NEW ZEALAND weather has become much less stormy
Light snowfalls and light winds have been the theme at many resorts
With 3.5 m base, Mt Lyford is probably the snowiest resort in the Southern Hemisphere
A cold southerly moves up the east coast on Friday and Saturday
Snow will fall to low levels but it will not be very heavy
A return to a typical winter weather pattern next week
Weather systems from the Tasman will bring snow and strong NW winds next week
Further snowfalls in store for Australian ski resorts
Last weekend was snowy – Perisher Blue received 35 cm over 24 hours
Resorts in Argentina and Chile saw heavy snow last weekend
Wind has affected the snow at some resorts, but the week began mostly fine
Expect fresh snow this weekend at southern resorts
More widespread snow in the middle of next week
Early this week was very warm and mostly sunny across the glaciers of the Alps. Too warm in fact. In France Val d'Isere has closed for the summer ski season while in Italy the Presena Glacier is also closed due to insufficient snow depth, as is the Stubai glacier in Austria. The other glacier resorts are open for business but as usual at this time of year, early skiing is essential to avoid the wet and heavy afternoon snow. Thursday is cloudier and afternoon showers are probable. Low pressure looks like it will take up residence close to the British Isles for the week ahead but the associated cool NW air does not look likely to have any lasting influence over the Alps. Showers on Thursday and Friday with some snowfall possible in Zermatt but rain showers elsewhere. The weekend looks like it should be generally fine. On Tuesday morning Tignes and Zermatt may see some fresh snow with lower temperatures to follow and scattered light snowfalls for the remainder of the week above about 3000 m.
With the single exception of great spring skiing conditions around Broken River, the 2007 ski season was far from ideal in parts of New Zealand. It was so marginal that Temple Basin did not open at all and Mt Olympus only opened fleetingly. The 2008 season began at the end of a long drought but as soon as La Nina pattern ended things improved very quickly. Since mid-June New Zealand has had some superb conditions. The only caveats being that the weather has been a bit too wild at times in the north – record snowfalls one day, rain and severe gales the next. Central ski resorts from Mt Lyford to Arthurs Pass and Mt Hutt have been excellent right from the start – certainly the sweet spot this season. Three weeks ago, heavy falls in the Mackenzie district brought about dramatic improvements to places like Fox Peak, Mt Dobson, Round Hill, Ohau and Alpure Peaks too. Further south it has been a fairly average winter with fewer heavy snowfalls but less wind and more fine weather too. Calling it average should be put in context – an average ski season in the Southern Lakes region is very good by most standards but the prevailingly dry central Otago climate can limit the scope for big-dump off-piste days. When they do happen, the snow tends to be drier and closer to powder than anywhere else in New Zealand.
The last of a sequence of very severe storms moved away from central South Island on August 1st – a week ago. In some areas of the top of the south this was the most destructive storm for several decades. Apart from serious problems from landslips, flooding and stormy winds across Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson the other legacy of this tropical system was some impressive snowfalls at the ski resorts in these areas. Mount Hutt and Porters received about 75 cm of snow in a 24hr period and Mt Lyford received over 1 metre – all the more remarkable because this was fairly wet stuff. At nearby lower elevations up to 20 cm of rain was recorded from this weather system. Mount Hutt has also got dumped on to the tune of more than 2 m of snow in the space of a week and nearby Porters has declared these are the best conditions it has ever had. Further snowfalls of as much as 35 cm at Mt Olympus on Tuesday and 25 cm at Mt Lyford in the past 24hrs brings the snow-base for all resorts in this area to between 2.5 m and 3.5 m. Unless there is a prolonged spell of warm NW winds, this kind of snow base should guarantee that the 2008 ski season runs well into October and beyond. We are not aware that Mt Lyford has ever opened at Christmas, but if they get just one more big snowfall, it may be possible. Mount Hutt traditionally tries to stay open as late as the snow permits whereas at the club fields this is not always practical once visitor numbers drop off. Expect a very late season at Mount Hutt this year. The Southern Lakes region saw several centimetres of snow on Monday and Tuesday – enough to freshen up the pistes but snow bases remain at a relatively modest 80 cm to 1 m, typical for the time of year. Mount Dobson was closed on Monday due to heavy snow bringing the total for the 7 day period there to over 1 m.
The North Island resorts of Turoa, Whakapapa and Tukino on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu have had a very variable ski season so far. It began late but when it did begin so much snow fell over such a short period that it looked as if it could be the best season ever. At one point, snow 5 m deep was reported from parts of Tukino on the east side of the magic mountain. Unfortunately, some of the snow was subsequently lost to rain and wind and even upper snow depth graphs rapidly went into a decline. Several severe storm cycles later and the balance has tipped back to net gains in snow depth. On Thursday they reported a 2.5 m base from Turoa and Whakapapa (less at Tukino), 5 to 7 cm of fresh snow from Wednesday night and bright sunshine, although Turoa was icy off-piste. We are increasingly optimistic about late season conditions here too – our historical snow graph for Turoa shows that they did not achieve this much depth at any time in 2007 and despite the occasional set back the 2008 season is probably the best since 2004, maybe earlier. As long as there is no repeat of last years unusually windy spring, they should see great skiing into November. As is often the case, Manganui has had a similar variable ski season. Being lower and much more maritime in aspect (an area that is far better known for surfing), they suffered greater snow loss during mild spells. They too have improved of late although the 75 cm of base still looks shallow enough to be vulnerable to a mild and wet nor'westers. We mention this because one looks likely to develop on Tuesday followed by another on Thursday as lows approach from the Tasman. As always, be extra careful of the freeze thaw cycle that makes Mount Taranaki the most dangerous in New Zealand – treacherous icy crusts and unbonded fresh snowfalls are the norm here.
