Issued: 16th November 2022

By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne



World Overview

Verbier

North America continues to be the place, making the snow news headlines over the past week with a swathe of ski areas opening early across the west of the continent thanks to the early snowfall and low temperatures. Last weekend saw the first areas open for the season in states like Oregon and Idaho while there were more opening in California, Utah and Colorado including big hitters like Heavenly and Vail, the former opening a week early. The snow stats in Utah are up to the mid-December average, rather than mid-November.

It’s a more muted picture in Europe where there’s been some snowfall up high, but not a lot, and more ski areas have been opening for the season too, including big names like Kitzbuhel and Verbier, but only a run or two each and open thanks to either glaciers or snow-farming. That said, the first non-glacier, non snow-farming resorts that rely on the altitude of their ski slopes like Obergurgl and Obertauern in Austria are opening. The first in France for 22-23, Val Thorens, was also finally due to open this coming weekend but has decided to postpone a week as the cold and snow have apparently arrived too late for adequate slope preparation. The week did start with snowfall down to about 1500m, so things do look quite promising.

Overall though, North America has overtaken Europe for the number of ski areas open and we’ve climbed up to more than 50 open worldwide.

Europe

Alpe d’Huez

Conditions continue to be increasingly promising in the Alps without a major breakthrough in terms of that big snowfall we’re still waiting for. But it is getting more consistently cold down to lower elevations with the freezing point now more frequently in the 1500-1800m altitude range and light to moderate snowfalls reported at high altitudes. There was also snowfall down to resort level to start the week at ski areas above about 1,500m altitude, raising spirits. Some big-name resorts including Kitzbuhel and Verbier saw their slopes open for the season at the weekend. This coming weekend should see the first non-glacier, non snow-farming centres in the Alps open in Austria at Obergurgl and Obertauern too, all being well. However, hopes that Val Thorens would kick off France’s delayed 22-23 season have unfortunately been dashed as the resort has postponed for a week.

AUSTRIA REPORT
Austria should be the first European country to reach double-figures for the number of areas open with Obergurgl and Obertauern scheduled to open this coming weekend to take the tally to 10. Kitzbuhel (0/30cm / 0/12″) did do its now regular thing of opening a run or two at its high altitude Resterkogel terrain thanks to snow-farming (recycling snow stockpiled from last season) but this week it is only open to race teams; it opens to the public on Saturday. This year the opening is about a month behind pre-pandemic mid-October opening dates when the resort aimed for a mid-October opening. The good news is that it has stayed cold this past week with light snowfalls above 2,000m where there’s more of a winter feel at last. Besides those mentioned, there are the usual seven glacier areas open where things are little changed on a week ago although the amount of terrain open is creeping up by a few kilometres at each. Both Hintertux (0/80cm / 0/32”) and Solden (0/106cm/ 0/43”) now have more than 30km of runs open, the most in Europe if no longer the world. Although with North America mentioning area of slopes open and Europe measuring by length it is difficult to compare precisely.  The Stubai (15/45cm / 6/18”), Pitzstal (5/55cm / 2/22”), Kitzsteinhorn (0/85cm / 0/34”), Kaunertal (35/55cm / 14/22”) and Molltal (0/30cm) glaciers are also open with the Dachstein open to freeriders and cross-country skiers (in other words the ski lifts aren’t on).

Kitzsteinhorn

AUSTRIA FORECAST
Continuing cold, particularly above 1800m altitude with overcast skies and light to moderate snowfalls. Possibly double-digits below freezing by the weekend up at glacier level.

