The number of ski areas open worldwide is at around its lowest of the year with almost all non-glacier ski areas in Europe now closed, the numbers in North America also down and Japan’s ski season also reaching its end. Next week should mark the turning point though, with more centres opening than closing over the coming seven days. The numbers open should then increase more rapidly as the Southern Hemisphere’s 2021 season gets underway in just a few weeks’ time now and more glacier areas open in the Alps.
As to the past week’s weather, Europe has seen unseasonably low temperatures bringing snow to low elevations in the Alps, as well as up in the Arctic Circle.
Over in North America, there’s fresh snow to report on still-open slopes in Oregon, Colorado and Alberta, one of the largest around 20cm (87″) over the weekend at Sunshine.
In the Southern Hemisphere, more pre-season snowfall has been reported on the ski slopes of the South American Andes and of Southern Africa and the picture for the week ahead is looking increasingly promising in Australia and particularly New Zealand where things are turning colder and snowier as the start of winter 2021 gets ever closer.
There was cold weather in Europe at the end of last week which saw snowfall back down to below 1800m meaning streets in resort villages like Val d’Isere turned white once more. This is good news as countries are almost all increasingly easing restrictions as pandemic numbers drop and lift-accessed groomed ski runs are on course to open for the first time in 2021 in France and Italy, albeit at only a handful of glacier ski areas.
Currently, we are down to low numbers of open glacier resorts in Austria and Switzerland as well as the first of the glacier areas open up in Scandinavia. Numbers will increase slightly over the coming week though as more Austrian areas plan to open as the country allows tourism to resume next week.
Ski areas in France and Italy also look set to definitely open for the first time this year within just a few weeks’ time now. There have been many false dawns of course, and we are down to just a handful of summer ski destinations across the two countries, but it does look to be happening this time.
Elsewhere in Europe, Slovakia’s Jasna ski area had some great days of skiing in the sunshine on its upper slopes over the weekend, and now looks likely to extend its season again for more skiing next weekend. But it has been said that a final decision will be taken midweek after this report is published. However, high terrain at Tatranská Lomnica (0/1250cm / 0/60”) does remain open daily in Slovakia and the resort says it plans to keep slopes open so long as the snow lasts.
The season is still going in Slovenia too with Krvavec (0/70cm / 0/28″) still running two lifts serving seven ski slopes up high despite warm weather there bringing temperatures well into double-digits above freezing and people skiing and boarding in swimwear there at the weekend. A second Slovenian ski area, Kanin, plans to re-open this weekend. With some of the country’s highest slopes last year it stayed open throughout May following the country’s first lockdown, so it may be aiming for the same again in 2021
The UK is also worth a note this week with the jet stream moving south being credited with unusually cold weather in the UK which led to snow down to the valley floor in northern Scotland in the latter half of last week and on hilltops on mountains across the UK. In Scotland, ski areas like Glencoe provided lift access for ski tourers although the Scottish centres said the snow was not enough to re-open groomed slopes. However, the Lake District ski club in northern England did turn on their tow lift to allow skiers to make use of the fresh snow there with a ride back up. Things began to warm up on Sunday.
ALPS REPORT| It is glacier ski slopes in Austria and Switzerland that are currently open in the Alps with hopes that those in France and Italy may be able to join them at the end of this month.
It has been very cold up on Europe’s glaciers with temperatures well below freezing, often double-digits below in the past week, with frequent snow showers.
Two Swiss glaciers, Diavolezza near St Moritz and Glacier 3000 near Gstaad, along with the final area open up above Murren in the Jungfrau, ended their seasons on Sunday. But three others remain open, including Zermatt (0/160cm / 0/64”), Crans Montana (20/60cm / 8/24”) and Engelberg (0/625cm / 0250”), the latter having seen its base (Europe’s deepest all winter), grow even further. Zermatt has the largest area still open with 25km (16 miles) of glacier slopes open. It posted 125cm (six inches) of fresh snowfall at the end of last week.
In Austria, four glaciers are currently open with one due to close but three more due to open over the next week or two. The Kitzsteinhorn (0/330cm / 0/132”) is posting the deepest snow in the country and you can also currently ski at the Hintertux (0/410cm / 0/164”) and Pitztal (256/327cm / 103/131”) glaciers whilst The Stubai (40/375cm / 16/150”) is open Fridays to Saturdays until at least 22nd May, having recently added a third ‘extra’ long weekend of the spring season.
The centres lined up to open over the next two weekends as Austria allows tourism to resume are the Dachstein, Kaunertal and Molltal glaciers. They’ve been publishing enticing pictures of untouched slopes buried deep in snow ready to re-open. The Kaunertal, opening this coming Saturday 16th May, a week before Molltal, is noting it will be the first time Austria’s steepest slope, Black Ibex, has opened this year.
French and Italian ski areas remain closed as they have been all year but Les 2 Alpes has confirmed now it will definitely open for summer skiing daily from 29th May thanks to France easing pandemic restrictions (ski lifts will run in Chamonix from this weekend although no groomed runs will be open).
