Issued: 19th October 2022

By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne



World Overview

Engelberg
Engelberg resort this week

The number of glacier ski areas open in Europe continues to creep up with Engelberg the latest to join the party. There are now more than a dozen glacier resorts open, more than half of them in Austria. There’s still not much snow around and little fresh to report over the last seven days and if anything, warmer temperatures in the west too, but they continue to make the best of it.  The only really sad news is France was Les 2 Alpes and Tignes hoping to start the season this month, but both have now decided they won’t because of a lack of adequate snow cover.

There’s not much snowfall to report in North America. In fact, most of the fresh that did fall was in the Midwest, rather than on high peaks, But more and more ski areas have been announcing that snow-making systems have been firing during low-temperature windows in the middle of the night and the hope remains that an area will be able to make enough to open soon. As we post this week’s report there are reports that the first centres have opened for the 22-23 season in the Midwest, the first in North America to open.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the last areas still open in the Andes closed at the weekend and we are down to just two ski areas still open in New Zealand, both probably in their final weeks of full operations. Although, at least one terrain park plans to keep operating into November.

The 22-23 Alpine World Cup skiing tour is on from this weekend with the traditional season start in Solden. But, unfortunately, there’s not enough snow for a planned World Cup Ski and Snowboard Cross tour that had been planned for Les 2 Alpes over the next few weekends. This is now postponed (snowboard) or cancelled (ski).

Europe

The north of Europe has seen fresh snowfall on the hills, particularly noticeable in western and northern Norway over the past seven days. Scotland saw its first proper whitening of Highland mountain tops of the autumn too. In the Alps, they are still waiting for a really good snowfall although glaciers have had more ‘dustings’ to refresh the surface and another, Engelberg, has now opened for its season taking the total where you can already ski or board to about a dozen, half of them in Austria. Where you, unfortunately, can’t ski or board yet though is France. Les 2 Alps, like Tignes, has decided it doesn’t have enough snow on its glacier to open for the season in October as planned.

Kitzsteinhorn
Kitzsteinhorn resort this week

AUSTRIA REPORT
Austria continues to dominate in terms of ski areas open and what each is offering. Although Switzerland’s Saas-Fee has the deepest snow of a still open ski area and New Zealand’s Mt Hutt the most terrain open, at least until its main season ends this coming Sunday, Austrian areas have been opening up more terrain and seeing snow depths gradually increase. The Hintertux glacier (0/70 cm / 0/28″) has the second most terrain open in the world at present and the most from next Monday, with 32km (20 miles) of runs skiable, five times the amount it survived on through the summer when it was the only centre open in the Northern Hemisphere.  Solden (0/85cm / 0/35”) is not far behind though with 27km (17 miles) of slopes open and its here that the FIS World Cup Alpine tour was given the green light to start this coming weekend with GS races for men and women after it passed an inspection at the end of last week.  Also open but with less terrain available so far are the Kitzstenhorn glacier (0/60cm / 0/24″), above Kaprun, Kaunertal (10/30cm / 4/12″), Pitztal (0/55cm / 0/22″) and the Stubai (0/20cm / 0/8″). Most glacier areas are running Oktoberfests, new season gear tests and a number already have their terrain parks open. The Dachstein Glacier is also open but only for cross-country skiing. Conditions have been good this last week with a few light to moderate snowfalls on glaciers refreshing the surface of the thin cover and temperatures staying down around freezing. But a big snowfall would be very welcome to really get confidence levels up. The Molltal glacier and Kitzbuhel are due to open for the season at the end of the month (the latter thanks to snow farming.

Hintertux
Hintertux resort this week

AUSTRIA FORECAST
The dry weather is set to continue and unfortunately, the next few days may see temperatures of +5-6C even at 3,000m. But cooling from Thursday/Friday with the chance of light to moderate snowfalls up high at the weekend.

