At last! In the Alps, we’ve got a December to shout about. After a run of four warm starts to winter, the season is exploding into life with a proper, meaty storm.
The first snow fell overnight, and in some parts of the Alps it’s been snowing on and off ever since.
I’m in Serre Chevalier today, and the area opened for the season with 15cm of cold, fluffy snow in the valley, and 20-30cm on the higher slopes, on top of a good base of older snow (much of it laid down by the snow cannons). Further north in France, across much of Switzerland, and as far east as St Anton, it carried on snowing for much of the day, and another pulse of snow is starting as I write. According to our snow forecast, up to 50cm could fall in places by midnight.
The snow will ease up on Saturday – and then look what’s coming on Sunday…
Similar amounts are likely to fall in the western Alps on Monday, before the action shifts east into Switzerland, Austria and the Italian Dolomites.
Here’s the ECMWF’s mid-range forecast for Friday next week which predicts another surge of cold, moisture-laden air.
So, as Christmas approaches, the talk is likely to be of avalanches, not snowless pistes. With maybe two metres likely to fall in the French Alps over the next seven days, off-pisters and ski-tourers will need to be disciplined and cautious if they want to stay safe.
Not every resort will see heavy snow. The Milky Way resorts of Italy, west of Turin, are likely to get much lighter falls than their French neighbours. And I want to sound a note of caution about the week after next – when some mid-range forecasts are predicting a thaw. So if you’re tempted to make a last-minute dash to the Alps for Christmas, I’d advise booking a resort with plenty of skiing above 2000m. Not that there’s much chance of completely snowless slopes even at 1,000m. It’s just that a thaw is likely affect its quality.
Anyway, that’s the note of caution over and done with. Here’s how it actually feels to be in the midst of cracking start winter, courtesy of yours truly and my Serre Chevalier guide Edouard, of the ski school Ski Experience.
And here’s how it looked on the Croisette in Courchevel earlier today, where the season starts tomorrow. Almost all of the Three Valleys is set to open, and they couldn’t have hoped for better snow.
We’ve just published a locals’ guide to the best apres-ski bars in the Three Valleys. I reckon they might finally be toasting Mother Nature in a few of them tomorrow night…