Whakapapa just before the latest snow swept in... check roads before traveling!
New Zealand opens with a flurry of snow (and high winds), and you can ski in Europe (if you can travel).
The mountains are waiting for most of us... stay safe 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 July
- Ski areas open in Australia, Lesotho and New Zealand.
- A dozen ski areas re-opened in the Alps in June, most still open in July.
- Huge snowfalls in the Andes to end June, but no resorts open yet.
- Snow still up to 8m deep on Norwegian glaciers and more forecast.
- Extended lockdowns mean 2020 season increasingly unlikely in South America and South Africa.
- Quiet in North America - only one area likely to be open on 4th of July.
The start of July would normally see the southern hemisphere's ski season really taking off and all of the Northern hemisphere's glacier areas open. We'd expect the number of open areas worldwide to be (just) back in triple figures a week or two into the month.
This July is obviously different, but it's not all bad; the last weekend of June did see more than 20 ski areas open and we may be up to double that by mid-July.
The "glass half empty" view of the present situation is that things are well below normal. Ski areas in the Andes of South America as well as in South Africa, representing half the ski nations in the southern hemisphere, still have no idea of when or if they might be able to open.
The "glass half full" view though is that things continue to improve. This time last month we were in single figures for resorts open and were just passed an all-time low of 4 areas open worldwide in the last few days of May.
Ski areas have since been able to open in Australia, Lesotho and New Zealand and pretty much all of the glacier ski areas that would normally be open in Europe in July are open, albeit with the 'new normal' pandemic-spread-prevention measures of off-slope face masks, hand cleaning, and on-lift social distancing making it all a bit strange.
As to the snow; the best of it at the end of June was on the closed slopes of the Andes. At least when (if) ski areas in Argentina and Chile can open they should be able to do so with good cover. New Zealand also had a good end of June snowfall, although there are still early season-conditions at play here and in Australia (more reliant on snowmaking a present).
In Europe glacier conditions for summer are reported to be better than normal with good depths and some fresh cover.
Snow for New_Zealand, as the lifts open...
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.
June was quite a busy month in the Alps, especially the first week or so when ski areas were allowed to re-open as lockdowns were eased across Alpine nations.
Crans Montana in Switzerland and the Kaunertal glacier in Austria were among those who opened, pretty much just to celebrate that they could and perhaps test how things work.
Apart from the excitement of re-opening, there was the bonus of fairly good conditions and some significant fresh snowfall up high in mid-June with resorts reporting up to 50cm in 24 hours to bolster already fairly healthy summer glacier-snow-cover base depths – typically 2-3 metres.
In Austria, three glaciers are open with the Hintertux and Molltal scheduled to stay open right through into 2021, the Kitzsteinhorn until July 21st.
In France, Val d'Isere was first to open to the public, initially limiting numbers to 500 skiers. It was later joined by Tignes and at the end of the month Les 2 Alpes, which had previously opened at weekends to race teams. All three are currently open and Tignes and Les 2 Alpes are aiming to stay open through July; Val d'Isere until July 11th.
Switzerland is believed to be the only country not putting a limit on the number of skiers on its glacier, although the usual social distancing rules are in place. Zermatt, with Europe's highest slopes, has resumed its year-round operations. It will be joined by neighbouring Saas-Fee later in the month starting its nine-month season through to spring 2021.
Things changed fast in Italy which went from being one of the most locked-down nations in Europe to one of the first to open its borders. Passo Stelvio also opened earlier than expected, after operating for a few weeks for race teams only (although recent virus cases among the Italian World Cup team appear to have originated there).
Cervinia has also re-opened, again several weeks earlier than expected, as the Swiss border re-opened meaning skiers based there can take the lifts up to ski on the glacier slopes of Zermatt, on the Swiss side, once more. Both will remain open through the summer and Cervinia says it will continue to run lifts to access the Zermatt glacier and skiing (which it should be noted is entirely in Switzerland, and the same glacier accessed from Zermatt, and run by the Zermatt lift company, not in Italy) until the end of September.
It usually closes its summer season nearer the start of the month, before re-opening its lifts in October, so it looks like it will keep access to the Swiss glacier open almost until it opens in autumn anyway.
A J2Ski reader has advised that Macugnaga are going to open the San Pietro drag lift at the weekend (4th and 5th July). There will be no charge for the use of the ski lift (operating hours from 8.30 to 12), but you will have to pay for the cable car (18 euros for adults, 11 euros for juniors between 4 and 14 years). "Given the rising temperatures next weekend might be the only summer ski weekend there this summer," J2Ski reader 'SwingBeep' advises.
Although Scandinavia did not, as a whole, have a particularly cold or snowy winter, parts of the region – particularly the west and north - did set records and reported the most snow for more than 20 years.
