Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Snow Returns to Northern Europe and Continues in Western North America

It’s been largely mild again with little fresh snow in the Alps but although resorts are closing for the end of winter, those that are still open typically have deep snow bases so conditions are largely good if ‘spring like’ A cold front due to arrive in the next few days may change things dramatically with up to 90cm (three feet) of new snow forecast. It’s already snowing in the French alps.
Snow is back in Northern Europe with the re-opening of some Scottish ski areas after their premature closure in February and Norway has returned to the top of the world snowfall charts with up to 192cm in the past week.
In Western North America and particularly Canada it’s been a snowy week, yet again, with Whistler reporting more than 1.5m (five feet) of fresh snow taking them further past their seasonal average and with more than 7 weeks of the season left to run there, closer to possibly breaking their all time snowfall record.
There has been little new snow fall in the last week in Austria although several resorts including Zauchensee reported 30cm (a foot) of new snow and bigger name centres including Kaprun, Molltaler Glacier and Dachstein Glacier had 15cm (six inches) each. The upcoming days will stay mild but the snow line gets lower over the Easter weekend and more snow is expected, especially in resorts like Ischgl, Galtur, Nauders and Kaunertal where up to 80cm of new snow is forecast. So the Easter holidays could be very white in the Alps. Snow depths are still very good with 590cm (nearly 20 feet) at Dachstein Glacier, 415cm at Zugspitzplatt Ehrwald and 410cm at Stubaier Glacier.
It’s snowing today (April 4) in southern France with Isola 2000 reporting 20cm of new snow and Serre Chevalier 10cm. There’s been little other new snow in France this week but snow depths remain good at most major ski centres in the northern Alps after the huge falls in the first half of this winter – and there have been some top ups of fresh too with Alpe d’Huez and Flaine among those reporting 5cm of new snow today. Chamonix still has the deepest base of 3.6m (12 feet0 and is open in to May.
There’s been little new snow in the past week in Italy with only Alagna reporting 5cm (two inches) of fresh cover. Snow depths at centres that are still open in Italy remain good including three metres (10 feet) at Passo Tonale and 2.7m (nine feet) at Cervinia on upper slopes – both open at least to May.
With only 5cm in Davos Klosters and 4cm in Crans Montana snow falls in Switzerland were really rare in the last week. After several very sunny days, the cloudy weather is back but temperatures are still mild so in most areas it will be rainy for the next few days. More sun can be expected at the Easter weekend. The weather stations also expect new snow for the upcoming seven days. Snow falls up to 50cm are likely in Saas Fee, Engelberg, Grindelwald and Andermatt. The best snow depth at the moment is reported from Engelberg with 535cm, followed by Andermatt 400cm and Laax and Crans Montana with 350cm each.
Snowlines have been dropping in the Pyrenees as temperature have risen, with most areas losing 20-40cm of depth to their snow bases but resorts like Cauterets in France, Baqueira Beret (picture attached) in Spain and VallNord in Andorra all still have good bases.
Scandinavia has seen some of the biggest snowfalls in the world over the past seven days. In Norway, Bjorli, Strandafjellet and Stordal all report huge falls of around 180cm, (six feet) of fresh snow and summerski centre Stryn has had 75cm, setting it up for a potentially good 2012 season when it re-opens soon. Of the internationally well known big name centres, Are in Sweden reports 13cm of new snow.
Several Scottish ski areas have re-opened thanks to fresh snow in the past 48 hours. The new snow took ski centres – which had been closed for six weeks due to record high March and February temperatures – by surprise, most had moved early in to their summer operating model. Currently Cairngorm and The Lecht have terrain open with fresh snow and Nevis Range have new snow on the beginner slope.
Western Canada is continuing the great season it’s been enjoying since the end of last year, and a repeat of the epic 2010-11. Whistler reports another 1.5m of snow in the past week and there have been big falls reported too at resorts including Mt Washington, Fernie and Kimberley with the snow also falling in Alberta. The East Coast is suffering from warm weather however and most areas there have now closed.
Far western US has had more heavy snow although conditions are reported to be more challenging at still-open areas in some states like Colorado because of warm weather. Sugar Bowl and squaw Valley in California both report over 90cm (three feet) of new snow in the past week but Mt Baker in Washington state has again topped them all with another 1.5m – the base there is creeping close to 8 metres again. Only seven major ski areas are open in Eastern North America, with limited terrain, following the warm weather there.

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