It's Kaunertal, this weekend, with snow, and skiers!
June brings hope for skiing north and south of the equator!
The mountains are still waiting for most of us... stay safe and well and follow your local authority's advice on travel. We can't all go skiing just yet but we can still read about it!
The Snow Headlines - 1st June
- Hope of traditional midsummer ski day in Scotland.
- Glacier ski areas have re-opened in Austria and Norway.
- Ski areas re-open in the USA.
- More glaciers to open for summer 2020 in France, Italy and Switzerland.
- Australia, Lesotho and New Zealand's ski seasons are on (but delayed).
- Riksgransen to re-open for midsummer.
- Leading Argentinian ski area Las Lenas won't open this winter.
- Japanese summer ski area re-opening.
It's looking much more promising in the ski world as we start June 2020, compared to a month ago.
Although the final week of May saw perhaps the lowest number of ski areas open in the world for 50 years (we counted just four between 26th and 28th May!), numbers are already back in to double figures and should, given a fair wind, be approaching triple figures by this time next month - similar to those normally open in late June.
The latter half of May is, in any case, usually the quietest part of the ski year. Most of the ski areas in the northern hemisphere have closed, even the majority of those that offer summer skiing take a month or so off before reopening in late June. At the same time, the southern hemisphere's season hasn't got started.
The start of June 2020 sees signs of light, even if closed borders, limited travel and quarantines mean only locals will be hitting the socially-distanced lift queues for now.
Norwegian and Austrian glacier areas have already reopened along with the highest slopes in Slovenia and ski areas in Japan and the USA. Next up are glacier centres in France, Italy and Switzerland along with the first in the southern hemisphere. New Zealand areas have already confirmed they'll open, other countries are less certain, although Australia looks promising, if perhaps not until July.
Snow for Australian ski areas hoping to open soon...
Re-publication :- our Snow Report Summary, being the text above this line, is free to re-publish, but must be clearly credited to www.J2ski.com with text including "J2Ski Snow Report" linked to this page - thank you.
After two and a half months with nowhere open in the Alps, summer ski areas have begun opening for their 2020 season, and the world's two year-round ski areas, Hintertux in Austria and Zermatt in Switzerland, are getting the lifts turning again.
Conditions have been fairly good up high through the closed months with plenty of fresh snow accumulated and temperatures staying, overall, mostly low.
June begins with three Austrian areas, Kaunertal, Hintertux and the Kitzsteinhorn all having re-opened on the final Friday of May. For Kauntertal it is only going to be a nine-day season with the centre closing again on June 7th – the day it had always planned to end its 2019-20 season. However the day before that, May 6th will see a fourth Austrian glacier open, Molltal, starting its 2020-21 11-month long ski season a fortnight earlier than it had originally planned.
Next up is expected to be Switzerland with Crans Montana and Zermatt opening glacier runs on 6th June too (Zermatt moving forward from a previously announced 8th June). It has said there'll be no limit on the number of people on the mountain there, but, as with all areas, social distancing and increased cleanliness will be applied in lifts and public areas. A third Swiss area, Saas-Fee, is currently expected to open on schedule in July.
It should be noted though that whilst Zermatt has re-opened its slopes indefinitely, Crans-Montana is just opening for nine days to June 14th - just because it can.
The French ski season will also get going in June, again on the 6th, with the glaciers at Val d'Isere and Les 2 Alpes planning to open from then, although initially only for race teams training. Then from the 27th Tignes expects to open.
The picture is less certain in Italy. Val Senales, which now usually only opens from September has confirmed it definitely won't re-open until then and the Italian Ski Federation have brokered an exclusive deal to run ski training camps at Passo Stelvio through June, although those plans had o be approved by the authorities at the last report.
In Slovenia, the Kanin ski area on the Italian border had been the first to re-open in the Alps in the middle of May and even staged a national big air championship on 23rd May, but it appears to have closed again as of 31st May, this time until next winter. There was snow still lying up at 2200m but it was also very warm.
