This Week’s Headlines:
- More heavy snow in the Alps and Pyrenees – up to 60cm in 48 hours reported.
- Many ski areas in Pyrenees open this weekend, snow depths up to 1.8m up top.
- More than 100 ski areas open across USA for thanksgiving weekend.
- Upper slope base depths already approaching 3m/10 feet at the snowiest resorts in the Alps.
- Less good in Scotland and Scandinavia, but a ‘return to winter’ imminent there too.
There’s been an avalanche of emails from resorts to the J2ski.com offices announcing heavy snowfall, early openings and general excitement. The season has not actually started, still, at most resorts but after the entire month of November has been almost one long snowy deluge the pent up excitement is at fever pitch.
In the past week the latest of the big accumulations in both Europe and North America were largely over last weekend although the snow has continued to fall at more moderate levels over the past few days in many areas too. Temperatures are also dropping low – to double digits below zero – in some areas of the Alps and Pyrenees.
But the short version is that generally speaking, it’s a great start to the season in most areas. Base depths are up to 1.8m (six feet) in the Pyrenees where large numbers of ski centres, including Andorra, open for the season on Saturday. Likewise there are many areas opening in the Dolomites and more big names in the Alps too. Excited reports are claiming anything from ‘the best start of the season for six years’ to ‘the best start of the season for 20 years.’ Across the Pond more than 100 ski areas are now open in the US in time for the current Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
An exception, slightly, seems to be Scandinavia where resorts are struggling to build a base with generally warmer temperatures than they’d like. The only event in the autumnal FIS World Cup racing calendar to be cancelled so far has been at Kvitfjell in Norway. Scottish areas, which had also been tentatively hoping to re-open this weekend are looking decidedly brown after a warm mid-week rather than white in the web cam pictures today, although a return of colder weather is expected any minute now.
The heavy snowfall of the previous week has been continuing and if anything gathering pace as November draws to a close. Most open Austrian ski areas have reported several feet of new snow in the last seven days, particularly heavy at the weekend when, for example, the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier at Kaprun reported 50cm of snow in 48 hours. So it’s powder conditions at already-open resorts and looking good at those opening in December. The Alpbach region also reported 50cm of fresh snow on Monday and Obertauern 40cm. Kitzbuhel, which opened for the season early a fortnight ago It’s a similar picture across the country.
Although the majority of French areas won’t begin to open until the weekends of the 8th and 15th or even 22nd December, more are joining the club and reporting superb conditions thanks to all the November snowfall.
Montgenevre and Les Deux Alpes (pictured above) are among the new openings this weekend however, joining Tignes, Val Thorens and Alpe d’Huez.
“With 1.5m of snow at 3,000m and 40cm in the resort, the lifts open this weekend with outstanding snow coverage. 33 slopes and 15 lifts will open with skiers able to ski from 3,400m down to the resort and there’s a discounted lift pass until 20 December, with the 6-day pass costing €195 instead of €225.” Said spokesperson Nadine Carle-Edgar.
The snow has been falling heavily across Italy leading to early openings here too. Cortina d’Ampezzo opened on Saturday 23 November, two weeks early thanks to huge dumps of snow. Three lifts in the Faloria ski area were open, plus a Nordic ski slope.
“This is a wonderful start to the new season and we are all very excited,” said a spokesman for Cortina Turismo. “It bodes very well for a fabulous season ahead.”
Livigno reported a 5cm overnight on Saturday/Sunday and snow was reported right down to the Apennines with Abetone announcing a 25cm snowfall.
This Saturday, November 30th, is the big season start for Dolomiti Superski with 87 open lifts and 130km of prepared slopes in nine of the giant areas resorts open.
“The mountains are already snowy and our snow making systems are working with full power to grant optimal conditions,” said spokesman Diego Clara.
More than 20 ski areas are now open in Switzerland with excellent conditions across the country following the heavy snowfall of recent weeks.
Saas Fee is reporting the deepest snow base at just under 3m (285cm), one of the best in Europe to date.
Snow depths at resort level are less spectacular, more typically 30cm at best, but that still makes vertical descents of up to 2,000 metres possible at bigger areas so long as the lower slopes have been officially opened.
The ski season gets underway properly in the Pyrenees this weekend and it looks like one of the best starts to the season in many years in terms of snow cover. In Andorra Grandvalira, the largest ski area in the region, reports an opening base of 80-170cm. At Baqueira Beret, one of the largest ski areas in Spain which opened early last week, the resort says it will open all 120km of piste on Saturday with snow depths between 120cm at the bottom and also 170cm at the top already
“Thanks to significant snowfall and the efforts of the technical teams, 36km of pistes were open early last weekend with conditions that will be remembered for years to come. 3,500 skiers and snowboarders paid testimony of this historic opening weekend with powder snow and very substantial snow depths for this time of the year,” said a statement from the resort.
Things are gradually getting snowier in Scandinavia although there’s a lot of reliance on snowmaking still. Bjorli in Norway however posted a 20cm snowfall on Sunday/Monday and again on Wednesday/Thursday but as it’s the only area in Scandinavia posting these snow falls you do wonder if they’re in a snow pocket or being a tad over optimistic. In the far north, as near 24 hour darkness approaches, it’s a little whiter up in Finnish Lapland, where some areas have already clocked up six weeks of the 2013-14 ski season.
Snow cover’s currently marginal in Scotland but it’s cold too and the Lecht was just able to open at the weekend with hard packed snow on a few runs. Cairngorm reported 300m of vertical with snow cover on Monday and said that it hoped to open this weekend if conditions remain good while Nevis Range and Glenshee said they almost had enough snow and may open this weekend too if things get a little better. Sadly though looking at the webcams on the 28th, those Monday white images are now showing brown slopes after Scotland ha a much warmer week than England. A return to wintry weather is promised but it seems unlikely this will be enough to allow any of the five areas to open this weekend now.
Canada’s West Coast resorts in Alberta and BC are continuing to enjoy a good start to 132-14. Sun Peaks in BC was one of the new openers for 13-14 last weekend with powder snow on all three of their mountains for its official opening day. Eight of 11 lifts were operating including Sunburst, Crystal, Elevation, Sundance and Morrisey, making for the most terrain available on opening day since the 2004-05 winter season. Revelstoke is opening for its seventh season this Saturday.
More resort on the East coast of Canada have also got their ski seasons underway, in Tremblant’s case, its 75th, after colder weather allowed for snowmaking after a ‘warm spell’ the previous week. Things have turned snowier there again too, with 25cm of snow reported by the resort in the past 48 hours.
With the thanksgiving holidays in the US underway this is the time of the season when US resorts hope to get their seasons off to a good start, and 2013 appears to be a banner year in some areas. Storm systems keep sweeping across the Western states typically depositing at least a foot of snow on most ski areas each time.
Las Vegas ski resort posts severe avalanche warning after 20 inches of snow, it has been the coldest Nevada November since records began. Mountain High, the closest ski area to Los Angeles, opened on Sunday after receiving a foot of snow.
There’s also be healthy snowfall on the East Coast and many areas in New England have also been opening, some like Cannon in New Hampshire say it’s the best start to their season for many years. Jay Peak in Vermont reported one of the biggest falls with 20cm of fresh snow on Sunday morning.