The next few weeks will see an interesting approach to the concept of ‘opening early’ used by several ski areas in Scandinavia and the Alps.
As the glaciers of Tignes in France along with the Kitzsteinhorn and Dachstein in Austria open on Saturday 30th September, so will Geilo in Norway (pictured above in September 2016), using snow it has saved and stockpiled from last winter.
It’s a trick the resort has pulled off successfully for several years now, spreading the snow out over a kilometre long run just as temperatures are low enough again to stop it thawing too fast and at times allow snowmaking top ups. There can also be the first natural snow showers of the autumn, it just gets everything ready faster.
The snow is stored in a shaded area, sometimes near the top of the mountain, and protected by tarpaulins, sometimes straw or sawdust too.
The same method will be used by Ruka in Finland which is scheduled to open for its 200 day/7 month ski season on October 7th and has snow stockpiled on its main run.
Ruka used to claim the longest ski season in the world for a resort without a glacier but last year saw Arapahoe Basin in Colorado open from October to July and Mammoth in California from November To August, so that may not quite be the case.
Kitzbuhel in Austria will open a week later on October 14th, the first non-glacier resort in the Alps to open for the season for several years now.
A decade or so back a major UN report claimed low altitude ski areas like Kitzbuhel would be amongst the first to suffer the impact of climate change and now the Austrian resort seems keen to highlight the fact that it can open sooner than anyone thanks to skillful snow management.
Snow storage was also used for snow events in mid-summer by several ski areas in Italy including Alta Badia (below) and Livigno this past August but in those cases the snow was left to quickly melt away after the event.