World Snow update - 20th Jan 2010

Wed 20 January 10

* Whistler Snow Depth Reaches 3m. * Scottish Ski Resort Closed For A Week By Snow * Heavy snow in the Pyrenees – great on piste, high avalanche risk off piste. * A foot of snow in the Czech Republic.

World Snow update - 20th Jan 2010

World Snow update - 20th Jan 2010 © Photo: Sierra Nevada Tourism reports that there’s been more snow in the Alps, leaving good conditions at most resorts. However the Pyrenees and the West Coast of North America have reported the biggest falls of the past even days, giving great powder conditions, but also a big avalanche danger off piste.

There’s been snowfall across France in the past week, generating more than 40 powder alarms on Skiinfo from resorts reporting at least 20cm (8 inches) of new snow in a 24 hour period.

There was snow in all of the country’s main ski regions including the Northern and Southern Alps, with the Pyrenees receiving the largest falls. Here Cauterets received 80cm (nearly three feet) of new snow on January 15, then got more good falls two days later on the 17th. In the northern Alps with Avoriaz reported 25cm (10 inches) of new snow while la Grave in the Southern Alps reported 30cm (a foot).

Thibaut Deserces, Manager of "La Maison de Peyragudes" – the tourist office for the French Pyrenees resort of Peyragudes commented on the latest falls there.

"More than 50cm of fresh snow is lying at the bottom of the slopes, thanks to the snowfall on Thursday and Friday. Peyragudes woke up Friday morning with bright sunshine and then a large amount of snow fell through the night. The snow depth is now excellent with more than 110cm on upper slopes. "

Chamonix continues to have the deepest snow in France and the whole of Europe with four metres (13.3 feet) on upper slopes. Flaine has 275cm (9 feet), La Clusaz 260cm (8.7 feet).

The snow has fallen in perfect time for a free gear testing weekend coming up at La Grave. This will include safety information, freeride backcountry skis, snowboards, Telemark, and even monoski testing followed by a live music night on the 23rd and 24th.

Italy has had a quieter week with little new snowfall although Obereggen reports 45cm (18 inches) in the past seven days and Courmayeur 15cm (six inches. More snow is expected in the north of the country tomorrow. The deepest snow of any ski area in the world is on the Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale still which has 4.3m (14.3 feet). The Marmolada glacier has 3.8m (nearly 13 feet).


In Austria the resort of Loser Sandling Altausee has had some of the biggest snowfalls in Austria in the past week. Egon Hierzegger, director of Loser Mountain Railways commented. “During the past two days 40cm of new snow fell above 1500m. After the snowfalls ceased on Monday night the powder snow conditions – which I enjoyed myself when the lifts opened this morning – were excellent.”

Loser has 120cm (four feet) of snow on upper slopes and 40cm (1.3 feet) on lower ones now. “All four chair lifts and the children’s lift are open. But for the T-bars we need 1,5-2m of snow to prepare the trail”, Hierzegger said.

The top snow depth in Austria is still on the glaciers with the Mölltaler glaciertscher reporting up to .1m (10.3 feet), the Kaunertal glacier 213cm (7.2 feet), the Hintertux glacier 205cm (6.8 feet) and the Pitztal glacier 200cm (6.6 feet).

Other resorts with snowfalls the past seven days include Sölden, Lech Zürs, Zauchensee and Eben with 14-25cm (6-10 inches) of new snow.

In Switzerland 11 resorts have a snow depth of two metres or more, including Saas Fee and St. Moritz. The past week brought at least 20cm (eight inches) of new snow to many resorts including Meiringen, Leukerbad and Lötschental. The latter has the greatest snow depth in the country (223 cm/7.4 feet) but Andermatt-Gotthard has almost the same amount of snow on upper slopes.

On Sunday and Monday Germany had a couple of powder alarms especially in the Bavarian Forest where Hohenbogen got 42cm (17 inches) of new snow in a week. “On the Arber, the highest mountain in the Bavarian Forest, we have about a metre of snow now”, said Ulrike Eberl-Walter of Ostbayern Tourism. “All lifts are in operation and the cross-country trails are prepared.” Hans Amann of Ski Lifts Sankt Englmar said: “We are especially happy to have so much new snow. The slopes that were already well-prepared got up to 40 cm of new snow – which stirred the skiers’ and snowboarders’ blood!” The biggest snow depth in Germany is still on the Zugspitze (180 cm) and at Oberstdorf-Nebelhorn (170 cm).

Conditions have improved again in Andorra with most areas receiving around a foot (30cm) of new snow in the past few days bringing base depths up around the metre mark at most resorts with fresh powder on top.

