As forecast, the Italian Alps were hit by heavy snow at the weekend. 20-80cm of the white stuff has fallen in recent days, depending on altitude and location: and it’s sparked a series of avalanche accidents that have claimed the lives of six skiers (with three more fatalities in France, Switzerland and Austria).
In several areas of Italy the avalanche risk is still at 4/5 (which rules out off-piste skiing) and it’s at 3/5 almost everywhere else. There have been widespread reports of poorly-bonded layers in the snowpack: off-piste skiers need to play it safe, and rein in their ambition until the snow has settled.
On-piste, conditions are now good in almost every Italian resort. Italians are generally expert snowmakers and their resorts can usually offer good piste-skiing even if there hasn’t been a flake of natural snow. But all the same, the new snow will have created a softer skiing surface. Currently, in the Dolomites, there’s 40-140cm of settled cover on the pistes above Canazei. In the west, in Cervinia, the cover is currently 40—190cm deep.
These snow depths are still way behind those in the northern half of the Alps, which saw significant snowfall last month – and picked up some extra snow this weekend as well. In St Anton, for example, there was 5-20cm of new snow at the weekend, and current depths range between 105 and 560cm.
Meanwhile, in Val d’Isere in France (which is close to the Italian border), there was around 35cm at altitude from Friday to Sunday. Settled snow depths there range between 130 and 265cm.
Further south in France, Serre Chevalier also did well from the recent storms, receiving 55cm of snow on Thursday and Friday last week. Snow depths there vary between 105 and 205cm. Here’s how it looked earlier today.
The forecast is now for a settled period of sunny weather, and a rise in temperatures. On Wednesday in France, for example, the daytime freezing point will be at 2400m. That should mean the snowpack settles and becomes less dangerous, off-piste: but the quality of the snow on the lower slopes will suffer in the warmth. Expect a spring-like cycle of daytime softening and overnight refreezing which skiers will need to take account of.