Issued: 27 October 2021

By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne


European Roundup
North American Roundup
Asia Roundup
Southern Hemisphere


WORLD OVERVIEW

Winter is really starting to take hold in western North America with more ski centres opening early and some more big October snowfalls, incredibly over a metre (40”) reported by some Californian ski centres. There’s been the first cold and snowy weather for the eastern side of the continent too raising hopes of imminent first openings for ski areas here.

In Europe, more glacier centres have been opening in the Alps in France, Italy and Switzerland and the first events of the 21-22 Alpine Skiing World Cup have been staged at Solden under a blue sky. Mountainous areas in other parts of the continent have seen more snowfall too, including the first for the Scottish Highlands while some areas in Scandinavia have top-to-bottom cover and look almost ready to open if you don’t yet measure the depth.

In Asia, more centres have been opening for the season, including one in China that’s to be an Olympic venue next February.  Over in Japan, there’s been more snow for higher slopes with centres starting to target the end of November for opening.

Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, the 2021 ski season finally ended on Monday with the last areas in New Zealand that had still been open calling it day.

EUROPE INTRODUCTION

Unless things go badly wrong this weekend will see the total number of ski areas open in the Alps pass the 20 mark. It was this time last year when the announcements started to come in from countries like France and Italy, then Austria and Germany, announcing the start of initially short second lockdowns through November that stopped the 20-21 season in its tracks for many major European ski nations.  Not wishing to tempt fate, but this autumn is looking much more promising with the talk continuing to be of how centres will operate and that they definitely will operate. What’s not so great as last year, so far, is the autumn snow, with still only moderate snowfalls reported and few and far between. Last autumn we saw metre plus accumulations through September and October, to add to the pain of the second lockdown!  The European total for areas open already has passed the 20 mark with a handful of ski areas open in Scandinavia alongside the 15 or so in the Alps. It has been snowier up north and there’s been more snow reported for the eastern side of Europe too.

AUSTRIA

AUSTRIA REPORT| Austria remains the country with the most open ski areas as it has been for a month or so now. Seven glaciers are open here already and an eighth, the Dachstein, while not yet announcing when it will be open to the public, has been facilitating race training for the Austrian’s womens’ national squad following their competition in the opening events of the World cup 21-22 tour in Solden (5/70cm / 2/28”) this weekend. Solden is also posting one of the largest ski areas open in the world now, expanding to around 24km (21 miles) of terrain open. Other Austrian areas have been doing the same and year-round Hintertux (0/105cm / 0/42”) has stayed ahead with 38km (24 miles) of runs open (with Mt Hutt closing in New Zealand on Monday, now probably the biggest area open in the world to end-October). It’s also the only centre reporting more than a metre (40”) of snow lying on its glacier.  The Alps could still do with a big pre-season dump, falls to date have not really been big and recent weather has been predominantly sunny. The other open glaciers are the Kaunertal (30/65cm / 19/21”), Kitzsteinhorn (0/55cm / 0/22”), Pitztal (5/60cm / 2/24”), and Stubai (0/30cm / 0/12”). Kitzbuhel is due to make its annual season start this coming weekend, targeting a 200 day season through to next March. It achieves this at the start with snowfarming, using snow from last season recycled to create a few kilometres of slopes up high.

AUSTRIA FORECAST|  The sunny weather is set to continue for the rest of this week and into the weekend, although it will be fairly cool and remain below freezing on high slopes 24-7 and lower slopes at night. The next chance of snow (rain lower down) looks to be early next week.

