The weather has turned very mild in the Alps.
Today in the French Alps, the freezing point is up to 3000m. In Austria, it’s at 3200m and across much of Italy it’s 2400-3000m. In such mid-level resorts as Lech and Meribel you can expect a high of +11C at village level. Lower down in Morzine, the mercury could hit +15C by late afternoon.
The sudden rush of spring has come as a bit of a surprise, and it’s all down to an area of low pressure in France, which is dragging warm air up from the south. It’s also brought strong winds, light rain and cloudy skies to many parts of the Alps today. Temperatures will cool off a bit tomorrow – especially in the west – but then we can expect more spring warmth from Saturday to Tuesday.
The end of next week may bring a cold snap, and the latest map for Sunday April 10 from the European Centre for Mid-Range Weather Forecasts (see below) looks promising. But it’s much too soon to be sure.
So, for the time being it’s a question of aiming high, adopting spring-skiing tactics, and knowing when to call it a day if it all gets too slushy. Avoid south-facing slopes after after 11.30am, especially at lower altitudes, and for the best chance of cold, wintry snow, ski shady slopes that are as close to 3000m as you can get.
Often, the best snow at this time of year comes when you ski a slope that’s refrozen overnight and is just beginning to melt again, so the top layer is grippy and the underlayer firm. But you do need clear skies, cold nights and sunny mornings for that process to occur.
Off-piste, the best plan is to hire a guide – not only to take you to the best snow (whether it’s high-altitude powder or refrozen corn snow lower down), but also to keep you safe from wet-snow avalanches as the day warms up.
Pictured below is how it’s looking at La Croisette in Courchevel today – where the snow is 124-190cm deep, depending on altitude.
This is Tignes, where there’s still plenty of snow about, despite the warmth. The cover here is 142cm deep on the lower slopes and 235cm on the glacier.
Pictured below is the view from Mont Fort, above Verbier, where the snow is 25-235cm deep, depending on altitude.
Pictured below is high-altitude Cervinia, today, which has 40-230cm of settled snow on its pistes.
This is Canazei, in the Italian Dolomites. The resort has 25-140cm of settled cover.
Pictured below is Obergurgl in Austria, where the snow is 21-153cm deep.
And this is Ischgl, where there’s 40-140cm of settled cover.
Meanwhile, in North America…
A slow-moving snowstorm in Utah has been the big news this week. By Tuesday afternoon, it had dropped more than 50cm of snow on Snowbird, which posted this mouthwatering photo from the slopes…
This was Alta, just up the road in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
There’s been snow in Colorado too. Beaver Creek reported 15cm yesterday and another 20cm overnight. This was how it looked yesterday.
A little more snow is expected across the American Rockies today, followed by a sunny spell over the weekend, and rising temperatures.
|France: the cool weather that marked the first three weeks of March has now been hustled out by strong southern winds. Spring is in firm control of conditions, even at 3000m, so you’ll need to adopt spring-skiing tactics or stick to high, north-facing slopes to get the best from the conditions. The warm spell looks set to continue into next week. Currently, Chamonix reports up to 197-305cm of settled snow on the Grands Montets, and Tignes 139-233cm.|
|Switzerland: conditions across Switzerland are similar to those in France. It’s a mild, cloudy, windy day, and the snow has been affected on all but the highest slopes. Currently, Engelberg reports 15-385cm of settled cover on its pistes. In the south-east, St Moritz has 46-110cm.|
|Austria: Austria had quite heavy snow a week ago: but it’s been mild this week, and you’ll need to be in a high altitude resort such as Obergurgl, or on a glacier like the Hintertux to have any hope of finding cold, wintry snow. Elsewhere, spring-skiing tactics are essential. In the Arlberg, Lech reports 90-175cm of settled snow. Meanwhile, the Skiwelt has 35-50cm of cover.|
|Italy: spring has bitten hard in some resorts, and despite decent snow cover, some resorts are shutting lifts early. In the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo reports 40-100cm of cover. In the west, Champoluc in the Aosta Valley has 30-110cm of settled snow on its pistes.|
|Andorra: in Andorra, Pas de la Casa has 40-110cm of cover packed down, on-piste.|
|Western USA: see our main report. The week got off to a snowy start in the resorts of the American Rockies. Colorado should see more snow today- but after that a spell of mild spring sunshine is on the cards. In Colorado, Breckenridge reports 206cm of mid-mountain snow, in Utah Snowbird has 290cm, and in California Heavenly has 236cm.|
|Western Canada: in Whistler the mid-mountain snowpack is still a very healthy 312cm deep, despite the mild and sunny weather. In Banff National Park, Lake Louise reports a mid-mountain snowpack of 110cm.|