If you’re skiing off-piste in the Alps over the next few days, you’d better be very, very careful: the avalanche risk is up to 4/5 in places.
Why? Well, if you’ve read our recent snow reports – on April 2 and April 11, for example – you’ll know that this spring has been a snowy one. According to the Meteo France’s avalanche service, the snow cover is as deep and extensive as you’d expect in mid-March.
But now it’s getting hot: as hot, in fact as mid-June – and the sudden rise in temperature is causing massive discharges of snow. In France in particular there are warnings of avalanches which will carry off the entire snowpack from a section of slope. Afternoons in particular are a time to be careful: but the general rule is to avoid skiing off-piste for the next few days. It doesn’t sound like you’ll be missing much, anyway. The daytime freezing point is likely to be above 3000m all week – and virtually all the powder has gone now. You’ll need to be skiing on north facing slopes above that mark to find anything like wintry snow.
Further east, there’s been less new snow, although it’s just as a warm now. In Austria, the Tirol’s avalanche service warns that the risk of snow slides will climb sharply as the day progresses, rising to 3/5 almost everywhere by late morning.
Of course, skiing on-piste is still possible, in those resorts where the lifts are still turning. You’ll need to respect signs warning of piste closures (the authorities will probably be blasting to set off controlled avalanches): and you’ll need to get up early, ski hard in the morning and then knock off at lunchtime: because on all but the highest slopes the snow will be very slushy in the afternoon. But if you enjoy kicking back on a sun terrace as much as skiing, you should have a high old time.
Here’s a quick sample of conditions today.
Spring has sprung in Scandinavia, too
Up in Scandinavia, temperatures have risen – at the end of a long, cold winter. It’s +8C at the bottom of the lifts today in Are, Sweden. Just over two weeks of skiing remain here – and the season closes with a long weekend of parties in the village, and freestyle skiing on the upper slopes of the Areskutan.
In Colorado, the season has ended with a bang
In common with the Alps, lots of ski resorts closed for the season yesterday in America and Canada. In Colorado, they went out in style – with a morning of deep and delicious powder. Beaver Creek reported 38cm of fresh snow, Vail 33cm, Breckenridge and Aspen 30cm each. One of Aspen’s mountains – Highlands – is open for another week, but otherwise all four ski areas are now closed (Steamboat and Copper are among the others that closed on Sunday). However, there will still be skiing up at Arapahoe Basin until June 2.
Up in Canada, the lifts will be spinning in Lake Louise until May 5, until May 20 in Sunshine Village, and May 27 in Whistler. In Lake Louise, conditions have stayed pretty wintry until now (there was 6cm fresh snow on Friday there, and the high yesterday was -6C). However, it looks as though a mild spell is on the way for the coming weekend.
|France: see our main report. Snow-wise, it’s been a long and memorable season in the French Alps, but spring finally has a firm grip on the region. The sun’s out, and the daytime freezing level is likely to be at the 3000m all week. In Val d’Isere the daytime temperature is up to +12C at resort level and could hit +15C on Thursday. Currently Val Thorens’ snow report talks of 160-370cm of cover and a temperature of +7C at village level. In Tignes the snow’s 135-320cm deep, and the mercury should hit +12C in town.|
|Switzerland: it’s warm in the Swiss Alps too. In Zermatt, the temperature in town could be up to +17C today! Nevertheless, many of the pistes are still open, and there will skiing on the glacier for most of the summer. In Verbier, they’re expecting a high of +17C today as well. There, the snow is currently 48-290cm deep on-piste.|
|Austria: spring has a powerful grip on Austria at the moment, with the temperature in high-altitude Obergurgl expected to hit +11C today. The resort has 62-185cm of settled snow on its pistes. In Lech there’s 80-190cm of settled snow, and the temperature in town is expected to reach +15C today.|
|Italy: the ski season is winding down quickly in Italy now that Easter is over, with only a handful of high-altitude ski areas due to remain open after Sunday. Currently, Cervinia reports 165cm of settled snow mid-mountain and is expecting a high of +15C in the resort.|
|Andorra: midwinter saw heavy snow in the Pyrenees, and the depth of the cover has allowed the resorts in Andorra to stay open longer than usual. In the Grand Valira - Andorra’s biggest ski area – the lifts will be spinning until April 28. The resort is claiming up to 200cm of settled snow on its pistes.|
|Western USA: the season is now over for most American resorts – despite the heavy weekend snow which fell in some parts of the west. However, Snowbird in Utah is still going, and reports 20cm of fresh on its upper slopes, and 259cm of settled cover, mid-mountain. In Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, there’s been 30cm of snow in the last week and the mid-mountain base is up to 159cm deep.|
|Western Canada: once again, the Canadian Rockies are proving themselves a good bet for spring skiing. Lake Louise in Banff National Park reports 19cm of fresh snow in the last seven days and is expecting a high of just -4C today. The snowpack is 179cm deep, mid-mountain. Above Whistler, the mid-mountain snowpack is 249cm deep. There the season is due to last until May 27.|