SWITZERLAND REPORT| A fourth Swiss glacier opened for the season at the weekend, as the country closes in on Austria in terms of areas open, at least four more are set to join them by this weekend.  The Diavolezza glacier (0/30cm / 0/12″) in the Engadin Valley, sometimes called the third ski area of St Moritz, is the latest to open, although initially it is closed a few days midweek.  Then, next weekend Andermatt, Arosa, Crans Montana and Laax are all lined up to open too, taking the Swiss tally to eight, equalling Austria.  The problem though remains limited fresh snowfall, and the onus is more on snowmaking at present, both at the centres preparing to open and those already open. Recent days have been cold, but dry and (up high) sunny, with clouds in the valleys. Saas Fee (0/165cm / 0/66”) has the deepest base in the country and 12km (7 miles) of slopes open. Zermatt (0/150cm / 0/60”) has the most terrain open, some 24km/15 miles. Engelberg’s Titlis Glacier (0/35cm / 0/14”) is the other option available this week.

SWITZERLAND FORECAST| There’s not a great deal of change in the forecast with temperatures remaining cool on Swiss mountains, well below freezing at higher elevations and overnight, so good snowmaking weather. But it’s mostly dry too so still no real sign of a big dump.  The best chance for some fresh snowfall arriving looks to be the end of the weekend.

FRANCE REPORT|  A second French glacier ski area, Les 2 Alpes, has opened its slopes for its traditional October fortnight opening, joining already-open Tignes.  This time last year it did the same but had to close again after a few days as the French government announced ski areas needed to close in the country’s second lockdown. That was expected to continue to early December, but of course, kept getting extended. It’s been mostly cold, dry and sunny on French glaciers this week, the same as the rest of the Alps.

FRANCE FORECAST|  Temperatures should stay below freezing day and night on French glaciers for the coming week. Dry weather until the weekend but then several days of increasingly heavy snowfall from Saturday.

ITALY REPORT|  Sulden (0/30cm / 0/12”) is the latest ski area to open in Italy, taking the country’s tally of open centres to four, the same as Switzerland.  Italy has the same issue of not much fresh snowfall for its glaciers so far this autumn as the other alpine nations. Cervinia (0/150cm / 0/60”) said it was making snow whilst awaiting the arrival of more of the natural stuff. Val Senales (0/40cm / 0/16”) is also open with 8km (5 miles) of slopes accessible now. Passo Stelvio (0/160cm / 0/64”), which has been open since spring, is the fourth Italian area currently open but due to end its season this weekend.  Assuming it makes it it will have done better than last year when it was one of two areas in the country (with Cervinia), closed by the country’s second lockdown, just a few days before its 2020 season had been due to end anyway. The Italian tally of four open areas continues with another glacier ski area, the Presena Glacier above Ponte di Legno and Passo Tonale, scheduled to open then.

ITALY FORECAST| As with the rest of the Alps, the next seven days look predominantly dry and sunny, unfortunately. Although there could be snowfall on higher Italian slopes from Sunday. Cold to very cold (freezing to ten below Celsius) in the mountains, not freezing but cool (+5-10V) in the valleys.

GERMANY REPORT|  A cool but largely dry week for Germany’s mountains.  There’s nowhere open yet and most areas don’t plan to open until December, but the highest slopes up on the Zugspitze Glacier have seen some October snowfalls and will open next month they hope, for the first skiing since spring 2020.

GERMANY FORECAST|  More of the same with low temperatures but dry weather. The next front to bring rain /snow is expected to move in at the start of next week/November.

Ruka resort this week

SCANDINAVIA REPORT| Scandinavian mountains have been turning white this week with some of the more snowsure resorts like Norway’s Roldal showing top to bottom coverage and about 30cm (12”) of snowfall lying. The same is true up in Lapland where Levi (5/30cm / 2/12”) and Ruka (10/50cm / 4/20”) have now been open for three weeks, originally thanks to snowfarming but now with a top-up of good natural cover on top. Ruka has announced more terrain is now open although it remains limited at this time of year. Back in Norway Scandinavia’s highest slopes on the Galdhopiggen glacier (20/60cm / 8/24″) remain open, also in the best shape they’ve been for months thanks to fresh snowfall. They have extended the season there through to mid-November. Sweden’s Idre Fjall (0/70cm / 0/28”) and Kåbdalis (45/100cm / 18/40”) have also opened for the season with snow-farming, although initially focussed on cross-country terrain in Idre Fjall’s case.  Both have about a kilometre of downhill slopes open initially.