SWITZERLAND REPORT
The main news from Switzerland this week is the opening of the Titlis Glacier above Engelberg (0/40cm / 0/16”) for the 22-23 season there, opening with about 6/5km (4 miles) of slopes. It joins Saas-Fee (0/140cm/ / 0/56”), which recently opened to the public and has already been open for nearly three months for teams training and Zermatt (0/12cm / 0/5″), which re-opened after a seven-week closure due to the summer heat in mid-September. There the focus is on hosting the inaugural cross-border World Cup downhill races on a new course running over the border into Italy, the first of which is due to take place the weekend after next. Saas-Fee has the most terrain open in the country at present, some 20km (13 miles).  The weather has continued to be mostly dry but cold at glacier level, with a few snow flurries to refresh cover.

SWITZERLAND FORECAST
More sunshine is forecast through the middle of the week. But a front should move across the country on Thursday/Friday, bringing in what initially looks like light to moderate snowfall. Temperatures in something of a holding pattern, close to freezing on glaciers, 15-20 degrees in valleys.

FRANCE REPORT
There’s sad news from France this week with Les 2 Alpes announcing that although it has some snow cover from the recent light falls up high, there’s not enough for it to open for its planned three weeks in late October and early November on what it markets as Europe’s largest skiable glacier.  So with the start of the season at Tignes also on hold, it appears increasingly unlikely that there’ll be any ski areas open in France until November, the first time there’s been no October skiing there, other than for pandemic reasons, for more than 50 years. Tignes does say it will open as soon as there’s enough snow but recent warmer weather can’t have helped much. It climbed back above freezing with daytime highs of +5C on glaciers again in the past few days, which have been predominantly dry and sunny too.

FRANCE FORECAST
The warmer, drier conditions are expected to continue through the next few days but it should cool a little by Friday. It’s a little early for certainty but there are signs of a decent dump this coming weekend with potentially 30-40cm (12-16”) of snowfall on glaciers by Sunday.

ITALY REPORT
There’s no change really on a week ago in Italy with two small glacier areas open with thin cover. It has stayed cold on glaciers but largely dry and sunny, so the effect is very little change. Passo Stelvio (5/20cm / 2/8″) is officially into the last month of its 2022 season, which runs from May to late October/early November; it says it has 5km (23 miles) of runs open. Val Senales (0/20cm / 0/8″), on the other hand, is a month into its eight-month 22-23 season and has a little less terrain open so far. Racing star Sofia Goggia has been among those training there this week. Cervinia is open for skiers and boarders wanting to take a lift up to the glacier areas above Zermatt just across the border.

ITALY FORECAST
Continuing sunny up to the end of this week with overnight lows on glaciers down to -5C but daytime highs up to +6C, warmer than it has been for the past month, unfortunately. Improving from Friday though with colder weather expected and the chance of some light to moderate snowfalls on glaciers.

SCANDINAVIA REPORT
The only part of the world that seems to have been experiencing a real foretaste of winter over the past week has been Scandinavia where resorts like Roldal and Voss in Norway, both famous for their deep snow in mid-winter in normal seasons, posted images of their upper mountains turning white with early snow cover and nice murky cloud cover for the full effect. Three centres are open so far though, as last week, with the region’s highest slopes on the Galdhopiggen Glacier (10/50cm / 5/20″), in Norway, still open after a start-stop-start-again summer ski season, which is due to run to the start of November. The two larger Finnish centres of Levi (0/30cm / 0/12″) and Ruka (0/30cm / 0/12”) are also open, in their cases thanks to snow farming.  Each has just a couple of runs, white ribbons on a brown foliage background so far.  The weather up there has seen a lot of clouds and quite a lot of precipitation with a mixture of rain and snowfall as temperatures up near the Arctic Circle hover a few degrees above freezing at present.  Sweden is expected to open its first centres for 22-23, Idre Fjäll and Kåbdalis, again thanks to snow farming, this coming weekend.

SCANDINAVIA FORECAST
There’s more of the same in the forecast with plenty of clouds expected and temperatures on ski slopes in the freezing to plus-five Celsius range. The weather is likely to be either rain or snowfall.

Southern Hemisphere

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE INTRO
The weather continues to warm up with the snow variously described as “slush” or “pineapple ice cream” at the few remaining ski centres. The last areas that had still been open in the Andes, Chile’s Antillanca and La Parva, closed on Sunday, bringing South America’s 2022 season to a close, its first full one since 2019.  Australia’s season ended several weeks ago now but the country’s slopes did get another snow dump at the end of last week. But as two of the four ski areas that had still been open in New Zealand also closed on Sunday it leaves just two remaining open in the Southern Hemisphere this week as we enter the latter half of meteorological springtime.

