a 1.45m (nearly five foot) base and runs are open all the way down to Valtournenche – a vertical of over 1500m, the biggest in the Alps and one of the biggest in the world at present. Many of the country’s biggest resorts are now open like Bormio, Cervinia and Livigno are already open with 50cm bases. Many more ski areas including resorts in the Dolomiti Superski area are scheduled to open from this weekend onwards.
It remains largely glacier ski slopes that are open in Switzerland but Davos Klosters has now opened and has a free skiing offer up to Christmas Eve and a Facebook competition running too. Saas Fee, which has been open all summer and autumn, claims the deepest snow depth at 165cm, but Zermatt, Glacier 3000 (above Gstaad/Diablerets) and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz in the Engadin are all open and the slopes of Laax are open at weekends. Samnaun opened with its linked partner resort Ischgl across the border last weekend too and has a 20cm base.
Sierra Nevada, Europe’s most southerly resort, was the first in Spain to open last weekend and reports a snow base of 50cm, made up partly of machine made snow and partly of 30cm (a foot) that fell in early November. Otherwise, after good early snowfall early this month the Pyrenees are facing the same challenging conditions as much of Europe. Grandvalira in Andorra has delayed opening planned this weekend. It says it has some snow built up on its pistes but wants to preserve and enhance it ready for more important dates in December when Spain has bank holidays.
Half a dozen resorts in Norway have reported at least 50cm of new snow in the past week, the most at Strandafjellet which says they’ve had 55cm. Coastal Voss has had 3-cm (a foot) in the past few days.
In Canada Sunshine ski area, one of the three Banff areas has had the most new snow in the country this week with 99cm whilst Lake Louise, venue for this week’s World Cup competitions, has had 66cm and further west in BC, Whistler is in the top five for snowfall this week with 75cm in seven days. Most other resorts in the region are now open or opening next weekends, some early including Fernie, Panorama and Revelstoke. Marmot Basin has opened their new quad chairlift. On the East Coast Mont Sainte Anne and Stoneham near Quebec City both opened at the weekend.
Conditions are great in the US– particularly the North West where Mt Baker in Washington state has reported 119cm (four feet) of snow in the past seven days, keeping up its reputation as one of the world’s snowiest resorts. Alyeska in Alaska, another resort with a reputation for big snow, has had 64cm (over two feet). In Colorado, Copper Mountain has become the first resort to open a Super Pipe. It’s not bad on the east coast either with heavy snowfalls at many areas, Cranmore in New Hampshire reporting the most with 60cm, nearby Bretton Woods has had 40cm.

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