Ski resorts across Europe will open this weekend ahead of schedule after the biggest November snowfalls for at least a decade - in some places the biggest November snowfalls in more than 40 years - including 60cm (23in) of snow on Alpine slopes and even more in the Pyrenees.

"This is nature's way of cocking a snook at the experts," said Christian Rochette, the director of Ski France International, the tourist body for French resorts.

"We've got excellent conditions for this time of year and very cold temperatures, which means we can use the snow cannons to make artificial snow as well," he said.

Snow is thigh deep

Michael Broom Smith, of Purple Ski, said: "On the lower pistes, the snow is thigh deep and beautifully light and fluffy and more snow is forecast this weekend."

Val d'Isère will also open today with snow two metres deep at 3,000 metres. "We've often had to put off the opening," a tourist office spokeswoman said. "Last year we opened a few slopes at the start of the season but this year we're opening them all."

Snow in parts of Switzerland 12 times deeper than average

The Ski Club of Great Britain said that snow in parts of Switzerland was 12 times deeper than average.

Pyrenean resorts are also enjoying snowfalls unseen for years. "Oh, what happiness!" said Hervé Mairal, director of the Pyrenean Tourist Federation. "We've got 95cm at the foot of the slopes and 1.4m at the top. We've not had that for a decade."

Best start in four decades

Andorra, which has had some poor conditions in recent years, is enjoying its best start to a season for four decades and both the main areas of Grandvalira and Vallnord will be open fully from this weekend.

On the Spanish side Roberto Buil, the marketing manager of the Baqueira Beret resort, said that the slopes had opened on November 22 for the first time in 44 years. "All our 69 ski runs are open," he said. "We are having an amazing start."

The cold snap comes after an OECD report said that a two-degree rise in temperature could eliminate a third of all Europe's ski slopes over the next 40 years.

See theentire article by Mark Frary, entitled "Winter resorts revel in white gold after best snowfall in decade"
"Some of the best, understated 'youse global warmers are all f***in' idiots' quotations I've ever read," says reader Rhys Jagger.

"For the benefit of your non-English readers, 'youse are all f***in' idiots' was a classic statement by famed Scot, Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the English Premier League's most famous and undoubtedly most successful manager, when the media came out with some typical poorly researched drivel (e.g. 'England will slaughter Croatia away from home in 2006', Sir Alex: 'Croatia haven't lost a competitive match at home for 12 years'.)

"I support Sir Alex' biggest long-term rivals, but every so often I doff my cap to the great man's sense of literary genius," says Jagger
* To cock a snook

"The gesture of derision it encapsulates is that of putting one's thumb to one's nose and extending the fingers. Waggling them is optional but greatly improves the effectiveness of the insult. The gesture is widespread but names for it vary: cocking a snook is mainly the British name for what Americans, I think, sometimes describe as a five-fingered salute. Heaven knows what the notably blunt Australians call it.

"...folk etymology often turns the phrase to cock a snoot, since snoot is known as a slang name for the nose. (It's another variant of snout.)"