So this was Alta, Utah, USA this week...
Snow in Europe, but more in America.
The Snow Headlines - 22nd December
- Several Utah Ski Areas Report of 60" (1.5 metres) of snowfall in 7 days
- Warmer weather in the Alps and much of western Europe.
- Snowfall at last in Eastern North America – up to 3 Feet (90cm) reported.
- Bulgaria's Bansko opens for 22-23 season, initially with no runs complete.
- Very cold weather closes ski resorts in Western Canada, US Midwest.
- Scottish ski areas open, close and open again.
- "Weather bomb" forecast for eastern North America.
Japan and USA in the firing line...
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We have passed the shortest day of the year and the days are getting longer (in the northern hemisphere). Up in Lapland it means the sun will reappear above the horizon at resorts like Levi in just a week's time. It also means we've entered winter by both the meteorological and now the astronomical measures of the seasons.
One of the main themes in this week's report is temperature. In Europe it appears Mother Nature has not got the memo that we're in winter proper now and the freezing point in the Alps has been rising up towards 3000m.
Not good news when lower slopes are in need of snowfall.
Instead they've had rain although above 1800m the pistes are still in pretty good shape. In Northern Canada and Scandinavia it's the other extreme with -30C Celsius leading to lift closures and lots of 'stay safe' advice.
The big snowfall news of the week comes from Eastern North America which has had a warm autumn and been unable to produce a lot of snow by machine for which the region is famous. However plummeting temperatures and up to three feet of snowfall over last weekend there has greatly improved things, and there's more on the way now.
There's not been a huge change in conditions in Austria for three weeks or so now.
There have been small to moderate snowfalls and spells of low temperatures for snowmaking but nothing too dramatic and unfortunately temperatures are a little high this week which isn't improving matters.
Lower altitude runs are suffering the most and about a third of the country's centres - mostly the smaller, lower centres, are yet to open for the season. But most of the big ski areas have about half or more of their terrain open and good on-piste conditions. Ischgl, the Skiwelt (Soll, Westendorf, Ellmau etc) and Saalbach Hinterglemm Fieberbrunn all have about 160km (100 miles) of runs open each.
France has had the best of the December snowfalls overall, particularly the southern French alps with Alpe d'Huez and Puy St Vincent the only two resorts in Europe posting more than a 2 metre base up top.
Not much fresh this week and warmer temperatures than we'd like but good on-piste conditions above 1600-1800 metres. Less to see off-piste and the avalanche danger has been quite high, Level 3 on the scale to 5, at a number of resorts.
The 3 Valleys (Courchevel, les Menuires, Meribel, Val Thorens) have the most terrain open in the world at present, over 300km of runs.
About 80% of Italy's ski areas have now opened for the season and many are actually posting some of the best conditions in Europe, having been beneficiaries of the snow from the south earlier this month.
Unfortunately they're now getting warm air from the south too.
But most open resorts have a sizable swathe of terrain skiable. Dolomiti Superski offer the most but there's over 200km open on the Milky Way (Via Lattea) pass on the French border and 160km from Cervinia on the Swiss border too.
A similar mixed picture in Switzerland with most ski areas open now, those that are open offering ever more terrain available, but still issues for low slopes and rain reported up to about 2000m, although things are heading in a more wintery direction.
The Portes du Soleil around Champery and the 4 Valleys around Verbier are posting the most terrain open, both now having more than 250km of slopes available.
Saas Fee is posting the country's deepest snowpack at 1.6 metres.
Midwinter in Scandinavia means little or no daylight with the sun below the horizon in a number of more northerly ski areas, including Levi and Ruka in Finnish Lapland, until the start of January.
Temperatures have been reaching the -20s (Celsius) too. A real weather mix with some areas seeing lots of light snowfalls, others sunshine.
The region's largest resort, Sweden's Are, has the most terrain open so far – about 30km of slopes – but that's still only about a third of its potential terrain.
The Pyrenees are unfortunately seeing some very warm temperatures this week, getting into double digits at resort bases with lots of sunshine. This could be a problem for smaller, lower areas but not so much for the big destination resorts with higher slopes which are just seeing classic freeze-thaw conditions up high.
Andorra's Grandvalira and Baqueira Beret in Spain both have the most terrain open in the region, about 130km (80 miles) of slopes skiable a piece.
Scotland's ski season start was looking promising a week ago with constant sub-zero temperatures, if not a lot of natural snowfall to build a base. But after Glenshee opened half a dozen runs, the Lecht and Cairngorm had runs open at the weekend while Glencoe and Nevis Range had sledging. Alas the usual Scottish problem of a temperature spike bringing gales and torrential rain set these promising early signs back and closed slopes to start this week.
But winter has returned and Cairngorm and Glenshee had limited slopes available again by Wednesday but with plenty of snow forecast for Christmas weekend.
The challenging start to the season in the south east looks set to continue past Christmas unfortunately with sunny, comparatively warm weather in Bulgaria, Serbia and elsewhere making it difficult to open much (any) terrain.
Bansko officially declared itself open last weekend but without any complete runs unfortunately.
Western Canada has seen some very cold weather over the past week, particularly in the region where British Columbia borders Alberta.
Most ski areas shut their more exposed lifts due to fear of mechanical failure and some areas including Jasper's Marmot Basin have been closed completely for several days. For those on the slopes the advice is to wear a lot of layers and cover exposed skin if you can as temperatures reach the -30s, then watch skiing buddies for signs of frostbite.
After the heavy snowfall in the West of the continent a week ago it was finally the turn of the East to see big snowfalls over last weekend and the start of this week with most ski areas in New England and the wider area receiving at least a foot of snowfall, some parts as much as three feet.
Big winners included New York state's Whiteface with big areas like Killington and Sunday River opening much more terrain. Things settled down on Tuesday but it has been very cold since.
Drier in the West earlier this week but Mammoth is posting the world's deepest base and the only resort with over 3 metres (10 feet) of snow lying.
A major storm system has now moved into the Pacific Northwest bringing more snow and forecasted very low temperatures and blizzard conditions into the Christmas weekend right across America.
Ski areas in the Midwest in particular have announced 2-4 day closures because of the forecast extreme weather.