Issued: 12th October 2022

By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne

World Overview

We have reached that tipping point in the year when there are more ski areas open in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern. Not that there is a lot of change on a week ago, nor that many centres are open at present. But a few more have opened in Europe, thanks to fresh snow on glaciers or using snow farming and recycling last season’s snow to build an early base and a few of the remaining handful operating in the Andes and New Zealand a week ago, ended their 2022 seasons at the weekend. So we are now in a position where the numbers open north of the Equator are back into double figures, on the southern side, back down to single figures.

Whatever the number of ski areas open, it has continued to snow on both sides of the world, Resorts still open in New Zealand saw a good October snowfall in the latter half of last week, and more snowfall was reported on high slopes in Europe and North America too. Snowmaking was reported underway at several resorts in the Andes. Elsewhere in the world the first snowfall on Mt Fuji in Japan last week was followed a few days later by the first snow reported up high on Niseko’s iconic Mount Yōtei. That snow dusting was spotted 12 days earlier than the first snow seen in 2021, which locals are enthusiastically taking as a promising sign for the winter ahead.

Niseko resort this week

The four centres newly opened in Europe in the past week include the first two to open in Finland for the 22-23 season, meaning we now have centres open in five European nations although the world total stays at lifts turning in seven countries on three continents as we have lost Argentina with the last area still open there for the 2022 ski season closed on Monday.  The number of centres open in the Alps has reached double figures with more centres open in Austria and Switzerland, all glaciers of course.  Austria now has the most centres in the world open of any one country, more than half of Europe’s total, with seven. France is due to open its first glacier centres this coming weekend, all being well.


Saas Fee resort this week

The wind-up to the 22-23 ski season continues with more ski areas opening and temperatures staying around freezing at altitude with light to moderate snowfalls reported up high. So it’s currently a slow building up, but moving in the right direction, rather than anything dramatic like a huge pre-season snow dump.

In terms of ski areas open, the main news is that the two leading Finnish ski areas of Levi and Ruka opened last weekend as planned, using snow-farming to create runs by spreading last winter’s snow back down the slopes. A third new opening this week is the Kitzsteinhorn, in Austria. This takes the number of Austrian glacier resorts open to six (seven if you include the cross-country skiing only option of Dachstein), more than any other country on the planet at present. The fourth ‘new’ opening of the past week is Saas-Fee. It actually opened mid-July so three months ago but has previously restricted access to provide vital training grounds for race teams in summer training, not the general public, as the summer heat reduced what could be opened to a few kilometres. Cold and snow in the past few weeks though have allowed it to re-open for all.

Ruka resort this week

France is expected to start its 22-23 season this weekend with Tignes due to open on Saturday.

Molltal resort this week

Austria has the most ski centres open in the world at present at seven, more than half the Northern Hemisphere total, with the Kitzsteinhorn (0/70cm / 0/28”) the latest glacier area to open at the weekend. Two more are expected to open later this month: the Molltal, an eighth glacier area, and Kitzbuhel, using snow farming.  Conditions on the glaciers are reported to be pretty good despite thin cover for most. It has been cold, around freezing, on glaciers and mostly sunny with light snowfall adding a small refresh to slopes, with some seeing larger falls of 4-8cm (2-3″) at the weekend. With 23km (15 miles) of slopes open the Hintertux glacier (0/45cm / 0/18”) is posting the most slopes open in Europe at present. This is the only centre to have stayed open all year. Solden (0/85cm / 0/34”), which is due to host the opening races of the 22-23 World Cup ski season, which is not far behind with nearly 20km (13 miles) of slopes open so far. The other centres have less snow and less terrain. There’s Kaunertal (10/30cm / 4/12”) with 10km (6 miles) of slopes open so far, the Stubai (0/15cm / 0/6”) with 8km (5 miles) and the Kitzsteinhorn offering similar. The Pitztal (0/65cm / 0/26”) has only opened 6km (4 miles) of Austria’s highest slopes so far.  The Dachstein is open but only for cross-country skiing this winter they say.

The mixture of sunshine and snow showers looks set to continue through the week ahead. Not really big snowfalls forecast at present but light to moderate accumulations and temperatures ranging between -5C and +2C, so looking good for those already on the slopes and want a refresh.

