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Snow, snow and more snow
Monday December 10, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

The heavy snowfalls in France and Switzerland have now spread east. Austria has received huge amounts this week. Already people are talking about it being the best start to winter in living memory. Check out the PlanetSKI snow report that comes direct from the Alps.

It has been another week of bumper snowfall.

Austria has done well and resorts are opening across the country.

Elsewhere in the Alps resorts are starting early and Christmas looks like being one of the best ever.

We have all the information and will be updating this story on a daily basis, but first check out the latest PlanetSKI video snow report that comes for the Austrian resort of Maria Alm, near Salzburg.

It was filmed last Sunday.

The forecasted snow James talks about in the video has materialised - it has been snowing solidly for the past 48 hours in Maria Alm and we will bring you further pictures once it clears.

"Steady" has now turned into "spectacular". Smile

The people doing the most work in the Alps at the moment are undoubtedly those trying to clear the snow and keep the resorts running.

Busiest job in the AlpsBusiest job in the Alps












It has also been bitterly cold.

"It was -13 degrees in Bourg St Maurice yesterday. The air temperatures are making for great dry crunchy snow and I have certainly never seen it fall in the kind of amounts we have now. All the locals here are saying that we are in for a great season - I think it's their knees, pine cones, dogs and stars telling them," said Emmi Seppala, who works for the UK tour operator, Skiworld.

In Verbier the snow has just kept coming and coming.

One of our reporters, Krystyna Chauncey, arrived in town on Wednesday evening and will be reporting for us over the next few days.

"The sun has sneaked through the clouds occassionally but not very often and the snow is piled up around town. Amazing scenes and the locals are talking of it being the best start to a season ever," she said.

Verbier, SwitzerlandVerbier, Switzerland













Quite a start to winterQuite a start to winter












Earlier PlanerSKI readers, Scott Pleva and Rob Rees from Inside Out Skiing, were in Meribel as it opened.

"It has been snowing solidly for 30 hours.  Higher lifts were closed because of avalanche risk, but there was plenty of great skiing lower down.  As a pleasant bonus we got free one-day passes, given out by the Tourist Office to the first 100 people who turned up on opening day, plus complimentary coffee and croissants. Who says you don't get free stuff in France?!" said Rob Rees.














A dog's lifeA dog's life













Our full detailed report on PlanetSKI, complied country by country, comes with the help of our good friends over at Jet2Ski.


It's snowy and cold in Austria, some of the lower lying big name ski areas in Europe like The Skiwelt have received 60cm falls in the past week so are in great shape for pre-Christmas openings. 

At Kitzbuhel there's been more than a foot of snow in the past week and base depths are now 60-90cm. 

Temperatures have been dropping well into double-digits sub-zero making it colder than current Arctic Circle temperatures up in Lapland at time but the cold is expected to be replaced by a fresh band of snow in the next few days moving across the country. 

The deepest snowpack remains yup on the glaciers where it's now lying up to 1.8m deep at resorts like Pitztal and Solden as well as its neighbour Obergurgl.

They should all be well set now right through to next May.   

Large ski areaHochkonig, Austria














It's one of the best start to the season's in years in France. 

Last season it was very warm and dry until early December and then there was a snowy deluge - good news but so heavy at times access roads were closed and resorts closed for avalanche danger. 

This season, so far, it has been a much smoother ride with regular, reliable snowfalls allowing resorts to build up serious base depths now among the best in the world. 

2.6m at Alpe d'Huez, 2.5m at Val Thorens - conditions are simply excellent. 

This weekend our content editor, James Cove, will be in Tignes and is then heading round to Val Thorens.

The snow looks set to continue - Les 2 Alpes for example received a little over 60cm of snow in the past seven days and we're expecting similar accumulations in the next seven.

Most of the country's main resorts including those in the Southern Alps and Pyrenees are now open or will open this weekend. 

In fact areas in the Portes du Soleil that were not due to open until the weekend have opened early because of the great conditions.

"It's Xmas before Xmas with a free ski pass for children up to age 16 when adults buy a day pass for €15," said a statement from Chatel. "Regarding the good snow conditions (over 2.2 meters of fresh snow at the top of the slopes) we are pleased to tell you that the Châtel ski area opened partially on Wednesday 12th December on Pre-la-Joux area."

 The slopes between Morzine and les Gets will open on Saturday, a week earlier than planned.

Opening upOpening up












There's not been much new snow in Italy over the past week and depths aren't as great as further north and west but conditions are still reported to be good at most areas.

The Dolomiti Superski region is now more than half open and bases are building at resorts like Arabba (1.2m), the full Sella Ronda circuit opened at the weekend too.

The deepest snow in the country by far is at Cervinia where a new black run has opened for the first time this season.  Its upper slope depth of 2.4m is among the deepest in the world at present.

The coming week is expected to be snowier in Italy with most areas receiving a 30cm accumulation.



Swiss resorts are seeing some of the best conditions in the Alps with most areas reporting between 1.5 and 2.5m snow depths. 

Many areas also reported another foot of snow in the past week although Davos says more than 80cm has fallen there. 