Italy is also easing lockdown measures so it is hoped glacier areas like Passo Stelvio and Cervinia will open there within weeks too.
ALPS FORECAST| The week ahead does look warmer in the Alps after the unusually cold past seven days. Temperatures will get back to seasonal norms in the valleys and will be warmer up on the glaciers too. Still dropping subzero overnight up above 2000m there’ll be quite a lot of cloud and the chance of some snow flurries.
SCANDINAVIA REPORT|??There’s a change in Scandinavia with all of the region’s winter resorts, bar one, now closed. Finland’s three still-open centres, Yllas, Levi and Ruka, finally ended their seasons at the weekend. The latter two had lasted over seven months, having been open since the first weekend of October last year. It is less than five months until the 21-22 season starts there (Ruka has already named the day as October 8th, 2021). But before they closed the first of Norway’s three glacier resorts opened at the weekend. The Fonna and Galdh?piggen centres were both open, the latter a week earlier than planned due to the excellent weather conditions they said.
Otherwise, Europe’s spring skiing capital, Riksgransen (120/240cm / 48/96cm) and its neighbour just over the Norwegian border, the remarkable coastal ski area of Narvik (30/50cm / 12/20”), are the only ski areas still open in the region. It is now in its period of 24-hour daylight and skiing under the midnight sun is possible at Riksgransen, although there has not been much sun to ski under at any time of day this past week with cloud dominating. It was a little brighter at the start of the week though and there has been some sunshine.
SCANDINAVIA FORECAST|??Staying cool (around freezing), and mostly cloudy over the coming week. Up in the north and on the glaciers the little precipitation that’s forecast should still be falling as snow rather than rain with these temperatures.
NORTH AMERICA REPORT|??More ski areas have been closing in North America with California’s Alpine Meadows, Colorado’s Loveland and Washington State’s Crystal Mountain among the latest to call it a day on the 20-21 ski season.
But we do have half a dozen ski areas still open. One of them, Winter Park (18/61″ / 45/152cm) in Colorado, unexpectedly so. They had originally extended the season to May 9th, last Sunday, but have decided to extend by a week to the 16th thanks to the colder, snowier March and April after a predominantly dry and warmer-than-usual Colorado winter. They warn only intermediate and advanced level terrain remains open, served by the Super Gauge lift on Mary Jane.
Also still open in Colorado, they hope to at least the end of this month, are Arapahoe Basin (26/60” / 65/149cm) and Breckenridge (16/67” / 40/167cm). They are celebrating a further easing of lockdown restrictions there which means, among other things, masks no longer need to be worn outside. They are also celebrating nearly a foot (30cm) of snowfall over the past few days. Remarkably the slopes at A-Basin are almost fully open still and the resort says it’s experts-only East Wall, home to some of the most challenging inbounds terrain in Colorado, if not North America, should be as good as it’s been all year thanks to the fresh snow. Until the snow arrived on Sunday/Monday it had been a largely dry week with predominantly low and often sub-zero temperatures but it has been warmer with some snow over the past few days. A-Basin is offering a COVID 19 vaccination to the first 200 people aged over 18 who ask for one on Saturday afternoon, they’re even offering a free beer or soft drink to anyone who gets one on the day.
It is a different picture to Colorado, in California, in terms of snow conditions. With very warm temperatures at times there, on top of a fairly under-whelming winter for snowfall, Squaw Valley has announced they’ll be closing a fortnight earlier than they hoped, this coming Sunday 16th , if the snow lasts that long. The past week hasn’t helped with temperatures largely 4-15 degrees above freezing and wall-to-wall sunshine. Mammoth Mountain (16/39” / 41/97cm) so far says it intends to stay open to the 31st though, despite its lower snow depth stats.
You can still ski in Oregon at Mt Bachelor (16/55” / 40/137cm) and at Timberline (60/146” / 150/365cm) too, as well as at Snowbird (38/83” / 95/208cm) in Utah, all due to stay open through the rest of this month, and in some cases longer. Timberline is usually the last area still open, through to the start of September, in fact. Its base depth is looking good to survive the summer although it has lost 14 inches (35cm) in the past week.
In eastern North America only Killington (0/30” / 0/76cm) remains open with the snow piled high into a mogul slope on its Superstar trail. It has been touching 20 degrees above freezing at the mountain base in recent days but they’re hoping to stay open for a few more weeks yet if they can.
Up in Canada, almost everywhere is now closed but Sunshine (18/76” / 45/190cm), near Banff, still has a few more weeks of its season to run and has most of its terrain open; one of the largest ski areas open in the world at present. It is classic springtime weather here with temperatures still close to freezing and occasional snow-showers, heaviest on higher slopes. At the weekend it reported 19cm (8 inches) of snowfall over the two days and there’s been further light snowfall to start this week too. Then at other times, it has crept up to 10-15 degrees above freezing and rain down at the base, although it has often been sunny. There’ll be no summer skiing at Whistler Blackcomb for the second successive year.
