Snoworks All-Mountain Ski course in Cervinia looked fun this week... photo (c) Phil Smith
Snow piles up in Europe, and many areas open in the US ready for Thanksgiving.
The Snow Headlines - 28th November
- Deepest base in the Alps (and world) reaches 4 metres already.
- More than 100 US ski areas open for Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
- The Southern Alps dumped on last weekend; up to 1.45 metres more snowfall.
- Avoriaz announces partial opening two weeks early.
- 19-20 Season gets started in Andorra and more big resorts in Pyrenees open.
- Snow for final days of spring in Australia and South America.
- Leading Japanese ski areas delay planned openings due to lack of snow.
There have been still more huge November snowfalls in Europe, this time with the focus more in the southern Alps and with the very heaviest falls along the French/Italian border, over the weekend. Coverage was wide but accompanied by very strong winds which closed many ski areas at the weekend - and was strong enough to blow the roof off a mountain restaurant in the Swiss Jungfrau.
There's been more snowfall in the past 24 hours, but it has got a little warmer, at least at resort level in lower elevation resorts. So the overall picture for the end of November is huge snow accumulations at altitude, but a mixed picture at resort-level. But it is still November!
Base depths have reached 4 metres at one Italian resort, the deepest in the world, whilst another has now reported more than three metres (10 feet) of snow in the past fortnight or so, up high.
Elsewhere in Europe, the season has really got underway in the Pyrenees with resorts in Andorra and bigger centres in Spain opening, and it has been snowy too in Scandinavia, the Dolomites and eastern Europe. In Scotland, however, it has warmed up and there has been rain.
In the US things have turned snowier, at least in the west, with California seeing some snow at the weekend and more falling now. The snowfall is spreading east towards Utah and Colorado and some areas should get 20-50cm. Over 100 ski areas should be open there for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. More than 80 were open last weekend and several dozen more plan to open for the holiday period itself.
Japan's ski season started last weekend too, kind of. It has been too warm and wet of late with not enough snow so several areas including Niseko have delayed opening until things improve while some, including Furano, have managed to open a few runs.
In the Alpine Forecast
More snow in the forecast for France...
Yet more significant snowfall, at mid altitudes and above, is expected for the northern Alps over the weekend, with less snow but colder temperatures to the East.
The outlook beyond the first week of December is very uncertain at present; we'll have more on that next week!
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Austria now has more than 20 ski areas open and conditions are looking great after the latest snowstorms up high. Most of the country's glaciers have 2.1 – 2.8 metres of snow lying now – two metres more than there was at the start of the month, and even non-glacier areas have 1-2 metres above the 2000 metre altitude mark.
Below 1500m though it's a bit more problematic and with temperatures set to be above freezing down at resort level this week it's looking like lower slopes may need snow pushed down on to them at some areas.
Big resort openings this coming weekend include Ischgl, Flachau and St Anton whilst Hintertux says it now has top-to-bottom skiing open with 1750 metres of vertical.
French resorts saw more snowfall at the weekend with Tignes posting 50cm of fresh snow and - newly opened for the season - Montgenevre 55cm.
There's more snow forecast here too with 30-60cm more snowfall expected in the region over the next 72 hours, so things continue to look good as more areas open.
Avoriaz has announced it will partially open this weekend and next, two weeks ahead of its planned opening date, to take advantage of the early snow which is lying 50-80cm deep. About eight runs will be open and lift passes sold at a big discount on the regular rate.
Elsewhere in France Alpe d'Huez, Cauterets, Chamonix and Val Thorens have also opened some terrain, although some just at weekends. Some smaller areas are open now too. Centres planning to open this weekend include Isola 2000, Les 2 Alpes, La Rosiere and Val d'Isere.
Italian ski areas were literally at the eye of the storm last weekend when there was a huge dump on the western side of the Italian Alps, with the very heaviest snow in the Piedmont region where up to 1.5 metres (five feet) of snow was reported at Limone ski area, not far from the Med.