Molltal

SWITZERLAND REPORT
The main news from Switzerland last week was Verbier’s (0/30cm / 0/12”) announcement that it was opening its Lac des Vaux slope from the weekend. The resort says it will open more terrain as soon as it can and that it will re-open weekends until the main season starts on December 3rd. It joins other Swiss centres like Murren (0/30cm / 0/12”) and the Diablerets Glacier (0/30cm / 0/12”) in only opening at weekends so far. The other major resort opening was Glacier 3000 (0/30cm / 0/12”), near Gstaad, which opened despite a major fire earlier this autumn/Fall that destroyed the upper two floors of the building where the top of the access cable car is located but thankfully not the cable car machinery which has been deemed safe. They join Saas Fee (0/180cm / 0/72”) which is reporting the best snow depth in the world at present and Zermatt (0/110cm / 0/44”) which has the most terrain open in Switzerland so far, with 23km (15 miles) of runs available. As to the weather, the good news is it has been becoming more wintery, with snowfall down to around 1,500m this week, resort level for a good number of Swiss resorts, and temperatures around freezing or below most of the time too.

SWITZERLAND FORECAST
Snow showers and sunny spells are forecast for the coming week with temperatures as low as -10C at altitude overnight. Daytime highs are typically below 5C even at lower elevations.

FRANCE REPORT
This was to have been the week that the French ski season finally got underway with Val Thorens due to stage its Grand Premiere opening weekend. They posted this message, “Despite our best efforts to start the season with you on November 19, the warm autumn weather does not allow us to open the ski resort and its slopes in a qualitative way. So, our teams, motivated and optimistic, have decided to push back the opening date. The snow cover on the tops is satisfactory but currently does not allow a return on skis to the village.” There’s initially a one-week delay with the revised opening date of the 26th. That’s the same as Tignes, which, despite posting some very snowy-looking images earlier in the month, appears to have given up the ghost. But there could be a late change of heart, potentially. That said Val d’Isere has announced it’s delaying its season start by a week to December 3rd so perhaps not. Otherwise, the omens are looking promising with snowfall down to about 1500 metres to start this week and cold temperatures to fairly low levels as well. This is hopefully good news for the 26th at least, given Val Thorens’ altitude, for both natural cover and pre-season snow-making.

Tignes

FRANCE FORECAST
It is looking promising for the weather staying cold and increasingly heavy snowfalls towards the weekend. So, hopefully, this will be the boost needed.

ITALY REPORT
Just a few centres have opened in Italy so far, But Sulden (15/50cm / 6/20″) in South Tyrol is a new addition this week.  There was fresh snowfall across western Italy at the start of the week down to about 1500m with Cervinia reporting its first resort level covering, and quite a healthy one. Further east Cortina announced snow-making was underway there. Val Senales (0/40cm / 0/16”) is the other Italian area already open, with 7km (4 miles) of high-altitude terrain available so far.

Cervinia

ITALY FORECAST
Fairly low temperatures but little or no snow forecast across Italy for the next seven days. A mixture of cloud and sunny spells instead. Cold enough for snow-makers overnight at least.

GERMANY REPORT
Germany’s ski season doesn’t usually get going until mid-December but the Zugspitze glacier with the country’s highest slopes is set to open at the start of next month. It has had repeated snowfalls so is currently looking good, although lower-altitude German ski areas will be hoping for snowier weather and consistently lower temperatures soon.

GERMANY FORECAST
A fairly promising forecast for higher German areas with light snowfall above about 2000m and temperatures close to freezing, or below, for the coming week.

SCANDINAVIA REPORT
Scandinavia’s main season should start gathering pace this weekend when the current small list of already-open areas is set to at least double. It’s been cold and sometimes snowy, particularly in the north of the region, as daylight hours rapidly decrease. Levi (5/30cm / 2/12”), in Lapland, is due to host the opening events of the FIS Women’s World Cup alpine ski racing tour this weekend, at the fourth attempt, after Solden, Zermatt and Lech-Zurs all had to cancel theirs due to too much or too little snow. Its fellow Finnish resort Ruka (0/30cm / 0/12”) already open for more than a month is due to be joined by other centres including Yllas and Pyha from this weekend. In Sweden, it’s currently Idre Fjall (0/30cm / 0/12”) and Kåbdalis (0/60cm / 0/24”) in northern Sweden that are open, thanks to snow-making. They’re due to be joined by centres including Hemavan and Tärnaby this weekend. Norway’s only currently open area of Galdhøpiggen does plan to finally end its long spring-autumn 2022 season at the weekend, however. But Oppdal is due to open. So somewhere should be open in Norway still.

