Winter has started across the Alps - Snow Update

Sat 23 October 10

Three US resorts likely to open in next24 hours. Ruka opens in Finland, several Norwegian resorts prepare to open after low temps and snow. Heavy snow report in Canada, New England and the Alps. Great skiing right now on the glaciers. Second French resort opens – For One Week Only. Only one southern hemisphere resort open from next week – but its still snowing in New Zealand!

Winter has started across the Alps - Snow Update

Winter has started across the Alps - Snow Update © Photo: Forrest Miller reports that there are still – marginally – more indoor ski areas open than outdoor worldwide, but the situation looks set to change in the near future as heavy snowfall in the Alps this week, as well as in the Canadian Rockies and in New England has suddenly got everyone in the mood for winter.  Snowfall has been reported in many other areas too including Belgium, Iceland and Scotland and low temperatures mean that snowmaking is currently under way at high altitude resorts in the US with Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Copper Mountain, all among the world’s 10 highest ski areas, currently pumping snow on to the slopes and expecting to open in the next 48 hours.

In the Alps heavy snow has been reported down to low levels across the region with falls of more than 60cm (two feet) at some locations down to as low as 500m above sea level, obviously good news whether these are already open or about to.

Austria continues to have more ski areas open outdoors than any other at present with seven glacier ski areas open at Pitztal, Solden, the Stubai, Kaunertal, Kitzsteinhorn, Mollrtal and Tux to choose from.

Solden is holding the first world cup races outdoor of the northern hemisphere’s 2010-11 season this weekend, it’s neighbour Obergurgl reported another 20 cm of fresh snow this morning, issuing a powder alarm on Skiinfo. The ski resort has up to 70 cm of snow on its slopes now and is one of the first to open each winter.

The Stubai glacier just had 10 cm of fresh snow. At the top station (3000m) the resort has a snow layer of 60cm and 39km of the ski slopes are open.

The tux glacier currently has the largest ski area open in the world with more than 40km of runs to enjoy and a near 600m skiable vertical.

In Switzerland Engelberg, Saas fee, Zermatt and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz are all open and there’s a fifth option of  the Diablerets Glacier partially available although the full opening is not planned for another week.

“ The glacier ski area „Glacier 3000“ opens its ski season on Saturday, October 30th. Currently, the Dôme ski lift and parts of the Snow Park are available to skiers and snowboarders.” said a resort statement. 

Daniela Burkhard of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG commented, “The snow situation is excellent, the slopes are well-prepared and it’s cold enough for the snow to stay. At the moment our lift facilities are being revised and only one of the smaller ski lifts is in operation but next weekend all of them will be running.”

In Zermatt there is 173cm of snow lying on the glacier above 2900m.

In Italy it’s still Passo Stelvio and Val Senales that are open but the Presena Glacier which stays open the longest in the country in the spring is set to re-open tomorrow and Cervinia soon after.

In Germany the Zugspitz glacier by 2011 Alpine World Championships hosts Garmisch has received heavy snowfall in the past week and they have 70 cm of snow lying now according to meteorologist Christina Speicher of DWD.  There’s no word yet on an opening date however.

Other German ski resorts Oberstdorf-Nebelhorn and Oberstdorf-Fellhorn/Kanzelwand reported 30 cm (a foot) of fresh snow each. The Feldberg in the Black Forest had 15 cm (six inches).

Tignes in France will be joined tomorrow, 23rd October, for one week only by Les 2 Alpes, which opens for English and French school holiday periods and throws big ski and snowboarding new season gear test and party festivals.  Les 2 Alpes will then close again at the end of the month and Tignes will be operating alone for the first few weeks of November before other resorts begin to open en masse.

In Scandinavia Ruka in Finland was the first ski area to open last weekend but with it currently very old across the continent and snowing, several more top resorts expect to open in the next few days.

Snowmaking begins at Hemsedal 15th October 2010
Snowmaking begins at Hemsedal 15th October 2010
Photo: Hilde Hagen

Uvdal , Bjorli, Gaustablikk, Haukelifjell, Kvitfjell and Trysil all expect to open next weekend or before. with Beitostølen, Geilo, Hemsedal , Nesbyen, Tyin-Filefjell and Skeikampen following a week later. 

The ones opening from the 29thto November 6th are all seriously going for it. If they postpone, it will be because of the temperature rising.” Said a expert in Oslo.

