The heavy snowfall in the Alps won’t let up it seems and several big name resorts including Chamonix and St Anton have added a metre or more of fresh snow in the past 7 days.
The good news is that Western North America is gaining lost ground on its slow start – in terms of snowfall – to 2011-12 with heavy snowfall in parts of California at last, the biggest accumulations up to 1.8m (six feet) at Lake Tahoe. Elsewhere the snow is in excellent condition in Western Canada as it has been all winter.
The news is not entirely good. Although most of the Alps have had good snowfalls the headline grabbing figures are mostly at northern, high altitude resorts and some lower regions could do with more. There’s been little fresh snow in the Pyrenees this month although snow depths from earlier falls and snowmaking are still in place.
There has been more heavy snow over the past few days in Austria. All roads in to Lech Zuers were closed when another 30cm+ of snow fell but the main streets opened again later the same day. In the last seven days St Anton in Arlberg reported 125cm of new snow while SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser – Brixental had 120cm and Solden 86 cm. There were 45 powderalarms for 20cm (8 nches) or more new snow in Austria on Tuesday. There’s now over five metres of snow in St Anton at Arlberg, which has the deepest snow depth in the country, and in Europe, followed by neighbouring Lech Zuers. The Zugspitzplatt has 400cm. It’s likely to remain snowy and cold over the next few days with high avalanche risk at many resorts.
There’s been fresh heavy snowfall in France over the past week, particularly last weekend in the Northern Alps when a metre of snow fell on resorts including Arêches Beaufort (a ski resort known for its off-piste) and Les Houches (which will host the Alpine World Cup Skiing men from 3rd to 5th February). Snow depths in the slopes in the Chamonix valley now vary between 2m at the base and 4m60 up top. More generally, the snowfall figures were between 50 and 70cm in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie and around 20/30 cm in the department of Isere. The other mountain areas were not so lucky with 20cm at Pelvoux and Superdevoluy (in the Southern Alps), 15cm at Gerardmer and Lac Blanc (the Vosges), and 5 small cm at Chalmazel (Massif Central) and Formigueres (Pyrenees). There’s no change, therefore, the Northern Alps reinforced their "supremacy" and remains the snowiest in France (460 cm in Chamonix, La Rosiere 385 cm, 350 cm in Alpe d'Huez). Although not all benefited from the recent snowfall, the ski resorts of Hautes-Alpes, however, offer very good conditions (150cm at Les Orres and Montgenevre, Serre Chevalier 145 cm). Some light snow is expected in the next few days but no more heavy falls for a while.
Italian ski areas have been further building their base depths over the past seven days with Courmayeur adding 40cm and Cervinia 50cm of new snow while Livigno has a foot (30cm).
The small ski area of San Domenico di Varzo currently has the country’s deepest snow with 320cm followed by the Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale in the Dolomites with 2.7m (nine feet) and Cervinia with 2.6m (just under nine feet!).
Switzerland has been seeing lots of fresh snow in the past few days – once again, building on already big base depths. Yesterday there were a dozen Swiss powder alarms with resorts reporting at least 20cm of new snow in 34 hours; yesterday there have been more with falls of up to 50cm including 30cm for Gstaad and Grindelwald. The best Swiss snow depth can be found in Engelberg with 460cm, Laax has 400cm and Saas Fee 360cm (12 feet). In the last seven days there’s been 138cm at Crans Montana, 130cm at Laax and 115cm in Lötschental.
Snow bases remain reasonable to good at most areas in the Pyrenees but there has not been much fresh snow in January so a top up would be useful. Resorts in Andorra and Spain report 60-150cm bases. In France there’s 130cm in Piau Engaly, Peyragudes 90cm and 70cm in Saint Lary but conditions remain satisfactory even if a snowfall of about 20 to 30 cm would be welcome at bottom of ski areas where the snow is still sometimes limited.
Most resorts in Scandinavia are in good shape with good snow cover. Røldal in Norway is claiming the deepest snow in the region with 340cm (11.3 feet) while Voss has 290cm (nearly 10 feet).
Conditions are looking much better in Scotland than a week ago following a week of snowfall at most areas. However the situation remains changeable as it has all winter with freeze-thaw patterns and the seemingly endless arrival of strong o gale force winds every few days.
On the west Coast Glencoe is largely open and Nevis range has more than 500m of skiable vertical but strong winds and warming temperatures are making snow on the upper mountain softer and wetter and runs on the lower mountain are likely to be thin and narrow. For beginners and novices the Alpha lift is running to Tower 2 for the artificial slope and patches of snow on the trainer tow. Back Corrie has been off piste and not patrolled. On the east most runs at The Lecht are complete. Cairngorm can not quite yet offer top-to-bottom skiing but the route from the Top Station to the mid station is now complete again and offering great snow sports. The bottom zig is still a bit sketchy, with the best route for lower abilities being from the mid zig to the Gunbarrel. Glenshee has a 300m vertical and recent snow has improved the runs with good skiing/boarding to be had on those that are open. Cairnwell and the Butcharts Tows are complete with fresh snow on a hard packed base. Other runs are thin in places.
Western Canada continues to report great conditions and there seems to be no end to the snowfall with Kicking horse in BC reporting another foot (30cm) today already. Fellow BC resort Revelstoke has now achieved a 209cm (7 foot) base with 40cm of snowfall over the weekend and a total of 68cm in the last seven days. The resort says it`s still snowing heavily down to the base with a big snowfall in the forecast for tonight plus more snow on the way this weekend
After a weird two month snow droughtin the USA, the first real storms of winter have already left a big impression on California's Mammoth Mountain and Lake Tahoe ski areas.
Snow started flying on Friday and as of 8am Monday morning, Mammoth had picked up four feet / 1.3m of snow and more is expected over the next couple of days. In Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort has received two to three feet / 1m of snow since last week and is expecting additional snow over the next few days, and in Northstar California at the top of the summit four feet / 1.3m of snow has fallen in the last week. Other resorts around Tahoe also reported big accumulations with Squaw Valley and Alpine meadows claiming up to 1.8m (six feet) fell.
At over 10,000 feet / 3,000m, Heavenly is Lake Tahoe's highest resort and they are currently operating 24 of 30 lifts, accessing 30 trails and more than 19 miles of terrain, and anticipate being able to open more terrain soon. In Northstar, they have 15 lifts open and 57 trails open. In both resorts, the natural snow has added nicely to the existing machine-made coverage, making for excellent conditions. The much needed powder will allow Mammoth to open all lifts and terrain by the end of this week.