SCANDINAVIA FORECAST| Generally snowy weather is set to continue into early November in Scandinavia over the coming week with most days looking likely to bring precipitation and temperatures close to freezing throughout, especially at higher elevations and northerly latitudes. More likely rain further south.

SCOTLAND REPORT|  Scottish mountains (other than the country’s very highest peaks which had already had earlier dustings) saw their first visible snowfall on higher slopes during a brief temperature dip in the latter half of last week. Temperatures remain warmer than the seasonal norm as has been the case all autumn so far but there was enough snow to scrape up a snowball for a few hours.

SCOTLAND FORECAST|  There’s a lot of precipitation forecast for the final days of October and the start of November in Scotland’s hills. But, unfortunately, whilst it’s getting a little cooler, it looks like this will fall as rain rather than snow on all but perhaps the very highest slopes.

SPAIN / ANDORRA REPORT|  It has been generally dry and sunny on the Iberian peninsular in recent days, but temperatures in the mountains have been dropping to freezing overnight, with daytime temperatures quite cool too. It’s about a month now until the main ski season is due to begin.

SPAIN / ANDORRA FORECAST|  The dry, sunny weather is expected to continue for the rest of this week. Although temperatures should remain cool. A weather front moving in at the weekend should bring precipitation, potentially snow at altitude.

BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT|  It has been generally sunny in southern European mountain regions over the past week or so, with temperatures between freezing and plus 10 Celcius. It’s still over a month until the first areas are expected to open.

BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST|  More dry, sunny weather for the next seven days, with temperatures around freezing overnight and at altitude. The next chance of any precipitation looks to be at the start of next week.

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT| There’s been more snow at altitude in the Czech and Slovak Republics. The leading Czech area of Spindleruv Mlyn was among those posting pictures of a snow-covered upper mountain at the weekend.

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST|  The remainder of this week looks mostly dry and fairly sunny with temperatures close to freezing in the mountains, 5 to 15 above in the valleys. Some precipitation is forecast from Saturday which may well be snowfall up high.

NORTH AMERICA

Mammoth resort this week

NORTH AMERICA INTRO| The big news for North American skiing this past week was a huge snowstorm that hit the continent’s West Coast on Monday and for some areas represented one of the biggest October snowstorms on record with up to 42” (105cm) reported. Mammoth Mountain had already brought its expected opening date forward by a fortnight to open this Friday, in anticipation of the snow’s arrival. In the meantime, a third Colorado ski area, Keystone, has opened for the season. Elsewhere in Canada and the US, there’s been colder weather in the East and Midwest, including the first snowfall. No resorts are reported to have opened here yet but with the change in conditions, it seems likely that with snowmaking one will open very soon.

ROCKIES REPORT| Drier weather in the Rockies than over in the west although some snow has been falling again in the past few days and at the time of writing North America’s only areas open for the season already remain in Colorado. Keystone is the latest to open joining Arapahoe Basin (both open daily) and Wolf Creek (currently open weekends). A fourth area, Loveland, says it expects to have an opening day announcement later this week.

ROCKIES FORECAST|  A dry and sunny latter half of this week with temperatures fluctuating about ten degrees on either side of freezing point through the 24-hour cycle. The weekend looks more unsettled with the chance of fresh snow flurries.

Heavenly resort this week

USA WEST REPORT|  A huge snowstorm that hit the US West Coast on Sunday and continued through Monday brought one of the largest accumulations of October snowfall on record. Mt Rose posted the biggest snowfall (38-42″ / 95-105cm) crediting its high elevation but Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley) came close saying it had had at least three feet (90cm) at the top of the mountain. Mammoth Mountain had already announced, in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, that it now plans to open two weeks earlier than originally intended, this coming Friday instead of November 13th, ready for Halloween weekend.  It’s not yet clear if other areas will do likewise and open early. Heavenly has indicated it’s sticking to its original November opening date.   It’s all a big turnaround after several of the state’s ski centres have been battling huge forest fires over the past two months due to a very hot, dry summer and early Fall.  Other parts of the west also saw snow from the storm but it was inches rather than feet for most.

