The unprecedented pre-season snowfalls in the Alps, Dolomites and Pyrenees over the past few weeks have eased slightly but continue to fall across most of Europe and most of the continent’s resorts are now open and boasting excellent powder snow conditions.According to ski resort specialist www.skiinfo.com, France has been one of the main beneficiaries this week with Meribel posting the greatest accumulation over the past seven days of up to 1.5m (five feet). More snow is forecast and French resorts opening this weekend include Flaine, Les Arcs, Pra Loup and Valloire and Vars.
Italy, which saw the biggest falls last week, is continuing to see more snow. As a result the country has now notched up the biggest current snow depths in the wall with Passo Tonale’s glacier topping the charts with a 370cm base. Over on the West of the country Alagna is not far behind with 315cm.
The down side to all the snow is traffic problems and power lines being brought down as well as a serious risk of avalanche in the mountains. In the past 48 hours three people have died on Italy’s mountains with off piste and ski mountaineering especially dangerous.
Many of Switzerland’s leading resorts have been open for a month now having enjoyed great snow conditions through November. Bases are approaching three metres in many higher resorts.
In Austria the big resort opening this weekend is at Söll on the Skiwelt. The country’s glacier ski areas have the most accumulated snow depth with 195cm on the Pitztal Glacier and the same at Sölden. Snowfall has eased in the past week with areas typically reporting 20-40cm of fresh snow in total.
Germany also has good snow cover with 140cm of snow at the Zugspitz, by Garmisch, which has had another 45cm of snow this week.
In Scandinavia more than 40 resorts will be open in Norway this weekend. The local ski hills of Tryvann, Kirkerud, Varingskollen and Oslo Skisenter are all open and currently have 30-50cm of snow on their slopes. Across Norway most major resorts have 560-70cm of snow with Tryil currently top with 73cm.
In the Pyrenees, which saw unprecedented huge snowfalls in late November, powder conditions are the norm in French, Spanish and Andorran ski resorts with snow depth peaking at around 190cm in resorts like Formigal and Cerler in Spain.
In Eastern Europe it’s a mixed picture with limited terrain open in Bulgaria where the weather has been rather warm. To the north things are better in the Czech Republic, where more than 30 resorts are open and in Slovakia where Park snow ?trbské Pleso has 150cm of snow on upper slopes.
In North America the picture has improved in some regions but remains challenging along the West Coast with unseasonably warm weather only allowing for limited opening on usually machine made snow.
It’s a better picture in Colorado where up to two feet of snow has fallen in the past week at resorts like Breckenridge and Vail. Steamboat was the latest to open at the weekend. East coast ski areas have also received more snow continuing their healthy start to 2008-09. In Canada ski areas in Alberta and British Columbia have also received more snow bringing depths typically up to 60-90cm.