Further north there were big accumulations (60-90cm) on the Via Lattea/Milky way slopes and at Cervinia, which has reported more than three metres of snowfall this month and briefly reported the deepest base in the world at 3.2 metres though that has now dropped back to 2.8 metres. However, another Italian resort, the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale, has since reported a 4-metre base, the world's deepest.
More than 20 Swiss centres have already opened for the 2019-20 season and conditions are looking great, particularly on higher slopes, across the country. Andermatt is reporting the country's deepest base at 3 metres (*10 feet) and says that this weekend all 30km of runs on the Gemsstock will be open.
As mentioned above, the country was hit hard by strong winds as well as heavy snow last weekend, which closed many centres on Saturday but its's now back to normal with Saas-Fee, one of those closed on Saturday, still boasting the world's biggest skiable vertical and longest run so far open (1800 metres and 9km respectively).
Several dozen ski areas are now open in Scandinavia and fresh snowfall was being reported at the start of this week. Up in Lapland, as those watching the world cup races in Levi at the weekend will have seen, it has been snowing fairly constantly and most of the fresh snow since has been in Sweden and Finland on the eastern side of the landmass. Idre Fjäll was one of the beneficiaries and reports the region's deepest base so far at 80cm and much more terrain open than larger Are, which only has a 30cm base so far.
The ski season has really got started in the Pyrenees this week with big Spanish areas including Baqueira Beret and Sierra Nevada opening at the weekend along with Andorra's ski slopes. Grandvalira reports 21km (about 10%) of its terrain is open already.
On the French side, a few more areas have opened too, including a partial opening of Cauterets (full opening from this coming weekend), which is reporting a deeper base than resorts in the French Alps, at 1.8 metres (six-foot) lying already.
Unfortunately, it's currently not looking good on Scottish slopes after the three mostly-sub-zero and increasingly snowy weeks at the start of November. Warmer weather has moved in with heavy rain on Tuesday-Wednesday and whilst the centres have stopped social media posts and there's no snow data yet, webcam images show most of the snow gone and back to heather-covered slopes.
The ski season is yet to start in Eastern Europe but the first centres are expected to start opening soon, possibly this coming weekend for some, although most later in December.
Currently, the picture in most areas is similar to further west – snow on higher slopes above 2000 metres, little or nothing (unless machine-made) lower down yet. Bansko posted pictures of a good weekend snowfall showing snow down to resort level but current webcam images show the snow has gone again except higher up.
Canada's ski season is starting to take shape with more resorts opening, although so far mostly smaller centres in Quebec and Ontario. So far they're limited in number too with the country just getting into double figures for areas open whilst to the south, the US has reached triple digits.
However British Columbia's ski season has started with Sun Peaks opening at the weekend. Whistler Blackcomb, the continent's biggest area, opens today (28th November) for Thanksgiving with others including Big White, Fernie and Silver Star following at the weekend.
There's been 20-30cm more snow at Albertan areas open since earlier this month around Banff and Jasper (Sunshine, Lake Louise and Marmot Basin). The 19-20 FIS World Cup Downhill season is due to start this weekend at Lake Louise.
It's the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend in the US which is still regarded as "bigger than Christmas" so a target for lots of ski areas to try to open some slopes for. It looks like at least 100 areas will be open today too with more planning to join them on Friday or Saturday - so about half of the world total.
It's been the snowiest few days for a month in Colorado and the snowiest few days of the autumn in California so spirits are definitely up at resorts like Heavenly and Mammoth which posted 32cm and 46cm 24-hour totals respectively on Wednesday afternoon, with more snow to come.
Most of the open US areas so far are in the East and Midwest, however, most with just a few runs open with machine-made snow and a little natural cover (there's been some fresh snow here too).
There's also been snow in the southern hemisphere with the start of summer 2019-20 there just days away. Ski areas in Australia and Chile posted pictures and video of snow falling. One area, Whakapapa on Mt Ruapehu in New Zealand, had already announced it would be open this coming weekend, with the final day of the season there the first of summer – Sunday, December 1st.
Until next week, thanks for reading...