Passo Stelvio, Italy, yesterday morning, picture courtesy of Snoworks Ski Courses...
It's snowing, lifts are turning, and skiers are skiing...
The mountains are waiting for us... please stay safe and respect local advice on travel. We can't all go skiing just yet but we can start planning!
The Snow Headlines - 22nd October
- Les 2 Alpes and Tignes kick-off French 20-21 Ski Season.
- North America's 2020-21 Season starts next week in Canada, possibly sooner in the US.
- Cervinia opening for 20-21 Season this weekend.
- Ski areas in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Austria opening thanks to snow-farming.
- Southern Hemisphere's 2020 Season largely over but two NZ areas still open.
- Davos and Gstaad open early for 2020-21 Season.
...and we're back with the resumption of the J2Ski weekly snow report ahead of the main 20-21 season! It's mixed news, of course, but it's not all bad!
The good news is that more than 20 ski areas are already open for the ski season in eight countries - most of them in Europe. France and Sweden saw their first areas open for 20-21 just last weekend. This coming weekend the total number open should have grown to about 30.
The even better news is that there's been a lot of autumn snowfall in the Alps, in much of Western North America and up in Scandinavia.
Of course, the downside - with travel between countries still 'very difficult' if not impossible - is that we currently have that all-too-common, ironic scenario; great snow conditions... if you can get there!
Most of the already open ski areas are glacier resorts in the Alps. Around 17 areas are open; half of them in Austria, the remainder in Italy, Switzerland and France. The season began at the latter on Saturday with Les 2 Alps and Tignes opening just as the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup Tour was kicking off for 20-21 at Solden, Austria.
Another five areas are open in Scandinavia, in Finland, Norway and Sweden, most of them with just a run or two skiable thanks to snow-farming, the snow from last season stockpiled, covered over through summer, then spread back out on the slope. However, there's also a glacier run still open here, having been open all summer.
Over in North America, there's been up to 50cm (2inches) of snowfall in Western Canada, where the first centre is expected to open next week. Snow-making is also underway on high slopes in Colorado where ski areas aim to open before the end of October each autumn if they can.
Finally, we mustn't forget the southern hemisphere's 2020 ski season is still underway – even though springtime is at its midway point there. Two resorts in New Zealand are still open on Mt Ruapehu and hoping to stay open to mid-November. The virus is currently suppressed in New Zealand and it remains the only country where skiers can hit the slopes without needing to wear masks at the base or social distance, lucky kiwis!
In the Alpine Forecast
The early snow keeps coming, with two separate bands of potentially heavy snow expected into the Alps over the next week or so and further un-settled weather beyond that. This coming weekend should see quite widespread falls to mid-altitude with colder temperatures bringing snow to lower levels next week.
More snow expected...
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.
The Austrian mountains are seeing a remarkably snowy October so far with some wonderful sunny weather in between surprisingly snowy days for this early in the autumn. As usual, eight glacier ski areas are open, the most for any one country in the world. Indeed the five in Tirol region alone is more than any other country.
Ski areas already open include the Hintertux, Kitzsteinhorn, Pitztal and Stubai glaciers.
Last weekend saw the 20-21 Alpine Skiing World Cup Tour begin in Solden with foggy weather impacting the upper slopes of the Rettenbach glacier on the Saturday for the women's race but great blue skies on Sunday for the men's, which continued into the start of this week.
But people have not just been skiing on the glaciers, tourers have been taking advantage of the sunshine and exceptional early snow cover to ski slopes at resorts not yet open too. One ski area without a glacier, Hockkar in upper Austria, has also managed to open with thin cover and Kitzbuhel is next to open, with a few runs skiable at Rasterkogel from the weekend thanks to snow farming.
The French ski season got underway last Saturday. Tignes, one of the two areas that opened, used to aim to open at the end of September. Climate change has meant it has in fact been opening mid-October instead in recent years and this time it gave up any plan to open in September.
Les 2 Alpes has also opened, but just for a fortnight initially, but will close again on November 1st for much of the month. This year conditions on French glaciers are better than they have been in recent Octobers. There was fresh snow and blue skies on Saturday. Both glaciers currently have 10-15km of runs open – about half the capacity.
