The Alps might be experiencing yet another dismal season but in North America it’s a different story
Chairlifts buried. Roads carved out of 12ft snow banks. For those of us who’ve spent the season edging around brown patches it’s unimaginable. But in California it’s reality. In January, Mammoth ski resort clocked two metres of snow in two days. That’s more than most of Europe has had all season. And it’s a story reflected across most of the west coast. The Tahoe resort of Mt Rose, near Reno, has measured 636in so far this season, and Squaw, Kirkwood and Heavenly aren’t far behind with more than 500.
Two metres of snow fell in two days at the start of 2017 in Mammoth: more than many Euro resorts have seen all season | Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism
All that snow doesn’t come without problems. In Mammoth, where roofs are laden with 10ft of snow, a Red Cross shelter has been set up for those displaced by collapses. In Squaw Valley, entire chairlifts and ski patrol huts have been buried. Over in Jackson Hole, heavy snowfall and 75mph winds led to a power outage that kept the resort closed for five days.
A tale of two continents
In the Alps, however, the idea of too much snow is almost laughable. Fraser Wilkins from weathertoski.co.uk has the lowdown. “Snow depths are still below par across most of the Alps, something which should be of concern to lower resorts as we move into the latter stages of the season.
Here’s hoping this sign wont be necessary for much longer #myfallline #weareski #ski #cransmontana #winter #skiing #switzerland #valais #mountain #snow
“Most of the exceptions are close to the French/Italian border, such as Val d’Isère (87/175cm lower/upper snow depth), and Sestriere (50/140cm). There’s still perfect piste skiing at altitude, but good off-piste opportunities are few and far between.”
Fall-Line writer Will Robson, who spent most of January road tripping around France, can back this up: “Fresh snow came, but it was never cold or frequent enough to get a good base, so the sharks were always a hazard. The guides we rode with kept saying how lucky we were to get even that, given another dismal start to winter.”
Even parts of Japan have suffered this winter. Editor-at-large Jonny, who makes an annual trip to Niseko, reports: “My local friends said it was the worst season in a decade – and by far the lowest snow conditions I’ve experienced in five Januarys there. But there was still a lot of snow:
on my 15-day trip I had five powder days.”
In lesser-known Atika, on Honshu, it was a different story. Digital editor Matt was happy to escape a lean Austria to visit in late January. “It was just non-stop… Remember those tacky foam parties dodgy nightclubs used to throw? Imagine being in one of those, but a much colder and cleaner version, with saké instead of alcopops. So much snow fell from the sky that you could feel the mass of it all hanging in the air.
Deep in those dreamy #Tazawako trees. Still snowing… #myFallLine 📷: @ryanadventures ⛷: @clarkleberryfinn
“Coming from a very dry Austria it was odd at the end of a day off-piste to not have to check my ski bases for damage. Rocks, bushes – even roads – buried out of sight and mind.”
Powdery bliss without power outages and collapsing roofs? Sounds like the perfect compromise to us.
Fall-Line staffers reveal their best snow days of the season so far
Four days with no snow in Niseko meant we borrowed a bus and headed the two hours east to little Teine. Incredible views of downtown Sapporo and the ocean, the best steep shots in all of Hokkaido, a heavenly beacon-only freeride zone in the trees, and… no-one around. Get there.
Jonny Richards, editor-at-large
After Christmas in the UK, I got back to the Alps just as the first proper storm started to show up on the charts. In the end, it dropped over half a metre of snow on Sonnenkopf (the black sheep of the Arlberg) – no better way to burn off all that Christmas pudding!
Matt Clark, digital editor
Touring up my local ski resort, Axamer Lizum, before it opened in early November, after a week’s solid snow. There was no base, but a foot or two of snow gave more than enough float to whoop and holla all the way down my favourite red run.
Mary Creighton, assistant editor
In Peisey Vallandry before Christmas we had the tiniest dusting, which swirled into enough little crevices to deliver actual floaty, powder skiing. For about 50 yards…
Dickie Fincher, publisher
Hitting perfect conditions in February in Engelberg, with 20cm of fresh snow anda magnificent descent of the Galtiberg, away from all the Saturday pow-hunters.
Yolanda Carslaw, acting editor