Mountainwatch | Reggae Elliss
Here we go, another Northern Hemisphere winter and the first world snow wrap for the upcoming season which is slowly getting under way in most regions. Early snowfalls have been few and far between in North America, but a change is not far away, snowfalls are ramping up in Japan and there have been consistent November falls in the European Alps, with resorts in Austria and Italy copping some big falls over the past week.
Let’s start with Europe as there has been plenty of action across The Alps over the past month after a couple of big storms dropped heavy snowfalls, resulting in a few powder days in open resorts and associated early season avalanche danger off piste. Some resorts have seen a metre of snow on upper elevations and after significant snow falls over the past week, especially in Austria, it is now looking like one of the snowiest Novembers ever for the Alps.
This is a big contrast to last year and comes after a mild and relatively dry October. The result is there are already 50 resorts open across the Alps and another 100 are planning to open this weekend including big name resorts like Chamonix, St Anton and Lech.
Widespread snowfalls have dropped another 25-30cms in the oast 24 hours and the forecast is calling for good snowfalls in Austria, Switzerland and France over the next few days with 45cms expected in Val d’Isere, 40cms for Verbier while in Austria’s Arlberg region St Anton could see 45cms. Snow is also forecast in Italy’s Dolomites with Cortina D’Ampezzo expecting 40cms over the next three days.
It has been a slow start in the US with unseasonably low November snow totals and many resorts having to delay openings while the resorts that are open have done so on minimum terrain. Jackson Hole, Alta, Aspen, Vail and Mammoth are among the open resorts with open terrain ranging from 1% (Mammoth, Palisades Tahoe) to 38% (Grand Targhee).
Unlike last winter, season totals are below average, Alta topping the snowfalls so far with 250cms this season. Alta also had a pretty good opening day with a few powder turns after 30cms a few days earlier.
The latest forecast is looking good for this weekend with snow expected in the Pacific Northwest and the Rockies, the with potential for 25cms in Utah resorts over the next five days, 38cms for Steamboat and 50cms for Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. Light snowfalls are also forecast for California’s Sierras this weekend, but with much lower totals, 5cms for the Tahoe resorts and just a dusting for Mammoth.
It has also been a slow start in Canada with Lake Louise and the Banff resorts receiving 35cms in November and it has been a similar story for Interior BC resorts, Kicking Horse with and Sun Peaks 30cms.
Lake Louise opened on November 4th and has been adding lifts and terrain as snowfalls and snowmaking allowed while Sun Peaks is also open on limited terrain. The forecast is for snow early next week in the Canadian Rockies with around 20cms expected for Lake Louise and Banff Sunshine.
Whistler Blackcomb, which has received 80cms this month, opened last weekend and has 26 runs out 276 open, Fernie opens this weekend and Big White on December 5. Revelstoke has seen 78cms this season and is due to open on December 9th.
A series of storms is set to hit British Columbia over the next week with Whistler Blackcomb in line for mid-mountain totals of 80cms over the next week although freezing levels may fluctuate. while interior resorts will see less snow, although the 40cms forecasted for Revelstoke is still a decent amount and good timing heading into opening day. Kicking Horse is also due to open next Friday, December 8th and it should be a good day with 25cms in the current forecast.
There have been a few snowfalls across resorts in both Honshu and Hokkaido over the past two week, but they were followed by warm weather and a quick meltdown. That is not unusual for November and typically the pattern changes as we head into December and that is what’s happening now. The past week has seen good snowfalls and colder temps in Hakuba, Myoko and Nozawa with Hakuba seeing reported 50+cms at higher elevations in the past 48 hours.
A few lifts opened in Tsugaike, Happo One and Goryu in Hakuba Valley yesterday, Nozawa Onsen opened two days go and lifts will be spinning in Shiga Kogen this weekend. There is snow in the forecast for Hakuba and other Central Honshu resorts on the weekend and more lifts and terrain are expected to open over the next week
It also been snowing consistently in Hokkaido, Niseko receiving 30-40cms over the past two days while Furano has seen 15cms. The snow will ease across the weekend and the forecast is for a slightly warmer trend across Hokkaido early next week. This week’s snow is perfect timing for the Niseko resorts which are scheduled to open this weekend. Furano opened a few lifts on Monday and Rusutsu opened yesterday.
Stay tuned for the Grasshopper’s weekly Japan forecasts which start next week. We will also have daily snow reports for Hakuba, Niseko, Myoko and Nozawa from mid-December.
Where We Would Like to Be This week
Verbier. One of Europe’s and the world’s best ski resorts and has been adding more lifts and terrain since it opened on November 10th. There is another 69cms in the current forecast and a powder day in Verbier is hard to beat.