Issued: 25 May 2022
By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne
North American Roundup
The biggest snow news of the past week came from the Colorado Rockies, where there was an unprecedented powder weekend at the few areas still open after 16” (40cm) of snowfall followed 90F heat 24 hours before. The other snowfall of note was in the southern hemisphere where first Australian slopes saw more snow than expected, then New Zealand was dumped on, ramping up anticipation levels with the 2022 season start less than three weeks away. Low temperatures followed on too and snowguns have been fired up in both countries.
Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere Afrioski in Lesotho also reported snowfall and announced its 2022 season will begin a week on Saturday, the 4th of June, 2022. This is the earliest announced opening date in the southern hemisphere so far.
Back in the northern hemisphere, this time of year sees a number of ski areas re-opening, closing and opening again. The Canadian ski season has pretty much ended in the past few days and the last centre still open in Sweden will close this weekend. But the ski season is about to resume this coming weekend in France and Italy, where the last centres open for 21-22 closed just a few weeks ago, as the first summer ski areas to operate for 2022 in both countries are due to set the lifts turning once more.
SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE INTRO
With just over a week now until the start of the 2022 ski season in the southern hemisphere it appears to be quite a promising picture in most areas. It has turned colder in the ski regions of Australia, Southern Africa, The Andes and New Zealand with each reporting fresh snowfall over the past seven days. Probably more importantly it has stayed cold allowing snowmaking systems to have also been fired up. With Afriski in Lesotho’s announcement that it hopes to open a week on Saturday that could be the start of the 2022 season a week earlier than previously thought. The first ski areas in Australia, New Zealand and potentially the Andes are likely to open a week later.
Some changeable weather including fresh snowfall for Argentinian ski areas where the 2022 season start is still probably 3-4 weeks away for most resorts, although an early opening is always possible if there’s a big dump. This will hopefully be the first proper opening of Las Lenas since 2019 after only a very limited opening in 2021 and being completely closed in 2020. It expects to open in a month on the 25th of June.
The week ahead looks mostly sunny but fairly cold on most Argentinian ski slopes, with temperatures staying below freezing on higher runs, indeed getting as low as -10C overnight. In the valleys daytime highs are in the +3 to +6C bracket, so moving in the right direction. Cloudier in more southerly parts of the country.
The light snowfall expected on Australian slopes in the latter half of last week turned out heavier than forecast in some areas. Perisher, which often opens a week or more earlier than expected, at the end of May or the start of June, posted about 15cm (6″) of snowfall at its mid-station rather than the few centimetres expected. At the end of last week, the resort announced it had fired up more than 50 snow guns to start base building and take advantage of cold temperatures. Thredbo also reported good snow covering down to village level by the end of last week thanks to fresh snowfall over several days there too, as did most other centres in the country.
It is looking fairly dry in Australia for the rest of the week but crucially there’s snow in the long-term forecast, and plenty of it, as we near the season start date in just over a fortnight. 10—25cm (4-10″) is expected with cold weather for snowmaking by the middle of next week and even more falling in the first week of June.
It has been a cold and snowy few days in Chile with temperatures rarely climbing above freezing, especially on higher slopes, and with frequent snow showers reported. The ski season is rapidly approaching now and so far conditions look promising for the lifts to start spinning next month.
Skies will clear for most ski areas in Chile over the remainder of this week with plenty of sunshine forecast. However, although they may rise to high single-figures at resort level over the next 48 hours, temperatures should drop back down to close to, or below, freezing by the end of the week with the chance of more snowfall for some to round off the weekend.
NEW ZEALAND REPORT
The weather turned much more wintery in New Zealand at the end of last week to the delight of skiers, boarders and ski resort operators. Up to about the 20th of May there had been above-average temperatures but the cold snap brought the snowline down below lower ski slopes and deposited 10-20cm (4-8) inches of snow cover with the likely start of the 2022 season just three weeks away. Ski areas across the country posted snowy pics with Ruapehu on the North Island noting, “A half metre (20″) drifts at the top of the road.” Resorts also fired up snowmaking systems to start base building for the first time with lower temperatures set in.