Kabdalis
Andermatt

SCANDINAVIA FORECAST
The forecast common to all of Scandinavia is for temperatures to typically be 5-10 degrees below freezing on ski slopes for much of the week ahead. Some areas like Kabdalis currently have sunshine forecast, others, snow showers.

SCOTLAND REPORT
There was exceptionally warm weather for November in the Scottish Highlands last week with daytime highs above +15C and very strong winds. So the start of the ski season feels some way off although things can change quickly of course. Glenshee fired up its snow-making systems for a test run before the warmest weather arrived and said it aims to open for the season the week before Christmas.

SCOTLAND FORECAST
The weather is turning big time in the Scottish highlands with temperatures dropping, gales and torrential rain forecast. Some of this should be snow up high overnight, hopefully.

SPAIN / ANDORRA REPORT
After turning white earlier this month, slopes in the Pyrenees are mostly back to green and brown while they await the next snowfall and colder temperatures for snow-making. Although some areas can open as soon as there’s a decent snow depth and heavy natural snowfall can arrive any time now, most target the start of December for opening.

SPAIN / ANDORRA FORECAST
It is looking promising for snowfall in the Pyrenees over the latter half of this week with sub-zero temperatures down to quite low levels (1500m altitude), especially overnight and light to moderate snow forecast.

BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT
As in most parts of Europe besides the highest parts of the Alps and northerly Scandinavia, the season starting in Romania and Bulgaria is unlikely to be until early December. There have, though, been white coverings of the slopes over the past few months and here too winter is clearly approaching.

BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST
Snow is forecast on high peaks later this week and at the weekend. However, temperatures are still in double figures in valleys.

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT
Czech and Slovak ski areas typically open from late November with most opening mid-December so we’re still a month away for many. It has been cooler with some snow on high slopes over recent weeks. So it’s looking promising at present.

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST
Temperatures staying cold up high and dropping well below freezing overnight with light snow showers forecast.

USA / Canada

NORTH AMERICA INTRO

Almost universally good news for North American ski slopes this week with a surprising number of ski areas on the western side of the continent announcing early openings due to good snowfall in the first half of November and now the long-awaited cold weather has arrived in the east allowing ski centres there to fire up snow-making systems. Midwest resorts have also begun reopening thanks to cold weather here too.

ROCKIES REPORT
More than a dozen ski areas have now opened in the Rockies following the good start to the season there. Most are in Colorado but more have been opening in Utah and the first in Montana and Idaho too.  Among the new openings at the weekend were Vail (4/18” / 10/45cm) celebrating its 60th season and Breckenridge (8/18” / 20/45cm). Most ski areas in the state only have limited terrain open so far but Wolf Creek Ski Area (28/30” / 69/74cm), in the San Juan Mountains, is already 90% open it says, thanks to more than 40 inches (a metre) of snowfall this season thus far, including 26 inches (68cm) in a recent storm. Brighton (51/51” / 128/128cm) and Solitude (45/45” / 112/112cm) opened in Utah, with both posting among the deepest bases in the world so far after big snowfalls there over the past three weeks.

Breckenridge

ROCKIES FORECAST
There have been some very low temperatures in the last week, with the mercury dropping to as low as 20 below freezing in Summit County at the top of the slopes.  A little warmer but still only getting a degree or two above freezing at the warmest part of the day. Plenty of sunshine in the latter half of this week too.

USA WEST REPORT
Mother Nature delivered an intense early-season storm to California bringing heavy snowfall, extreme icing, and winds over 100miles/hr in the middle of last week. First to open for 22-23 in the state, Mammoth Mountain (52/80” / 130/201cm) reported over two feet (60cm) of snowfall from the storm allowing them to significantly expand the limited terrain they had open by the weekend but giving quite a major task to their lift maintenance team to manually de-ice the lifts. Further north, Mt Rose and Boreal were the first Tahoe ski areas to open for the season, last Friday, quickly followed by early opening Heavenly (6/16” / 15/40cm), Northstar (14/22” / 35/55cm) and (three weeks early) Kirkwood (14/21” / 35/53cm). More ski areas are aiming to open this coming weekend including The Palisades, in California, and Crystal Mountain, in Washington state.

