As forecast, the storms of Wednesday and Thursday last week delivered heavy snow to many parts of the Alps.
In the Austrian Tirol and the French Alps there’s been 50-100cm of snow at altitude over the last seven days. There was also a much-needed dump in the Aosta Valley of Italy, where the Monterosa ski area reported half a metre last Friday morning. And there’s been snow in the Italian Dolomites, although not in the same quantities.
Here’s how it looked in the Monterosa on Friday when skies cleared.
However, across the northern Alps, the immediate aftermath of the blizzards was frustrating, as the weather suddenly warmed up. There was rain up to 2000m, followed by southerly winds and strong spring sunshine. Then, overnight on Sunday, temperatures dropped suddenly and there was a dusting of snow.
The net result is both good and bad. The bad news is that on sunny slopes and anywhere beneath about 2000m, there’s a hard, refrozen surface beneath the 6-10cm of snow that fell overnight and this morning. Pistes in these areas will be firm beneath a thin layer of groomed snow, and off-piste descents will be challenging, if you get caught in an area of breakable crust or hard, wind-blown ridges.
The good news is that the sudden warmth meant the fresh snow has settled, the cover is much deeper than it was. On north-facing slopes there’s plenty of soft, cold powder to be found if you hire a guide and seek out the less popular descents. The higher, shadier, colder pistes in many resorts will be a dream to ski as well.
To get the best of these conditions you’ll have to be quick on your feet. The skies have now cleared, and their likely to stay that way until next Sunday at least.
What’s more there’ll be another sharp rise in temperatures. For example, in the French Alps tomorrow the daytime freezing point will be at a wintry 1400m: but on Thursday it’ll break the 3000m barrier – which is above the top lift station in many ski resorts.
Increasingly, you’ll have to aim for a high-altitude resort and employ spring-skiing tactics to get the best of the conditions – although that’s no real hardship if you get your timing right. Spring snow can be bewildering if you haven’t done your homework: but it also serves up some of the smoothest, most velvety conditions of the season. As well as memorable afternoons sprawling on a sundeck…