The race is on to be the first ski resort to open in Colorado!
That’s not because the Rocky Mountains have just been blanketed by heavy snow. It’s because the weather’s been good for snow cannons – and as a result, the high-altitude ski areas of Loveland and Arapahoe Basin have been able to fire up their snow-making systems. Both concentrate on covering just one or two trails, and both would love to the first in the state to open. They don’t always manage it (Wolf Creek beat them in 2011 when it opened on October 8): but there’s no doubt the race adds some spice to the start of the season. Keep your eye on our snow report pages for updates.
No-one knows yet when the job will be done. Warmer, more humid weather can disrupt the process. Sometimes an autumn snowstorm can speed it up. However, 10-14 days after the start of the snowmaking is a good rule of thumb – at which point the locals get to warm up their skiing legs on a real mountain, lucky *%&@€s!
But whichever resort wins the race, it won’t be the first ski area to open for the season in America. This year, that honour belongs to tiny Wild Mountain in Minnesota, which opened on Sunday with two rope tows, a little bit of snow, and a lot of freestyle action…
Once the A-Basin/Loveland race is run, attention will switch to the larger resorts. In Colorado, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain are two of the first. Copper’s opening day is scheduled for November 2, and Breckenridge’s for November 9. In California, Mammoth is scheduled to open on November 8, and in Canada, Lake Louise is hoping to fire up its lift system on November 9. Once we get to Thanksgiving, almost every ski area in North America worth its snow should be open for business.
Meanwhile, up in Scandinavia, thoughts have turned to winter too – thanks to a dusting of snow yesterday. Here’s how it was looking above the Swedish resort of Are yesterday. Are says it will start its lifts as soon as there is enough snow – probably, sometime in November.
And what of the Alps? Well, don’t hold your breath if you’re waiting for news of heavy snow. Last month our Snow Report was able to report several encouraging snowstorms across the region. But lately it’s been much warmer, with snow falling only on the highest peaks. Several glacier ski areas are open – but others, including the ones above Engelberg and Kaprun, have delayed their autumn openings because of a lack of decent cover. Engelberg now expects to open on Saturday October 13.
El Niño Update
One other interesting development this week has been the news that America’s Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) downgraded the chances of El Niño developing this winter.
As most snowfiends will know, El Niño is a Pacific Ocean climate anomaly which can have an impact on snowfall in North America – especially the west coast and Rocky-Mountain resorts. In very broad terms, it can bring snowier winters to California and the southern Rockies, and warmer, less snowy winters to the Pacific Northwest. The stronger an episode of El Niño is, the more marked its effect, and the CPC is now saying that it’s likely to be weaker than first thought. It’s still holding out the possibility of El Niño strengthening later in the winter. But the opposite outcome is a possibility too. It could fade away completely.
Of course, there are lots of other factors affecting the North American climate – notably the Arctic Oscillation – but we note that since the CPC began to doubt the development of El Niño there has been a change to its seasonal forecast (see map, below). There now seems to be less chance of California and the southern Rockies having more precipitation than normal (and therefore more snow): although we note that the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest are still expected to face a drier-than-average winter.
Meanwhile, up in Canada, Environment Canada is forecasting no clear trends either way.
In other words, this is not the winter to make a bet on El Niño bringing bumper harvests of the white stuff to California and the resorts of the southern Rockies. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. In a normal winter, places like Heavenly in California and Telluride in south-west Colorado are lovely places to ski. Just don’t expect to have record-breaking snow while you’re there.
|France: The glacier above Tignes is open again! And should stay that way through the winter. Don’t drop everything and head out there, though. The layer of snow on top is pretty thin. It needs a sustained period of cold, snowy weather to get its mojo back. Meanwhile, the glacier above Les Deux Alpes will open briefly from October 27 to November 4 – and again for the winter season on December 1.|
|Switzerland: The glaciers above both Saas-Fee and Zermatt are open for skiing – weather allowing. Currently, at Saas-Fee the cover is 117cm deep (down from 123cm last week) – testament to the mild weather of the last week. The glacier at Engelberg has postponed its opening day till October 13 (it will shut from November 5-16 for maintenance).|
|Austria: On the Hintertux glacier 28km of skiing is on offer, and the cover is 65cm deep. You can also ski on the Molltal, Pitztal and Stubai glaciers. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier is currently closed due to the thin snow cover, but expects to reopen soon.|
|Italy: Glacier skiing above Val Senales should resume later this month.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski areas are closed.|
|Western USA: All the mainstream resorts in the US are currently closed for skiing. Skiing on the glacier above Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon resumes later this month.|
|Western Canada: The glacier above Whistler is now closed.|