World Snow News 11

Welcome to the latest update of worldwide snow conditions and prospects for the week ahead.

There are just seven days to go until the equinox but it is too early for Southern Hemisphere skiers to abandon winter sports just yet. The season there is at the Northern equivalent of mid-March, and as everyone knows, spring skiing can be best of all - long sunny days, short lift-lines and great skiing at any resorts that are high enough to hold a good base. It may be officially the end of winter but the Southern Ocean takes a long time to warm up and spring down under is typically punctuated by pulses of cold air from frozen south that can bring fresh falls to relatively low altitudes. Unfortunately, Australian mountains are about 500m too low to ensure reliable skiing for very much longer - indeed two resorts have already closed. Meanwhile, across the Tasman, the high altitude big North Island resorts of Whakapapa and Turoa are usually a safe bet at this time of year and their combined spring passes represent excellent value if you plan on staying more than a few days. When Australian resorts suffer from spring conditions and fast melting snow beneath the high sun, a trip to New Zealand may very well appeal to the residents of Sydney and Melbourne. However, for European skiers, the cold summer in NW Europe offers an alternative with great snow conditions much closer at hand. Several Austrian Glacier resorts are reporting as much as 80cm of fresh snow. With conditions like this on offer even the superb Andean conditions are not all that tempting, let alone the even more distant Antipodean resorts.


Several resorts had a dusting of snow last week. A front is approaching, accompanied by increasing NW winds, right now, soon gusting to gale or even storm force about the tops. The better news is that as the winds swing Westerly, temperatures will fall and there should be snow showers down to about 1500m tomorrow. Further showers and rather variable freezing levels over the next few days as the weather pattern quickly repeats means that it is a good idea to study the detailed forecasts and snow reports to make the most of conditions because they will be very mixed for a few days. Tending to settle down after that. Unfortunately, any new snow will come too late for Ben Lomond and Selwyn Snowfields which have now closed for the season.

New Zealand

Not for the first time this season, the small resort of Rainbow has seen more new snow than most during the past few days, but even there only 8cm fell on Tuesday. The NW wind that we warned about last time duly closed Mt Hutt and Dobson on Thursday and has affected lifts at Turoa and Whakapapa too. A thundery weather front is presently moving up South Island and will reach north Island around lunchtime Friday. Unfortunately, the air behind it isn't especially cold and so precipitation on the mountains will tend to be rain rather than snow,especially at lower elevations - freezing levels typically not far from 2000m but the problem with aiming high enough to get the fresh snow will be the wind. Fairly moist and showery W or NW winds over the weekend should give way to more settled conditions from early next week - hopefully leading to excellent conditions on the upper slopes of Ruapehu in particular.

South America

In last weeks forecast we mentioned that high pressure would develop over the southern tip of the continent and direct Atlantic easterly winds further North. Right now, that's exactly what we have and cool winds should deliver localized fresh snow to places like Chapelco that are open to the east. This unusual state of affairs will last about three more days before low pressure and prevailing westerlies return to the far South with more settled conditions elsewhere. The resorts near Santiago boast the most impressive snow depths of any ski resorts (around 4m) and this should ensure excellent spring skiing for several more weeks.

The Alps

Austria is certainly the place to be right now following heavy snowfalls on most glaciers last week - over 50cm fell over wide areas. Settled conditions have followed and apart from a brief northerly on Tuesday, the week ahead looks mostly fine too. The Swiss and French summer skiing resorts will enjoy the same fair weather, but these were too far west to have benefited from much of the recent snow. As if to further remind us that winter will soon be here, Norway offers a wild-card prospect for back country skiing in the days ahead as deep and autumnal lows track nearby. On Monday and Tuesday there is every possibility that a cold northerly blast will bring the first snow of autumn across the Scottish Highlands. Even the high Lakeland fells may see a dusting!

For any surfers, prospects for the North Coast of Scotland and the North Sea Coast are really excellent for the time of year - winter swell conditions, but with summer sea temperatures.