NEW ZEALAND FORECAST
Unfortunately, the immediate forecast isn’t looking brilliant for the final days of May, with temperatures set to climb into the weekend and get back above freezing by Saturday, well above freezing at the base level. It should be largely dry though and temperatures should start to dip again though at the start of next week.
There was fresh snowfall for southern Africa on Friday night and into Saturday, three weeks from the start of the 2022 season. Lesotho’s Afriski posted pictures of a very good covering of snowfall ahead of the weekend and the changeable conditions which saw temperatures dip as low as -6C overnight continued through the start of this week, with some rain showers at lower elevations as well as more snowfall. There’s still no word on whether South Africa’s Tiffindell ski area might open this winter or not.
Sunshine looks to be set in for the next few days with temperatures dropping below freezing overnight but climbing to +5C in the daytime.
France and Italy will rejoin the skiing world this coming weekend with Les 2 Alpes and Passo Stelvio due to open for their 2022 summer ski seasons. In the case of Les 2 Alpes it is less than a month since their winter season ended at the start of June. For Italy, it’s less than a fortnight since the country’s last area open for winter 21-22, the Presena Glacier, ended its season. They’ll join a handful of centres still open from the 21-22 season, most of them into June, in Austria and Switzerland. Riksgransen in Sweden ends its season this weekend, but, with glacier centres open in Norway, there are currently four ski nations open in Europe. This weekend sees us lose Sweden but re-add France and Italy taking us back up to five.
As mentioned in our introduction the ski season is set to resume in France and Italy at the weekend. Otherwise, we had expected to have the same seven glaciers open in Austria and Switzerland as a week ago and possibly the return of the Molltal Glacier in Carinthia after its usual few weeks closure. However, there’s been four bits of bad summer ski news from Austria and Switzerland, with firstly the Kaunertal and Stubai glaciers deciding to close two weeks earlier than planned, suddenly at the weekend, blaming the heat after limited snowfall in the winter. Then the Molltal glacier, which, to be fair, has operated to an increasingly erratic schedule in recent summers, announced it won’t be re-opening for this summer at all and instead drop from an 11 to an eight-month season, aiming to re-open in September or October instead of late May/June for winter 22-23. Finally, the Titlis Glacier at Engelberg in Switzerland, which opened last October, says its nearly eight-month-long season has ended a week early, last weekend.
It has indeed been a very hot and sunny end to May with temperatures reaching +30C in valleys and getting well above freezing even 3,000m up on glaciers too.
Currently, the surviving summer ski areas still open in Austria now that the Kaunertal and Stubai glaciers have closed early and the Molltal has not re-opened is either year-round Hintertux (0/295cm / 0/118”) and the Kitzsteinhorn (0/200cm / 0/80”) above Kaprun. Hintertux is the only centre reporting more than 20km (13 miles) of slopes still open.
In Switzerland, there’s the year-round skiing at Zermatt (0/120cm / 0/48″) on the Klein Matterhorn and about a kilometre of runs still open up at the highest part of the glacier above Crans Montana (0/40cm / 0/16”), which somehow seems to have kept going when others have not.
The warm weather with plenty of sunshine is set to continue over the next few days, with temperatures above freezing on glaciers and hitting +25C in alpine valleys. The weekend does look cloudier, and cooler, dipping back below freezing above 3000m with the chance of snow, rather than rain showers up high.
Riksgransen has ended their fortnight of being able to ski under the midnight sun and will end their season altogether this weekend leaving two centres open in Scandinavia – the glacier centres of Fonna (500/900cm / 200/360”) and Galdhøpiggen (280/320cm / 114/128”) in Norway. Fonna is posting by far the deepest snowpack of any open ski area in the world at present.
Although overnight lows in the mountains have still been getting down to double digits below freezing, daytime highs have been in the +4 to +8C range and unfortunately, there have been reports of rain showers as well as sunny spells. Indeed the Fonna glacier decided to close again on Monday and Tuesday this week due to “poor weather” but reopens on Monday.
Riksgransen has said they won’t re-open for midsummer skiing in June this year. However, a third Norwegian glacier area, Stryn, will open next month for its 2022 season.
It does look cooler for the coming week with temperatures only a few degrees above/below freezing and snow showers forecast for glaciers.
