It’s hard to beat a powder day in April. By rights, you should have long ago packed away your skis: and it feels miraculous to have snatched one last day of winter from the jaws of spring. Not that anyone’s complaining about the arrival of the new season, of course. The sense that warm sunshine is just around the corner adds a mellow, valedictory flavour to those final turns.
So it’s no wonder smiles have been mile wide in Arapahoe Basin, Colorado. The resort had over a foot of snow on Sunday night and Monday – on top of a dump last week, and anyone lucky enough to ski it on Tuesday or Wednesday was dazzled by the experience. “So this afternoon a young woman drove by, heading home for the day,” wrote Al Henceroth in his A-Basin blog yesterday. “She leaned out the window waving her arm with a giant smile on her face and yelled, ‘Best Day Ever!’” With the vaunted East Wall open, and knee-deep powder everywhere, it’s not hard to understand her euphoria.
Of course, to enjoy conditions like this in April you’ve got to ski them as soon as the lifts open (avalanche risk allowing of course): because the weather can warm up in an instant. That’s what’s just happened in the Alps, in the wake of the big storm we reported in our April 22 Snow Report. Nearly a metre of snow fell in some high-altitude resorts at the weekend: but now the sun’s out and temperatures have rocketed. According to Meteo France, it’s going to be +11C this afternoon in Val Thorens, which is set at 2300m. The freezing point will be at 3700m. So if you’re looking for powder, your only chance of finding it will be right at the top of the lift system, on the shadiest slopes. Otherwise, spring skiing tactics are essential to get the most out of the skiing day.
Here’s a brief sample of the day’s webcams (and a shot from yesterday in Val d’Isere) showing how consistent conditions over the Alps at the moment.
Despite the current heatwave, there’s no denying it’s been a memorable season in Europe – especially in the western Alps, which have been peppered by big storms from December until spring. Christmas and the first half of January were the only disappointments (they were much warmer than they should have been). Sun-worshippers have grumbled, but anyone who cares about the quality of snow should be well satisfied.
The next change in the weather comes tomorrow. Another cold front is due in from the northwest, but sadly it won’t be as cold as the one that came calling last weekend. According to our Alpine forecast, rain will be its dominant characteristic – although snow is expect down to 2000m in places, and there could be some significant accumulations on the highest slopes. Thereafter things could get pretty storm: but this is not yet a certainty.
In Scandinavia, it’s snowing again
Up in Are, Sweden, the season is due to finish for the season on May 1, and preparations are well under way for a weekend of jumps and tricks on the top half of the Areskutan, to see it off in style. Only, they may have more snow than they bargained for. It’s been snowing on and off already today and 10-20cm is expected in the next 48hrs.
|France: see our main report. Heavy snow at altitude at the weekend has been followed by a spring heatwave – although it will be replaced by much more unsettled weather over the weekend. In Val d’Isere the daytime temperature is +14C at resort level and the snow report records cover up to 390cm deep, on the highest pistes. Only a handful of ski areas will remain open beyond the weekend.|
|Switzerland: it’s a glorious spring day in Switzerland, and many of the remaining ski resorts will be closing at the weekend – including Verbier. In Zermatt, the settled cover is 230cm mid-mountain, and the temperature in town is +18C.|
|Austria: Most resorts without glaciers have now closed for the summer – and Hochgurgl spins its lifts for the last time on April 28. There, the snow is up to 160cm deep, and a high of +12C is expected in the village. On the Hintertux glacier the snow is up to 305cm deep.|
|Italy: the ski season has retreated to the highest resorts in Italy – for example, Cervinia and Val Senales. In the latter, there was 30cm of new snow at the weekend, and the cover is up to 350cm deep.|
|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 160cm of settled snow on its pistes, and a high of +7C at village level.|
|Western USA: see our main report. It’s been a snowy April in the Rockies – although it looks as though the month will end on a warm and sunny note. Above Salt Lake City, Snowbird is still spinning its lifts and reports 266cm of settled snow, mid-mountain. In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin reports cover 170cm deep, mid-mountain.|
|Western Canada: conditions are a little more spring-like now in the Canadian Rockies. Lake Louise is expecting sunny weather and a high of +7C. Above Whistler, Whistler Mountain closed for skiing on Sunday, but Blackcomb mountain will remain open until May 27.|