After a largely sunny Christmas week in the Alps, another spate of huge snowfalls occurred over New Years Eve and New Years Day with some resorts receiving a metre of fresh snow during the 48 hour period. Snowfall has slowed a little now but resorts are still reporting 20-30cm falls across Europe and bigger falls are expected again towards the end of the week.
This is clearly good news for snow depths for the rest of the season with many areas that had next to no snow this time a month ago now reporting base depths at the average they’d normally be at around mid-February in an average year, if such a thing exists.
In the short term however the abundant snow has caused operational problems with slopes closed due to high avalanche danger and ski resort access made difficult with snow and ice on roads.
Elsewhere in Europe there has been more heavy snow in parts of Scandinavia and Scotland’s five ski areas have re-opened following fresh snowfall after earlier snow had thawed away in double digit temperatures over Christmas.
In the USA conditions remain ‘challenging’ on both east and west coasts with limited snow and warm temperatures making snowmaking difficult, but colder weather has arrived in the East at least now improving things.
There have been good snowfalls across Austria. In Nassfeld Hermagor around 40cm was reported on Tuesday morning and all slopes are open in the resort. There were good snowfalls too in Silvretta Montafon (20cm) and Gargellen (15cm). The best Snow depth can be found at St Anton with 305cm where 255km of slopes are open. Snowfalls of up to 95cm (three feet) in total over the past week have been reported in Austrian ski resorts including at Silvretta Montafon 95cm, Zillertal 85cm, St. Anton 78cm, Sölden 71cm, Serfaus Fiss Ladis 65cm and Lech Zurs 55cm. Avalanche risk is high at the moment in Berwang, on the Pitztal Glacier and at Rifflsee.
The last week of 2011 was marked by heavy snowfall in the French Alps. In the past seven days it has, for example dropped 111cm (nearly four feet) of fresh snow at La Plagne, 100cm (3.3 feet) at Les Carroz and 92cm (three feet) at Le Grand Bornand. Snowfall has continued today (Wednesday 4 January) with 20cm reported by many resorts including Avoriaz and Val d’Isere. The snow depth measured at the top of the runs have already reached the kinds of levels they’re at by mid-February with 350cm (12 feet) at the top of the ski resort of Chamonix, 300 cm at the top of La Rosiere, 280 cm at the top of the slopes of La Clusaz ...
These heavy snowfall have also temporarily disrupted access to some ski resorts with roads closed to allow for avalanche control that threatened safety. However, the good snow news was somewhat disturbed by a sharp increase of temperatures and even a few drops of rain Saturday and Monday. This warmer weather was not enough to endanger the snow conditions in the Alps but is still quite disturbing for low-altitude ski resorts of Les Vosges, where there’s only 40cm of snow at the top of slopes and 15 small cm at the bottom of ski areas. The end of week should be accompanied by still more new snowfall on the northern Alps, but by rain showers on Jura, Vosges and Massif Central. The Southern Alps and the Pyrenees should remain stable weather. In Italy slopes are looking largely good with up to 70cm of snow reported in the past week, and 50cm at Courmayeur. Powder alarms of 20-25cm of new snow have been reported today in the Dolomites at Alta Badia and Brixen. Snow has fallen across the region above 900m above sea level for the second night in a row.
There have been more good snowfalls of over a metre during the last seven days in many Swiss ski resorts. Laax reports 140cm for the last week, Andermatt 120cm and Gstaad 110cm. However all slopes at Gstaad Glacier 3000 are reported to be closed at the moment due to the conditions but ready to re-open as soon as these improve. "As soon as the conditions are good enough we will (re)open the lifts and slopes. The snow conditions are good and we do our best to prepare further slopes. We already primed the slopes at the glacier and at Martisberg as good as possible", said a resort spokesperson. Snow depths have passed three metres (ten feet) in Lötschental 356cm, Engelberg 347cm, and Saas Fee (picture attached) 340cm.
Still more new snow is forecast in the next few days and it is expected to get very windy (winter storm) on Thursday with the snowline falling down to 600 metres.
Conditions remain good in most areas of the Pyrenees following healthy December snowfalls bringing bases depths up to a maximum of 1.8m (sis feet). Spain’s Baqueira–Beret reported 20cm of new snow overnight yesterday.
The powder alarms have kept arriving from resorts in Scandinavia and two resorts – Roldal and Voss in Norway, have reported q1.2m (four feet) of snow in the past seven days.
Bad weather in the UK has brought fresh snow to Scotland’s ski slopes and all five centres are open again, although strong winds continue to cause operational disruption. On the West coast at Nevis Range recent snowfall has greatly improved conditions with lots of fresh snow in deep drifts. A statement from Glencoe said, "Conditions on the mountain are much improved and we expect when the wind dies down to have most runs and lifts open". On the east Cairngorm above Aviemore is opening and at Glenshee the ongoing snow is filling in the runs - some of which are now complete with good cover of pisted fresh snow and there are ample nursery areas. The Lecht is also looking very white although the access road was closed on both sides yesterday and the hill was stormbound.
Western Canada continues to enjoy a great season in Alberta and British Columbia. "RED Mountain isn't short on the fluffy stuff heading into 2012. We've received some consistent snowfall - there has been new snow 7 out of the last 11 days", said a resort statement. "Our forecast calls for many more snow days in the next two weeks and all of our chairs are turning, Granite and Red are fully open, and we have 88/88 shred-able runs available on 100-percent natural snow". It’s a similar story at other resorts in the region, which is good news for the Freeride World Tour getting underway with Revelstoke where snow depths have reached 4.6m according to the organisers. Overall BC resorts are in the best shape of any part of North America right now.
US destination resorts in the West of the country are continuing to face some of the most challenging conditions for more than a decade with limited natural snow and weather too warm for snowmaking. Lake Tahoe in California is reported to be particularly hard hit. Conditions are reported to be picking up in New England and in other East Coasty areas however which had faced similar conditions but is now benefitting from a cold front bringing fresh snow and temperatures cold enough to fire up the huge snowmaking arsenal deployed there.
The best conditions in US are to be found in the North-Westerly states of Alaska and Washington.