In North America, Canadian resorts in Alberta have been reporting heavy snowfall over the past week and are expected to begin opening at the end of next week.

Mount Norquay near Banff has announced it will aim to open for its 85th season on Saturday, October 30th and it seems it may now be joined by Nakiska, between Banff and Calgary, which has announced it will try to open earlier than expected on the same date.  Cold weather for snowmaking plus natural snowfall have helped.

Marmot Basin ski area got hit with a whopping 25cm (10 inches) of snow overnight at the weekend.  While work crews are busy making final preparations for Marmot’s November 11 opening, local skiers and snowboarders woke up to a big surprise, snow covered peaks in all directions.

“There’s nothing like a huge snowstorm in mid October to get our local skiers and boarders fired up”, exclaimed Brian Rode, Marmot’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales. This is shaping up to be a repeat performance of last season when we had record snowfall in October and November”, added Rode.

Marmot ski patrol and lift maintenance crews are getting the mountain ready for opening day and, while the snow that blankets the mountain will force them to make some changes to their work schedule, it will not slow them down. It just means that some of their work will now be done on skis and snowmobiles rather than on foot or by truck, something no one here is complaining about!

In Banff-Lake Louise there was heavy snow too and the snow guns have started at Lake Louise.  It, and the third Banff resort of Sunshine will open in early November – just a few weeks away.

Sunshine Mountain October 2010
Sunshine Mountain October 2010
Photo: Sunshine Mountain

There’s been snow in British Columbia too, Sun Peaks Village was covered in white with the first snowfall of the season at the resort. 12.23 centimetres (five inches) of fresh snow fell at mid-mountain over the weekend.

With cooler temperatures in the forecast, mountain operations crews hope to begin making snow over the next couple of days in preparation for the arrival of the Austrian Women’s Ski Team in mid-November. Opening day for the public at Sun Peaks Resort is scheduled for Saturday, November 20.

South of the border in Colorado the opening date situation is changing hourly, with Loveland reported to be grooming its slopes on Monday, but Copper Mountain has confirmed it plans to open this Saturday, October 23rd.

“We are pumped and ready at Copper to begin Fall Race Camps, while the competition continues to scramble for promising weather reports,” says JP Chevalier, Copper’s Director of Skier Services. He also adds that “race camps will begin on Saturday, October 23 with plenty of snow, due to our advantageous elevation, exposures, and our advanced snowmaking systems. Our Mountain ops team is putting the finishing touches on the training venues, so as to deliver the highest quality snow surface and needed depth to cover the trail from top to bottom and side to side.”

Early turns at Copper 21st Oct 2010
Early turns at Copper 21st Oct 2010
Photo: Forrest Miller

However Copper’s slopes will initially be open to those participating in team training camps only, not yet the general skiing and boarding public,

““We’re thrilled to once again host the U.S. Ski Team, including many of the elite members, for Super G and Downhill training,” said Jeff White, Race Department Manager at Copper.  Jeff continues, “The PSIA [Professional Ski Instructors of America] National Ski and Snowboard Educational Teams continue to elect Copper Mountain as their early season training venue. ”

Last season alone Copper hosted more than 100 different and separate teams, including the Australian Disabled Ski Team, the Finnih Ski Team, the Polish Snowboard Team, The Canadian National Snowboard Team, The U.S. Men’s and Women’s Ski Team and America’s Snowboard Team.

Colorado’s resorts are running about two weeks behind last year’s opening date and are building their bases with snowmaking in most cases.  They currently have bases of up to 18 inches (45cm) made up mostly of machine made snow.

There has already been some skiing in Colorado, with staff at the small Silverton Mountain area reportedly getting first tracks a few weeks ago on natural snow, and elsewhere in the US, Timberline, the all year ski area in Oregon, is currently open at weekends with a 28 inch (70cm) base.

Things are looking good on the East Coast too.  Whiteface in New York State has reported 30cm (a foot) of fresh snow on its summit following reports that Sunday River in Maine has begun snowmaking.

Only Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand with its two ski areas is still open in the southern hemisphere with all ski areas closed in Africa, Australia and South America.

Both areas have around 1.8m (six foot) bases with Whakapapa reporting 5cm of new snow (it closes after this weekend) and Turoa a 10cm fall – it’s due to stay open to November 8th to be the last area in the southern hemisphere open in the 2010 season.

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