Having done an article on more great places to ski and snowboard yesterday, I thought I’d best have a quick look at snow conditions for you. I have heard a lot about the danger of spontaneous avalanches due to massive snowfall – but does this apply everywhere? And has the snowfall been widespread or has it been fairly localised?
Research shows that it is very widespread. In fact, by the end of November, resorts were opening early due to unprecedented snowfall – apart from France, of course, which remains extremely rigid with their opening dates, and appear to be unwilling to change them once they have been set … in stone it seems!
Record Snowfall At Baqueira Beret
Spain was the first region in Europe to open their resorts after spectacular early snow in the Pyrenees which has broken a three year-cycle of a slow start to the season. The 3 resorts with the most snow today, 28th December, are Sierra Nevada with 250 cm, Baqueira-Beret has 225, and Formiqal 200 cm.
Switzerland’s Crans Montana opened at the end of November with a remarkable 270 cm (nine feet) of snow on upper slopes and 170 cm (nearly six feet) on lower slopes. It joined many other Swiss resorts already open and similarly bathed in deep powder including Engelberg, Lenzerheide, Saas Fee, St Moritz, Verbier and Zermatt. By middle December a lot of the Swiss resorts were sitting with a comfortable 2 metres (7 foot) of snow, and today the top 3 are: Disentis-Sedrun – 360 cm, Andermatt – 300 and Saas Fee – 290 cm. Verbier, today, has 130 cm – machine groomed, whilst Zermatt (which I discussed a few weeks ago) has 260 cm – and powder conditions.
I’ve already mentioned France‘s reluctance to change their opening dates despite their fantastic snowfall. Needless to say, the resorts are now humming, and, living in France, we have been made constantly aware of the fact that a lot of the ski areas are under orange alert for avalanches. So beware…An example of today’s snow conditions are: Montgenevre – 270 cm, Valfréjus – 265 cm and Valberg 250 cm. Val d’Isere has 190 cm – and has good skiing conditions.
Austria’s glacier resorts open very early every year, but the lower resorts also received excellent early snow and have been open for more than a month now. The top 3 are: Molltal-Gletscher-Flattach – 330 cm, Pitztal – 280 cm and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl – 265 cm (the first place I ever skied when I was just a wee little thing!). Mayrhofen has 160 cm of very good snow and as a matter of interest, Hintertux (which I spoke about some weeks ago) has 210 cm – powder.
As with it’s neighbours, Italy, too, has received excellent snowfall. As an example of what conditions to expect today, Breuil-Cervinia has 320 cm of snow, Champoluc has 300, and Limone Piemonte (way down in the South) also has 300 cm. Livigno, remember I talked about this resort yesterday?, has 205 cm – machine groomed.
Finland, Norway and Sweden’s major ski resorts were all open by the end of November. Apart from Bjorli in Norway with 225 cm, the other Scandinavian resorts have less snow – averaging between 50 and 80 cm but with good skiing conditions.
And across the pond the news is much the same. By the end of November, Canada’s ski resorts were off to a good start. Banff opened as did Marmot Basin in Jasper – which had its earliest ever opening. The east coast, too, received their fair share. The top 3 snow reports thee are: Grouse Mountain with 175 cm, Castle Mountain – 152 cm and Powder King – 137 cm. Whistler-Blackcomb, discussed yesterday, only has 73 cm and the ski area is closed.
And down in the US of A things were much the same. The top 3 snow areas are: Silverton Mountain with 276 cm, Wolf Creek with 259 and tied third is Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain with 254.
I haven’t been able to get a ‘latest’ report on Japan, and Niseko in particular, but if the past is anything to go by then they will already have about 5 metres of powder! However, I was sent this link by Chris, who has just returned from skiing there (thigh-high in powder he said) and had read yesterday’s article. You might like to check it out to see the amazing quality of snow and powder:
Niseko seems an interesting place. The extensive lift system is fast, comfortable and uncrowded and includes about 30 covered chair lifts, gondolas and twins . The snow quality is remarkably light and dry. Daily grooming, consistent snow and low temperatures all help to create an unforgettable experience. The Niseko region receives incredible amounts of snow, apparently far in excess of most other ski areas anywhere in the world. The upper mountain receives an average of about 16m of snowfall each season. And the summit of the mountain is only 1308m! The base of the resort is at around 300m so you get a respectable 1000m of vertical. Basically if deep powder is your thing then Niseko is the place to go. During winter it snows most days and it’s not unusual to have well in excess of 20 days of deep powder each month.
However, a final cautionary warning for this year’s skiing… watch out for these things:
The chances are you won’t outrun, outski, or out-board one of these monsters and even if you do – the people below it might not… please heed this warning. This year is going to be particularly prone to avalanches they say.