There’s no doubting the star of today’s snow report, snowfiends. It’s Whistler, Canada, which over the last seven days has been walloped by 120cm of snow on the upper slopes of its ski area (although there has been rain lower down). Whistler Mountain has been open since Saturday, and today Blackcomb – the other half of the ski area – gets going for the season.
There’s going to be quite a powder party there. A lot of the trails on Blackcomb have been left ungroomed so that the public can enjoy the fresh snow without having to venture off-piste. “Staff cannot take a free run before public” warns an internal memo posted on Facebook. Whether they can resist the temptation before the lifts officially open is another matter…
The resort has posted a lovely opening-day video from Saturday, too…
Meanwhile conditions are still superb over in Banff National Park, where both Lake Louise and Sunshine Village have been open for a fortnight. They’ve been enjoying consistently cold and snowy weather, and there’s been 30cm of fresh snow this week, in two separate storms. In Lake Louise the back bowls are already open. In Sunshine Village the settled base is over a metre deep. It’s more like midwinter out there than late November.
South of the border, it’s Thanksgiving, and almost every resort worth its chairlifts has some terrain open to take advantage of the holidays. Snowbird and Alta in Utah both have good early-season conditions thanks to heavy snow ten days ago, and a top-up at the weekend. There will also be good skiing today in Big Sky, Montana as it opens for winter. In California, both Kirkwood and Heavenly are in decent shape thanks to snow at the weekend. Heavenly had 20cm, Kirwood an eye-popping 76cm from the storm – which shows just what a snowhole it is (over the 2010-11 season it notched up a staggering 20.4m of the white stuff).
Here’s some video posted in Kirkwood on Tuesday. The only slight caveat about conditions there is that it’s mild during daylight hours – which is affecting snow quality. But in common with all the American west it’ll be getting colder at the weekend.
I’m skiing both Heavenly and Kirwood at the end of January…What a preview!
What of the Alps? Well, as we said in Monday’s snow report – the march towards winter has slowed to a shuffle, thanks to some mild weather over the last ten days. If you want to go skiing this weekend, then you need to aim high – for Obergurgl in Austria or Val Thorens in France (which opens today) – or resorts with glaciers, such as the Hintertux, Zermatt, or Tignes. Party people might however prefer to hit Ischgl – where Amy McDonald plays the opening gig on Saturday, and pistes in the main bowl are in good shape, considering the unhelpful conditions we’ve had since the start of the month.
All eyes are now on the mid-range forecast, which is looking promising, to say the least. The weather is set to turn on Sunday, and there could be big blast of winter in the Alps on Wednesday. Keep your eyes on our snow forecast over the next few days!
Finally, up in Scandinavia, it’s been a mild week, but temperatures will drop at the weekend and there should be more snow. Below was the scene that greeted skiers this morning under the VM8 chair in Are, Sweden.
|France: The habit of opening early is spreading. Last weekend, Montgenevre opened for two days to preview the coming season, and today it’s the turn of high-altitude Val Thorens in the Three Valleys. It opens today, two days ahead of schedule with six lifts and nine pistes on offer. Tignes is also open for skiing, and is the pick of the French resorts at the moment, thanks to its glacier. Val d’Isere and Les Deux Alpes are both slated to open on December 1. Above Chamonix, the Grands Montets will be the first ski area to open – on December 8.
|Switzerland: There’s good cover on the Swiss glaciers, although it has thinned quite a bit in the mild weather of the last ten days. On the Allalin glacier above Saas-Fee the cover is now 136cm deep – down from 165cm last Thursday. In Zermatt, there’s skiing down to Schwarzsee and over into neighbouring Cervinia too. The glacier above Engelberg is open once more for skiing.
|Austria: There’s decent early-season skiing at Obergurgl and on the Austrian glaciers – including the Hintertux glacier the Molltal glacier, the Pitztal glacier, Kitzsteinhorn glacier, the Kaunertal glacier and the Stubai glacier glacier. You can also ski on both glaciers above Solden. Obertauern opens today.
|Italy: In Cervinia you can now ski down to the mid-mountain hub of Plan Maison. In the east, Cortina d’Ampezzo opens today, and Kronplatz on Saturday. Madonna di Campiglio is opening at the weekends. Glacier skiing is possible again above Val Senales.
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski areas are closed.
|Western USA: See main report. In Colorado, the snow’s a bit thin, but elsewhere in the west the season is off to a good start, especially in California and Utah. Among the resorts currently open are Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail in Colorado, Snowbird and Alta in Utah and Heavenly, Kirkwood and Mammoth in California. Most of the rest will be open for Thanksgiving today.
|Western Canada: See main report. Right now, Canada has the best snow. Question is – which bit of Canada should you go to? At the moment, we think Sunshine Village and Lake Louise in Banff National Park have the edge over Whistler, because they’re cold and snowy right to the bottom of the mountain. But we also note that temperatures will shortly be dropping in Whistler, too.