At last, South America’s moment in the sporting spotlight has come.
And no, of course I’m not talking the footie: because in the Andes, the ski season is underway, and early-season conditions are superb.
Thanks to several bouts of heavy snowfall in the last month, the resorts of the Tres Valles near Santiago in Chile have all opened a fortnight early. The lifts are now spinning at Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado, and several more ski areas are lining up to open at the weekend, including Las Lenas and Bariloche on June 20 and Portillo on June 21.
Hopes are high that the strong start to winter will continue, which some are seeing as a by-product of El Niño. El Niño is the occasional climate anomaly produced by raised sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, and the signs are that we’re due another episode. Not everyone’s convinced it’s underway yet: America’s Climate Prediction Centre is one of the doubters, and thinks there’s only a 70% chance of it forming this summer. But if it does get going, then a wetter-than-average winter is on the cards in southern half of the Andes: which means extra snow at altitude.
Here’s how it was looking yesterday evening at Valle Nevado – where 216cm of snow has fallen so far this winter. Currently the snow report records 40cm of settled cover, on-piste.
Mount Hutt now open in New Zealand
Winter’s start hasn’t been quite so promising in New Zealand. Near Queenstown, on the South Island, Coronet Peak started its season as planned on June 7: but Mount Hutt, near Christchurch had to postpone its opening for six days because of a lack of snow. However, Mother Nature made up the short fall last week and the resort opened on Friday 13.
Here’s some opening-day video shot by nzsnowboard.com.
Although Mount Hutt’s slopes look like they’ve been sprayed with a giant snow cannon, you can see in the background of the video that the snowline is pretty high. That’s a reflection of NZ’s mild start to winter. However, the forecast is at last predicting a significant drop in temperature in the middle of the week – and some fresh snow – just in time for the opening of Cardrona (on June 20) and The Remarkables (on June 21).
At last, Mother Nature turns on the snow taps in Oz
After a mild and largely snowless start to the ski season, the resorts of south-eastern Australia have had their first proper snowstorm. Thredbo reported 20cm of snow on its upper slopes, and Perisher had 15cm. However, it does look as though temperatures will be rising again this week.
In the Alps, Tignes and Les Deux Alpes are gearing up for summer
In the Alps, skiing is a year-round business. The last mainstream resorts may have shut their lifts in early May, but since then there’s been skiing up on Austrian glaciers such as at the Hintertux, Stubai and Kitzsteinhorn – and above Zermatt in Switzerland. Last weekend, they were joined by the Pisaillas glacier above Val d’Isere: and from Saturday June 21 you’ll be able to ski on the glaciers above Tignes and Les Deux Alpes, too.
Pictured, below, is how it’s looking on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes this morning. “We can get warm weather up there but it often snows too, even in the middle of summer,” says Phil Smith of Snoworks, who’ll be running four weeks of ski courses there from June 28. “So it’s just not about drills. We get to ski bumps, powder, groomed slopes – the lot.”
Meanwhile, pictured below is the Stubai glacier this morning, where there’s up to 250cm of settled snow, on-piste, and three pistes to ski.
|France: above Val d’Isere, the Pisaillas glacier is now open for its short summer ski season. The glaciers above Tignes and Les Deux Alpes will both be open from June 21. This week, the weather’s going to be cooler than of late, thanks to a north-easterly wind. Tomorrow, the freezing point will be down to 2900m.|
|Switzerland: it’s cooler than it has been in the Swiss Alps, and on the Kleine Matterhorn above Zermatt the temperature won’t rise above freezing for much of the week. Currently, at Trockener Steg above there’s 90cm of snow bedded down on the pistes. Eight pistes are open to skiers.|
|Austria: on the glaciers, there’s excellent cover thanks to the mid-May snow: although it did thin a bit in the heatwave last week. Currently, it’s quite cool for the time of year, despite plenty of sunshine: the freezing point will be at 2900m both today and tomorrow. On the Kitzsteinhorn glacier near Kaprun, the cover is 230cm deep. On the Stubai glacier, the snow is 250cm deep.|
|Italy: the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale is currently closed. However, from June 28 you’ll be able to access glacier skiing from Cervinia.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are now closed.|
|Western USA: Rocky Mountain resorts are now opening for their summer seasons, but at high-altitude Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, they still have one more weekend of skiing on offer, until the resort finally shuts its lifts. What’s more, in late September (just over three months from now) they’ll be cranking up the snow cannons again if conditions are right. Mid-mountain, the cover is 86cm deep.|
|Western Canada: all of western Canada’s ski areas are now closed, although the glacier above Whistler will be open to skiers again from June 21.|