Hold onto your bobble hats, everyone. The next blast of winter is about to hit the Alps. Later today, a powerful weather front is due to muscle in from the west, and France, Switzerland and western Austria are set to be walloped by snow.
Above you’ll, see our snow forecast map for the region for tomorrow, December 4. Those red patches suggest up to a metre of snow is going to fall in 24 hours in parts of the French Alps – although 50-75cm is more likely in most resorts. We’re not the only ones expecting a dump. The Swiss Institute for Avalanche Research reckons parts of Switzerland will get half a metre of snow tomorrow.
As anyone who read our snow report last Thursday will know, this new snow will come on top of widespread falls last week. Most of the region now has a top-to-bottom coating of snow, although depths vary widely across the region. Chic little Madonna di Campiglio in the Brenta Dolomites did spectacularly well from the storms – notching up 120cm of snow in three days. Cervinia got 80cm of new snow, Obergurgl 60cm and Val d’Isere about 50cm. Meanwhile, in Engelberg, skiers reckoned there was 70cm of new snow on the upper slopes…
There was a break in the weather on Friday and Saturday, which meant that anyone lucky enough to be near a resort with open lifts had a memorable start to the season. Check out this video from opening day at Val d’Isere on Saturday, for a taste of conditions there as the pistes opened.
Right now, Cervinia has perhaps the deepest cover – two metres on its highest pistes, and around 110cm mid-mountain. But high winds are keeping the lifts closed as I write this – and there’s going to be a whiteout once the next storm blows in. In fact, it looks as though conditions are going to be pretty tricky for the whole week – with only the occasional break in the clouds. Canny skiers will stick below the treeline (if there are any trees in their chosen resort, of course) while the blizzards rage – and then shoot up to the higher slopes whenever the clouds break. The avalanche risk is likely to be very high for while.
Here’s a quick sample of recent photos and today’s webcam shots from around the Alps.
And here’s video shot on Saturday in the Resterhohe sector of Kitzbuhel – where the lifts were running at the weekend. The resort opens full-time for the season on December 8.
It’s worth noting that not everyone has done quite so well from this sudden onset of winter. St Anton and Lech both postponed their opening days last week because of a lack of cover – and will now open on December 6. In Lech, the cover is still quite thin: 20cm on the lower slopes and 30cm higher up. But both resorts should however get plenty of snow this week. In fact, judging by the current mid-range weather charts it looks as though every resort worth its lifts will be in good shape for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Admittedly, there could yet be a return to milder conditions in the immediate run-up to December 25: but by then, the natural snowfall in the forecast – combined with hard work by snow-making teams – will have created a base deep and durable enough to withstand the high-season traffic. The same should be true in the Pyrenees and Scandinavia, too.
Here’s how the Areskutan, above Are in Sweden was looking this morning. The daytime temperature there is expected to rise no higher than -10C all week. There’s fresh snow about too – as you can see from the trees.
Meanwhile, across the pond, it looks as though the resorts of California didn’t do quite as well as expected from the storm which rolled in over the weekend. But that’s only because expectations were so high. Heavenly got 58cm of fresh snow in two days and Kirkwood 91cm. Further south, Mammoth’s storm total was 57cm. There should be some superb skiing on offer in all three today.
Up in Canada, Whistler’s looking good, too – 121cm of new snow in the last seven days, 77cm of which fell this weekend. It’s mid-mountain base is 168cm deep…
|France: Parts of the French Alps did well from last week’s snowfall – especially the resorts close to the Italian border, and those in the south. What’s more, the area as a whole is expecting further heavy snow this week. Visibility in most of the high-altitude resorts currently open will be non-existant for much of the time – but once skies clear, the skiing will be superb. In Val d’Isere there’s up to 50cm of settled snow on piste. That number will be rising shortly. So too the figure for Val Thorens which had 10cm of fresh snow on Sunday, and reports a settled base of 55-95cm on the slopes. The links to Meribel and Courchevel open on December 8. Above Chamonix, the Grands Montets will be the first ski area to open – on December 8. In the Grand Massif, Flaine opens on December 15.|
|Switzerland: See our main report. There’s lots more snow to come this week and when the skies eventually clear there will be fabulous skiing on offer across the country. The only problem in the meantime will be finding somewhere sheltered to ski. Amongst the resorts already open are Zermatt, Saas-Fee, St Moritz, Davos and Verbier.|
|Austria: The best skiing in Austria is currently in resorts close to the Italian border, such as Obergurgl which has 48-143cm of settled snow on its slopes. There’s plenty of snow up on the glaciers too – for example on the Hintertux which has up to 125cm of settled snow. However, the forecast suggests that it’s the Arlberg resorts which could have the deepest snow by the end of the week – and a good thing too, given St Anton and Lech both had to delay their opening days. Among other resorts currently open are Ischgl and Obertauern.|
|Italy: Cervinia and the other ski resorts of the Aosta Valley, such as Monterosa, have had a strong start to the season. So too has Madonna di Campiglio further east (see main report). Italian resorts will see more snow this week – especially those in the Aosta Valley. However, it won’t be as much as resorts in the northern Alps.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski season is on. The Grand Valira and Vallnord ski areas are both now open, and are expecting more snow this week. Currently, Grandvalira reports 30-80cm of snow on its open pistes.|
|Western USA: See our main report. There’s going to be some great skiing today in California as a result of the weekend snow. Meanwhile, in Wyoming, the snowpack in Jackson Hole is thickening up nicely. Currently, on the upper slopes it’s 111cm deep, and there was a 33cm top-up at the weekend. Further south more snow is urgently needed – especially in Colorado. There’s a little in the forecast this week – but nothing significant.|
|Western Canada: Regular readers of our snow report will know that for almost the whole of November, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise in Banff National Park had the best conditions of any of the resorts we report on. Whistler is now starting to steal their thunder (see main report) – but conditions in the Canadian Rockies are still very good. Fernie is also open now, and has a settled snow pack of 85cm, mid-mountain.|