The big news from Switzerland this week was the decision to re-open the glacier at Saas-Fee (0/70cm / 0/28″) to all. It has only been open to race teams for training for the last few months since opening in July, due to the warm temperatures and lack of snow cover limiting what could open.  “The glacier ski area will be open again without restrictions from Friday, October 7th, 2022,” a resort media statement explained earlier last week, adding, “The wintry temperatures and snowfall have had an effect. In Saas-Fee, the glacier ski area will be open again without restrictions on Friday.  It joins Zermatt (0/30cm / 0/12”) as the second open Swiss area. More centres including Engelberg, Adelboden, the Diavolezza Glacier Near St Moritz and Andermatt are expected to open later this month.  Both centres have seen light to moderate snowfalls over the last seven days with temperatures staying close to the freezing point on their glacier slopes. There’s been plenty of sunshine too.

Light snowfall and more sunshine are in the forecast for the rest of this week with conditions in something of a holding pattern. Overnight lows are down to -5C on glaciers, but creeping a few degrees above in the daytime. Closer to +10C at 2000m and only 5-10 degrees warmer in lower alpine valleys.

The French ski season is due to get underway this coming weekend with Tignes  due to open on Saturday, all being well. Les 2 Alpes had announced a complex opening schedule planned over the next three weeks with its glacier, which it claims as Europe’s largest for skiing and boarding, due to open weekends from this coming Saturday too, and most weekdays over the next three weeks for recreational skiing and boarding. But after this weekend some days in the first week will be limited to just race team training. That has now changed though to full public opening from the weekend after next, the 22nd, and the resort should host World Cup Ski and Snowboard Cross 22-23 season-opening races later this month. It will then close again for a few weeks before starting its season proper later in the autumn. It’s simpler at Tignes though, a seven-month straight and long ski season there should start on Saturday.  It has been mostly dry over the past week with plenty of sunshine but staying cold up at glacier level with some snow flurries in the French Alps.

Staying cold but dry, mostly, for the next few days, with lots of sunshine. However, this coming weekend currently looks promising for snowfall, with 20-40cm (8-16″) of snow forecast from a major front due to move through.

Following the re-opening of Cervinia’s access to Zermatt’s glacier slopes at the start of the month we continue to have three Italian centres operating with Val Senales and Passo Stelvio (5/20cm / 2/8″) the other two. As is apparent from the snow depth stats, more snowfall is needed and the amount of terrain open so far is limited. Val Senales (0/15cm / 0/6″) added some cross-country trails to its downhill slopes in the last week. Much of the past week has been dry and often sunny though, or temperatures at altitude have remained close to freezing on glaciers keeping what snow there is in good shape. There have also been some light dustings of snow in the evenings since the weekend with most centres seeing a few centimetres here and there but looking for a bigger dump.

Quite a promising week ahead for Italian glaciers with overnight lows of -4 to -6C, light to moderate snow forecast and daytime highs only a little above freezing, so looking good for the next seven days with some good slope refreshes if not really any sizable snowfalls expected.

The big news for Scandinavian skiing this week was the annual early-October opening of Levi (20/50cm / 8/20”) and Ruka (20/50cm / 8/20”) ski areas, both creating a kilometre or two of snow slopes using snow farming – spreading snow stored through the summer in huge covered piles back out on the slopes now temperatures are dropping so the rate of thaw is slow, and it’s about cold enough overnight to top up with snowmaking and there’s a chance of natural snowfall too. They join the Galdhopiggen summer ski area (5/50cm / 2/20”) in Norway which is coming to the final month of its six-month 2022 season but has had fresh snow cover in recent weeks and is reported to be fully open. The weather has been mixed with sun, rain and snow flurries and fairly cold, freezing to +5C range.

The mixed conditions and cool temperatures are forecast to continue through the coming week. Overnight lows are close to freezing, daytime highs only around +5C – so still a little warm for snowfall or snowmaking but equally the farmed snow shouldn’t melt much.

