Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Huge Snowfalls In The Alps

What a change in 48 hours!. The long awaited snowfalls in the Alps began at the weekend and have gathered pace with the biggest yet reported over the past 24 hours with some of the biggest accumulations including 60cm in 24 hours at Meribel and 70cm in 24 hours at both Les Arcs and St Anton.
Although the heavy snowfall in central Europe has taken the emphasis of the great start to North America’s season a little, conditions there, particularly in the west of Canada and the USA, remains excellent, with snow depths well above the (generally impressive anyway) norm for this time of the season.
In Northern Europe, some resorts in Scandinavia have in fact had more snow than either the best in the Alps or North America in the past week and at least two of Scotland’s ski areas plan to open at the weekend.
Parts of Austria have, like the rest of the Alps, been seeing big snowfalls in recent days, particularly the last 24 hours to 7 December, and the snow is still falling. Indeed St Anton reported one of the biggest 24 hour accumulations of 70cm (28 inches), its neighbour Lech reporting 40cm. The snow line has now dropped to between 400m – 800m during the week and around 20 ski resorts are open in Austria. Among the many fresh snow beneficiaries across Austria, those already open in the Tirol with powder to enjoy include Kühtai: 30 cm of fresh snow in the last three days; Ischgl: 20 cm of fresh snow last night, total snow height: 50 cm; Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis: 25 cm of fresh snow last night, total snow height: 40 cm; Obergurgl: 10 cm of fresh snow last night, total snow height: 70 cm; the Kaunertal glaicer: 25 cm of fresh snow last night, total snow height: 123cm and the Pitztal glacer: 13 cm of fresh snow last night, total snow height: 146cm – and the snow is still falling. Although the country’s highest snow depths are still on the glaciers, half a dozen of which have been open since September and October, resorts like Obertauern, Serfaus Fiss Ladis and Ischgl have prepared their slopes well and the latter has more than 80km (50 miles) of runs open.
There have been big snowfalls in the French Alps over the past 24 hours, building on significant falls that began earlier this week. Today (December 7) has so far seen about 10 to 20cm in South Alps (Serre-Chavalier, Orcières 1850, Praloup) and as much as 60cm at Méribel, 50cm at Les Saisies and 40cm at La Plagne/Paradiski (picture attached) all reported over the past 24 hours. "After a particularly dry and warm autumn which severely disrupted the opening of ski resorts, the snow has finally appeared on the Alps", said Stéphane Giraud of Skiinfo France. "Since Saturday, weather systems have started to stick over the country bringing with them valuable snowfalls: initially 20 to 30 cm at 1800m altitude, and locally from 50 to 80 cm around 2500m". Initially it was mainly the ski resorts in the Northern Alps and the Jura that benefitted from the snowfalls but they’ve now spread across much of France. While so far only eight ski areas were open, the new snowfall should allow about 30 ski resorts to quickly start their ski season: Alpe d'Huez will open its slopes on Thursday (December 8), Avoriaz, Chamonix, Flaine, Les Arcs, Vars, Risoul, Montgenevre and twenty other resorts will welcome skiers from Saturday (December 10). "The weather in the next days is expected to bring more new snowfall. From 30 to 60cm of fresh snow should fall over the next three days, enough to bring smiles to the managers of ski resorts", says Stéphane.
Resorts in western Italy have seen the most snow in the past week with Sestrie, clavier and Sauze d;’Oulx in the 2006 Olympic vebnues of the milky way recording 20cm accumulations.
Italy’s biggest ski area, the Dolomiti Superski, will see most of its dozen separate sectors opening at least some runs over the next 24 hours with 124 Lifts and 210km of slopes will be open in nine of Dolomiti Superski’s ski regions. The skiable slopes are in Alta Badia (30 of 130 km), Val Gardena/Alpe di Siusi (60 of 175 km), Cortina d’Ampezzo (5 of 140 km), Kronplatz (60 of 114 km), Val di Fassa/Carezza (10 of 133 km), Sextner Dolomiten/Alta Pusteria (20 of 77 km), Val di Fiemme/Obereggen (20 of 156 km), San Martino di Castrozza/Rolle-Pass (3 of 60 km)and the Trevalli (2 of 100 km). More lifts and slopes will open for the coming weekend of the 10th/11th December.
Switzerland has had its share of good snowfalls in the past week with Anzere topping the table with a metre of new snow. Saas Fee has had more than 60cm (two feet) and has one of the world’s deepest snow bases up on its glacier at around two metres. Conditions are looking increasingly good at most other Swiss resorts with ski areas in the Portes du Soleil issuing powder alarms for 20cm in 24 hours yesterday (6 Dec). Laax which is open this weekend reports it has had up to 25cm in the last two days with 75cms on the Vorab Glacier.
Norway has had the most snow in Europe since the start of the month and that’s now the most snow in the world as Strandfjellet became the first ski area outside North America to post the biggest weekly snowfall total - 1.4m – anywhere, over the past seven days, earlier this week.
The Lecht and Glencoe have announced they will open this weekend, starting the Scottish ski season. Nevis Range are yet to decide, Glenshee has not had enough snow and Cairngorm also say they need more snow – but it is still falling.
Conditions are superb in Western Canada which has had one of the best starts to the season of any region in the world. Typical is Marmot Basin in Alberta which has already received half of its average annual snowfall and there is still over five months of skiing and snowboarding remaining in the season. 200cm of snow had fallen up to December 5 compared to 111cm last year at the same time. Prime, mid-winter conditions exist throughout the entire ski area. Comments on Facebook and Twitter are rife with superlatives from Marmot skiers and snowboarders recounting glorious powder-filled days of perfect skiing; and it is not yet even mid-December.
Although the recent snowfall in the Alps has finally given some European balance to the epic early-season conditions in Western North America, Wolf Creek in Colorado is only 5cm off being able to report the most snow in the Western World over the past seven days with 1.35m (4.5 feet) accumulated. Alyeska in Alaska has had another 90cm (three feet) and Telluride, Colorado (USA) another foot (30cm).

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