After all the snowy excitement of the last two weeks, the weather has calmed down in both the Alps and the Rockies.
In the Alps, it’s a stunning day up high
Meanwhile, pictured below was the Grande Motte glacier above the French resort of Tignes this morning – an exciting sight for me as I’ll be skiing there with British ski school Snoworks next week. Yahoooooo!
Pictured below is Obergurgl, which – as usual – was the first Alpine resort without a glacier to open for the winter. It currently has up to 90cm of snow bedded down on its pistes and 13 lifts in operation.
And this was the scene above Cervinia in Italy, where the settled cover is up to 195cm deep, and 15 pistes are open.
As anyone who’s seen our recent snow reports – for example, on November 13 and November 17 – will know, the high Alps have been walloped by snow over the last fortnight, with the slopes above Saas-Fee, Zermatt and Cervinia seeing well over two metres of the white stuff. In fact, the snow has visited virtually every high-altitude slope in that time (although not in the same quantities), and for a while it dropped down to resort level too. Here, for example, was Val d’Isere on Tuesday.
The snow has been a great curtain-raiser for the start of the season, which moves another step forward on Saturday with the opening of the first of the Three Valleys resorts in France – Val Thorens. However, it’s worth noting that along with all this lovely sunshine, it’s going to be rather warm. French forecaster Meteo Chamonix reckons the freezing point in the French Alps will be up to 3200m today (that’s as high as the Grande Motte glacier), and will return there on a daily basis before dropping back a bit on Monday and Tuesday. At that point it should get colder and (hopefully) snowier, but it’s too early to be sure of that. In Austria, at the other end of the Alps, it will be a little cooler over the next four days, but not significantly so.
In other words, there may already be deep snow up high, but lower down winter is taking a temporary step backwards. Things could change at the end of next week, but for now, it’s best to factor in a lot of altitude to your plans if you fancy an early-season skiing trip.
In the Rockies, more snow is coming
The week from November 10-17 was a memorable one in the Rockies – especially Colorado – where some resorts had a month’s snow in seven days. The snow has put the early season firmly back on track, after a worryingly mild autumn, and it looks as though conditions will improve further, with more of the white stuff on the way. Local Colorado snow guru Joel Gratz is predicting another series of storms, starting on Saturday, which could last until the end of next week.
In fact, there’ll be widespread snow across the western US in this period. It’s the perfect prelude to the Thanksgiving holiday which will see almost every American ski resort open, and the first big wave of skiers travelling to the mountains.
Amongst the resorts due to open over the next two days are Vail, Colorado, which gets going tomorrow with 500 acres of skiable terrain (an unusually large amount so early in the season) as well as Heavenly, California (November 21), Snowbird, Utah (November 21) and Aspen, Colorado (November 22). Here’s a quick bit of “we’re snowy!” video from Snowbird to get everyone in the mood.
In Canada, Whistler will be opening tomorrow too
Whistler has moved its opening day forward to November 21, although at the moment it’s only promising a handful of lifts and trails to first-weekend skiers. However, that may change, because a meaty storm is due in on Friday, with 34cm of snow expected on the upper slopes by Sunday night. Here’s how it was looking yesterday evening.
|France: above Tignes, the Grande Motte glacier is open for skiing, weather permitting, and as you’ll see from our main report, conditions are pretty good now that the skies have cleared. Pistes lower down will be opening up as the weather and snow allow, and on November 29, the links with neighbouring Val d’Isere should be opening too. Meanwhile, in the 3 Valleys, high-altitude Val Thorens is due to open on Saturday, on November 22. However, it is rather warm now in the French Alps, and will stay that way until the middle of next week.|
|Switzerland: weather permitting, four glaciers are currently open for skiing in Switzerland – above Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Engelberg and Les Diablerets. Snow cover at altitude above Zermatt and Saas-Fee is exceptional in the wake of the heavy snow over the last fortnight. Verbier is currently opening at weekends, too.|
|Austria: most Austrian resorts currently open have had top-ups of snow over the last ten days. The dumps here haven’t been a match for those seen on Cervinia, Zermatt and Saas-Fee, but at altitude conditions are pretty good all the same. You can currently ski at Obergurgl, as well as on the Hintertux, Stubai, Molltal, Pitztal, Kaunertal, Rettenbach and Kitzsteinhorn glaciers. On the Hintertux glacier, 40km of pistes are now open, and the snow is up to 185cm deep.|
|Italy: early-season conditions have been superb above Cervinia, now that the skies have cleared. But with temperatures rising, the quality of the cover on the lower slopes will suffer. In Cervinia today, the temperature got up to +12C. Meanwhile, above Val Senales in the South Tyrol, eight pistes are currently open for skiing on the glacier. Above Passo Tonale, on the Presena Glacier, three pistes are also open.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are currently closed.|
|Western USA: see our main report. In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Keystone, Copper and Breckenridge are all open, with more resorts coming on stream at the weekend, not only in Colorado, but across the American west. Given the forecast, the outlook for back end of November is very promising.|
|Western Canada: Whistler opens tomorrow, and should get a 30cm opening-weekend present of snow from Mother Nature to help with the celebrations. Meanwhile, in Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village are both now open.|