World snow report: Winter approaches with snowstorms, first snowmaking, and resort openings

Posted By: The Ski Channel on September 29, 2010 6:38 pm

Words by: Patrick Thorne – Content Editor at Skiinfo UK


As the southern hemisphere’s ski season continues to wind down, resorts in France, Switzerland and the USA are opening, or have opened, in the last seven days.

Fresh snow in the Alps and the start of snowmaking in Colorado are further signs that the ski season is just around the corner, and in fact in a dozen resorts it has already started.

There’s been fresh snow in the Alps again in recent days with up to 30cm (a foot) falling and giving powder conditions at the open glacier ski areas – these are now back in to double figures thanks to resorts opening in Austria, France and Switzerland.

With the re-opening of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, Austria has by far the widest choice of ski areas open in the northern hemisphere with seven ski areas to choose from. The Stubai (60cm), Solden (61cm), Kaurnertal (55cm) Molltal (90cm) and Pitztal (33cm) are also all open, only the Dachstein remains closed. Hintertux, which is open virtually all year, has a 1.1m base but has expanded the amount of open terrain to 39km over a 600m plus vertical so is offering one of the largest snow areas open anywhere at present.
France is also now back in to the ski and board market with the re-opening of Tignes glacier (50cm) last weekend.

In Switzerland, The Titlis glacier above Engelberg plans to open its slopes on Saturday (Oct 2nd) due to a snow cover of up to 70cm, this means they will open two weeks earlier than last year.

“This is the earliest opening date possible”, said Peter Reinle of Titlis Rotair, who believes that opening the slopes in September wouldn’t make sense as the snow might melt again and most people don’t think of skiing then. But, “From now on there’s a big chance the snow will stay”, Reinle said.

It will join already (and almost always) open Sass Fee and Zermatt, both with more than a meter of snow.

In Italy, Val Senales and Passo Stelvio remain open, the former with over a meter of snow and 30cm of that fresh from last weekend.

Elsewhere in Europe Ruka in Finnish Lapland has revised its initial plan to open this Friday, October 1st and is now aiming for October 15th.

Across the Atlantic following reports of heavy snow in Alberta and BC last week, with hike-up skiers making first tracks at Fernie and others, as well as news that one of the world’s highest ski area, Loveand in Colorado has started snow making, Timberline ski area at Oregon has announced it re-opens for the start of winter 2010-11, for weekends only initially, this Friday, October 1st.

“Late spring storms and focused summer grooming and maintenance of the Palmer Snowfield have provided a great level of snow above 7,000 feet.” said a resorts spokesperson.

“We’ll be operating our Magic Mile and Palmer Chairs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through October (weather/conditions permitting). We’ll look to open more lifts as soon as the snow starts to fall and we can build a base on the lower mountain.”

The Palmer Snowfield is recommended for advanced intermediate and above skill level only, and downloading on the Magic Mile lift is required during the early season.

Following the heavy snow storms that brought up to a meter of new snow to New Zealand’s ski slopes – in some cases the biggest falls of the southern hemisphere’s winter, a number of areas have announced they intend to stay open longer than originally planned.

Whakapapa and Turoa on Mt Ruapehu both plan to stay open longer, in the latter case hopefully in to November. In Queenstown Coronet Peak, which had intended to close on Sunday, will stay open an extra week to October 10.
The weather has settled down a lot after the extremes of last week. But it is still snowing and Mt Hutt has reported another 15cm (six inches) overnight keeping its base near two meters or 195cm (6.5 feet). The Remarkables currently has 180cm (six feet) on the ground.

It’s the last week of the season in Australia but the snow is still falling with resorts reporting a dusting overnight as temperatures dipped well below freezing. At Mt Hotham the average natural snow depth is 76cm with 140cm in snowmaking areas. Six lifts are open and the Summit Terrain Park is constructed for Spring styling action.

“The grooming team have been hard at work and all intermediate and beginner runs are nicely shaped and smoothed awaiting your turns. Little Buller Spur and Summit are two of the top picks for the day.” said a resort spokesperson.

Perisher has 161cm (5.3 feet) of snow and says it was stay open up to and including Monday next week, October 4.

It’s coming to the end of the ski season in South America too with many areas now closed, in Chile, Valle Nevado is one of the few still open with more than a 30cm base. In Argentina, the country’s largest area, Catedral, is still open with a 115cm (Just under four foot) base.