Summer is here and that means the start of the summer skiing season north of the equator, and the main 2018 ski season in the Southern Hemisphere.
Four ski areas are open this weekend in New Zealand after lots of snow and cold weather for snowmaking too over the latter half of May. Some ski areas have received three feet (90cm) of snow so are in great shape for the start of the season and have decided to open up to two weeks ahead of their planned opening dates.
First to open was the little Manganui ski field of Mt Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island where nearly 200 skiers and snowboarders took to the slopes on 31st May.
“First in the country, first in May, and I think we’re also going to claim first in the Southern Hemisphere,” Rhys Williams, President of the Stratford Mountain Club which runs the lifts told local media.
There was a little fresh snow in Australia too for the end of May on top of a big-fall in the middle of the month. Most areas open there on the weekend of 9/10th June although Mt Buller on June 2nd.
Even southern Africa has had some snow on it’s higher slopes where the little ski areas of Tiffindell in the Northern Cape of South Africa and Afriski in Lesotho will open for their seasons in the first few days of June.
The Andes of South America have also seen heavy snowfall although it’s not yet known which areas will open first there. Valle Nevado, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this season, reported 16 inches (40cm) of fresh snow on May 29-30. It’s due to open for the season on Friday June 15.
Closer to home summer skiing is about to get underway at Beartooth Basin in Montana while Whistler re-opens for glacier skiing on June 9 …just as all those ski areas are opening in Australia and New Zealand.
Beartooth Basin (formerly known as the Red Lodge International Ski School) actually had to delay the start of its summer ski season by a week as there was so much snows they needed an extra week to dig out the lifts, so that bodes well for the 2018 season there!
With Arapahoe Basin, Killington and Squaw Valley closing recently the only other ski areas still open in North America are Mammoth Mountain and the Timberline ski field on Mt Hood in Oregon.
If you fancy hopping the pond about half-a-dozen glaciers are open in the Alps too, as well as three up in Norway. The choices include Hintertux, Val d’Isere and Zermatt.
Mammoth recently switched its opening hours to ‘summer ski’ mode meaning the lifts and runs are open soon after 7am but close again in the early afternoon. That’s the ‘summer ski norm’ and the same as operated by glaciers in the Alps. The best snow is up high and the best conditions are in the morning, after the overnight cool down. By late morning temperatures are usually way up above freezing and the wet sticky snow isn’t much fun to slide on until the process repeats next morning.