Southern Hemisphere

The Southern Hemisphere’s ski season continues its wind down with six ski areas still open,  two-thirds of them in New Zealand and two in the Andes, half of them will close this weekend. Springtime is reaching its midway point so although there’s been fresh snowfall (including a  decent dump in Australia, where all areas have been closed since the start of the month) the overall thaw is inevitably winning the day.

In the Andes, which saw a decent dump at the end of last week, the largest on the continent for uplift, Argentina’s Catedral near Bariloche in Argentina, ended its season on Sunday having previously dropped from its potential 120km (75 miles) of slopes to just 10km (6 miles) for its final weekend.  La Hoya also closed in the past few days. In Chile, the last major centre open, La Parva, also closed but Antillanca (30/200cm / 12/80″), the only ski area in the world currently posting a two-metre base, will open for one last weekend, this coming weekend, and will be the last centre still open in the Andes for 2022. It closes midweek this month.

Mt Hutt (100/140cm / 40/56”) appears to be in the strongest position for operations in the latter half of October with temperatures dipping as low as -12C at the end of last week and an unusually good 20cm or so of fresh snow too (for the time of year) with a mid-spring front moving through. It’s also posting the world’s best snow depths. The same front hit the North Island too but once again this season failed to deliver so much with snow-starved Mt Ruapehu reporting just a dusting. It says Whakapapa (0/40cm / 0/16”) currently plans to stay open to the weekend of the 22nd/23rd, all being well, the same as Mt Hutt, making these two likely the last two open in the Southern Hemisphere for 2022 as of next week. Whakapapa has previously taken that ‘last-till-open-in-the-Southern-Hem’ many times before. Its neighbouring slopes at Tūroa, though, had to close earlier than hoped: “Mother nature threw everything at us this season, and I am immensely proud of what the team here at Tūroa has achieved with what little snow we had. We gave it our best and learnt a great deal along the way. Bring on 2023,” commented Johan the Tūroa Ski Area Manager. Mt Hutt says after its main slopes have closed it plans to keep its terrain park open for a few more weeks into November. Since the snowfall at the end of last week it has been a mixed bag of weather with overnight lows typically hitting -5C but daytime highs up to +10C so freeze-thaw still but with thaw inevitably the winner as we reach mid-spring. Cardrona (35/97cm /  14/39″) is in the final days of its 2022 season, closing Sunday. It is though currently posting the most terrain open in the world, 36km (23 miles) of slopes. The Remarkables (70/130cm / 28/52”) also closing Sunday.

Mt Hutt resort this week

Mixed conditions in the forecast similar to the past week with still subzero overnight temperatures up high and the likelihood of rain/snow, however. But daytime highs in double digits meaning the thaw continues to gather pace overall.

USA / Canada

Anticipation for the start of the North American ski season is growing as October progresses. Several high-altitude ski areas in the Rockies have announced they’ve begun snowmaking, as has at least one in the aest, although all say it’s too soon to announce a target opening date.

Although there’s not much fresh natural snowfall to report, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, high areas in Colorado and likely candidates to be first to open, have both turned on snowmaking systems as temperatures have dropped overnight. A-Basin said snowmaking was possible in the coldest hours of the night with the automatic guns firing up in the early hours and they were hopeful this operable period would get longer through this week. It’s not just the west though, Killington in Vermont in the east, another candidate for first in North America and if not, first in the eastern half, announced it had started snowmaking at the weekend too. It ruled out opening this week but didn’t rule out next.

Arapahoe Basin this week

Sunshine has dominated across much of the US over the past few days and the looks set to continue through this week. That said a front moving through midweek may bring a little snow up high in the Rockies. The good news is more cold weather is expected overnight on high slopes in Colorado allowing snowmaking to continue.

We’re potentially only three weeks or so away from the first centres open around Banff in Alberta with Lake Louise targeting 4th November and others likely to open around then.  The past week has not been a huge help in the early opening cause though with wall-to-wall sunshine although temperatures have got below freeing up high at night. It has been cold overnight in the east with lows several degrees below freezing, just about snowmaking temperatures for any resorts wanting to get a head start on the season there. Daytime highs are +6 to +10C though so anything made so far might not last long.

It’s looking like it’ll stay sunny and get a little warmer in the west. Getting a little warmer and wetter in the east this week with the season start probably still six weeks or more away.