Winter Returning to Ski Resorts in Europe While New Snow Greets Skiers in the Western U.S.

by Patrick Thorne with First Tracks!! Online Media staff reports

Kiltarlity, Scotland, UK – Spring temperatures invaded ski resorts in the Alps this week as a cold front is now approaching the region with up to a foot in the forecast. Meanwhile, a large system in the western U.S. that has buried the Denver metro area has largely avoided Colorado’s ski resorts, but another system sweeping through the northern Rockies is leaving fresh powder in its wake.n

Western Europe

It has generally been a good winter to date across France, with three major periods of snowfall at the country’s ski resorts: in mid-December, right in time for the start of the season; in early January; and during the school holidays in mid-February, with frequent snowfalls across the country.

“Winter 2009-10 is positioning itself as one of snowiest in the last thirty years. The snowfalls have been substantial and regular during this winter,” said Virginie Bernat of SkiInfo France. ”Most French resorts are still open, the ski season is not over!”

La Plagne and Chamonix have reported the most new snow in France over the past week with 15-16cm (six inches) each. La Clusaz has received 8cm (3.5 inches).

Chamonix Mont-Blanc has the deepest natural snow base with 400cm (13.3 feet), La Grave la Meije is second with 300cm (10 feet), La Rosière 1850 has 285cm (9.5 feet), Alpe d’Huez 275cm (9.2 feet) and Montgenèvre 240cm (eight feet).

It’s been a dry week in Italy, where the snowfall forecast for last weekend in the north of Italy failed to arrive. Arabba and the Marmolada glacier still has the country’s deepest snow with 540cm (18 feet) on upper slopes – they must be using a very long stick to measure it. The Presena Glacier above Passo Tonale, which will most likely stay open for several more months, has four meters (13.3 feet), and Sella Nevea on the Slovenian border 320cm (10.6 feet).

In Switzerland, it may be warmer now but it’s been a cold winter with temperatures one degree Celsius below a long-term average in the Central Plateau and the biggest snowfalls in the Southern Alps. Top snow depths this week are at Engelberg with 270cm (nine feet), Lötschental with 256cm (8.5 feet) and Saas Fee with 222 cm (7.3 feet). There were some small snowfalls in Switzerland in the last seven days with Gstaad reporting 10cm (four inches) of new snow in a week.

The biggest snowfalls in Austria were reported from the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser. Ski resorts there – like Brixen or Going – typically received 30cm (a foot) in seven days. Brixental has a meter of snow on upper slopes and half a meter in the valley. The ski resorts with the top snow depths are still the glaciers: Mölltaler Gletscher 380cm (12.7 feet), Hintertuxer Gletscher 305cm (10.2 feet), and Dachstein-Gletscher 290cm (9.7 feet).

In Germany, a blanket of snow has covered some parts of the country for a period of more than two months this winter. For the ski resorts it has been a good season, though and it’s not over yet. The Zugspitze still reports up to 250cm (8.3 feet) of snow on its slopes and 110cm (3.7 feet) in Garmisch. The resort got 21cm (8.5 inches) of new snow in the last seven days. Another leading ski area, Oberstdorf – Nebelhorn has a snow depth of 180cm (six feet).

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In the Pyrenees the temperatures have been cooler than in the Alps, with more snow and cold temperatures forecast for the weekend. With Easter Holidays just around the corner, Spanish ski resorts are preparing themselves for the last big days of the season. Most of them are going to close after Easter, only a few will remain open after April 18th (probably Sierra Nevada and Masella).

Baqueira Beret has up to 175cm (six feet) of snow and 110km of piste open while Formigal has 240cm (eight feet) and 111 km of piste to enjoy.

Northern Europe

It’s been much warmer in northern Europe. In Scotland this has meant some rain and there have also been gale force winds that closed both Cairngorm and Glencoe earlier this week. Snow has thawed but all five ski centers are still open with two to three feet (60-90cm) of snow at most on upper slopes. The Scottish school Easter holidays start this weekend.

