Thursday, April 26, 2012

Still More Heavy Late Season Snowfalls In The Alps

It has been another snowy April week in the Alps and dolomites and while the number of ski areas still open for ‘winter’ 2011-12 continues to diminish, most of those that remain open have plenty of fresh snow to enjoy. It has been another snowy week in France in particular with repeat powder alarms for 20cm/8 inches or more of new snow reported by many of the still-open centres over the past seven days – with some areas reporting over a metre of snow in the past week.
The snowfall has slowed across the Atlantic where less than 20 ski areas remain open in Canada and the US with May beginning next week one of the quietest months of the year for open ski areas before some European resorts begin re-opening for summer skiing and boarding and then hopefully towards the end of the month the first southern hemisphere ski areas begin opening for their 2012 seasons.
The last week of April brought fresh snow to the Austrian Alps. On Tuesday April 24th, 20cm snowfall was reported from Solden (with another 20cm+ on Wednesday) while 10cm was reported at Obergurgl-Hochgurgl and on the Stubai Glacier. Also Ischgl reported heavy snowfall ahead of its big season-ending concert this weekend. The Austrian weather forecast says it will get much warmer at the end of the week, so there is not more snowfall expected. During the last seven days Kaprun – Kitzsteinhorn and Moelltal Glacier received 20cm powder and Solden got 70cm snowfall in the last week. Around ten resorts are still open in Austria with the best snow depth at the Dachstein Glacier with 600cm. The Stubai Glacier has 420cm and Pitztal also 420cm. There are still open slopes as well at Kaunertal Glacier, in Ischgl, Obertauern and Kaprun.
The end of the French ski season is only two weeks away as the last two resorts open in the country plan to end their 2011-12 seasons on May 8th, making France the only one of the big four Alpine ski nations to have no resorts open for the rest of May and in to June until Les 2 Alpes, Tignes and Val d’Isere re-open for summer skiing. France has had the most snow in the past seven days of anywhere in the world with La Clusaz reporting 1.2m (four feet) falling in the past week. Most of the country’s still-open ski areas have been issuing powder alarms for 20cm or more of new snow almost daily. La Plagne and La Clusaz have already issued fresh powder alarms today (Wednesday 25 April). Despite the new snow, most of the remaining French ski areas that are still open – including Courchevel, Meribel, Alpe d’Huez, les 2 Alps, La Plagne, Risoul/Vars, La Clusaz and Val d’Isere - will close after this weekend (or by May 1st at the latest) leaving only Chamonix (still with the deepest snow base in France - back up to 4m), Tignes and Val Thorens open for a further weekend in May.
Italian ski areas have had their share of fresh snow this week too. Most are now closed and of the few still open only Cervinia plans to stay open for two more weekends – through to May 6. However conditions are reported to be good at Livigno and on the slopes of Faloria ski area in Cortina, both of which will be open until 1 May.
Swiss mountain weather over the past week has changed from sun to rain to snow as is typical for April weather. After quite sunny weeks in the beginning and rainy days in the middle, fresh snow has arrived in the last few days of April. On Tuesday Verbier, which is coming up to its final weekend of the season, reported 15cm, Gstaad 10cm and Samnaun 5cm. In the last seven days Gstaad Glacier 3000 received 50cm of fresh powder, while Samnaun measured 32cm and Champéry 20cm. There are still about 20 resorts open in Switzerland including Engelberg where the snow depth has gone back up to 605cm, Zermatt with 170cm, St. Moritz with 100cm and Adelboden with 100cm.
Most ski areas in the Pyrenees are now closed but Masella in Spain remains operational with a 30-120cm base. Ski areas in Andorra closed two weeks ago.
Voss still has Norway’s deepest snow at 3.3m (11 feet) and the next weekends is a big one at some of the country’ larger resorts like Area in Sweden and Hemsedal in Norway with big festivals scheduled. The late spring skiing is also underway at Riksgransen in the Swedish Arctic Circle to the north where midnight-sun skiing is due to begin in about a month’s time.
The weather in Scotland has been cold with a lot of precipitation all through April, falling as snow on higher ground. Some forecasts are predicting May will be the coldest for a century with snow to lower levels. Cairngorm has been open for the past week with limited terrain available for all ability levels at the top of the slopes and reduced priced tickets. On the West Coast Glencoe was open last weekend and may re-open this weekend – they say they have enough snow but not enough skiers and boarders. Available terrain was mostly suited to intermediate and advanced skiers. Its chairlift is running daily so ski tourers can get easy access to terrain above the snowline. Nevis Range was not open for skiers and boarders on its own runs last weekend but it did run the quad chair above the gondola so that those prepared to ski off piste on unpatrolled terrain could access the backside of the slopes. It has not yet decided if it will offer a similar arrangement this weekend. The Lecht and Glenshee have inadequate snow cover and remain closed.
Most ski area in Canada are now closed but those still open have deep snowbases thanks to record or near record snowfall. Whistler Blackcomb is open to the end of May and will be open for summer skiing in late June and July. In Alberta Lake Louise and Marmot Basin are open in to the first week of May while Sunshine Village near Banff, which has beaten it’s all time snowfall record this season, is open for another four weeks to late May.
Most ski areas in the USA are now closed but a few dozen on the west side of the country are still operating and some plan to continue right through May. There’s been little new snow in the past week on the west side of the country although ironically there has been more snow in the East where nearly all centres are closed. Those that expect to have at least four weeks of the season (in some cases at weekends only) to go include Suga Bbowl, Donner Ski Ranch and Mammoth Mountain in California, Alyeska in Alaska, Crystal Mountain in Washington State, Mt Bachelor in Oregon, Snowbird in Utah and Timberline in Oregon – which should open through to September. "While most resorts are shutting down, our spring season is just getting started!", said a resort statement from Mammoth, which has up to 2.4m lying on upper slopes. Also still open are Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in California (with Kirkwood also open this weekend) and Arapahoe Basin and Loveland in Colorado – although the latter now say this weekend will be their last of the season. Mt Baker in Washington State still has the world’s deepest snowbase at 727cm (just over 24 feet) but plans to close for the season after the coming weekend. On the East Coast Seven Springs ski area in Pennsylvania made history yesterday (Tuesday 24 April) by re-opening after around 20cm of new snow fell, making national headlines for the latest ever ski area opening in the region. Jay Peak in Vermont says it expects to re-open this weekend and has up to 30cm, of snow lying.

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