The first scheduled opening of 09-10 therefore could be this weekend, at Solden, although warm temperatures mean there is some doubt whether it will open this Saturday, September 5th as planned. However the resort has just reported 10cm (four inches) of fresh snow on its twin glaciers. After Solden, Pitztal is due to open slightly later in the month. It, (along with Zermatt), is one of two resorts offering the new Israeli IDE snow making system which can make abundant snow at almost any temperature. Then Tignes will be the first ski area to open in France, later in the month.

Whether these early openings constitute the ‘start of winter 2009-10' remains open to debate. It's in October that more resorts begin to open in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland, most offering ‘ski test' weekends and start-of-the-season parties. So the momentum gains pace as we move towards November.

However the continuing warm sunny weather in the Alps, coupled with the scheduled closure of both remaining French summer ski areas last weekend means the number of glacier ski areas has dropped to single figures this week for the first time this year, which doesn't bode well for the imminent ‘start of winter 09-10 either.

Italy has three glaciers to ski on at Passo Stelvio, Cervinia and Val Senales, each reporting a metre (3.3 feet) of snow, but Cervinia will close for the summer this weekend (Sunday 6th September) as scheduled, re-opening in mid-October for weekends then permanently from the start of November.

It's a similar picture in Switzerland where Zermatt and Saas Fee are both open, both still operating their terrain parks and both again with around a metre of snow depth. In Saas Fee's case the precise figure is 80cm (2.7 feet) and the resort notes it has had no fresh snow since august 4th, almost a month ago. It describes the snow conditions as, "Hard, Spring-like."

In Austria only the Molltal; and Hintertux glaciers are open, with the Kitzsteinhorn at Kaprun closed due to lack of snow - reporting 8cm (three inches) on the slopes. Hintertux is claiming the deepest snow and the biggest ski area open anywhere in the northern hemisphere at present, with 165cm (5.5 feet) of snow and 15km (nine miles) of groomed piste.

The only other ski area open in Europe is in Norway where Folgefonn is open, but only to groups who reserve in advance (typically national teams).