After the huge snowfalls of the first 10 days of January conditions have been much calmer in the Alps over the past week. The USA, where key states have been needing snow, have seen the first substantial falls for over a month in Colorado, Utah and new England though.
Heavy snow, possibly disruptive in places is expected in the next few days however with Western North America and France/Switzerland expected to get the biggest falls – potentially huge 1m+ accumulations – although most other areas will see fresh snow too.
Big falls have already been reported in the past 72 hours with parts of Hokkaido in Japan, already known as one of the snowiest places on earth, managing to clock up their greatest ever 48 hour accumulations and Western Canada – which has had a great snowy season so far anyway, seeing more big falls of up to 75cm in 24 hours. Some resorts there have now received around 6m/20 feet of snow so far this winter.
Conditions have calmed down in Austria after the huge snowfalls in the first week of January led to road closures and cut off resorts by road and rail. During the last week some resorts got up to 40cm fresh snow however keeping slopes in good shape. Obertauern and Zauchensee report 40cm for the last seven day while Fieberbrunn, Zillertal and St Johann in Tirol got 20cm each. Thanks to all the early January snow there are still huge snow depths in Austrian ski resorts. The deepest can be found in St Anton at Arlberg with 440cm (nearly 15 feet). Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald has 370cm and Lech Zurs at Arlberg has 350cm. There are ten other resorts with a snow depth over three meters (ten feet). Other Austrian news is that the Fun Park in Solden has opened for this season but the off piste avalanche risk is high at several resorts, including Mayrhofen (degree 4 of 5). Towards the end of the week it will be getting warmer in Austria and the snowline will rise to above 1000m. Fresh snowfalls are expected for Saturday afternoon.
For the second consecutive week, French ski resorts are enjoying sunny days and temperatures become colder. This lull has allowed stations to overcome the chaotic situation encountered earlier this year (caused by heavy snow). Everything is now back to normal and the ski conditions are still outstanding on the northern Alps (over three metres/10 feet of snow at the top of Chamonix’s slopes), excellent in the Southern Alps (150cm/five feet in Montgenevre and Les Orres), very good over the Pyrenees (150cm/five feet in Piau Engaly), satisfying in the Jura (60cm/two feet Jura Mountains), but just average in the Massif Central (10 to 60cm) and the Vosges (30 to 60cm depending on the stations). The last significant snowfall occurred more than 10 days ago now but the lull could be only short-lived as the forecast is for a return to snowy weather from Wednesday night with new snowfall continuing through the weekend. All mountain areas should benefit these snowfall (and this is a good news) but the biggest falls are, once again, expected for the northern Alps. The forecasts need to be finalised but could again exceed a metre of new snow in some ski resorts (La Clusaz, Avoriaz ...). "Let it be said, the snow is back in France!" says Skiinfo France’s Stéphane Giraud.
In common with the rest of Europe, there’s been little or no new snowfall in Italy in the past week. However base depths are very healthy. In most areas after the previous large accumulations. The deepest, just, is at Cervinia in the Aosta Valley to the West of the country with 2.8m (over nine feet), with Arabba in the Dolomites on the Eastern side only 2cm (less than an inch) behind at 278cm.
The past few days have been sunny in Switzerland. Skiers and boarders benefitted from the big falls a week ago. Snow depths are excellent and skiers are enjoying the good conditions at the moment. On Thursday and Friday new snowfall is expected, especially in the northern Alps. The best snow depth can be found in Lungern-Schönbüel with 450 cm, followed by Engelberg with 385cm and Gstaad Glacier 3000 with 380 cm. However despite the great snow condition the ice is too thin at St Moritz where the 28th Polo World Cup on Snow 2012 on the resort’s famous frozen lake cannot go ahead for the first time in the tournament’s 28-year history.
Conditions remain good across most of the Pyrenees although there’s been little fresh snowfall in the past week. Baqueira – Beret in Spain has the deepest snow base at up to 160cm, followed by Piau Engaly on the French side with 150cm. Vallnord in Andorra in the centre is in third place with 140cm and Cauterets, back in France, has a 130cm base.
It’s snowy in Scandinavia with Strandafjellet in Norway receiving some of the biggest snowfalls in the world over the past 7 days with 80cm. Most of the regions larger resorts are now sitting on healthy base depths with Roldal on top with 290cm (nearly 10 feet).
Western Canada’s excellent season continues and has even moved up a gear with Fernie in British Columbia reporting 75cm (30 inches) of new snow in the past 24 hours on an already healthy base. It’s a similar story across the province: "After an incredible snowfall over the past weekend with close to 50cm of snow falling in 48hrs, Revelstoke Mountain Resort boasts amazing snow conditions nearing a 200cm base and 550cm of snowfall to date", said a resort statement. A heavy snow cycle is forecast to return this weekend with great skiing temperatures throughout the week. Recent snowfalls have developed the lower mountain, with runs below Mid-Mountain Lodge officially opening at Revelstopke for the first time yesterday. Skiers and snowboarders can now enjoy the Most Vertical in North America with 5620’ vertical feet of skiing fun!
Western US is bracing for a dramatic change to its lacklustre winter 2011-12 with big snowfalls and temperatures up to 20 degrees below average as new fronts move in to the region, severe weather warnings are in place. If this all happens as predicted it should, once the extreme weather has moved on, transform the ski areas in California that have been suffering since early December from warm weather and little or no natural snow. Conditions have already picked up in the major ski states of Utah and particularly Colorado which issued powder alarms for over 8 inches (20cm) of fresh snow and in some cases as much as a foot (30cm) in 24 hours over Monday/Tuesday this week. Beneficiaries included Vail and Beaver Creek. The snow has been good all season in some parts of the US and Alaska, Washington State and Wyoming in the North West of the country have also been reporting more heavy snow as they have for most of the winter. Eaglecrest in Alaska has the country’s deepest snow at 376cm (12.5 feet) while Mt Baker in Washington State, the famed snowiest-resort-in-the-world is not far behind with 368cm. Conditions have picked up a great deal in recent weeks on the East Coast too, although snowfall there at the end of last week has now eased, many resorts, particularly in Vermont, benefitted from several feet of snow.