Where’s The Snow This Week?

STORY BY Patrick Thorne 22nd November 2013

(Picture from La Clusaz, Video from Courchevel – both of which will be opening early for the season on Saturday )

The J2Ski Snow Report Week Ending November 23rd, 2013

This Week’s Headlines:

  • Courchevel opening on Saturday for one day only – and running its lifts free.
  • Up to two feet of new snow in the past week in Western Canada.
  • First resort in Pyrenees opening for 2013-14 after heavy snow.
  • Number of areas open in US likely to pass 500 by weekend.
  • La Clusaz and Pic du Midi also opening early and Fernie opens this weekend.

The snowy picture around the world has continued as winter 2013-14 continues its ‘dream start’ in most of the world’s major ski areas.

The snow has continued to fall on the alps leading to more resorts planning to open earlier than envisaged – Courchevel and la Clusaz are amongst them.  The Pyrenees have joined the party too with nearly a metre of snow falling in the past week there in places, leading to Baqueira Beret announcing it will be opening early.  Things are also looking good in the Dolomites with heavy falls reported although little open there yet.

Across the Atlantic there’s been another wave of heavy snow which deposited a foot of powder overnight at the growing list of open ski areas in California, Colorado and Utah.  North of the border accumulations over the past seven days of more than 60cm have been reported in British Columbia.

The Alps


Austria is the first country in Europe to have the number of ski areas open in double figures thanks to resorts like Kitzbuhel, Obergurgl and Obertauern opening at weekends on top of the eight glacier areas that have mostly been open for two months or more now.  After the heavy snow last week it has kept snowing, significantly, with most areas adding another 10-20cm in the past 48 hours.  The Kaunertal glacier boasts some of the deepest snow in the world at the moment at 2.2 metres but Hintertux keeps extending trhe terrain it has open – now 45km served by 18 lifts and a 1000m+ vertical – one of the largest areas in the world open at this point in the pre-season.


There will be more ski areas open in France than expected this weekend.  Originally Val Thorens was due to join Tignes as the second French resort to open but we now know that at least six French resorts will be open on Saturday at least – perhaps more by the time the day arrives.   Courchevel has made the most dramatic announcement, saying they’ll run their lifts free of charge on Saturday only, then close again to the 7th of December, their planned opening date.  La Clusaz has also announced it’s opening early and Alpe d’Huez is expected to re-open.  Val Thorens, which actually planned to open for the season on the 23rd anyway, and is already open (since Wednesday) for locals, will have opening weekend festivities expected to attract at least 5,000 people.  Pic du Midi is also opening briefly down in the Pyrenees (see separate section).


It’s still another week until most Italian resorts join in the mass resort opening for 2013-14 with the first scheduled to open on 30th November.  However half a dozen areas are already operating and most of them reported a 20-30cm snowfall at the start of the week – so the snow is fresh.  Most are glacier areas including Cervinia  with a 150cm (five foot) base and Val Senales with 280cm at the top – nearly 10 feet – the deepest in the world at present.


There are now at least half a dozen Swiss ski areas open, and like most of the rest of the Alps they’ve also been reporting ongoing snowfall, up to 20cm in the past few days.  Snow bases on the glaciers are very healthy, back up above two metres in some cases including Saas Fee and Zermatt.  Resorts that have opened in the past week or so such as Davos have more modest but still adequate cover (50cm) and Engelberg has now re-opened and reports up to a metre snow base – both areas have had around 8cm of fresh snow in the past 24 hours, and it’s still falling.


Baqueira Beret has announced it will open a week early, this Saturday, after substantial snowfall over the past week, the biggest accumulation 30cm over 24 hours on Monday/Tuesday.  Four lifts will be running and snowfall totals for the past seven days are at 70cm.  As there has been heavy snow across the Pyrenees it’s possible that other areas planning to open on Nov 309th, including resorts in Andorra, may open early.  Pic du midi on the French side will also open some terrain they say, on Sunday the 24th.


It’s not yet a vintage season in Scandinavia although Levi successfully staged World Cup events at the weekend.  There’s not been much snow in the last week and of the dozen or so areas open in Finland, Norway and Sweden, the best base is around 30cm.  But it’s early days.  On the already open list are Geilo and Hemsdeal in Norway and Levi and the Ruka in Lapland, all with partial terrain open.


Scottish ski slopes have had a mixture of rain and snow over the past week following a rapid thaw just before the weekend.  As we publish therefore there is not quite enough snow it seems at any of the five centres to be able to open, and Nevis range has indeed ruled out doing so this weekend.  If snow continues to fall though other centres, particularly Cairngorm, might open.

North America


The snow is falling in abundance in Western Canada (as per the usual plan) with Big White reporting more than two feet (60cm) of fresh in the past seven days.  Only around half a dozen areas are open so far however with the majority holding back to early December, again as per the Canadian norm.    Whistler, which opened early a week ago, has a 75cm base – a figure matched by Big White. Cypress Mountain, the smaller ski area close to Vancouver, opened on Wednesday and Fernie will open this weekend.   At the open Alberta resorts including Lake Louise and Marmot Basin, the figure is nearer 40cm, the latter reporting they plan to open more runs this weekend, “ Great news!! With a whole bunch of new snow over the past few days, Marmot Basin will be opening at least two more high speed quad chairs and the upper portion of the mountain to skiers and snowboarders starting this weekend!”


The US continues to lead the world for the number of open areas with ski centres opening across the country ahead of the Thanksgiving Holiday period coming up next week.  Plenty of fresh snow in the West of the country has helped make it more of a positive start than the average too, but Eastern ski areas have also been opening.  At least eight areas are already open in Colorado alone with more set to follow at the weekend.  Snow depths are typically around the metre mark – not bad for mid-November – with each receiving a few inches of fresh sow in the past few days from moderate snow storms.  Earlier in the week – last weekend in fact – resorts including Copper reported 20cm falls overnight, and in other states such as California these were as much as a foot/30cm.  Over on the East Coast half a dozen centres are open in Vermont, for example, with Killington posting the deepest snow base at 60cm, here there is more of a snowmaking reliance but there has also been some fresh natural snow.


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