Heavenly

USA WEST FORECAST
Unfortunately, after the cold and snowy first half of November, the middle of this week could see temperatures climbing up into the low 60s which will impact the snowpack, particularly at lower elevations, and Timberline, in Oregon, took the decision to temporarily close, having just opened, until things improve.  Hopefully, that’ll be quite soon though with temperatures expected to dip back down at the weekend with the chance of more snowfall early next week. 

Mammoth

MIDWEST REPORT
North America’s 22-23 ski season started in the Midwest nearly a month ago when cold temperatures allowed three areas in Minnesota and Wisconsin to open thanks to their snow-making. These small patches of snow all then melted and they were forced to close again as temperatures rose. But things have now cooled down again once more and the snow-making systems have fired back up and resorts like Trollhaugen and quite a few more are re-opening this week.

MIDWEST FORECAST
Cold temperatures allowing snow-making to continue are expected through the rest of this week.

USA EAST REPORT

After frustratingly warm weather through much of Fall up to last weekend, ski areas in the eastern US have been delighted to welcome cold temperatures over the past few days with most firing up their snow-making systems and announcing their opening days are now imminent.  Killington and Stowe are among the areas likely to have their seasons underway by this time next week.

USA EAST FORECAST

Temperatures are forecast to remain close to freezing over the coming week with 4-10 inches (10-25cm) snowfall expected midweek and again at the end of this week in the Eastern US.

CANADA WEST REPORT

It’s been a good week for Canada’s West with more snowfall building up at already open resorts in Alberta, then the first BC centres opening too, up to 10 days early, and more saying they’ll open early this coming weekend as well. So, back to the stats, Sunshine (10/70cm / 4/28”) now has more than 50km (31miles) of slopes open, definitely in the top three worldwide.  Nearby Lake Louise (39/47cm / 16/19”) is looking great too while Marmot Basin (55/55cm / 22/22”) opened Friday and already has 40km (25 miles) of slopes open.  Over in BC, Cypress Mountain (10/35cm / 4/14”) opened about 10 days early at the weekend crediting snowfall and cold snow-making weather. More BC resorts including Sun Peaks, Silver Star and Big White are lined up to open early this coming weekend, Silver Star has already had more than a metre of November snowfall and its cross-country trails are already open. “It honestly feels like the middle of winter, and this is a little bit abnormal for us. Usually, in the last few years at least, we haven’t seen this much snow this early,” Chantelle Deacon, communications manager of Silver Star told CBC Vancouver. Big White reports about the same snowfall totals and says it’s Nov 17th opening on Thursday will be its earliest since 2016.

Marmot Basin

CANADA WEST FORECAST

After a sunny few days it looks like a mixture of sunshine and cloud but not much fresh snowfall is forecast over the next seven days. Temperatures are below freezing day and night though so good snow-making weather and those early snowfall gains should be maintained.

CANADA EAST REPORT

Temperatures have finally dropped in eastern Canada and snow cannons have fired up ahead of the first ski areas opening there.  Sommet Ste Sauveur and Mont Tremblant were among the ski areas posting pictures of their slopes turning white with machine-made snow. The latter hopes to open by the weekend and others may follow suit.

CANADA EAST FORECAST

A promising forecast for the week ahead with temperatures mostly a few degrees below freezing, skies overcast and frequent light to moderate snowfalls.

Asia

JAPAN REPORT
It’s still a few weeks until the start of the main Japan ski season and although there is more of a wintry feel in the air and mountain tops are increasingly turning white, there’s some way to go before resorts are ready to go. That said, several smaller resorts like Yeti have used snow-making to open a run or two early for the season.

JAPAN FORECAST
There’s predominantly sunny weather forecast across Japanese ski slopes, but to the north, in Hokkaido, there should be snow showers at times. Temperatures get down to freezing overnight and at altitudes, but +5 to +10C at lower elevations.