More snow in the Spanish Pyrenees has made conditions great on the groomed pistes but very dangerous off piste with an increased the chance of avalanches. In Formigal five season ski passes have been confiscated after five skiers caused an avalanche. Formigal's spokeman has criticised people who take unnecessary risks, get into trouble and put in danger the lives of skiers and the members of the rescue services.

Formigal currently has the most terrain open in Spain with 122km (76 miles) of piste to enjoy and a base of 105-220cm (3.5 – 7.3 feet) Baqueira Beret has a similar snow depth and 110km (70 miles) of piste open.

Sierra Nevada in the south is reporting the deepest snow depth in the country with 50-300cm (20 inches – 10 feet) and 83km (51 miles) of runs. Due to extreme weather conditions upper station lifts were close until yesterday when Laguna de las Yeguas Ski Area was opened. In the next few days all ski lifts are expected to be in operation and the complete domain will be open for skiing with over 100km of runs.

Sierra Nevada Laguna de las Yeguas
Sierra Nevada Laguna de las Yeguas
Photo: Sierra Nevada Tourism

There’s also been fresh snow in most Eastern European resorts, particularly good news for Bulgaria where cover was getting decidedly think at Borovets and Pamporovo, although Bansko has at least 60cm (two feet) lying. The other two could still do with more though as there’s only 15-20ccm (6-8 inches) on lower slopes.

Resorts in the Czech and Slovak Republics have reported widespread snow, the largest fall at Železná Ruda - Belveder which reports a foot (30cm) of new powder.

Scandinavia’s ski areas have had a relatively quiet week with temperatures rising to a more normal few degrees below zero at most areas. There has been limited snowfall in the past seven days although one small Norwegian centre posted more than 50cm (20 inches) of new snow in the past week and the larger resorts of Gålå and Kvitfjell both had 20cm (8 inches).

In Sweden there has been 3-5cm (1-2 inches) in a couple of resorts, but otherwise just flurries in sight for the weekend. Student Ski Week has started in Åre and will continue for three weeks with lots of competitions and apres-ski events.

All five ski areas in Scotland are open, although conditions are reported to be better at the Eastern resorts of Cairngorm, The Lecht and Glenshee where the main problem has been getting access to the ski slopes with snow and ice on access roads.

CairnGorm Mountain was closed for the past week as staff attempted to ‘dig the resort out from, ‘too much snow’

Over the past decade CairnGorm and other Scottish ski areas have more often been forced to close their ski slopes because of too little snow, rather than too much, but CairnGorm has received nearly two metres of snow on its upper slopes in the past month and strong winds caused drifts up to five metres deep which buried the resort’s access road and parts of the funicular railway, as well as causing a high avalanche risk.

This winter has had one of the best starts for 30 years according to some reports in terms of snow conditions and visitor numbers, with more than 30,000 skiers and boarders reported to have visited CairnGorm so far this season.

In North America conditions are reported to be good on both East and West coasts with most resorts on both sides off the continent seeing at least some fresh snow in the past week. On the East Coast snow depths are typically 60-120cm (2-4 feet), which is considered a healthy base in the area. They’re not much different at Colorado’s resorts, where the stats are less impressive due to the usual abundance of snow in the leading US ski state.

In both Canada and the US the heaviest snow of the past week and the deepest bases are on the far West Coast. In the US, Squaw Valley in California has seen the second wave in an ongoing series of winter storms has leave over two feet (60cm) more snow in the past 48 hours. Recurring storm waves are forecast to continue for the next few days, delivering several feet of additional snow and setting up the resort with exceptional conditions into the core of the season ahead. The resort has received 17 feet (over five metres) of snow so far this season and is 100% open.

In Canada the latest storm to hit Whistler Blackcomb has dumped 70 centimetres (28 inches) in 24 hours at the weekend, immersing the resort in deep winter conditions. Although the heavy snow and high winds prevented a number of lifts from opening until conditions improved.

Other resorts in British Columbia have also been reporting big snowfalls.

“Even with all the snow this year, this latest storm was one of the most intense we’ve dealt with in a long time,” said Doug MacFarlane, Whistler Blackcomb’s mountain manager. “Ski Patrol has been conducting extensive avalanche control work, and Operations crews have been working throughout the night and day digging out. For those guests who endured the storm, the rewards were plentiful as there were many fresh tracks to be had.”

The snow base is on the verge of reaching three metres or 9.8 feet. With the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games now less than a month away, the resort is primed ready to welcome the world to its snowy slopes.

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Cairngorm, United Kingdom

“On a good day with full cover, Cairngorms can be a great days boarding - but don't expect alpine conditions and take your old rock-hopper if you value your base and edges! It can get extremely busy at the weekends.”