Southern Hemisphere snow update August 1st

Time for the Southern Hemisphere snow update. August 1st usually sees us out there posting a live reminder clip to ski or ride every day you can this month – the last of winter down under remember. Seems like that came around quick, or maybe not quick enough for all those still stuck on lockdown..

Sure, spring can be awesome too, but generally snow quality is better in winter and the best powder happens then.

So what is the situation across the Southern Hemisphere as this COVID-19 conflicted snow season continues, or doesn’t?

Here is a hemisphere wide wrap of what’s open, what’s not, what’s good and where you can still go..

Skier jumping at Chapelco, Argentina
Tom Costa at Chapelco, another Patagonian ski classic © Owain Price

Taking it alphabetically from the top, we’ll start with

Argentina: three more resorts open for locals today.

Amazing snow! The best snowfalls in 50 years in some areas, certainly Patagonia has been getting absolutely slammed. But the country generally has endured the longest lockdown/quarantine in the World – since the 20th of March, just extended by the national government again until mid-August. Despite the long quarantine, cases and deaths from COVID-19 have been running at their highest levels ever this week in the Province of Buenos Aires, which incorporates most of the greater metropolitan area of BA, a city of 11 million people.

But in the far flung Provinces (their equivalent of our States) things are mostly much better, with far fewer COVID cases.

Up till now just one resort, the largest in South America, Cerro Catedral outside Bariloche, had been open for local resident season pass holders only with incredible snow conditions. Great snow plus no international or other Argentinian visitors have made for all time conditions – a bit like if Buller had awesome snow right now with Melbourne in lockdown.

The season there is kicking on with more snow this weekend.

Ridiculous amounts of snow in the village at Cerro Catedral © Carmen Price

Three more Argentinian ski resorts open today:

Cerro Castor, the World’s most southerly ski resort, outside Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego opens for locals there.

Chapelco, and excellent medium size resort outside the lakeside town of San Martin 200km north of Bariloche opens for locals there.

Cerro Bayo, a small but fun resort above Villa La Angostura at the opposite end of Lake Nahuel Huapi opens for locals there.

Skier with lake view at Cerro Bayo Argentina
Tom Costa launching at Cerro Bayo © Owain Price

Las Leñas, along with Cerro Catedral the best known internationally of Argentina’s 30 plus ski areas, decided to close for the season, or should that be not open for the season, back in May.

At least the locals in the 4 open areas can enjoy the great snow.

Australia? NSW is looking good, Victoria is just hanging in. Thursday looks to be best day of season so far.

Australia has not been enjoying a great snow season, with Victoria having very little natural snow to date.

Snowmaking at Buller and Baw Baw is keeping those two open in a limited way for the limited regional market allowed to access them. In truth, given the widespread COVID-19 spread in the state even if you can go, maybe it’s better not too. Snowfalls of 30cm or so are forecast from Monday night through to Wednesday.

UPDATE (2 August) with new lockdown Stage 4 for Melbourne and Stage 3 for regional Victoria that basically is the end come midnight Wednesday 5th August ..

Perisher and Thredbo both picked up 80cm or so of snow from the big low pressure storm a couple of weeks back, which then bedded down rock solid up high to provide a decent base.

Anywhere high with snowmaking has been, and still is, skiing pretty good. Rain last weekend just solidified that base underneath. Unrestricted access for Epic Pass holders makes it the most accessible skiing and riding numbers wise too. We had a lot of fast fun at Perisher on Thursday.

A couple of fronts with some decent snowfall are forecast from Tuesday, which should top things up nicely to make it pretty sweet all over and provide easily the best overall conditions of the season so far.

At Thredbo the good news is the snowfalls this week are forecast to be to down the village, which will really improve the bottom half of the mountain there. The deep but super wet “pow” day a couple of weeks ago was more one for the hardcore purists as we reported then. This week’s snow should be nice and dry by comparison, and provide some more manageable – and fun – powder.

So for NSW skiers and riders who have passes later this week – Wednesday if you can ride out the wind on t-bars while it’s snowing, or Thursday after it blows through and most lifts should be open – will be the best days of the season so far.

Chile – great snow, no one can go!

Like Argentina, Chile is enjoying the best snow in decades. But their COVID-19 situation is even worse than Argentina’s, and the resorts will not open until the government lifts restrictions – the hashtag #quedateencasa (stay at home) remains the constant everywhere.

So from the great resorts of Portillo and Valle Nevado to the volcano ski areas like Corralco, Antillanca and Osorno, its great snow, can’t go.

With so much snow they will be potentially skiable through October (or into November down south) so there may still be some limited local openings. Most resorts say they are still making preparations to do that, so it’s not neccessarily all over yet.

On balance, even our Melbourne followers and fans would likely agree if you have to have a lockdown season at least don’t let it be an all time snow season – so far realistically you have not missed out that much. Maybe that all-timer season will be back around in 2021..

The road to Corralco – so much snow, can’t go.. © Corralco Mountain Resort

Lesotho – first to open in Southern Hemisphere

OK, how many people even knew you could ski in southern Africa? Well you can! Afriski Mountain Resort in the landlocked Kingdom of Leostho (it’s surrounded by South Africa) reaches 3,222m high on the Mahlasela Pass in the Drakensberg-Maluti Mountains. Despite the altitude it’s pretty arid, so they depend on an efficient snowmaking system for most of their snow.

There’s a 1000m long t-bar, 4 button lifts and a carpet with full snow sports school and hire facilities.

This year they were first to open in the Southern Hemisphere, on June 6, and are still going strong – open for locals from Lesotho only though, so the neighbours can’t come down from Johannesburg or wherever, which means the slopes are less crowded in the meantime. They have also had to cancel popular events, but otherwise are operating normally.

When things get back to normal generally Afriski is definitely one to put on the bucket list if you are going to be in southern Africa anytime from June to August.

Going the slash for opening day at Afriski © Afriski Mountain Resort

New Zealand beat COVID, all open, wish we could go ..

Nowhere with ski resorts has done better then New Zealand in getting COVID-19 under control.

The benefits of that meant their ski resorts could open as soon as they had the snow to do so, and with very few restrictions – as we reported at the time, Mt Hutt was the first to open and has been going strong ever since.

The season hasn’t been huge snowfall wise, and most of the Canterbury areas from Porters Heights commercial area to the club ski fields, were slower to open than normal, but there is enough snow all over now. Some decent snow in the forecast late next week for much of the South Island – from Treble Cone to Temple Basin – should kick things along nicely for the rest of the month.

But TC in particular has already had some great pow days – like this one for their FWT champion Craig Murray..

Which is awesome for Kiwis!

For Aussies the chances of a Trans-Tasman Bubble happening in time for the snow season have receded – if other Australian states have shut their borders to Victoria and Sydney the chances of NZ opening theirs to Aussies are pretty much zero now.

Outside Queenstown The Remarkables opened the new Sugar Bowl Express 6 pac chair today.

First rides on the new Sugar Bowl Express chairlift at The rEmarkables, Queenstown
First rides on the new Sugarbowl Express at The Remarkables © Cameron Kerr / nzski.com

South Africa: closed by COVID..

Last, and least, South Africa normally is the 5th country in the Southern Hemisphere to offer lift accessed skiing.

Similar to Afriski, their single small resort of Tiffindell depends almost entirely on snowmaking to operate. This season with the COVID lockdowns and restrictions across South Africa they were forced to close, with little prospect of re-opening before it gets too warm to operate for them anyway – June to August is their normal ski season.