Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Heatwave For Ski Areas

In much of Europe and large parts of North America the big factor of the past week has been unseasonably high temperatures – reaching 20C in the Alps and 70F in the USA.
This is clearly not good news for snow cover. The result has been that low lying areas that did not have a deep snow base have been struggling and in some cases closing. However most of the big resorts in the Alps are still benefitting from the big snowfalls they received in December/January and although conditions are currently prematurely ‘Springlike’ - snow cover is not a problem for them.
It has not been hot everywhere. North Western North America has continued to see heavy snowfall that has been the norm all winter with Mt Baker, already boasting the deepest snow in the world at more than 6m (20 feet) reporting another six feet (1.8m) in the past seven days and resorts in Alberta and BC north of the US border in Canada also seeing big snowfalls. Some resorts in Austria in the Alps have reported quite good falls too.
During the last week some ski resorts in Austria had quite good snow falls. About 20 resorts reported more than 20cm (8 inches) of new snow. These include the Zugspitzplatt ski area with 80cm of new snow, Solden with 51cm and Kaprun – Kitzsteinhorn with 40cm. This week skiers and boarders can expect good weather all over the Austrian Alps. It will be warm with the weather sunny at least up to Sunday with temperatures varying between +2 degrees on higher mountains peaks in the country right up to and up to 22 degrees in lower areas.
Although the slopes are now quieter and the temperatures warm, the ski season is still far from over in France. After some light snowfalls in the middle of last week (5 to 20cm), the weather is mostly sunny and some small, low lying ski areas have already closed their ski areas for the season (especially in the Vosges area). However snow depths remain good in the Northern Alps (still 290cm at the top of the slopes of Chamonix, 335cm in Flaine and 330cm in Alpe d'Huez), the Southern Alps (160cm in Montgenevre, 130cm in Serre Chevalier ) and the Massif Central (110cm at Mont Dore).
There has been almost no new snow reported in Italy in the past week. Of the few resorts that did report new snow, Limone on the easterly side had one of the biggest accumulations with 25cm (120 inches) of fresh. However snow depths remain sound at many areas with Passo Tonale – usually open with glacier skiing until June – reporting 330cm (11 feet) of snow on upper slopes and Arabba in the Dolomiti Superski region on the Sella Ronda circuit not far behind with 280cvm (more than nine feet).
Warm sunny weather is the norm in Switzerland this week. A lot of sunshine welcomes skiers to the slopes, who still have fresh snow from last week at many areas to enjoy. But temperatures are getting very mild – up to 20 degrees - all over the country. Les Prés d’Orvin ski resort reports the most snow in the country in the past week - 60cm (two feet). Loetschental had 35cm and Grindelwald and Gstaad 20cm each.
It has been sunny with no new snow reported in the Pyrenees on the past week. However again most areas are in reasonably good shape with up to 2.7m/9 feet lying (Baqueira Beret, Spain) on upper slopes although lower runs may be getting thin at lower resorts (typically 30-60cm/11-2 feet depth). In Andorra VallNord says snow depths are between 1.1 and 2.2m (approx 4-7 feet), and in the French Pyrenees there’s 235cm (7.5 feet) at Cauterets, 190cm (67.3 feet) at Luz Ardiden.
Scandinavian ski areas have largely done better than most of the rest of Europe over the past week with many ski areas getting some new snow and some – such as Voss in Norway – as much as 53cm (19 inches) in the past seven days.
There has been no skiing in Scotland since February after warm weather melted snow cover. Centres hope to re-open if there is a major change in the weather and prolonged snowfall.
It is as real East v West split in Canada at the moment with very high temperatures in the East bad news for the ski centres there, but some of the heaviest snow in the world this week reported on ski slopes in Western Canada. Although it is ‘Spring-like’ in Eastern Canada with temperatures heading towards the upper teens Celcius. However ski slopes in the region are keen to make clear that they are mostly still operational despite the unseasonal conditions. It’s a very different picture in Alberta and British Columbia where 33 inches (85cms) is reported to have fallen in the last 72 hours at Whistler Blackcomb taking their seasonal total past the 10 metre mark to 33 feet (10.2 m) snowfall so far this season. "Another incredible powder weekend at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, with 33cm accumulating in 24 hours", says the resort’s Sarah Windsor, "Snowfall timing has been spot-on this season at Revelstoke Mountain Resort with consecutive major powder dumps arriving each weekend, just in time for visiting skiers and snowboarders to enjoy!". Revelstoke is close to the 10m seasonal snowfall figure to date too.
Further East with over 120cm (four feet) of dry, light Canadian Rockies powder falling in Banff – Lake Louise in Alberta over the past week the area’s three resorts, Mt. Norquay, The Lake Louise Ski Area, and Sunshine Village are experiencing epic conditions. "There is nothing better than seeing the excitement on people’s faces as they pull up to the chairlift anticipating their next run, it is the reason why we are all here", said Dan Markham, Director of Marketing and Sales at Ski Banff Lake Louise Sunshine.
The USA is a country divided by temperature with heavy snowfall in the West, and temperatures soaring to +70F in the East. Resorts in Alaska and Washington State in the North West of the country have reported up to 1.8m (six feet) of new snow in the past week and already today (14 March) falls of up to 40cm (14 inches) have been reported in the same area for the past 24 hours. There have been snowfalls in the wider area too. Jackson Hole has had nearly half a metre (18 inches) of new snow and heavenly by Lake Tahoe more than a foot (30cm) in the past week.

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