Despite warm weather across virtually all of Sweden there has been some new snow in both Ramundberget (15cm/six inches) and Åre 12cm (four inches) during the last week.

Skiing conditions are looking great for the upcoming Easter holidays with 18 Swedish ski resorts reporting a snow depth of 85cm (three feet) or more. Riksgränsen has the moist at the moment with 148cm (five feet).

Norway has seen more snow with three powder days over the past week with snowfalls of 20cm (eight inches) or more in 24 hours. Malselv reported 25cm (10 inches) on Monday, Voss had 20cm on Saturday.

Eastern Europe

After the return to cold weather a week ago in Eastern Europe, the temperatures have yoyo-ed back to “very mild” and the snow has melted away to reveal bare patches on lower slopes at Bulgaria’s ski resorts, where even higher-elevation slopes are getting slushy.

North America

Across the Atlantic, cities on the East Coast of North America saw snowfall once again at the start of the week but warmer weather meant not much of this translated in to snow on the slopes. The notable exception would be in Quebec, where ski areas such as Mont-Sainte-Anne and Le Massif de Charlevoix east of Quebec City reported plus or minus 50 cm (20 inches) of new snow this week. Lesser amounts were reported at ski resorts elsewhere in the province and in northern Vermont, although warmer temperatures are melting snow further south in New England. Temperatures are forecast to be turn colder this weekend as most resorts gear up for a final hurrah surrounding the upcoming Easter holiday.

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In the West, a widely publicized storm that left up to nine inches of snow this week in Denver, and nearly two feet in Jefferson County just west of the city, by and large missed most of the state’s ski resorts. The notable exceptions were at Eldora above Boulder, where 18 inches (46 cm) was reported, and at Echo Mountain where 16 inches (41 cm) of snowfall was tallied. Moving west, snowfall amounts trailed off quickly with Loveland Ski Area and Copper Mountain each reporting six inches (15cm), and Winter Park and Arapahoe Basin each acknowledging five inches (13 cm). The storm was a bit more generous on the western slope, as the four ski areas surrounding Aspen reported up to seven inches (18cm) and Powderhorn on the Grand Mesa near the Utah border picked up 10 inches (25cm).

Fresh snow has been reported in Wyoming overnight with Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole both picking up six to seven inches (15-18cm) of fresh powder. That system is now diving into Utah, where it’s begun to snow and ski resorts in the Wasatch are expecting up to a foot (30cm) of new snow today just in time for sunshine to return over the weekend. It will also grace Colorado ski resorts, where the National Weather Service has posted a Winter Weather Advisory.

Elsewhere around the western U.S., new snow is reported today in California (four inches [10cm] overnight and eight inches [20cm] in 48 hours at Northstar, four to six inches [10-15cm] at Kirkwood, one to two inches [2.5 to five cm] at Heavenly), and in the Pacific Northwest (10 inches [25cm] at Mt. Hood Meadows and six inches in 24 hours [15cm] and a foot in the past 36 [30cm] at Mt. Bachelor). Idaho ski resorts are reporting new snow today, too, with three inches (7.5 cm) at Brundage, Ski Lookout and Silver Mountain, and two inches (five cm) at Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Sun Valley and Schweitzer. In Montana, Bridger Bowl near Bozeman has reported eight inches (20cm) overnight, and nearly two feet (58cm) since last Friday.

Warm weather has scuttled the ski season already at many ski areas in the Midwest, with key Minnesota players like Buck Hill and Wild Mountain already halting their lifts for the season.

In Canada, the Vancouver Olympic training venue of Mount Washington on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island reports the deepest snow in the world at the moment with 584cm (19.5 feet). Canada’s Para-Alpine Ski Championships are taking place there this week. In the B.C. Interior, Big White piacked up four inches (10cm) of new snow overnight.

Author Patrick Thorne is the Content Editor for Skiinfo UK, located online at www.skiinfo.co.uk

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