It’s been of day of beauty and heart-break in the Alps. The sun’s out, temperatures are balmy – and four people have died in avalanche on the Lavachet Wall above Tignes in France.
The avalanche hit a guided group on this well-known off-piste route at 10.35 this morning. At the time of writing, four fatalities had been confirmed: three members of the same family and their instructor. For much of the day, it was feared that five more people were buried, but one of the supposed victims has been found safe, and it’s now being suggested that there may not be any more victims. It’s much too early to be sure of that, though. See the French newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré for the latest update.
The avalanche risk in the area is currently 3/5. Skiers and snowboarders often assume this means the danger is only moderate – but actually it’s much more significant than that. Often the devil is in the detail, too; and slopes at a particular altitude with a particular orientation can be more much unstable than the rest. If you’re out in the Alps this week, and you’re planning to ski off-piste, then please be cautious – and urge your guide to be cautious too.
Otherwise, away from Tignes, it’s been a spectacular day, as you’ll see from the shot, above, of Mont Blanc from the Aiguille du Midi this afternoon.
Across the region, the cover on-piste is pretty good, although thinner in the east than the west. But it’s too mild. Today, the freezing point was up to 2500m across much of the region; which means the quality of the snow will be suffering in the sunshine. That won’t bother many of the families on holiday this week, with the kids on nursery slopes, and Mum and Dad on the nearest sundeck. But it will mean the lower pistes, and those facing south, will be hard-packed in the morning and slushy in the afternoon. It might even be worth adopting spring-skiing tactics to get the best from the skiing day.
It looks as though the brilliantly sunny weather will continue for much of the week.
Here’s a quick survey of the webcams, starting in Ischgl in Austria, where the cover is up to 85cm deep on-piste. With most of the skiing above 2,000m, and one of the best snow-making systems in the Alps on tap, the resort will shrug off the worst effects of the thaw.
Pictured below are the slopes above Canazei in the Italian Dolomites. Here, the snow is currently 15-60cm deep on the pistes.
Here’s how it was looking earlier in high-altitude Cervinia, which shares its ski area with Zermatt, and is another great resort to ski in when the sun’s out and the mercury’s rising. The snow on the pistes here is 50-180cm deep.
Meanwhile, in North America…
The resorts of western Canada are expecting another helping of snow this week, though this time, it will be carried in on milder air than last week’s memorable dumps. On Wednesday, for example, Whistler will get 10-20cm of the white stuff on the top half of its slopes, but soggy stuff, and there’ll be rain at village level. Inland, it’s warmed up a bit, too. In Lake Louise, for example, it’s 0C today, which is positively tropical by its mid-season standards.
Here’s the view across the Bow Valley from Lake Louise today.
Further south, there was snow over the weekend, but rain at lower elevations. Sunshine and mild temperatures will dominate for much of this week, but the forecasters at opensnow.com are confident that next week will see more fresh snow. It looks as though the resorts of California will get another walloping, too.