Palisades Tahoe resort this week

USA WEST FORECAST|  After the big snowfall we’ve returned to mostly dry and generally sunny weather. It is staying cool, however, with temperatures close to freezing in the mountains and staying cool in the valleys. The next front is expected to move in early next week.  

MIDWEST REPORT|  Midwest ski areas have been celebrating their first dustings of snow in the past week, with very light snowfall from Friday onwards. Several centres were open thanks to snow-making by mid-October last year so the race remains on to be the first in the region to open for 21-22.

MIDWEST FORECAST| Snow-making conditions continue to be marginal in most Midwestern areas with temperatures back up to 5-10 degrees above freezing, unfortunately. Rain is more likely over the next few days, drier into the weekend, overnight temperatures around freezing by then.

Whiteface resort this week

USA EAST REPORT|  There’s been light snowfall and cold weather for the Eastern US raising hopes that one or more ski areas will open there soon, using snow-making. Often resorts like Killington, in Vermont, are able to open in October this way. Whiteface posted images of its upper mountain covered in fairly deep snow this week.  For now though the wait continues.

USA EAST FORECAST|  Snow-making conditions remain marginal but sub-zero temperatures are forecast for much of this week overnight on higher slopes. So there’s a possibility before Halloween that one or more areas might make it. Drier midweek, precipitation at the weekend, but it is looking more like rain than snow except perhaps up high.

CANADA

Big White resort this week

CANADA WEST REPORT|   It’s increasingly snowy in Canada’s west with webcams at ski areas in Alberta and BC showing increasing amounts of snow being deposited on higher slopes. Big White reported 8 am (3″) or snow on Monday down to base level. We should be only a little over a week away now from the start of the ski season here and indeed for all of Canada with Lake Louise expected to be the first, or one of the first to open, as soon as next week.  Temperatures in the Banff region are typically at or below freezing for much of the time and there’s been a mixture of snow showers and sunny spells over the past few days.

Lake Louise resort this week

CANADA WEST FORECAST| It is looking pretty good for the build-up to the new ski season starting in Alberta with temperatures set to stay close to freezing (and drop as low as -10 Celcius in the mountains overnight) over the coming week, with more light snow showers forecast.

CANADA EAST REPORT|  Colder weather at last in Eastern Canada brought some snow to higher ground in the latter half of last week. Massif du Sud went a little further than most of Quebec’s ski regions in getting some snow together for a jib contest at the weekend as the centre ‘kind of’ kicked off winter in the east with a pre-planned ski and board festival. Probably still a few weeks until the first proper resort opening though.

CANADA EAST FORECAST| After a rainy few days to start this week, it looks cool but dry through to the weekend. Precipitation is forecast from Saturday, however, and it could bring more snow to the mountains with temperatures dropping to freezing right down to the valley floor.

ASIA

Wanlong resort this week

JAPAN REPORT|  The season is getting closer in Japan with more snowfall reported on the upper mountain for many of the country’s ski areas. In China, a second area is reported to have opened, thanks to snow-making efforts.  The country’s Wanlong ski centre has opened for the 21-22 ski season which is due to see it host the snowboarding parallel slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics next February. It joins already open Keketuohai International Ski Resort in Altay prefecture in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region which has now clocked up a month of the season already.

JAPAN FORECAST|  After a mild start to the week temperatures will fall through to the weekend in Japan, reaching freezing by the weekend in the mountains. However, there’s not much precipitation in the forecast until next week.

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE

The Southern Hemisphere’s 2021 season appears to be now over with Cardrona, Mt Hutt and the two Mt Ruapehu ski areas, Turoa and Whakapapa, closing at the weekend or start of this week. These had been the last areas open south of the Equator.

There have been reports of more snowfall in the Southern Hemisphere, however, with ski areas in Victoria, Australia, reporting a dusting of fresh snowfall to start the week.