Ski areas are starting to open in Italy too, although others are closing. Passo del Stelvio, one of the first areas to re-open after Italy's strict lockdown, is coming to the end of its usual season, at the end of this month, but another glacier area which just opened in mid-September, Val Senales, is really just getting started on 20-21 and opening more terrain each week.
A third area, Sulden (not to be confused with Solden), which has runs up to 3250m opened with about a foot of natural snowfall at the weekend and is currently opening for weekends. A fourth Italian area, Cervinia, opens this Saturday (24th October) with three chairlifts, Plan Maison, Fornet and Bontadini set to run. Plateau Rosa with the Ventina piste to Cime Bianche as well as access to Zermatt's glacier skiing will also be open.
Switzerland has the second most areas open after Austria. Zermatt and Saas-Fee have been open since the summer and they've been joined by the Titlis glacier at Engelberg as well as Glacier 3000 near Gstaad and Les Diablerets which opened more than a month early at the start of the month after a metre of September snowfall gave excellent early-autumn conditions, still common on higher slopes across the Alps three weeks later after more snowfall.
Next up are due to be the early-opening Parsenn ski area above Davos (opening two weeks earlier than planned due to great conditions) and the Diavolezza Glacier near St Moritz, opening this weekend to take the Swiss tally to six open so far.
Ski areas are open already in Finland, Norway and Sweden and there has been widespread natural snowfall over the past week too, with coastal Voss, often one of the snowiest parts of the country, reporting 40cm of snowfall in recent days. In Norway, there's one summer glacier ski area still open, Galdhopiggen, but it is into the final full week of operations for 2020. The slopes of Kvitfjell near Lillehammer have opened though, or one slope at least, thanks to snow farming – last season's snow saved through summer and spread back out.
The same technique has been used by Levi and Ruka in Finland to open at the start of this month, and Idre Fjall in Sweden to do so last weekend too.
The Pyrenees have seen some great early snowfalls up high, like the Alps, and whilst no ski areas are open yet, or expected to open for at least another month, some intrepid ski tourers have been hiking up to get first turns in. Andorra and ski areas in the French and Spanish Pyrenees, including Baqueira Beret, all report good cover already up high.
Cold weather and lots of precipitation for Scotland in recent days have turned hilltops white at times, although not yet enough to really say bases are beginning to build. Usually, centres don't open here until early December but if there is an unexpected dump some can open early – it's going back 20 years now but The Lecht has opened at Halloween one season at least.
Ski areas in Eastern Europe have seen snow on higher slopes in the past month – including Jasna in Slovakia and Bansko in Bulgaria, but temperatures are still fluctuating too much, meaning the snow melts away before a base builds for now at least and resorts aren't expected to start opening until the end of next month.
It's been snowy in Western Canada in recent weeks and it is staying cold and snowy, good news for the ski areas in Alberta planning to open for the last weekend of October, next week, or at the start of November. They could be the first in North America to open unless a US centre jumps in there first.
Nakiska, the closest area to Calgary, is targeting October 30th with Banff's three area – Norquay Sunshine and Lake Louise as well as Marmot Basin near Jasper up north all likely to open at the start of November.
There's been snow for most parts of the US and a quiet battle is being waged to see where will open first. So far there's no clear leader. Ski areas like Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, usual contenders, up high in Colorado have been snow-making but after a promising start things have warmed up a bit. It's been cold and snowy on the East Coast and Midwest so it's possible a centre there might be the first. For now, though, we're waiting to see.
The 2020 ski season is about over in the southern hemisphere with two of the four centres that were still open last weekend (Cardrona in New Zealand and Corralco in Chile) closing. Two New Zealand areas, both on Mt Ruapehu on the North Island are still open, but not together! By that we mean Whakapapa plans to open through to the end of the month then its neighbour Tūroa, which had its last official day of winter on Sunday, plans to reopen, conditions permitting, for the first half of November – potentially taking the area to only a week before summertime there.
Stay safe and keep the faith, we'll be back with more news next week...