At last: a proper, mid-winter snowstorm has appeared in the Alpine forecast. It’ll be carried in on frigid, northern air, and will bring snow to even the lowest villages and valleys. Half a metre or more could fall in places.
However, in the Alps, it’s going to be restricted almost exclusively to Switzerland and Austria. The French resorts are likely to see only a dusting, and the same goes for the whole of the Italian Alps.
Here’s the latest Welove2ski snow forecast for tomorrow, January 4.
And this is the snow map for January 5.
Impressive, huh? This is a classic weather front from the north, and all the usual suspects are in line for a dump – including Engelberg, Laax and Klosters in Switzerland, Lech and Warth in the Arlberg (and, to a lesser extent, St Anton, on the other side of the new Flexenbahn lift), the Nordkette by Innsbruck, Kitzbuhel in the northern Tirol, Hochfugen and the Hintertux in the Zillertal, and Saalbach, Kaprun and the Kitzsteinhorn. Areas further east such as Schladming, which had 25cm of snow last week, will also benefit.
The snow will be cold, dry, and light – not quite what the Americans would call Blower Pow, but not far off. It will be heaven to ski, off-piste – provided it’s deep enough. But there will be a high avalanche risk in the early days, thanks to strong winds, and the fact that in many areas it will be falling on bare ground or slick sun-baked snow. Skiers will need to take avalanche warnings very seriously – and bear in mind that in some areas they may find themselves scraping through to the underlying rocks.
Nevertheless, it’s an exciting time – especially as temperatures will be staying low in Austria for several days after the storm. The mid-range forecasts are even suggesting a second helping next week (which may also bring snow to Italy), although you can’t bet on it just yet.
Further west, I’m afraid it looks as though high pressure and mild daytime temperatures will continue to dominate. Here, the snow cannons will continue to be the source of most of the snow, and skiers should focus their attention on high-altitude resorts such as Tignes, Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Cervinia, and those which did well out of the patchy snowfall of late November and early December in the southern French Alps and the western Italian Alps. These include Montgenevre, Serre Chevalier, Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Champoluc and Pila.
There’s precious little lift-serviced off-piste skiing in these resorts that hasn’t already been skied to ribbons, but they do at least look properly wintry, and have masses of piste-skiing on offer, even if the skiing surface is hard-packed on many runs.
Here’s how it’s looking today in high-altitude Tignes. The snow here is currently 40-130cm deep.
Pictured below is Montgenevre further south – one of the winners of the early-season snow lottery – which had fresh snow in late November and the week before Christmas, along with the Italian resorts of the Milky Way. Here the cover is 90-200cm deep.
Pictured below is Soll in the Tirol – part of Austria’s Skiwelt. Despite a dearth of natural snowfall, they’ve worked their snow cannons hard here, and have over 200km of piste open. What’s more the area is line for moderate to heavy snowfall over the next two days.
Finally, these are the slopes above Moena in the Italian Dolomites. They’re part of the Dolomiti Superski area, which has done an extraordinary job with its snow cannons this year. Natural snowfall has been light and sporadic (fifola, as they say in these parts): but all the same over 1,000km of pistes are open.
Meanwhile, in North America…
There’s deep snow in the Wasatch mountains of Utah today, thanks to a weather front that stalled over the region yesterday. Pictured below was the Snowbird yesterday.
And this was the resort’s snow stake in the small hours of the morning, with the 16 inch/40cm marker totally covered.
Local snow guru Evan Thayer is forecasting another storm of similar intensity from tonight until Thursday, and yet more at the weekend. “Get ready to take some “sick” days… hell, just quit your job, it’s going to be unreal,” he says.
Meanwhile, in California, they’re battening down the hatches around Lake Tahoe in preparation for something remarkable. On Monday morning, OpenSnow forecaster Bryan Allegretto reported 10-30cm of snow in the mountains around the lake. By the end of Thursday he’s expecting 90-150cm more…