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20 Aug - Huge Snowfalls in the Swiss Alps, Argentina & New Zealand

20/08/2010 11:11:59

Switzerland’s two open glacier ski areas have seen remarkable August snowfalls with Saas Fee reporting 45cm of new snow on Sunday, with more falling since, including another 5cm yesterday. Neighbouring Zermatt, the only area open 365 days and home to Europe’s highest lifts, reported healthy snowfalls too. Saas Fee describes current conditions as “packed powder” and has a 1.6m base with Terrain Park and half pipe open. Both resorts set off Powder Alarms on, triggered for snowfall of 20cm or more, obviously a rare event in August. Zermatt triggered another powder alarm on Tuesday with another 28cm of snow reported.

The heavy snowfall spilled over in to Italy where Zermatt’s Italian neighbour, Cervinia, received a 20cm fall. Val Senales has also been receiving more snow, with another 5cm on Tuesday, the latest of about 10 days of regular snowfalls there. It currently has a one metre base with Passo Stelvio also open.

In France, the glacier ski areas at Tignes and Les 2 Alpes are both entering their last fortnight of summer operations. Les 2 Alpes has the better snow cover with a metre depth while Tignes has 30cm. Both areas received a little new snow at the weekend. The picture is a little less good in Austria where the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier remains closed for a second week due to warm temperatures and a diminished snowpack – down to 10cm on the glacier with temperatures above freezing still and rain falling. It’s a similar picture on the Dachstein glacier where the lifts are running but the downhill slopes and Terrain Park are closed – they report a 30cm base but that the snow is “wet”.

Two Austrian glacier areas are still open however, the largest one, Tux, had fresh snow on Sunday too and reports ‘powder’ conditions with 20km of slopes open, a 125cm base and more than 600m summer vertical. The Molltal glacier continues to report 9.5km of trails open and a 1.2m base.

In North America Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood in Oregon remains the only area open, despite temperatures hitting 75F. There’s a metre of snow and the public terrain park and several runs are open.

The snow has been falling in South America, where temperatures are generally a few degrees below zero at most ski areas. The continent’s largest ski area (in terms of uplift) Catedral in Argentina has received 30cm of new snow on its upper runs in the past 12 hours and now has a 1.6m base. Las Lenas has had 7cm of new snow too while Chapelco’s base is up to 1.2m following fresh snow there.

Over in Chile, Portillo has receive 13cm of new snow in the past week but base depths remain lower than normal at around a metre on upper slopes with packed powder and 67cm at the base. Valle Nevado, part of the largest ski area in the continent in terms of terrain area, has an average 50cm base from a 3.7m snow fall so far this season. Chapa Verde has a similar base depth.

Conditions are mostly good at Australia’s resorts where snow has continued to fall over the past week with more predicted in coming days. Mt Hotham reports average snow depth is 89cm but is a foot deeper where there’s snow making. The resort has received 42cm of snow in the past week, 8cm of it in the last 48 hours. The numbers are similar at Thredbo, which has had 38cm of new snow in the past week. Falls Creek currently has a 77cm base of natural snow and all but one lift operating with snow depth up to 177cm in snowmaking areas.

In New Zealand there has been an exciting week of weather. Mt Hutt saw over 1000 guests stranded overnight last Thursday/Friday by 200kph winds but in the past 24 hours has received 19cm of new snow taking upper slope depths up to two metres. At Coronet Peak the figures are a little less impressive with 5cm of snow at the weekend taking depths to 1.1m where as the Remarkables got 10cm yesterday and has a similar base depth.

On Mt Ruapehu the lifts are closed today due to strong winds. The snow is falling to though with 5cm of fresh so far and base depths up to 1.3m at Turoa. Whakapapa has 81cm and both are expecting more snow for the resort of the week.

In Africa conditions are little changed at Afriski in Lesotho. A cold weather window has allowed for another 20 hours snowmaking in the past 24, taking snowmaking hours to 450 to date. There’s been virtually no natural snowfall this winter but the ingenuity of the centre’s operators means there’s still a 600m long main slope open with a 70cm base, with an additional beginners area and terrain park to enjoy.

by Nick

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