The coming week looks like it will bring similar 30cm falls to many areas.

Zermatt now has 275km of terrain open including the link over to Cervinia, one of the biggest ski areas in the world open at present and with one of the biggest verticals too.

Verbier has a 143cm base following another foot of snow and we expect 40cm more in the next week keeping conditions excellent.

Heavy snow in VerbierHeavy snow in Verbier













It's looking good in the Pyrenees too with snow depths of up to 70cm reported in Andorra at Vallnord and the large ski areas on the Spanish side of the border almost fully open with more than 100km of piste to enjoy at both Baqueira Beret and Formigal.

The French PyreneesThe French Pyrenees











Most of the major ski areas in Finland, Norway and Sweden are in double digits below freezing and not seeing too much daylight so the snow guns have been firing up to compliment the limited natural snowfall. 


Conditions are slowly improving at are, Sweden.

The region's largest resorts which has been open over a month already but seen limited snowfall.

Cover is now 25cm deep and nearly a quarter of the lifts are operating. 


In Ruka, Finland, where the Freestyle World Cup is in town this weekend, it's a similar picture with the snow a foot deep and half of the mountain open - although here that's in part due to lack of demand before the Christmas Holidays when everything will open. 

There's deeper snow in Norway, 50cm at Geilo, 70cm at Hemsedal - and with the low temperatures it's not going anywhere.


Eastern Europe

It's cold too in Eastern Europe and most ski areas are opening this weekend if they did not last, with 20-40cm bases, in many cases a mix of snowmaking and the more limited natural snowfall. 

Precise numbers are as usual difficult to come by, but Bulgaria's leading resort Bansko, which is already open, has put its head above the parapet and dared to publish some - they tell us 10cm on resort runs, 40cm at the top of the mountain and that pistes are in "excellent condition." 


Scotland too is enjoying the best early December conditions it's likely to have with four of the country's five resorts now open, the exception being Glenshee which reports it's pretty white but needs more snow. 

We reported on the conditions at the resorts in Scotland last weekend here on PlanetSKI.

Ironically some of the best conditions are to be had only a few miles to the north at The Lecht where by Tuesday the centre which had opened with only four runs complete 11 days earlier said every run was no operating. 

Cairngorm and over on the West Coast, Nevis Range and Glencoe are all open too with ever better conditions as temperatures stay low and it keeps snowing.










North America


There was palpable relief in the big destination resorts of Colorado and Utah earlier this week as resorts started firing out emails reporting snow falls of up to 40cm on Sunday/Monday, providing some of the famous powder images on which they rely.  

Most resorts in the region benefitted, Aspen Snowmass getting the top end in the snowfall numbers and reporting more snow expected through the remainder of this week.

Further north Snowbird received 18 inches of new snow, and was keen to stress that it hasn't been needing it as much as others and that in any case average annual cover is good,

"Snowbird guests have enjoyed top-to-bottom skiing and riding from the Tram since opening day and consistent storms have allowed the Utah resort that averages 500 inches  a year to steadily open more terrain"

"We have some of the best conditions and best deals in the country right now," said Dave Fields, Snowbird's Vice President of Resort Operations. "The new Little Cloud high speed quad carries skiers and snowboarders to South Ridge in about four minutes, giving quick and easy access to amazing terrain and powder,"

Snowbird plans to have open nine of its 11 lifts by the weekend, including the new Little Cloud chairlift, Gad 2 and Mineral Basin.

This accounts for approximately 85 percent of Snowbird terrain.

The West Coast has had the most snow to date and Mammoth is looking good with a six foot base. 

Californian resorts haven't had it all their own way though, Mountain High which prides itself on being the closest area to LA and thus one of the most southerly in the state with a long, normally snowsure season, had had to close due to lack of snow and warm temperatures. 

That's due to change over the next few days, they hope,

"We've been waiting for a change in the weather and with fresh snow and the best snowmaking conditions of the season Mountain High will be open just in time for the holidays," said general manager, Ben Smith.

On the East Coast there has been some colder weather to allow for more snowmaking but conditions remain "challenging" and the terrain open "limited."


The rate of snowfall in Western Canada has snowed a little but conditions are excellent at all resorts. 

Red Mountain was among the latest to open, last weekend, and has reported a slightly deeper base than Whistler - which is running at near record December snowfall levels - both resorts with just over five feet (1.5m) of snow on upper slopes. 

The past week has seen most areas receive another 10-30cm and it's a similar picture for the coming seven days. 

Revelstoke is also doing well, "Revelstoke Mountain Resort has experienced incredible snow conditions since opening on Saturday December 1, 2012!  Closing out this past weekend, the resort had received 90cm of snow over the previous 5 days, and has now received 523cm of snowfall to date," said a resort statement.

It remains less inspiring on the East Coast where Mont Sutton was forced to close on Tuesday.  

Monte Sainte Anne in Quebec reports 30-60cm snow depth but that seems to be limited to a few pistes with a lot of snowmaking, 2 of its 11 lifts are currently operating.

The winter awaits The winter awaits













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