Swiss glaciers see snow storms, Southern Hemisphere dumped on

Posted By: The Ski Channel on August 19, 2010 7:30 pm reports Swiss ski resort of Saas Fee has reported a half a meter (20 in.) of fresh powder falling on its glacier in the past few days and neighboring resorts Zermatt and, over in Italy, Cervinia, have also seen big summer snowfalls. In the southern hemisphere there’s been snow in Australia, South America and New Zealand, where some areas are receiving heavy snowfall today.

Switzerland’s two open glacier ski areas have seen remarkable August snowfalls with Saas Fee reporting 45cm (18 inches) of new snow on Sunday, with more falling since, including another 5cm (two inches) yesterday. Neighboring Zermatt, the only European ski area open 365 days and home to Europe’s highest lifts, reported healthy snowfalls, too. Saas Fee describes current conditions as “packed powder” and has a 1.6m (5.3-foot) base with terrain park and halfpipe open.

The heavy snowfall spilled over in to Italy where Zermatt’s Italian neighbor, Cervinia, to which it is lift-linked, received a 20cm storm. Val Senales has also been receiving more snow, with another 5cm on Tuesday, the latest of about 10 days of regular snowfalls there, it currently has a one-meter base. Passo Stelvio is also open.

In France the glacier ski areas at Tignes and Les 2 Alpes are both entering their final two weeks of summer operations. Les 2 Alpes has the better snow cover with a meter depth while Tignes has 30cm, and both areas received a little new snow over the weekend.

The picture is a little less promising in Austria, where the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier remains closed for a second week due to warm temperatures and a diminished snowpack – down to 10cm (four inches) on the glacier with temperatures remaining above freezing and rain falling. It’s a similar picture on the Dachstein Glacier where the lifts are running but downhill slopes and terrain park are closed – they report a 30cm (foot) base but that the snow is “wet.”

Two Austrian glacier ski areas, however, are still open. The largest one, Tux, had fresh snow on Sunday and reports “powder” conditions with 20km of slopes open, a 125cm (four-foot) base and more than 600m of summer vertical. The Molltal glacier continues to report 9.5km of trails open and a 1.2m (four-foot) base.

In North America Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in Oregon remains the only area open, despite temperatures hitting 75ºF. There’s a meter (3.3 feet) of snow and the public terrain park and several runs are open.

The snow has finally arrived in South America, where temperatures are generally a few degrees below freezing at most ski areas. The continent’s largest ski area in terms of uplift — Catedral in Argentina — has received 30cm (a foot) of new snow on its upper runs in the past 12 hours and now has a 1.6m (5.3-foot) base. Las Lenas has had 7cm of new snow, too, while Chapelco’s base is up to 1.2m (four feet) following fresh snow there.

Over in Chile Portillo has receive 13cm (five inches) of new snow in the past week but base depths remain lower than normal at around a meter (41 inches) on upper slopes with packed powder, 67cm (27 inches) at the base. Valle Nevado, part of the largest ski area in the continent in terms of terrain area, has an average 50cm (20-inch) base from a 3.7m (12.3-foot) snow total so far this season. Chapa Verde has a similar base depth.

Conditions are mostly good at Australia’s resorts, where snow has continued to fall over the past week with more predicted in coming days. Mt. Hotham reports average snow depth is 89cm (three feet) but is a foot (30cm) deeper where there’s snowmaking. The resort has received 42cm (1.5 feet) of snow in the past week, 8cm (three inches) of it in the past 48 hours. The numbers are similar at Thredbo, which has had 38cm (1.3 feet) of new snow in the past week and has had 2.5m of snow in the past week. Falls Creek currently has a 77cm (2.5-foot) base of natural snow and all but one lift operating, in snowmaking areas snow depth is up to a meter greater at 177cm (six feet).

In New Zealand there has been an exciting week of weather. Mt. Hutt saw over 1,000 guests stranded overnight last Thursday into Friday by 200kph winds, but in the past 24 hours has received 19cm (eight inches) of new snow, taking upper slope depths up to two meters (nearly seven feet). At Coronet Peak the figures are a little less impressive with 5cm of snow over the weekend, taking depths to 1.1m (just under four feet). The Remarkables got 10cm yesterday and has a similar base depth.

On Mt. Ruapehu the lifts are closed today due to strong winds. The snow is falling, though, with 5cm of fresh so far and base depths up to 1.3m (over four feet) at Turoa. Whakapapa has 81cm, and both are expecting more snow for the resort of the week.

In Africa conditions are little changed since our last report at Afriski in Lesotho. A cold weather window has allowed for another 20 hours snowmaking in the past 24, taking snowmaking hours season to date to 450. There’s been virtually no natural snowfall this winter but thanks to the ingenuity of the ski area’s operators there’s still a 600m-long main slope open with a 70cm base, with an additional beginners area and terrain park to enjoy.