It literally took months to dig out the spring access roads to Norway's summer ski glacier areas like Stryn and Fonna, the latter opening with an incredible 15-metre base a few months ago. There was a final big snowfall in mid-May but the past six weeks have seen mostly warmer weather and that Fonna base, still very impressive for July (or any time of the year) at 8 metres, has nearly halved.
Although there's been no real snowfall since May, the current forecast is for a temperature drop to 'unseasonal-sub-zero-lows' and possible snowfall to start July around the weekend.
Fonna and Galdhoppigen are scheduled to stay open through July but Stryn, which only finally opened in early June after delays digging out the access road, is currently scheduled to end its short season on July 19th.
It's looking like a quiet 4th of July for skiers in North America as, unless there's a last-minute change, almost none of the usual candidates for a 4th of July ski appear to be opening their slopes this year.
The virus appears to be the main reason for this. Although some US areas re-opened in April, May and June - that did not include most of the resorts that would usually stay open to July such as Mammoth, Squaw Valley or Whistler.
One that sometimes does, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, did re-open in late May but closed after only a few weeks, much sooner than expected, as warm weather thawed away the snow cover.
Only the near-year-round Timberline snowfield on Mt Hood in Oregon and the Beartooth Basin summer ski area on the Montana/ Wyoming border were open by the middle of last month. Beartooth has also now closed but Timberline should be open through July.
Japan's only summer ski area Gassan remains open although it normally ends its unusual April – July ski season sometime this month. Basically, it opens with a big snow base most years which then thaws away through spring and summer by which time it calls it a day. This year it opened on the first week of April with a nine-metre (30 feet) base which had shrunk to a little over two metres (seven feet) to start July but with temps averaging around 20C it can now easily lose the best part of a metre in a week, so the end of the season here is nigh.
There's a very mixed picture across the southern hemisphere as we enter July. If this were a normal year there would be dozens of ski areas open and the season would be starting to head into top gear. With the pandemic still strong in South America and South Africa, around half of the 100 or so ski areas in the southern hemisphere remain in lockdown.
That's particularly ironic in Argentina and Chile as they've seen some of the best start-of-winter snowfalls for several winters, with areas like Portillo and Valle Nevado posting more than a metre of fresh snow in the last week of June Alas though Portillo, having originally delayed their planned opening date by a month to July 18th, has now 'postponed indefinitely'. This could be because Chile, one of South America and the world's worst hit countries by the virus, recently extended its state-of-emergency to mid-September, corresponding with the end of the country's ski season in a normal year.
Others say they're ready to open as soon as it is safe to do so. Only Argentina's Las Lenas has ruled out opening altogether this winter whatever happens.
It's a very different story across the pacific in New Zealand where the successful suppression of the virus so far means that areas here can operate normally. The snow conditions for June are 'middling' with falls of around 50cm in the final week of last month laying down a fairly good base with cold weather for snow-making too.
Mount Hutt, which opened first, has the most terrain open. It was joined by Cardrona, Coronet Peak and Treble Cone in the last days of June, along with smaller areas Ohau and Roundhill meaning July begins with more resorts open here than any other country. Most of the rest of the ski areas in the country will open in July, including the largest, Mount Ruapehu (Turoa and Whakapapa) on the 1st.
Here the issue is economic, with the country's commercial centres tending to get up to half of their income from overseas skiers flying in. That's not happening a present with borders more or less closed so resorts have taken measures including midweek closures to try to keep viable. July is busier for the domestic market though so more full-time operations have been announced.
Over in Australia, five ski areas have opened too with more hoping to in the first weeks of July. Here the issues are half virus related – with only limited numbers allowed on the slopes, and half (so far) snow-related, or lack of, which means there's less piste for skiers to fit on, socially distanced, anyway. That's led several areas to delay opening so far.
The lack of lift ticket availability combined with pent-up demand has caused frustrations for Aussie skiers with some resorts already reported to be sold out of tickets until near the end of the season unless they can increase their quotas by then, which will largely depend on pandemic trends and of course snow.
As we start July Charlotte Pass, Mount Buller, Thredbo, Perisher and Mount Baw Baw are open in Australia with Hotham and Falls Creek looking to open on the 6th having delayed planned openings in late June due to inadequate snow cover.
Finally, southern Africa. Lesotho's Afriski was the first ski area to open for 2020 in the southern hemisphere after the country, like New Zealand, largely suppressed the virus.
Here though, masks and social distancing and the rest are all still required. They also have a similar problem to new Zealand – a closed border with most of their business usually coming from locked-down South Africa. That's where the region's other ski resort, Tiffindell, is located (currently closed), with no clear lockdown end date at present, unfortunately. The country's government has recently said tourism in the country can resume in September, but as the South African season usually ends at the end of August that's not looking promising.
Until next month, keep safe...