It’s a great start to the winter season in almost every major ski region around the world.
The Alps continue to look good with almost all ski areas now open; the final batch planning to open this coming weekend for Christmas. Snowfalls of up to 80cm were recorded in 24 hours in the Southern French Alps and base depths on upper slopes are now well on their way to three metres at the bigger, higher resorts – really setting these up for the rest of winter even if it stops snowing now, and there’s no sign of that. Glacier 3000 (310cm) and Andermatt (330cm) in Switzerland have both passed the three-metre mark in the past week.
It’s also looking pretty good in the Dolomites, Pyrenees, Scandinavia, Scotland and Eastern Europe. In North America conditions outside the Northwest of the continent remain not yet quite as ‘awesome’ as is the norm, but the US Rockies have had some healthy snowfalls reported by resorts in Colorado and Utah, dramatically improving conditions there, and the snow is still falling.
To see the latest 'where is the snow' pictures, go to our: Recent Snowfall Gallery
The great start to winter 2012-13 continues in France, particularly at the big-name, high altitude resorts which have some of the best conditions in the world at present. More of the country’s best known ski areas opened at the weekend, including Flaine and the Grand Massif region and Les Arcs/La Plagne in Paradiski.
Les Arcs already has a 1.5m base and we expect another 50cm will be falling during the rest of this week. At famously snowy Flaine, the giant powder bowl is already 2.7m deep on the upper slopes (one of the deepest bases in France and indeed the whole world) and 1.35m down at resort.
There have been comparatively warm temperatures in Austria, compared to the start of December at least, and in many of the country’s regions temperatures have been rising above freezing during the day so the snow depth is little changed on last week. However the few centimetres of fresh snowfall has kept the slopes in good shape. The most snowfall at a major resort in the last 24 hours was reported Lech Zuers which got 25cm and Solden with 16cm while most other resorts in the Tyrol got around 10cm.
Snow depths have also passed 2m for the first time this season in Austria, with Kaprun’s Kitzsteinhorn glacier now having a 210cm base, up 30cm on last week’s total.
Conditions remain good at most major Italian ski areas. The Dolomites received 15cm of new snow on Monday and typical base depths are 20-70cm; Cortina has a bigger 80-160cm base. Val Gardena has 54 of its 112 runs open.
On the west side of the country Cervinia, which has Italy’s deepest snow base at 2.5m, received another 10cm of snow on Monday. Courmayeur to the south got 15cm of snow on the same day and its upper slope base has increased from 130cm to 160cm in the past week.
The highest Swiss resorts have received more heavy snowfall in the past 72 hours and are now reporting some of the deepest snow depths in the world. Gstaad received 80cm in the last three days – 40cm of that in the past 24 hours. Saas Fee (240cm base) reported 45cm in the past 24 hours and Crans Montana 40cm in the same time. Fresh powder is also waiting for skiers and boarders in Zermatt with a snow depth of 190cm; Engelberg with 235cm; Verbier with 195cm; and Grindelwald with 159cm (56cm of fresh powder). The latest snowfalls come on top of the very good snowfalls in November and early December.
Another week with just a few centimetres of fresh snow in the Pyrenees but on the pistes conditions are reported to be widely good thanks to snowfall in late November and early December. In Formigal snow depths are among the deepest in the region at 60-155cm. Over in Andorra snow depths at Grandvalira, have reached 90cm on upper runs and in VallNord there’s 50-120cm on the slopes with all lifts operational and more than three quarters of terrain open – a percentage common across the region at present.
After the long cold period where all major resorts in Scandinavia were able to produce snow at full capacity and make excellent base conditions for a long winter in the slopes, a storm moved in and made it all picture-perfect with fresh powder for a white Christmas.
Last weekend, most of Norway´s destinations, including major resorts like Hemsedal, Geilo and Trysil, received significant powder. Smaller resorts closer to the west coast, including Voss, now have good top-to-bottom conditions too, but are still not operating full terrain. More snow is expected in Norway this weekend.
There’s been more snow in Eastern Europe and snow depths are gradually building in Bulgaria at Borovets (40cm), which opened for the season at the weekend, and at Bansko where base depth have nearly doubled to 70cm on upper slopes from 40cm this time last week.
Low temperatures and fresh snow in Scotland allowed four of the country’s five ski areas to open at the weekend with Glencoe and Nevis Range joining Cairngorm and The Lecht. Only Glenshee says it needs more snow while Nevis Range is currently only open at weekends. Temperatures warmed slightly at the start of the week but have dipped again now and it is looking a promising start to the Scottish ski season, especially with the crucial Christmas and New Year holiday periods just around the corner.
Snow in Colorado and Utah has freshened up the slopes and allowed resorts to open more groomed terrain, although that deep powder for which the region is famed is yet to be quite abundant enough for off-piste skiing in most cases.
Vail has had 45cm of snow in the past 72 hours and describes conditions as “powder” although base depth is 53cm. 75 of the resort’s 193 runs are now open.
In Montana Old Man Winter arrived just in time for the opening of Whitefish Mountain Resort for their 65th season. With the latest storm cycle the resort received 97cm of snow in the last seven days and there is a 1.65m base at the summit.
“The storms that have rolled through northwest Montana this week have been welcomed enthusiastically by our pass holders and out-of-town guests,” said Whitefish Mountain Resort President Dan Graves. “Winter arrived in the nick of time for our opening and conditions have been improving steadily every day.”
Over on the east coast, Killington (61-91cm) has had 15cm of snow in the past few days and reports 40 of its 140 runs are open.
In Canada conditions remain good in the west. Big White in British Columbia issued a powder alarm for 11cm of snow in 12 hours on Sunday, part of 58cm of new snow in seven days. Its base is now 1.4m having received 2.5m of snowfall this season to date. Further west, Whistler has had 165cm of snowfall in December so far and the snow continues to fall.
The Week Ahead
In Central Europe it should stay warmer than last week over the next seven days but fresh snowfall is expected in most areas, with 30cm of new cover likely on moderate-to-higher slopes. More fresh snow is expected for Austria at the weekend but it remains uncertain how the weather and the snow conditions will be during the Christmas holidays. Temperatures are quite mild at the moment, but with a bit luck it is will be getting colder again next week.
Over in North America moderate snowfall is expected to continue in the west of the continent over the next week bringing an average of 30cm across the region.
To see the latest 'Where is the snow' pictures, go to our Recent Snowfall Gallery
The next 'Where is the snow in Europe and North America?' report will be published Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2012.