(picture from Marmot Basin, Alberta, 18th December after 25cm fresh snow)
This Week’s Headlines:
- Heavy snow back in New England.
- Healthy snowfall expected in the Alps this weekend.
- First snow in Cairo for over 110 years.
- Gales in Scotland again, but snow too.
J2Ski.COPM report that it’s been a third week of largely snowless, often sunny skies across much of the Alps. Change is reputed to be in the air this weekend which is good news as fresh snow is definitely needed, there’s no real off piste terrain to be found now and the groomed pistes could do with new snow. But for piste skiers the picture is far from bleak as snow amassed mostly in November along with snowmaking when conditions permit are keeping pistes skiable and most areas have quite a lot open already, with more planned for the coming Christmas week.
Across the Atlantic the biggest snow storms of the past seven days were, unusually for North America, reported on the east coast with resorts in New England reporting up to 40cm of snow in 24 hours and 60cm (two feet) in 48 hours.
The snow that’s missing in the Alps seems to be falling abundantly in the Middle East where great conditions (once the roads were cleared) were reported on Lebanon’s slopes. Closer to home it’s looking more wintery in Scotland again, although 100mph winds may hamper any hope of recommencing operations.
In common with the rest of the Alps there’s not been much fresh snow this week – although some resorts have reported up to 15cm (six inches) accumulating over the weekend. Most areas could do with more however. That six inch accumulation was at Pitztal, which operates the country’s highest lifts and has been open since mid-September. It currently claims the deepest snow base in Austria too at two metres. Lech/Zurs also reported 10cm of snow from the same storm system, while Solden and St Anton got 5cm each and there was a couple of centimetres in the SkiWelt, but all in all, more would be good!
There’s been virtually no snow reported in France since the big snowfalls at the end of November, just a few centimetres in the Pyrenees last weekend. So fresh snowfall would be a big pre-Christmas bonus, and hopefully some will arrive as forecast in the next few days. In the meantime it’s hard packed pistes and nothing much off the groomed slopes. More snow down at resort level would be particularly welcome with cover at the bottom of the runs in lower altitude resort increasingly problematic. But cover at most major resorts remains quite healthy thanks to those November falls. The glacier resorts in the Southern Alps, Alpe d’Huez and les 2 Alpes have the deepest bases in the country still, both with more than 1.5m (five feet) of snow on upper runs.
It’s the same again in Italy, only Arabba in the Dolomites, which seems to have its own micro climate, has claimed any fresh snow since November – about 8cm of the stuff at the weekend. Again those snowfalls three weeks ago mean than conditions are not too bad, although fresh cover on the hard packed pistes would be very welcome, and the hopes of freeriders to get off the groomed slopes might become an enjoyable experience once again. The Val Senales glacier, with a 2.8m base, still has the deepest reported snowpack in the world at present, Cervinia is looking good too with 1.8m (six feet) and Bormio has 1.2m, (four feet), so there’s no serious snow shortage, it would just be nice for it to be boosted by some fresh cover.
Switzerland completes the Alpine set of countries that have had little snow since November, and are increasingly in need of a freshen up. Verbier is typical with a metre on upper slopes but cover at resort level dwindling to a few inches. Most of the glacier resorts like Zermatt, Diablerets and Saas fee have healthy 2m+ bases, especially on upper slopes,. But it’s a less optimistic picture at resorts like St Moritz (20-55cm), Crans Montana (5-30cm), Davos (20-50cm) and Grindelwald (15 – 50cm), all of which need more and should hopefully receive it imminently.
As with the Alps there’s been little more than a flurry of fresh snow in December since the huge 40-60cm accumulations ended a snowy month of November. Conditions remain very good fort the time of year with centres in Andorra typically boasting 50-150cm bases. Ski areas like Cauterets on the French side have good cover too and have reported a few centimetres of snow in recent days as things begin to change. On the Spanish side Baqueira Beret’s 120km of fully open terrain is one of the biggest ski areas currently open anywhere.
Base depths are not huge in Scandinavia, but then they hardly ever are and don’t need to be. Resorts have been reporting the usual modest snowfalls through December which have been continuing this week, with Geilo in Norway noting another 5cm added to its 50cm base on Wednesday/ In Sweden, Are got another inch of snow on Tuesday but could do with more on its 20-30cm of cover while up in Lapland there have also been small accumulations on Finnish slopes where base depths average 50cm.
Most Eastern European resorts are now open. There’s not been much fresh snow in the past week but conditions are quite good. In Bulgaria Pamporovo and Borovets both have around two feet of snow lying and there’s about half that at Bansko. Poiana Brasov in Romania is one of the few areas to report new snow in the past week, with 5cm on Saturday on its 25cm base.
Scottish conditions remain very difficult to call, even 48 hours before the weekend as a period of weather extremes continues. A fortnight after damaging 100mph+ gales hit the mountains, followed by snow, followed by a rapid thaw, the slopes of Scotland’s ski areas went white again on Tuesday and quite heavy snow with up to 20cm on slopes is expected to build, particularly in the West (Glencoe and Nevis Range) by the weekend. This might add up to enough to open but against that we are entering another 36 hour period of extreme weather (the last blast derailed drag lifts and caused many other problems) and warm southerly winds might thaw away at fresh fallen snow.
Big snow falls have been reported on each side of Canada over the past few days. Quebec got the biggest falls at the weekend with Mont Sainte Anne reporting more than a foot of fresh snow by Monday morning. The snow fall on the west of the country began to build up with a 235cm accumulation one of the largest, reported by Kicking Horse, BC on Tuesday. But other resorts in the region had good snowfalls too.
Unusually there’s been more snow in the East of the US than the West with resorts in New England reporting up to 40cm of new snow in 24 hours (Stratton in Vermont) or 60cm over 48 hours at the weekend. So its powder conditions right across the region with areas lie Killington and Stowe also reporting big snowfalls. That’s not to say there’s been no snow on the Western side of the country. Most of the big name areas of California, Colorado and Utah have seen at least a few centimetres of snow and Jackson Hole in Wyoming got nearly 10cm at the weekend.