Before a westerly storm cycle returns next week, the New Zealand weather will remains subdued for a few more days. Friday and Saturday sees a cold southerly work its way up the east coast with light snow to near sea level in Otago and Southland and a dusting for the Southern Lakes ski resorts, a little heavier for Fox Peak, Mount Hutt, Porters and other resorts closer to the Canterbury plains as well as Ruapehu and the eastern ranges of North Island. A spell of mostly sunny weather follows the passage of this front. A Tasman sea low pressure system crosses the top of South Island on Tuesday and there is a chance that both Taranaki and Ruapehu will see brief rain on Monday on lower slopes as the low approaches – a close call as freezing levels briefly nudge 1700 m. On thing that we are sure of is that the wind will be strong on the upper mountains. Further south, another spell of north easterly winds will bring more snow to the top of the south. Rainbow, Hanmer, Mount Lyford and maybe even Mount Hutt should see this. Westerly winds will bring lower temperatures and further snowfalls to Ruapehu and Taranaki mid-week before a much deeper low approaches South Island next Thursday. It is possible that strong and gusty NW winds may be a problem for many South Island resorts late in the week – right down to the Southern Lakes region. The good news is that the airmass should not be warm despite the wind direction, so Thursday and Friday should bring significant snow to South Island, rather than rain. These rising NW winds reach Ruapehu a day later.
Although Andean resorts have not been as snowy as they were in 2007, this year has provided another excellent season so far especially at the higher altitude more northern resorts such as the Three Valleys. Thankfully, over the past week snow has settled down to resort level at some of the lower elevation places further south and the good news is that two Pacific depressions will track across the southern Andes (one on Sunday, the next on Tuesday) and should deliver more than 50 cm of fresh snow to many resorts, especially from Termas de Chillan south with the southern lakes region favoured. Confidence in the details and especially the timing are currently quite low but the overall picture of further heavy snowfalls in this area should be robust.
In Argentina, much as forecast last week, things have greatly improved at Cerro Catedral following 50 cm of fresh snow right down to resort level on Tuesday the 5th of August. Although great powder conditions were reported, high winds forced about half of the 40 lifts to close. Unconfirmed reports suggest that this had increased to 1 m by Wednesday. The forecast is for snow showers on Thursday but make the most of the weather window. Cloud increases on Friday and when it starts snowing on Friday night, don't expect it to clear again until Wednesday morning. Initially it may be mild enough for rain rather than snow on the lowest slopes. It looks like the heaviest falls will be on Sunday night and Tuesday night but over the whole period another half a metre of snow can be expected to fall. The end of next week is forecast to be fairly mild so you may have to make the most of what is available on the cloudy days if you want to ski the powder before it becomes heavy. Chapelco also benefited from the heavy snow but on Thursday the lifts were wind affected.
Last week we forecast about 40 cm of snowfall over the weekend at many resorts in Chile. On Monday Chapa Verde was in great shape after receiving half a metre of fresh snow over the weekend. Similarly, about 50 cm of fresh snow fell over the weekend at the Chilean Three Valleys resorts of El Colorado, La Parva and Valle Nevado. Portillo did even better than expected and almost a metre of snow fell over the seven days to Monday and like everywhere else had a sunny start to the new week.
Courtesy of Snow Forcast
Abu Dhabi's National newspaper has reported that a team of 114 German engineers have been laying ground works for what will be by far the biggest indoor snow slope in the world at Jebel Hafeet at 2.6km (1.7 miles) long. That is five times longer than the existing longest indoor slopes in Holland and Germany and six and a half times longer than neighbour Ski Dubai. The full area of the slope will be 337,000 square metres, about ten times the largest indoor slope area at present. Reports say that sections of the slope, although possibly not all, will be indoors, with movable sections to allow different slope configurations. Parts of the slope will also be supported by stilts and there will be an indoor ski jump
Lifts Open this Weekend
Whistler - Blackcomb - B.C. Now Closed
Mt. Hood Timberline Lodge - Oregon
Palmer Lift - race lanes upper Palmer- park & pipe lower Palmer
Stubai Glacier -Austria
Hintertuxer Glacier -Austria
Catedral Patogonia - Bariloche
Termas de Chillan
Termas De Chillan
Photo: endlesswintersnow.com Alex Cushing lights Ceremonial torch on the 45th anniversary of the opening of the Winter games
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