Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Big Snowfalls in the Alps as Western North America Gets Dumped On

Snow conditions are excellent almost everywhere now with most of the world’s major ski regions either enjoying sunny periods after huge snowfalls; or enjoying fresh new huge snowfalls, or both.
Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the Pyrenees, Scandinavia and Western North America have all been reporting big accumulations of up to 1.2m (four feet) in the past seven days and the first season-extension announcements are starting to come in.
The only downside to this is that the avalanche danger is high to very high off piste in many areas, with tragedies occurring in America and the Alps this week.
Austrian ski resorts got a lot of fresh snow during the latter half of last week. Four resorts got more than a metre of snow including two over 1.2m (four feet) - Kleinwalsertal (125cm) and Diedamskopf (120cm). Kanzelwand/Fellhorn with 105cm and Bichlbach (100cm) with the other two. More than 100 other ski areas reported falls of 20 - 85cm and so by the weekend the avalanche risk was very high (grade 4 of 5). This has eased a little over the past few days but in some parts the danger is still high. "After the heavy snow falls the weather is perfect at the beginning of the week and ski conditions could not be better", says Skiinfo’s Gerda Moritz. Two resorts just cracked the five-metre snow depth, St Anton now has 515cm (over 17 feet) of snow at the top of the mountain and the Dachstein Glacier reports 510cm (17 feet). Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald is a couple of inches behind on 495cm.
In France average snow depths in the northern Alps are running at 242cm (eight feet) at the top of the slopes and 114cm (just under four feet) at the bottom of the ski areas. Although there has not been a huge amount of fresh snow in the region over the past week, conditions are mostly excellent thanks to the huge accumulations in December and January building up big bases. "After an early February that was cold and snowy, conditions are exceptional", says Skiinfo France’s Stéphane Giraud. With 430cm of snow at the top of the slopes, Chamonix is the snowiest, followed by the Grand Massif ski area (Flaine, Morillon, Samoens and Les Carroz) where there is 375cm. Elsewhere in France the average snow depths are 178cm at the top of the slopes of the Pyrenees and 112cm at the top of the slopes of the Southern Alps.
Italy has seen some of the best snow in Europe over the past week with some smaller areas reporting up to 90cm (three feet) of snow in the past week. The Dolomites received heavy snow earlier this week with most areas reporting between 20 and 40cm in 24 hours up to Monday morning.
Ski resorts in Switzerland had lots more snow in the last week. The conditions are perfect at the moment and there are more sunny days expected this week. The most snow fall reported for the entire continents of Europe and north America in the past seven days – 140cm – was reported by Ebenalp/Appenzellerland. It was one of nearly 50 Swiss resorts reported new snow of 50 – 100cm. Engelberg still has the greatest snow depth in Europe with 541cm.
Conditions are good in most of the ski resorts in the Pyrenees after more snow fell in the past week. Cauterets in France has the deepest snow in the region with 3.1m (10.3 feet) but it is closely followed by Baqueira-Beret (picture attached) in Spain with 3 metres. Vallnord has the deepest snow in Andorra with 2.2m (7.3 feet).
There’s been more heavy snow in Scandinavia this week, particularly in Norway where Jolster reported over 1.2m (four feet) more snow and Roldal moved up to a 4.3m snow base.
Conditions have further deteriorated in Scotland over the past seven days with the Lecht remaining completely closed with little cover remaining and the other four centres having only limited snow left. Cairngorm and Nevis range have the most on upper slopes. With storm force winds closing centres on Monday and temperatures now in double figures in the valleys it’s not looking good at the moment.
Canada’s west has seen more healthy snowfall enabling mount Washington to be possibly the first in the world to announce already that it’s extending its 2011-12 ski season, by a week so far to April 22nd. At Revelstoke in BC they’re reporting, "Incredible snowfall over the Family Day/President’s Day weekend shich has set the stage for fantastic skiing and riding conditions with a deep base of 226cm!". More than 40cm of snow fell on the resort over the weekend creating daily powder conditions. The forecast for this week predicts more snow on the way, with heavy snowfall anticipated for the weekend. Revelstoke has received 19cm of snow in the last 48hrs, 51cm in the last 7 days, with a total of 764cm (25.5 feet) of snowfall to date this season!
There’s deep snow in Colorado (USA) this week after some of the biggest falls in the state’s history brought snow cover right back on target. One of the biggest accumulations has been at Steamboat, which reported 40 inches (a metre) in the past 48 hours and is expecting more snow for four out of the next five days. Other resorts are reporting less epic, but still significant snowfalls. For example Vail has had a foot (30cm) of new snow in the past few days and is now fully open. Elsewhere in the west the snow is still falling heavily in Washington State, Alaska and Wyoming. Jackson Hole reported another foot (30cm) today and Mt Baker is one of four resorts in the world (and the only one in North America) with a snowbase of more than five metres (nearly 17 feet). California is still lagging behind its normal deep snow but is in increasingly good shape. In North lake Tahoe for example Northstar is now 84% open while Heavenly at the south of the Lake has had more than a foot of snow in the past week. Mammoth Mountain, further south still, is 100% open.

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