Finally some decent dumps in New Zealand

Wed 22 September 10

Too heavy snow in New Zealand brings down buildings and closes slopes but builds bases big time. Scandinavian resort aiming to be first in region to open, next week. Two more Austrian glacier ski areas open, Tignes to start its 8+ Month season at weekend. Resorts in Alberta receives big pre-season snowfalls.

Finally some decent dumps in New Zealand

Finally some decent dumps in New Zealand © Photo: Marmot Basin

www.skiinfo.co.uk reports that more  ski areas have opened in the Alps for ‘winter’ 2010-11, while heavy snow falls have been rep[orted in North America and in the southern hemisphere in New Zealand in the past few days.

In the Alps Tignes will re-open its glacier at the weekend, all being well, after less than a month since it ended its summer snow season. The resort will be open through to next May and for the next two month will, with the exception of a brief opening of Les 2 Alpes in late October and the indoor snow centre in Amneville, be the only area open in the country.

Six glacier ski areas are now open in Austria after the Stubai and Kaunertal glaciers joined already open Hintertux, Solden, Molltal and Pitztal glaciers at the weekend.  The Dachstein and Kitzsteinhorn Glaciers remain unexpectedly closed, although the latter has a 42cm (17 inch) base.

In Switzerland it’s still either Saas Fee or Zermatt with a metre to 150cm lying and terrain parks open.  It’s still a few more weeks until the glaciers of St Moritz, Gstaad and Engelberg join the party. 

In Italy Val Senales still has a metre base, it received 5cm (two inches) of new snow on Saturday to freshen up its slopes.

In northern Europe, Ruka, which has a similar long season to Tignes, except it has no glacier, just the advantages of a northerly latitude up at the top of Finland, has announced it plans to open next week on October 1st, all being well.  It then hopes to stay open through to June 2011.

Ski areas in Scandinavia are due to begin opening next week, Ruka in Finland, up in the Arctic Circle, which has Europe’s longest ski season for a resort without a glacier, maintaining a snow slope for nearly nine months a year, is aiming to open on Friday, October 1st.

Ruka also has some of the lowest priced lift tickets for a major resort in Europe.  In the low season, which runs from October 1st to December 17th and then again in May 2011, the price for an adult day ticket bought online is only 29.5 Euros and a six day ticket 131.5 Euros, compared to most major resorts in the Alps which generally come in the 190-220 Euro price band.  Even in the main season between these days a six day ticket bought online is only 164.50 Euros.   

There’s currently no skiing in Africa or in North America, as Timberline in Oregon is closed until October for its annual maintenance period however the snow is starting to fall big time, especially at the northern end of the continent.

Marmot Basin above Jasper and Banff – Lake Louise, all in the Canadian province of Alberta, have reported big snow falls in the past 48 hours.

Marmot Basin Sept 20th 2010
Marmot Basin Sept 20th 2010
Photo: Marmot Basin

Over 20cm of snow blanketed Banff-Lake Louise on Monday with more forecast. The snowstorm started on the 20th and continued non-stop throughout the night.

Jasper's Marmot Basin also received over 10 cm of snow on 20th September with considerably more accumulation at higher elevations.

At 1,700 metres, Marmot boasts the highest base elevation of all Canadian ski resorts meaning it often gets large amounts of snow when it is raining lower down in the Athabasca Valley and the town of Jasper. That was exactly the case today when a mix of rain and snow fell on the valley floor while heaps of wet, white snow fell on the mountain slopes.

Last winter Marmot opened on November 11, its earliest opening date ever, with ideal snow conditions. So far this fall is shaping up to deliver a repeat performance of last year's early season snowfalls which helped contribute to Marmot's record setting year for attendance. "I think this snow is here to stay", predicted an optimistic Brian Rode, Marmot's VP of Marketing and Sales. "We may still get some warm weather, but given that it's nearing the end of September, I am quite sure this is the beginning of a very good base layer", added Rode.  Marmot Basin is once again targeting November 11 as the opening day of the season.

It’s getting towards the end of the season in the southern hemisphere but New Zealand is seeing the biggest snowfalls of the winter to date at present.

“We have received heavy snow mainly from the west and north west since late last week.  Whakapapa has gone from 130cm's a week ago to over two metres.  Turoa has received just as much snow but it has come with higher winds meaning the snow stake measurement hasn't changed as much.  Don't be fooled though, conditions will be way better when the storm passes.” Said a statement from Mt Ruapehu.

It’s a similar story at other areas, most reporting up to 60cm (two feet) of new snow over recent days but with strong winds and other extreme weather problems meaning most have had to close their slopes until the storm, which began at the weekend, passes over, predicted for the next 24-248 hours, leaving a spectacular weekend on the snow in prospect.

It’s not all good news though, the heavy snow led to a collapse of a sports hall and on Ruapehu Tower 8 of the High Noon Express has been damaged in the storm.

The resort has already ordered replacement parts from a New Zealand based company and hopes to have the lift fixed by  Sunday, with the lift hopefully operational late next week. 

There’s been no fresh snow in Australia but conditions are still good at most ski areas thanks to the huge falls in August and subsequent top ups.  Temperatures have been touching double figures above zero at some areas and most are reporting “beautiful Spring-like conditions.”

Thredbo for example still have 1.7m (nearly six feet) of snow lying at mid mountain.  At Falls Creek snow depths are a little lower, just above a metre, although deeper in the snow making area.  It’s a similar story at Mt Hotham which says it has concluded snow making for the season. 

Over in South America, in Chile, Valle Nevado is in to the last few weeks of the season, but temperatures are still below freezing and the snow tally for the season has just passed the four metre (13.3 feet) mark.  The hotels are scheduled to close this weekend but limited terrain will remain open to 2nd October.  At Portillo snow depths are 25-50cm (10-20 inches) with no new snow in the past week and Spring-like conditions .  In Argentina one of the top resorts, Las Lenas, closed on Monday, but Catedral is still open with a diminishing snow pack on upper slopes – down to 1.7m (just under six feet).

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