Break out the sunscreen, guys. This is the week to enjoy mainly blue skies and perfect pistes across the whole of the Alpine chain. But fortunately it doesn’t look as if the mild temperaturesare going to be with us for long enough to spoil the party.
Indeed by Thursday it should be starting to chill down nicely and by Friday we should see a positive snow report with a return to wintry weather for the weekend, although it’s hard to say at this stage whether this front will be truly productive.
Over in North America, Western Canada and California still have the best of it. There’s more snow needed in Colorado. Jackson Holein Wyoming is looking good, as you can see from the picture above.
The break in the weather has probably come as a profound relief to the locals: after all, it’s been pretty stormy there since the end of November. Many holidaymakers will lap it up too. Only those who care as much about the quality of the snow as the scenery will be grumbling: because in the western Alps especially, the sunshine has heralded a period of unseasonably high temperatures.
The freezing level this week has rocketed to as high as 3200m in places in France and 2100m in Austria. But, in this yo-yo winter, nothing really surprises us any more. Welove2ski is in Austria this week and one of our editors, Sean Newsom, reports from Kitzbuhel: “There’s a lot of new snow at the top – but it’s still ridiculously mild for early January, and there was rain in town and on the lower slopes last night. The best snow was – as ever – up on the Resterhohe at the back end of the ski area – beautifully soft, cold and grippy. We even got a little sunshine.”
Snow cover is still very good for the time of year, thanks to the big dumps of early December. But let’s not forget how warm the weather was over Christmas. There was a top-up of 10-15cm of fresh snow last week in France, Switzerland and more in parts of the Austrian Tirol over the weekend. This has refreshed the pistes and, on sheltered slopes, may even have covered the crusty surface off piste. Aim high for the best skiing terrain, and stick to shady, north-facing slopes (unless they’ve been blasted by the wind). Otherwise, you’ll need to think ‘spring’ rather than ‘mid-winter’, and wait for the sun to soften the slopes each morning before you ski them.
|France: dry and mild weather is the order of the week in the lower resorts. Up higher there’s a temperature inversion in Espace Killy. In Tignes, with -5C in Le Lac and -1C up on the Grande Motte – be prepared for an icy blast of cold air as you come down the Double M, particularly on Wednesday. There’s a comfortable 250cm on top. Val d’Isere has 122cm in town and 250cm at top of the ski area. Over in Val Thorens it’s up to 220cm deep, and above Flaine in the Grand Massif it’s up to 250cm deep.|
|Switzerland: Switzerland got a modest top-up of snow last week that has refreshed the pistes. Davos and Klosters are in great condition with a half a metre at resort level and rather more than twice that at the top of the lift system. Verbier is looking good, too, with 75cm at the bottom of Medran and 220cm up at Mont-Fort. Andermatt is having a deep winter so far with over 370cm.|
|Austria: (see main report). Part of the Tirol, Mayrhofen and the Zillertal in particular, got walloped by the storm on Sunday night and Monday. But the mild weather means that the renewed cover low down is only temporary. However, snow cover is generally good for the time of year. Currently, the Arlberg resort of St Anton reports up to 160cm of snow on its highest slopes, and Lech 195cm. Above Obergurgl there’s up to 210cm of snow. Lower down, in the Skiwelt, there’s 110cm of snow up top and 20cm on the lowest valley runs|
|Italy: The Dolomites can expect a welcome top up at the weekend. But generally, there’s been less snow in the Italian Alps than the north this winter – not that anyone is complaining about the snow cover here. Expect hard-packed pistes on the lower slopes before the sunshine softens them. Above the Aosta valley, Cervinia has some of the best cover, and reports settled depths of up to 140cm, mid-mountain. Further east, in the Dolomites, Canazei has up to 125cm of snow on its pistes.|
|Andorra: The warm weather is not confined to the Alps. Daytime temperatures here have been as high as 12C and the sunshine has turned the Grand Valira area (Pas de la Casa and Soldeu) into a virtual beach. That said, the snow cover is still highly respectable, with 40cm at resort level and 70cm at the top lift stations.|
|Western USA: California has some of the deepest cover in the west at the moment – 248cm of settled snow is reported at Kirkwood, for example. In Utah, Snowbird reports 162cm deep, mid-mountain, Jackson Hole in Wyoming 112cm, and Vail, Colorado 56cm.|
|Western Canada: The area has recorded 25cm in the past week and now has a mid-mountain base of 184cm. Inland, Fernie has a little over two metres of settled snow after a scintillating December run of storms, while Sunshine Village in the Banff-Lake Louise area has snow cover of almost 400cm to date and is set for a record-breaking season once again. It’s snowing here yet again today and there’s 133cm of settled snow in the village itself.|