NEW ZEALAND REPORT
We are down to Mt Hutt (100/135cm / 40/54”) on the South Island and the Whakapapa ski area on Mt Ruapehu (0/40cm / 0/16″), on the North Island, still operating. Mt Hutt has the deepest reported snow base in the world still and the most terrain open as well with 36km (23 miles) of slopes still skiable bit plans to end its season this coming weekend, then keep its terrain park open for two or three weeks more into November. For Whakapapa it’s more problematic after the poor snow season there. It reported The Knoll and Valley Ts operating at the weekend and that it hopes to stay open longer, as usual, if it can.

NEW ZEALAND FORECAST
Mixed weather continues with overnight lows below freezing but daytime highs hitting double digits. So, very much freeze-thaw conditions. Showers of rain/sleet/snow are probable to throw into the mix. Mt Hutt (100/135cm / 40/54”) is actually still reporting the most terrain open anywhere in the world at present for what will most likely be its final full week of the season. There are 36km (23 miles) of runs to enjoy. For Whakapapa, it’s a battle for survival on several fronts with much thinner snow cover and its parent company going into voluntary administration after a terrible snowfall winter followed the two Covid-impacted ones. So far it has battled to keep a few miles of runs open but it’s unclear how much longer it can continue.  Mt Hutt plans to keep its terrain park open for several more weeks after the main season ends intending to operate into November, the final month of springtime.

USA / Canada

NORTH AMERICA INTRO
Anticipation continues to build for the start of the 22-23 season in North America with more and more centres announcing snow-making operations underway during optimal low temperature windows in the middle of the night, even though there’s not a lot of natural snowfall to report. A little unusually, the Midwest is the area reporting the most snowfall over the past week though and with cold weather also several centres there put their snow-making systems on.  As we publish this week’s news the small ski areas of Wild Mountain and Andes Tower Hills, in Minnesota, say that they will be the first to open in the Midwest and in North America.  It’s only two years since a Midwest ski area won the race to be the first in North America to open. There was heavier snowfall to start this week there too, particularly in the Upper Peninsular area around Michigan.

USA REPORT
The US season is officially underway with Wild Mountain 10/20” / 25/50cm) and Andes Tower Hills (10/20” / 25/50cm) ski areas in Minnesota using snow-making to each open very limited terrain on the afternoon of Tuesday, 18th October. Wild Mountain, which opened at noon an hour before Andes Tower Hills, was the first in North America to open in 2020 as well. A number of other Midwest areas look set to open some limited terrain too in the next few days. Although none have confirmed dates at the time of writing. Most are taking advantage of subzero temperatures for snow-making although some in the Upper peninsular also have an unusually heavy natural snowstorm that’s brought up to a foot (30cm) of snowfall too. In terms of the bigger resorts, further west nigh time snow-making continues through ongoing dry conditions in Colorado and snow guns have also fired up at resorts in other states including Washington. But it is unclear quite how close to opening any of these are. Loveland, in Colorado, has perhaps been the keenest to hint that it may open imminently.  Away from the Midwest, there’s not been much natural snowfall to report but there has been some reported including at Ski Apache Ski Resort, in New Mexico, which saw its first snow of the pre-season on Monday.

USA FORECAST
Although a small Midwest centre or two may be open this coming weekend, the eyes are on the bigger resorts out west and in New England where longer runs will soon be possible. It does look like it will get a lot colder with the chance of snowfall in the Rockies at the weekend. Sunnier and fairly warm in the east though.

CANADA  REPORT
We’re probably still a fortnight away from the start of Canada’s 22-23 season with ski areas around Banff, in Alberta, usually among the first to open from very early November. The past week hasn’t helped much with rather warm, sunny weather dominating much of the country but the end of the week is looking more promising.

CANADA FORECAST
After a few more days of sunshine the weekend is set to bring colder temperatures to mountains in the west, with subzero numbers the norm day and night at altitude and the chance of fresh snowfall too.