When you still get to drive to work... La Clusaz, France this morning...
Almost everywhere is shut, but some ski areas are hanging on...
Please follow your local authority's advice, stay safe and well, and look out for your neighbours! In the meantime, there is still snow in the mountains...
The Snow Headlines - 26th March
- Ski areas in China begin re-opening.
- Ski areas in Finland and Scotland close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Fresh snow reported in many areas including the Alps, Pyrenees, Scandinavia, Dolomites and much of Eastern Europe, as well as the Canadian Rockies.
- Ski areas still open in Sweden, Iceland and Japan.
- All but one ski area in North America now believed to be closed.
- Several ski countries step up 'lockdown' on all outdoor activity, including ski touring.
It's been a week of consolidation of ski area closures in most of Europe and North America.
Resorts in Finland and Scotland have joined most of the rest of Europe's skiing nations in ending their seasons early, only Sweden and Iceland continue to run their lifts.
Almost all North American ski areas have closed although in Japan they're still open.
Looking out of their windows those in lockdown in much of the Alps, as well as the Pyrenees and eastern Europe, will have seen fresh snow falling in recent days. Nothing too heavy, in fact, the biggest reported was in North-eastern Europe for a change, but if these were normal times we'd be saying that it was nice, so late in the season and at the start of spring, to see low temperatures and fresh snowfall.
The snow has been proving tempting to ski tourers in many countries, who don't need lifts of course, but for these people too the rules have been tightened in many countries, particularly France, to stamp out spring touring.
Some countries believe it's good to keep skiing and boarding, so long as there's social distancing and measures in place in indoor shops and cafes, if indeed they're kept open. At the time of writing at least, ski areas were generally still open in Sweden and Japan, with Iceland (which ran national headlines a few weeks ago about infected skiers returning from ski areas in the Alps and advising against ski holidays to all Alpine resorts) still operating its ski areas too.
The hopefully good news for those looking for signs of light at the end of the tunnel is that ski areas have been re-opening this week in China, two months after the lockdown there was imposed and a few weeks after a big drop in the number of new cases - to zero in fact - apart from those arriving from outside the country.
People wanting to ski have to submit medical proof they're virus-free at least 24 hours in advance and are advised to still wear masks on the slopes, but the slopes are still open.
They may be out of reach for now, but at least the mountains will be looking good this week...
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Austrian ski areas are of course on lockdown with all centres closed. For those living in ski resorts there, it's been a pleasant start to Spring with sunny conditions over the past few days in most parts of the country, temperatures yoyoing and more thaw than freeze on lower slopes at most areas.
Slightly more unsettled weather with light snowfall (and/or rain) is forecast for the rest of this week.
Austria may be one of the first countries to open ski slopes once the lockdown ends, as it has a number of glacier areas that are usually open late spring and early summer, more than any other country. It's too early to know for sure though of course.
These are very strange times in the French mountains, with the lockdown which began nearly a fortnight ago ever tighter. Initially in mountain towns like Chamonix ski touring continued as before, with - if anything - more people hiking uphill now the lifts were closed. But the French authorities have increasingly cracked down on this, with the thinking being that any potential rescue and medical resources would be better employed elsewhere.
The risk was illustrated when two freeriders were caught in an avalanche last week, one being killed, the other needing rescue and medical treatment.
Those living in ski resorts are now allowed one hour outdoors for not-potentially-dangerous exercise each day.
The snow? Well, it is still lying there and keeps falling, mostly lightly, at present, so conditions would be very good if they were still accessible.
We're into the third week of the Italian lockdown so there's no one out on the slopes there; or at least there shouldn't be. Our snowfall reporting and forecasting, however, shows that it has kept snowing (confirmed by webcam images) across many Italian ski slopes – just lightly in most cases with 5-15cm of snowfall in the past few days in the Alps, Dolomites and Apennines. Similar snowfall is expected over the next few days in many areas. Temperatures are freeze-thaw and getting quite warm (5-10C) in valleys and on lower slopes so in some places it's now snow up top, rain down below as spring takes hold.
The main debate in Switzerland this week has been whether to tighten the lockdown to French/Italian levels.
People are being discouraged from going out ski touring but some ski area hotels are still open and some have been calling for resorts like Verbier, which has a number of reported cases of the virus, to be locked down more tightly.
In terms of snowfall, it's cold and there has been some light snowfall in many areas on higher slopes, with more forecast for the rest of this week.
Scandinavia has been the only place where you could still ski in Europe for a number of weeks now. Norway did close its slopes nearly a fortnight ago and Finland has followed suit more recently, with centres there closing in the past few days, but Swedish centres are for now at least still open. They've also been reporting some good fresh snowfalls in the past week, with most Swedish centres getting 10-30cm more snow, Riksgransen in the north, reporting 50cm, and more heavy snowfall in the forecast. It has the deepest snow in the (fast-shrinking) skiing world at present with 4.4 metres lying.
The Pyrenees too were forced to close just as the season was getting better with some big snowfalls to start March after a mostly dry period from Christmas through January and February. To add to the frustration for skiers it has been snowing again here over the past few days and looks like it will stay cold and snowy over the next few days too.
Scottish ski areas continued to enjoy some of their best conditions for several years and were operating right up to Saturday or Sunday when they finally gave in to mounting external pressure to close down and did so.
They had previously shut down indoor public spaces like cafes and rentals, closed ski schools, enforced social distancing and increased other hygiene measure but were getting increasing criticism for attracting people to go visit, just by being open.
Eastern European ski areas – particularly in the North-eastern corner of the continent have seen the biggest snowfalls in Europe over the past week with ski areas in Poland and Slovakia reporting up to 50cm of fresh snow over 72 hours from Saturday to Monday.
Of course, all ski areas in the region are closed as are national borders in and out. Bulgaria too has probably seen more snow in March than in January and February combined, and it has been snowing again here over the past few days, but centres are closed, with Bansko under special quarantine due to the virus cases there.
The last half-dozen ski areas that were still open in Canada when we compiled last week's report all closed down by the end of Sunday, with the remote Hudson Bay Resort in northern BC the last to do so, as restrictions were tightened up across the country.
Some areas are still hoping to re-open later in the spring if things improve enough for that to be sensible and restrictions are eased. Whistler is the most obvious candidate as it offers glacier skiing to late June in normal years.
Sunshine near Banff, which still had two months of its season to run and seemed one of least keen to close when Alberta ordered a provincial shut down, might be another. It posted images of lots of fresh snowfall yesterday.
Most Canadian ski areas do close in early April though so they're just accepting the season is over.
As with Canada, the closure of ski areas in the US has been piecemeal with some corporations closing their centres, then a few individual states, but in most cases, it has been resorts themselves making the decision, usually on the basis of advice from state governors and medical boards.
The country's northwest corner saw ski areas holding out the longest against closing, most arguing that skiing was better for health than staying indoors and that they had measures in place to stop the virus spread.
However, the last centre that had been open daily, 49 Degrees North in Washington state, decided to close on Wednesday as the state's governor ramped up the advice to stay home. One area in Montana, Teton pass, is (at time of writing) planning to re-open from Friday to Sunday; its second-to-last weekend of the season, and so far hasn't announced it won't be opening, but that announcement may still come before Friday.
Elsewhere a number of US areas have announced they might re-open later in spring if the all-clear (or something like it) is given. Killington in Vermont and Breckenridge in Colorado, both of which normally offer snowsports to late May, say they'll re-open if they can. Heavenly in California has also said they might.
Stay safe and well...