Sun worshippers will be well-pleased with conditions in the Alps this week. February half-term has been blessed with brilliant sunshine and mild temperatures.
Today, for example, the daytime freezing point was at 2700m in the French Alps, while in Lech, Austria the afternoon high at resort level touched +9C. It’s going to cool off a tad over the next couple of days: and Austria will see first cloud and then snow on Thursday and Friday. But in most resorts clear skies will prevail.
Here’s how it was looking above Tignes earlier today.
And this was the scene in the Skiwelt in Austria.
It’s a good job there’s so much snow around – especially in the northern Alps. January and early February were particularly snowy this year, sometimes worryingly so. As a result, the cover in most resorts is still deep. In Serre Chevalier in France the snow depths, on-piste, range between 64 and 255cm. In Val d’Isere they’re between 115 and 226cm, in Ischgl in Austria they’re 70-150cm deep, and in nearby St Anton there’s 75-535cm of settled snow on the slopes.
Italy has seen significantly less snowfall this winter than its northern neighbours, but the resorts’ snowmaking systems have ensured good piste-skiing even if off-piste cover is thin. In Canazei in the Italian Dolomites the settled snow on-piste is 30-140cm deep.
Here’s how it looked above neighbouring Selva this afternoon.
Thanks to the sudden onset of spring-like warmth, the snowpack off-piste has settled. But watch out for wet-snow avalanches on sunnier slopes from midday onwards, as the mountains shed their loads. Anyone looking for powder will need to ski the higher ridges and peaks. and stick to north-facing slopes. The alternative is to go hunting for spring-like corn snow lower down. Either way, a guide is essential.
Meanwhile, piste skiers should adopt spring-skiing tactics on the lower, sunnier slopes, waiting for them to warm up and soften a little after the overnight freeze.
It’ll get even warmer at the weekend
If you’re heading out to the Alps this coming weekend – you might want to bring your shorts. It’s unseasonably warm now: but temperatures will rise even further on Friday and Saturday in the west before balmy air envelops the whole region. Expect daytime freezing points to rise well above 3000m, and the snow to rapidly thin on the valley runs of the lower resorts. It’s unlikely to cool off again until the end of the month, so aim high if you’re planning a last-minute trip.