This Week’s Headlines:
- Lower Austrian resorts finally receive healthy snowfalls and conditions are much improved.
- Big name French resorts receive two feet or more of fresh snow in past week.
- Snowfalls of up to 75cm in 7 days in the Alps – most areas get good falls.
- Scottish areas say conditions best since the ‘epic winter’ of 2009-10 (Glencoe pictured above).
It’s great to be able to end January and start February with the news that the snow has been falling ALMOST across the entire northern hemisphere. Even Austria, which had been suffering with little snow at lower elevations, has been getting much more normal cover over the past week and is a nation transformed.
Elsewhere in Europe there have been big snowfalls in much of the rest of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Dolomites, Scandinavia and even Glencoe in Scotland says they have more snow than the famed very snowy winter five years ago.
Across the Atlantic in North America it’s looking ‘generally very good’ too after a second Arctic blast, except in California which continues to suffer the most dramatic drought conditions for many years leaving snow cover at a number of centres very poor still.
Alps and Olympics
With the Olympic Opening Ceremony a week tomorrow, conditions looks good at Sochi. Rosa Khutor where downhill ski events take place reports 263cm of snow lying at the top, where temperatures are around -9C at present, including a foot of fresh snow. It will take some effort to clear the slopes of too much snow but the slopes have reportedly been designed to cope.
What a difference a week makes! It may be six or seven weeks in to the season but at last there’s been some serious snowfall at lower elevations in Austria, with the Skiwelt, which had perhaps been suffering the most of the country’s big, lower elevation ski areas, adding more than a foot – nearly doubling bases to 80cm or so. Seefeld had a similar boost and the snowfall also reached German areas just north of the border with areas including Ruhpolding also reporting more than a foot of much needed fresh snow. Austria’s higher areas hadn’t really had the snowfall ‘issues’ that lower areas had, and they’ve done the best again in the latest powder handouts with Ischgl and the Stubai both adding more than 60cm of new snow in the past week. The country’s glaciers including Solden, Hintertux and Pitztal have the deepest snow at 2.4 – 2.8 metres.
It’s been another snowy week right across France and reported falls of 70cm in the last seven days at resorts including Flaine and Val Thorens (including 25cm in 24 hours on Monday/Tuesday) are the largest reported anywhere this week. Most other resorts have had at least a foot and the snow has also been building down in the Pyrenees as well as more for the southern French Alps which have been doing well all winter (another 20cm for Auron and Valberg on Wednesday). Other big winners with around two feet of fresh snow up top include Avoriaz, Alpe d’Huez and Chamonix. Flaine now boasts the deepest snow base in the country at 285cm (nearly 10 feet).
Italy continues to enjoy a great season, there was another foot of snow in the Dolomites on Monday/Tuesday, with the Fassa Valley and Val Gardena doing especially well, again, part of accumulations doubler that through the week. Moving further south down Italy to those resorts most Brits don’t visit, Monte Bondone posted a foot of fresh powder on Tuesday and Abetone in the Apennines had 40cm over the weekend. Passo Tonale continues to claim the deepest snow in the world at 4.5m although it’s not reporting any fresh this week. Arabba claims to have had the most fresh in Italy over the last seven days at just over two feet/60cm, with Courmayeur (20cm fresh) the most in the Alps.
Snow cover has been balancing out in Switzerland this week with areas that needed the snow the most – like Leysin and Villars – receiving some of the biggest seven-day falls of 60-70cm. Andermatt, which posted a 20cm snowfall today (30th) has the deepest snow in the country at 3.8m, and is top in the northern hemisphere for a non-glacier resort, just piping Japan’s Niseko by a couple of centimetres. Other big winners, reporting 20-40cm in 24 hour periods over the weekend – included Arosa, Engelberg, Grindelwald and Gstaad – but almost all Swiss resorts significantly added to their bases over the last seven days.
It continues to look good in the Pyrenees where up to 70cm of fresh snow has been reported in the past week. Bases are up to a maximum 2.3m (VallNord) in Andorra, very healthy, and Soldeu says it has had 45cm more snow in the last week. On the French side Piau Engaly has had 70cm of fresh snow in the last week, and most other areas 20-40cm – Peyragudes: 25cm of fresh snow (150cm top/95cm bottom), Cauterets: at least 30cm of fresh snow (220cm top 150cm bottom).
Norway’s season goes from strength to strength, the former Olympic venue of Lillehammer has had 30cm of snow in the past week and now has a 2m base, the deepest in the region. Most other ski areas have seen a 20-40cm boost to their bases which are typically in the 1 – 1.5 metres bracket – very healthy for the region. The snowfall is less impressive in Sweden and in Finnish Lapland where bases are typically 40-60cm with little fresh snow reported, but presumably that means views of the Northern lights are good.
Eastern European ski areas which had been badly in need of fresh snow received a significant boost at the weekend with up to 25cm of fresh snow reported in Bulgaria, Bansko’s upper slope base is now claimed to be around a metre. There have been smaller falls in other areas such as at Romania’s Poiana Brasov and Slovenia’s Kranjska Gora, bringing bases up to around 50cm a piece.
Scottish ski centres are currently in a state of some excitement having what’s being reported as “the best snow since the great winter of 2009-10” and even “the most snow in 15 years.” All five centres are open, including a re-opened Lecht which is the least ‘epic’ of the five still after missing out on the biggest accumulations, but still looking quite good. There’s top-to-bottom skiing and deep snow on upper runs at the other four areas with the west coast Glencoe and Nevis Range in especially good shape. However all the snow has led to off piste avalanche danger and even on some steep pistes, Glencoe’s famed Flypaper run is closed for example for that reason.
Resorts in Quebec reported big snowfalls (20-30cm) at the weekend with Tremblant, Mont Sutton and Mont Sainte Anne among the beneficiaries. Resorts in neighbouring Ontario did well too. Unusually that puts Eastern resorts at the top of the Canadian snow depth table, with Mont Sainte Anne’s 255cm base topping the highest western Canadian ski area, Big White with 201cm, by 20%. There’s been less fresh snow in the west than the east for a change but conditions remain largely good in Alberta and BC although whistler continues to have a rather below par winter, in common with most Pacific coast resorts, with little fresh for three weeks.
Snow cover is looking good in most of the USA with daily reports of heavy powder falls – over the weekend in the East and Midwest and in the past few days 20-30cm falls in the Rockies and other Western ranges – today (30th January) for example there’s been a foot reported at park City, Utah and 20cm at Colorado resorts including Copper, Loveland and Steamboat. Grand Targhee in Wyoming says it expects two feet of snow in the next 72 hours. The exception to all this good news remains, as for the past two months, poor old California where drought conditions continue to hold sway, there’s none of the normally abundant powder and instead a more Eastern European feeling max 45cm at Squaw Valley, 60cm at Mammoth, let’s hope for change soon.