Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Huge Snowfalls In North America, Warm But Still Great In The Alps

It has been the snowiest week of winter 2011-12 in much of North America with resorts reporting up to 90cm/three feet of snow in 48 hours or as much as 170cm (nearly six feet) over the full week. There’s been snow right across the continent with up to 1.2m (four feet) reported in New England on the eastern side.
In contrast the Alps have seen temperatures rise up to 30 degrees on a few weeks ago and conditions are now reported to be mostly ‘Springlike’ with little fresh snow in the past week. In Scotland conditions have deteriorated badly with little snow left due to exceptionally warm February weather there, peaking at less than one degree lower than the all time high temperature.The avalanche risk is quite high at many resorts on both sides of the Atlantic either because of the large volumes of snow in places in north America or warm temperatures making the snowpack unstable at places in the Alps. So everyone is advised to fully heed warnings.
Resorts in Austria had some of the best snowfalls in the Alps at the end of last week. Most resorts received 10 – 30cm of fresh snow but the Freesports Arena Krippenstein reported 60cm (two feet) and Fieberbrunn 40cm. Big resorts like Zillertal and Hohentauern got 30cm while 15cm (6 inches) were measured in Sölden, Stubaital and Flachau. The top snow depth can now be found in Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald (495cm), St Anton (465cm) and Kleinwalsertal (460cm).
The avalanche risk is high (level 4) in Mayrhofen as the temperatures are getting milder (around 0-5+ degrees in Arlberg, 2000m) and not much new snow is expected for the next few days although later in the week there may be fresh snow at altitudes above 2000m.
In France warm weather has moved in to the Alps, impacting the huge snow pack that built up over the past three months. "In recent days, temperatures have been unseasonably mild for the time of year - up to 10/12°C in the early afternoon ... so it feels like in April", says Stéphane Giraud of Skiinfo.FR / Mountain News Corporation. The snow depth recorded by ski resorts remain high (still more than four metres/13 feet) at Chamonix, 350cm (nearly 12 feet) at Alpe d'Huez and 345cm (11.5 feet) at Flaine). "However, in a week, conditions have greatly changed: after the cold and fresh snow in recent weeks, the current holidaymaker, are now skiing on heavier/wetter snow", adds Stéphane. "The essential accessory of the week is sunscreen". This spring-like weather should continue until Friday, then the sky will have cloud cover from Saturday and it should then, perhaps, snow at high altitudes (above 1800/2000m) provided that the temperatures drop dramatically (otherwise there is a danger of rain…)
There’s been little fresh snow in Italy in the past week with some of the country’s deepest snowpack (3m/10 feet) in the south of the country near Rome at ski areas like Campo Imperatore. However most of the major resorts across the north of the country still have healthy snow depths on upper slopes of 90-150cm (3-5 feet).
Switzerland has had a quieter week for snowfall although conditions are still reported to be good. "Gstaad is experiencing an exceptional winter. Magnificent snow also transforms the landscape into a wonderland in March. The slope conditions could hardly be any better", said Kerstin Sonnekalb, the resort’s Public Relations Manager. Resorts like Arosa, Laax and Disentis 3000 reported 10cm (4 inches) in total for the last seven days. Ebenalp/Appenzellerland can be happy about 40cm (16 inches) of fresh snow, the most of all Swiss resorts. Snow depth in the ski resorts are still perfect even with ‘Spring like temperatures” here too. The deepest snow can be found in Engelberg (541cm), Laax (385cm), Champex-Lac (380cm) and Crans Montana (365cm). Pyrenees and Rest of Spain
After several very snowy weeks there’s been little new snow in the Pyrenees in the past week, but most resorts in Spain and Andorra remain in good shape because of those earlier accumulations.
Scandinavian ski areas have seen some of the best snowfalls in Europe over the past week. Snowy Jolster in Norway has added another 70cm to its huge 2011-12 snowfall tally and coastal Voss has reported the same amount of new snow.
It’s been another week to forget for Scottish skiing with what may have been the warmest ever February day in the country this week. The double digit temperatures have wiped out the remaining snow at Glenshee and The Lecht and there’s only limited terrain open on upper runs at Cairngorm, Nevis range and Glencoe with warm temperatures continuing. To rub salt in the wounds strong winds have stopped those three centres from offering snow sports on most days in the past week in any case.
There have been huge snowfalls in Canada once again with British Columbia’s great snowfall season already receiving a further boost with several resorts reporting up to three feet (90cm,) of fresh snow falling over a 48 hour period in the past few days. "More Powder Crazed than a kid in a Krispy Kreme store. The Griz has delivered- over 3 feet in 48hrs of Dry, Light Pow to Fernie Alpine Resort, heart of the Powder Highway!", said an excited ‘Powder Matt’ Mosteller, the Vice President of Marketing and Sales for resort owners the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies. A little further west Revelstoke Mountain Resort received 82cm of snow this past week with the peak of the storm hitting just in time for Saturday skiers and delivering a whopping 34cm (14 inches) in just 24h hours. "Incredible powder conditions were enjoyed all weekend long as the storm finally tailed-off on Sunday, opening the skies to some beautiful sunshine for the past two days. More snow is in the forecast for this week with the heaviest portion predicted just in time for our weekend visitors again!", said Sarah Windsor from the resort. For a change though there has been almost as much snow in Eastern Canada as in the west. Mont Sutton has had the most in Quebec in the past 7 days with 82cm (nearly three feet). Big falls have been reported too by Le Massif (70cm) and most other resorts in the region have had at least a foot (30cm) over the same period.
The past week has been the snowiest of winter 2011-12 across the USA with resort’s from Alaska to new Hampshire reporting huge snowfalls – most several feet, the biggest as much as 171cm (a few inches short of six feet) at Alyeska in Alaska. It’s been particularly good news, albeit later in the season than they might have liked, for areas that had been catching up from below-average snowfall earlier in the winter like California and New England. In New England huge snowfalls have included 120cm (four feet) for Stowe including 60cm (two feet) in 48 hours, and 136cm (4.5 feet) at Sugarbush. "For Stowe skiers and riders, this is the storm everyone has been waiting for!", summarised a statement from the resort. There have been big falls reported in all the major ski regions including Colorado and Utah with Jackson Hole in Wyoming, which has been having a good snowfall season already, adding another 90cm/3 feet plus of snow in the past seven days.

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