NORTH AMERICA FORECAST|??It is looking predominantly warm and dry for most of the still-open ski areas in western North America with temperatures climbing above freezing even to quite high altitudes and even overnight, touching +15C at mountain bases in the afternoons. There should be some sunny days on the diminishing number of still-open slopes through the remainder of this week though.
ASIA REPORT|??Japan’s ‘white season’ formally ended in the middle of last week and its ‘green season’ is now underway, which essentially means the last of the country’s major ski areas have now closed for the season. One resort is still open, the summer ski destination of Gassan (5450/1000cm / 180/400”) which only opened at the start of April and has been posting the deepest base in the world since then. That deep snow traditionally helps it to stay open to July although it tends to melt fast as temperatures rise. It is currently fully open with all three lifts operating and around 10km of slopes available. The past week has been sunny with temperatures between freezing and around 10 degrees above.
ASIA FORECAST|??A few more days of sunshine in Gassan’s forecast before cloudier weather moves in with some rain to end the week.? Temperatures climbing to 5-15 degrees above freezing.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE INTRO|??We’re moving ever closer to the start of the 2021 ski season in the Southern Hemisphere with the first resorts expected to open in Australia, New Zealand and Southern Africa within the first 10 days of June.?
There have been a number of pre-season snowfalls at all Southern Hemisphere ski areas, the latest in the past week reported in the South American Andes and the mountains of southern Africa. The picture continues to look promising for the start of the 2021 season.
AUSTRALIA REPORT| After a few snowy spells in April, so far May has been fairly dry and too warm for more snowfall yet in Australia’s mountainous areas. Daytime temps have typically been into the 5-10 degrees above freezing range although Monday did see temps low enough for a dusting of snow on some high peaks. Thredbo was one of the resorts that posted pictures of light snow cover up on its highest runs. Since then, skies have cleared again.? The first ski areas are due to open in Australia in just over three weeks’ time, some are already snowmaking using all-weather snowmaking machines.
AUSTRALIA FORECAST| It looks like it should stay fairly cool for the remainder of this week. After a clear spell of weather midweek, there’s the hope of some light snowfall to end the week on Australia’s higher slopes.
NEW ZEALAND REPORT| It is now about four weeks until the start of New Zealand’s ski seas and after the recent snowy periods temperatures have been warming up a little with precipitation in recent days falling more as rain than snow. Mt Hutt, due to be one of the first to open in the country next month, has been reporting temperatures of 5 to 10 degrees above freezing over the past few days.
NEW ZEALAND FORECAST|??Things are looking much colder and very snowy in New Zealand’s mountains over the coming week. Temperatures are set to be mainly below freezing even during the daytime and reach double digits below at night, meaning pre-season snowmaking can be fired up as required. But there should hopefully be some natural snowfall in any case with snow forecast midweek, then a clear spell around Thursday/Friday before a more prolonged period of snow (possible rain for some areas/lower slopes) through the weekend and into the start of next week.
ARGENTINA REPORT|??There’s been more snow in Argentina ahead of the start of the 2021 ski season there next month.? Cerro Castor, the world’s most southerly ski area, down near Tiera del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, reported snow falling in the latter half of last week and that the slopes there had turned white as per forecast.
ARGENTINA FORECAST| It’s looking fairly settled for the coming week in Argentina with temperatures around freezing overnight in the mountains but rising to 5-10 degrees above still in the daytime, warmer still in the valleys.? There’s no precipitation, snow or rain, forecast for the next seven days with clear skies prevailing.
CHILE REPORT|??Ski areas in Chile appear ready to open for the season next month. Indeed, La Parva opened at the weekend. However, this is limited to the bike park, with mountain bikers descending with snow on the ground. Temperatures in the region have been fluctuating between two or three degrees below freezing overnight and up to 10 degrees above in the daytime.? The past week has been largely dry with a mixture of sunny and overcast days.
CHILE FORECAST| No big change in the weather forecast in Chile’s mountain area with a dry week ahead and temperatures fluctuating still between two or three degrees sub-zero at night to as high as 12 degrees above in the daytime. Sunny midweek then more cloud but no precipitation forecast towards the weekend.
SOUTHERN AFRICA REPORT|??There was still more snow in southern Africa with Lesotho’s Afriski reporting another 10cm (4”) of snowfall to start the weekend, the third snowfall in the past five weeks.? The resort will be hoping there’ll be more of the same when the season starts in just over three weeks’ time. All is quiet at Tiffindell, South Africa’s only ski resort, which could not open last winter making South Africa the only country to have no ski season in 2020. Local reports indicate the centre’s owners are currently deciding whether to open for 2021 or not.
SOUTHERN AFRICA FORECAST|??After the cool weather at the end of last week we’re back to the normal full sunshine and daytime highs 10-20 degrees above freezing although lows are getting back close to freezing for the coming week.