There have been increasingly heavy snowfalls in Western North America over the past few weeks, with Whistler reporting a metre of fresh snow in the past seven days and most other resorts on the western side of the continent reporting healthy snowfalls too.
In Europe warm weather and a lack of natural snowfall has been the less promising trend of November 2011 leading to some postponed openings. Currently about 20 resorts are open, most with glaciers, but non-glacier resorts including six in Norway have started opening and Ischgl will open 71km of pistes this Friday. Colder weather is expected towards the weekend allowing for more snowmaking and some natural snowfall.
Thanks to its many glacier ski areas Austria has had more centres open since early October than any other ski area in the northern hemisphere. Or at least it did have until dozens of Canadian and US ski areas opened in the past few weeks. Although like most of the rest of Europe these areas are waiting for fresh snow, bases accumulated earlier this month and last have left most glaciers with still at least a metre of snow on upper slopes at least.
The Pitztal Glacier has the most with 1-1.5m but you can also ski now at Kaprun, Kaunertal, Tux, Dachstein, Molltal, Solden and Stubai and the non-glacier slopes of Obergurgl and Schladming also have limited terrain open with 30-50cm of snow cover. Ischgl has a big opening weekend coming up and says they will have more than 70km of trails open and 20,000 people are expected to attend the big opening concert on Saturday starring Roxette.
Europe's highest ski area, Val Thorens, was due to open last weekend and join the only French ski area currently open, Tignes, but postponed this to tomorrow, November 24th. Val d'Isere is due to open this Sat (26/11) as is Isola 2000 in the Southern Alps), but in its case only for the weekend with full opening from 3rd December. Cold temperatures are currently expected to arrive in France next Monday (28th).
Italy currently has some of the deepest snow bases in Europe with the Presana Glacier above Passo Tonale reporting a 2m base - deeper than anywhere else. Cervinia is also doing well with a 1.45m (nearly five foot) base. Some of the country's big name resorts like Bormio and Livigno are already open with 50cm bases, and Alagna and Madonna di Campiglio currently expect to open this weekend with a 40cm base. Many more ski areas including resorts in the Dolomiti Superski area are scheduled to open from this weekend onwards.
It remains largely glacier ski slopes that are open in Switzerland. Saas Fee, which has been open all summer and autumn, claims the deepest snow depth at 167cm, but Zermatt, Glacier 3000 (above Gstaad/Diablerets) and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz in the Engadin has a short run open. Engelberg's glacier lifts are closed for maintenance to this Friday 25th and the slopes of Laax are open at weekends.
After good early snowfall early this month the Pyrenees are facing the same challenging conditions as much of Europe. Grandvalira, the region's largest ski area, has delayed opening planned this weekend. It says it has some snow built up on its pistes but wants to preserve and enhance it ready for more important dates in December when Spain has bank holidays.
Colder temperatures at last in Northern Europe has allowed several resorts to open. In Norway six ski areas - Hafjell, Kvitfjell, Trysil, Bjorli, Rauland and Kongsberg all opening at the weekend and more are expected to open in the coming days.
In Finland, after a month's delay on the hoped for October 15 opening due to warm weather, Ruka opened last week on November 16.
Great conditions in Western Canada where resorts that have already open are reporting great conditions with others like Fernie and Revelstoke planning to open for ‘preview weekends' this weekend. The latter reports more than two metres of pre-season snow has fallen. All three Banff resoerts are open in Alberta with Lake Louise soon to host the annual World Cup downhill races.
The US has got off to a great start to the season and with most of the leading ski areas on the west side of the country already open or doing so in the next few days ready for the key Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, it's hard to think of a better start to winter 11-12 for the area. Resorts have been opening on the East Coast too, thanks primarily to snowmaking efforts. Mt Baker has the deepest snowbase at 183cm, but 49 Degrees North, also in Washington state, has had the most snowfall is the past seven days - 137cm.