Snowfall allows ski resorts to open early

28th October 2012, by Abi Butcher

Whistler is getting ready to open on 22 November

Whistler is getting ready to open on 22 November

Winter has arrived in ski resorts across Europe and North America.

While we were digging out our winter coats in the UK this weekend, snow started to fall across the Alps. It’s dumping in Verbier, Tignes, Val D’Isere, Morzine and Saas Fee, after last week’s unseasonably warm temperatures.

Saas Fee is reporting a whopping 60cm of new snow at 3,600m in the past 24hr, giving a base depth of 179cm. But the snowfall is localised — only light snow is falling in Zermatt,

Before this weekend, Kaprun in Austria was suffering from a lack of snow, with no off-piste to offer skiers. While Hintertux — which has received 25cm of snow in the past day — had 14 lifts running and 41km of ski runs available.

This weekend, the World Cup ski season opened in Sölden, Austria — with 28cm of snow falling yesterday and today.

Les Deux Alpes opened yesterday, Saturday 27 October, and resort spokesman Nadine Carle-Edgar reports: “The glacier is looking good!” Les Deux Alpes will be officially open to skiers and snowboarders until 3 November, then it will re-open for the season on 1 December until 27 April 2013.

Meanwhile in the US, snowstorms in Utah and California have allowed some ski resorts to open early.

Park City had 30cm of snow last week, and Squaw Valley a whopping 72cm of the white stuff ready for its opening last Thursday (25 October). Though only opening one lift for four hours to give locals a snow “fix” and raise money for charity, this was the earliest Squaw Valley has opened since 1960.

“Mother Nature just dumped nearly three feet of snow on us out of nowhere,” said Squaw Valley spokesman Jenny Kendrick. “So it was fall one day and we woke up and it was practically January the next!”

Squaw Valley opens officially on 21 November. Elsewhere in California, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Heavenly open on 16 November, Kirkwood on 21 November and Alpine Meadows on 7 December.

Arapahoe Basin, the first resort to open in the US this year, doubled its terrain openings thanks to the recent snow, and Vail has reported 13cm of snow late last week, in advance of its opening on 16 November. Nearby Keystone and Copper Mountain are due to open this week (2 November).

And the Canadian Rockies are having one of their earliest seasons on record — with 30-40cm of snow at most resorts, Mount Norquay in Banff became the first Canadian ski resort to open last Thursday, followed by Nakiska on Saturday.

Sunshine and Lake Louise are scheduled to open on 9 November.

David Phillips, chief climatologist with Environment Canada, said recent snowfall is “well above” the seasonal norm.

“Last year Calgary had its snowfall on Halloween,” he said last week. “This year, there’s already been 23cm of snow and counting.”

Similar snowfalls are occurring in the Rockies, where ski destinations such as Fernie have already recorded at least 20cm of snow.

Matt Mosteller, spokesman for the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, said ski resorts such as Fernie and Kicking Horse aren’t due to open until late November and early December, but he expects that will change.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “There’s close to 50cm in the bowl at Fernie and Kicking Horse right now.”

Whistler is due to open on 22 November, where below average temperatures have helped snowmaking crews have already turned more than 20 million gallons of water into snow. Whistler has already received natural snow, too.

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