NORTH AMERICA INTRO
A really wild week of weather extremes in the west with temperatures hitting +90F in the Rockies at the end of last week, only to see a 60-degree drop in 24 hours and the arrival of record snowfall, for the time of year, with up to 16″ in 24 hours reported and a powder weekend. This came after resorts like Breckenridge and Snowbird had closed a fortnight earlier than planned a week earlier due to the heat. It was a powder weekend for still open Arapahoe Basin and closing Winter Park.
The other big news from North American late spring and summer skiing this week is that the Beartooth Basin summer ski area on the Montana/Wyoming border, which usually opens for its annual run in late May each year, has decided that it won’t open at all in 2022. The centre had expressed doubts as to whether it would be able to earlier this month, stating snow cover was thin but it would try to move snow about to create a deep enough base to sustain through the season. It’s now announced that hasn’t worked and that it’s taking this year off but will be back in 2023.
The other closure news comes from Canada where the season has ended at Sunshine ski area near Banff and at Whistler Blackcomb, really meaning the end of Canada’s season. Over in the east Sommet St Sauveur in Quebec had managed to keep re-opening a small amount of terrain one day each weekend despite thin cover and temperatures hitting +30C at times, but called it a day on the season on Sunday after opening 180 days, with unfortunately stormy weather leading to the cancellation of the planned last day on Sunday. Sunshine had a great final week of the season, as it had had for much of May, reporting ‘midwinter-like’ conditions and more fresh snowfall in its final week.
Elsewhere we are probably nearing the end of the season at several centres where the target has been to reach the upcoming Memorial Day long holiday weekend in the US, this coming Monday.
Among the ski areas aiming to stay open to next Monday, but probably no longer, are Oregon’s Mt Bachelor (16/83” / 41/206cm), still open daily, as well as California’s Palisades (0/90” / 0/225cm) and the last ski area still open in Washington State, Crystal Mountain (21/78” / 52/196cm), both open weekends.
Mammoth Mountain (18/25” / 36/76cm), still open daily, initially targeted Memorial Day but has since extended the season to June 6th and is suggesting they may stay open longer still, even though the base there has dropped about a third in the past week or so. The US Alpine ski team has been training there recently and some epic mogul fields have been developing
Also still open is the Timberline ski area (168/204” / 419/510cm) on Mt Hood in Oregon, posting the deepest base in the world of any ski area still open for the 21-22 season. This past week has seen it hosting a global meet-up of trail-grooming staff to exchange news and ideas on all things grooming! It aims to stay open to early September and was helped with another 8 inches (20cm) of snowfall at the weekend. It has now opened its Palmer summer ski snowfield.
In Colorado Arapahoe Basin (8/45″ / 20/112cm) is yet to name a closing date, at the time of writing at least, but Winter Park (0/38” / 0/97cm) finally called it a day on the season on Saturday having kept its Mary Jane slopes open to last weekend after resorts like Breckenridge and Snowbird closed early.
Finally, over in Vermont, Killington (8/20” / 20/50cm) managed to survive very warm weather and rain showers to stay open another weekend (Friday – Sunday), maintaining its famous Superstar trail.
NORTH AMERICA FORECAST
Predominantly warm and sunny weather across North America over the coming week but again with peaks and troughs in the temperature numbers, and some periods where cloud is expected. The Pacific Northwest will see overnight lows below freezing but midweek highs in valleys in the 60s and 70s before temperatures drop back again at the weekend. Similar temperatures are a bit warmer for California and Colorado while Oregon has quite a cool week ahead forecast, in the mountains at least. In the northeast temperatures in the 70s (20s Celsius) are expected with mostly sunny skies but with some rain showers possible at the weekend. Killington has said it intends to re-open as usual.
Some good morning skiing and boarding at Gassan (400/590cm / 160/236”) and it has emerged that one slope remains open at Shiga Kogen too, with similar late spring conditions. It has been mostly sunny, although with periods of fog and low clouds in the mountains, and temperatures have reached double figures in the afternoons causing the usual ongoing thaw, but first thing in the morning the snow surface is in good shape.
Mostly sunny weather is expected for Japan with temperatures in the 0-10C range on higher slopes, and 10-20C down at the base. A band of rain will probably move through at the end of this week before sunshine returns.