Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fresh Snow In The Alps, More Big Falls in Western Canada and US

After about a month of often warm temperatures and limited snowfall, large parts of the Alps are again have seen heavy snowfall again in the past few days, with resorts that are benefitting from the new accumulations now looking well set up for the final 4-6 weeks of the season.
Skiinfo issued more than 70 powder alarms for 20cm (8 inches) or more of new snow by noon on Monday 19th March, the biggest number of European alarms since the first half of February. However it has remained very warm with rain at lower elevations in some cases.
The snow is also back in the Pyrenees with resorts reporting up to 20cm of fresh snow in the past 24 hours (to 21st March).
North America continues to be very divided with exceptionally heavy snowfall continuing in the West, with falls of more than 2.4m/eight feet reported at some resorts over the past week, while on the East record high temperatures has led to melt down on the slopes, with Ontario in Canada breaking its record high March temperature of 16C set in 19676 by a full 8C last week, peaking at 24C.
The varied conditions have led to between moderate and high avalanche danger off piste on both sides of the Atlantic with several deaths of skiers in the backcountry in recent days in America and posted avalanche danger of ‘Considerable’ to ‘High’ in the Alps.
After a very warm and sunny week last week, snow is back in the Austrian Alps and on Monday four resorts report 20cm (eight inches) of new snow in the previous 24 hours, including Axamer – Lizum above Innsbruck, Kuehtai and Lech Zurs. Accumulations over the past seven days have included 50cm at Fuegen, 40cm at Obergurgl-Hochgurgl and 29cm on the Pitztal Glacier. The sunshine is now back. Some of the best conditions for skiing are as were reported from Nassfeld, the Kitzsteinhorn, Ischgl and Zell am See Kaprun where with the fresh powder, the slopes are in good shape for the last weeks in season.
French resorts in the Alps received significant snowfalls on Sunday/Monday this week – the largest in most cases for about a month. Avoriaz and Flaine reporting 30cm (a foot) each overnight. Les Gets, Chamonix and in the Southern Alps Serre Chevalier also all reported significant falls. Temperatures have remained high with rain falling at lower elevations in some cases but for most resorts conditions at the start of spring are good. The new snow builds on the deep bases established at many ski areas during what were for many record snowfalls in December and January and means these are now freshened up for the Easter holidays as resorts enter what is for most the last month of winter 2011-12.
Western Italian resorts benefitted from the snow across the Alps at the start of this week. Madesimo reported 30cm (a foot) of new snow and Monterosa around 25cm (10 inches). On the downside however temperatures remain very warm in many areas with rain at lower elevations and summer ski-like conditions at some resorts. However snow depths remain good at most leading resorts from west to East with Cervinia in the Alps and Passo Tonale in the Dolomites both reporting upper slope bases around 3m/10 feet.
Switzerland received the best of Europe’s snowfalls at the beginning of the week, which were the biggest on the continent this month. More than 20 ski resorts reported fresh snow from 20cm to 80cm. The biggest snow falls were measured in Airolo (80cm), Andermatt (60cm), Zermatt (40cm) and the Gstaad Glacier 3000 (30cm). Another five resorts reported a powderalarm on Tuesday, including Brig with 30cm, Meiringen-Hasliberg with 21 cm and Laax, Mythengebiet and Pizol / Heidiland with 20cm each. Engelberg has the deepest snow depth in Euirope and the second deepest in the world with 606cm!
There has been a return to cold weather in the Pyrenees and several resorts on the Spanish side of the mountains have reported 20cm of new snow. Base depths remain healthy at up to 2.4m (eight feet) at some centres. In Andorra, where temperatures have dipped to -10C at times, GrandValira, the biggest resort in the region, has reported 12cm of new snow in the past 24 hours.
Snow conditions remain good at many of Scandinavia’s leading resorts with Voss in Norway reporting more powder alarms for 20cm+ accumulations. It has the deepest snow in the region at 3.5m (nearly 12 feet).
In Canada the snowfall continues to be heavy on the western side of the country in Alberta and British Columbia. With Whistler having passed its seasonal average figure of just over 190m of snowfall with, in its case, several months of the season remaining. Revelstoke Mountain Resort has received 66cm of new snow in the last 7 days with over 20cm falling in the last 48hrs. There’s more snow in the forecast through to the weekend with some lovely sunshine and great spring skiing temperatures anticipated. It’s looking less promising in exceptionally warm weather in Quebec and Ontario on the Eastern side of the country. "The snow cover at Mont Sutton, Quebec is still great on several trails", said a resort statement. "This said, some trails also offer bare-spots to the delight of spring skiing enthusiasts looking for an additional challenge!". Continuing warm temperatures are forecast for the next few days.
With only a few weeks of the season left at many resorts, Western US resorts are currently topping world table for both snowfall and snow depth. Tahoe continues its return to form with Alpine Meadows reporting the most snow in the world over the past week, and the biggest fall anywhere this winter, with 257cm – over eight-and-a-half feet. Mt Baker in Washington State to the north has also had a massive amount of snow in recent weeks and its snowbase at one point passed the 8m (27 feet) mark although has now fallen back below 8m – but it remains the only resort in the world top go beyond the 7 and 8m marks in winter 2011-12, maintaining its reputation as the planet’s snowiest destination. On the East Coast of North America it’s a very different story however with record highs and some areas talking of ‘summer ski’ conditions. Many still have some terrain open despite the onslaught of the high temperatures on the snowpack.

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