Winter has emphatically arrived, assuring excellent holiday skiing and snowboarding throughout North America and the European Alps.
There's lots of snow in some regions of North America and deep cold for making snow in others. The Alps were blessed with major early winter snowfalls in December - so much so that all Austrian resorts, for example, were open by mid-month.
Here's OnTheSnow.com's worldwide holiday outlook:
Starting in North America: Some Pacific Northwest resorts were able to open weeks earlier than usual. A collision of wet Pacific storms and arctic temperatures piled up the base with many British Columbia resorts running all their lifts by mid-December, including the PEAK 2 PEAK lift at Whistler Blackcomb. Resorts in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon aim to be running all lifts for the vacation weeks.
A frigid moist onset to winter set up resorts in the Northern Rockies for a white Christmas. Most offered top-to-bottom action by mid-December. Alberta, Canada, fared the best with Delerium Dive's extreme inbounds terrain at Sunshine Village seeing its earliest opening ever, and Marmot Basin racking up well over half its annual average snowfall by mid-month.
Montana and Wyoming resorts accumulated less snow, but enough to roll the trams to the summits. Big Sky's Lone Peak tram opened by mid-December, and Jackson Hole's aerial tram began hauling riders Dec. 19.
A back-to-back whammy of storms dumping 3 and 5 feet of snow in early December throttled most of the Far West resorts into high gear, including those clustered around Lake Tahoe.
Sierra resorts found themselves in much better shape than last year, with the snow arriving before Christmas instead of during the vacation period. Even Arizona Snowbowl has cranked up its lifts.
Long-range forecasts project snowfall all Christmas week at Colorado resorts such as Steamboat, leading up to Christmas Day. Snow is expected on and around Christmas in the Aspen and Summit County areas. The Vail and Beaver Creek forecast shows snow starting Christmas Day and not ending until after the New Year.
Weather in the Northeast and Eastern Canada turned cold at the end of the first week in December, and snowmaking temperatures settled in to stay. Resorts in New York State, New England, and Quebec began covering terrain with machine-made snow, augmented by natural snowfall, until most had more than half their trails open by mid-December, and prospects of full operation by Christmas.
Recent snowstorms left well over a foot of snow across much of the American Midwest, and the Great Lakes Region received additional lake effect snow. Most resorts were open the second weekend of December and continued snowmaking with additional natural snowfall forecast. The set-up bodes well for an excellent holiday period.
Winter hit the Mid Atlantic region big time Dec. 19 with the largest blizzard in a decade dropping more than 2 feet of snow on many areas, including Maryland and Washington, D.C. The storm pounded Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. The blizzard continued through Pennsylvania, across New York, and into southern New England and headed out to sea. Airports closed, and commuter trains halted service in some communities. Most Mid-Atlantic resorts are now open and in good shape for the holidays.
A major winter storm hit Utah Dec. 13, delivering as much as 48 inches of snow in 48 hours. The much-needed dump put Utah's mountain resorts into play for the holidays.
Now to Europe: The story in the Alps comes down to one word: snow. Up to 70 cm fell across Europe Dec. 19, setting off 17 powder alarms in Switzerland and France, and creating perfect powder conditions just in time for Christmas. This new cover falls atop big snowfalls of December on ski resorts in Vorarlberg, Tirol, and Switzerland. In particular, resorts at higher altitudes, such as Hochgurgl, St. Anton am Arlberg, and the glaciers - Mölltaler Glacier, Sölden, Stubai, and Pitztal - were blessed with plenty of powder.
The continuing snowfall is good news for all the resorts that are due to open, even in low altitudes. Most of the German ski resorts still await heavy snowfalls, but the Zugspitze boasts 140cm of snow.
The start of the season in Italy came with 94 powder alarms set off during the first 10 days of December. Abundant snowfall has covered almost all northern Italian slopes from Valle d'Aosta to South Tyrol.
Skiers and riders in Piedmont should note they must possess adequate insurance for third parties. Remember to bring evidence of insurance along on the slopes, or you risk a fine from €40 to €250. Temporary policies can be purchased with ski passes.
Switzerland saw heavy early snowfall triggering 168 powder alarms in November and early December - the highest number in Europe. Engelberg received so much snow, 90cm in 24 hours, it was virtually brought to a standstill at the beginning of December with roads in and out of the village forced to close.
Swiss skiers look set to enjoy a white Christmas after Davos, Klosters, Saas-Fee, Verbier, Engelberg, Zermatt, and others all opened to virtually perfect powder conditions. Topping the Swiss snowfall table is Andermatt-Gotthard with 190cm.
The words of that old holiday favorite must be ringing in skiers' and riders' ears: "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
OnTheSnow.com regional editors Jill Adler, Daniela Eiletz-Kaube, Becky Lomax, Shannon Luthy, Mary Jo Tarallo, Alicia Taylor, Mike Terrell, and Francesca Trabella contributed to this story.