Norway and Sweden were the two countries where skiing continued through most of May, even as ski areas in Japan finally decided to close after a spike in the pandemic there. Around a dozen smaller Norwegian ski-areas re-opened for much of the month after the lockdown was eased there and Riksgransen in the Swedish Arctic Circle never closed as the country had a very loose lockdown and did not require resorts to close (although most did).
Now most Norwegian ski areas and Riksgransen have closed due to normal 'end-of-season' but Norway's glacier areas, Fonna, Galdhopiggen have re-opened for summer 2020. A third glacier area, Stryn, was due to have opened the final weekend of May but has had to delay, first to the first weekend of June due to a huge snowfall in mid-May which buried the access road and lifts again and needs digging out, then more recently it delayed to the 13th June as the dig out is taking longer than hoped.
In fact, the snowfall in Norway's glacier areas has been incredible this year with Fonna taking over a month to dig the access road out and report the snow lying nearly 16 metres (around 50 feet) deep. It kept snowing right through May but has finally warmed up for the start of June with "Sunscreen recommended on the slopes".
Riksgransen although currently closed, says it will re-open for its traditional mid-summer long-weekend including skiing under the midnight sun from 18th to 21st June when there's 24-hour daylight. Usually, this weekend sells out well in advance and this year there's the added interest of the deepest snowpack of the century so far.
In Scotland there was talk of Glencoe being able to open for its traditional midsummer skiing around June 21st as the lockdown in the country, stricter than in England, may be eased enough by then. Fresh snowfall was reported in late May and big patches of snow are still lying.
Re-opening of ski areas in North America has been more complicated than in Europe, but we do begin June with four ski areas open – Timberline in Oregon (which was the first to re-open in mid-May), the Beartooth Basin summer ski area on the Montana/Wyoming border, Crystal Mountain in Washington State and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado. All four are limiting numbers on the slopes, selling out of tickets days in advance and going for full health and safety procedures of course, including social distancing and face covering. Crystal Mountain is only opening for a few weeks.
May was actually a colder and snowier last month of meteorological spring than usual in Northwestern North America, so June snow conditions are reported to be above normal.
There still seems to be an outside chance that other areas including the Blackcomb Glacier at Whistler might re-open later this month if deemed safe and feasible.
Japan's Gassan ski area was closed for much of May by the Japanese lockdown due to a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which also closed resorts like Niseko, which had stayed open until late-April, for what would have been the final few weeks of the season. An initial closure to mid-May was later extended to May 31st but it should now re-open through June, with a 6-metre base. Temperatures were around 10C in the final week of May. The centre is due to stay open now into July.
Another area, Shiga Kogen, is reported to have had one lift operating in the last week of May.
There have been some good snowfalls in most Southern Hemisphere ski regions in May, including some especially impressive dumps in Australia. The biggest falls were at the start of the month and have since mostly melted away (although there have been smaller top-ups since!).
More recently there have been some good snowfalls and low temperatures in the Andes, South America and in New Zealand with the mountains of southern Africa seeing snow-making systems fired up in Lesotho and Afriski.
But can ski areas open?
Well, the answer, on the whole, is "yes" and the news changes daily on what will open and when.
New Zealand was the first area to confirm plans to open ski areas and all resorts now are doing so with no limits on people on the mountain either (contrary to glacier areas in the Alps and similar where limits are in place).
However planned openings on May 30th and June 5th have been set back with Mt Hutt currently set to be the first to open for 2020 in the Southern hemisphere, on June 12th.
Australian ski areas have now confirmed they'll begin opening from June 22nd with most open then or on the 24th, about a fortnight later than planned.
Lesotho's Afriski plans to open from the 18th, again a fortnight later than expected.
Operations will be different from normal of course, with social distancing and other measures in place to combat the virus. There'll be no international guests and some areas will be closing midweek outside peak periods.
So far though there's no confirmation on South American ski areas, nor South Africa's Tiffindell, where the lockdowns are still quite tightly enforced. One larger Argentinian ski area, Las Lenas, has however announced it won't open at all this winter, even if the lockdown there is eventually lifted, as it can't see a way to make it viable.
Promising signs, until next month, stay safe...