At last! It looks like this will be the week when the Alps catch their first proper autumn chill.
Most forecasts are are still hedging their debts about the details. But French outfit Meteo Chamonix is confident enough about the sharp drop in temperature to say that the Alps can expect “weather worthy of the end of November” by Friday.
Meanwhile, below, you’ll see what Welove2ski’s own Snow Forecast is predicting for October 16, as a low pressure system moves north from the Med and meets a lump of air moving south from the North Sea.
There’s also a broad consensus that the daytime freezing point is going to drop significantly. On Friday it should be down to 1500m in both the eastern and western Alps.
There’s going to be snow at altitude in the next couple of days, too. In fact, there are already a few flakes about in the French Alps.
Pictured below was the snow falling at the top of the Pic Blanc, above Alpe d’Huez at 3.20pm.
And this was the Grande Motte above Tignes earlier this afternoon.
If the current forecast holds good, Austria and eastern Switzerland will also see snow showers at altitude on Tuesday and Wednesday before Friday’s more muscular event. But for now, the further east you go, the better the weather, as you can see from this shot of the top of the Pitztal glacier.
Of course, this won’t be the first time it’s snowed in the Alps this autumn. On Friday, Tignes reported on its Facebook page that the Grande Motte’s glacier has had 80cm of snow since September 25, which has improved conditions no end since the end of summer.
However, this will be the first time we’ve seen snow accompanied by a really sharp drop in temperature. If the forecast holds good, it will be the perfect curtain-raiser to the start of the season on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, which opens on Thursday. It’ll do wonders for conditions on the glacier at Diavolezza, south of St Moritz, too. It’s due to open for skiing on Saturday. The glacier above Engelberg is scheduled to open on Saturday, too, although it’s not certain yet. The official word is that more snow is needed.
The chilly, snowy weather won’t last of course. After all, we haven’t hit the mid-October mark yet, and low-lying snow almost always vanishes after a day or two at this time of year. But I am encouraged to see the high-altitude areas getting regular top-ups. That’s where all the skiing is right now: and it’s where you should be planning an early-season skiing trip if you fancy getting in some turns before Christmas.
Meanwhile, in Colorado…
Don’t get too excited. This was only the test-firing of a snow cannon in Arapahoe Basin last week. Yes, there was a little snow at altitude in Colorado too. Pictured below was Breckenridge last Wednesday morning, October 7.
BUT it’s been much too warm for either Arapahoe Basin, or its high-altitude rival, Loveland, to run their snow-cannons properly. It’s traditional for October to begin with them racing to be the first in the state to open. One usually gets a trail up and running by the middle of the month. But neither has even started yet. Could this be a knock-on effect of the unusually strong El Niño in the Pacific?
|France: in Tignes, conditions have improved dramatically on the Grande Motte glacier in the last three weeks, thanks to 80cm of snow, and it’s now open for autumn skiing. Next to open will be the glacier above Les Deux Alpes, which will open for a winter preview from October 24-November 1.|
|Switzerland: currently Zermatt claims 149cm of snow at 2900m. Here, 11 lifts are currently open, serving 18 pistes. You can also ski on the glacier above Saas-Fee, where conditions were improved no end by 60cm snow at the beginning of October. The Diavolezza glacier south of St Moritz is due to open at the weekend, and looks set to get snow before. Engelberg’s glacier may open on Saturday too, if there’s more snow.|
|Austria: six glaciers are currently open in Austria for skiing – the Hintertux, the Molltal, the Pitztal, the Kaunertal, the Stubai, and the Rettenbach, above Solden. The Hintertux has the most terrain on offer, with 26km of pistes. This Thursday, the Kitzsteinhorn, above Kaprun will be opening, too.|
|Italy: The glacier above Val Senales is now open. Cervinia will be opening again on October 17, for weekend skiing.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are closed.|
|Western USA: it’s been an exceptionally mild autumn in Colorado, and the high-altitude resorts of Loveland and Arapahoe Basin still haven’t started their snow cannons. The race to open is very late this year!|
|Western Canada: there was snow in the resorts of Banff-Lake Louise in mid-September, but it’s retreated back into the high mountains. If all’s well, the resorts there will be opening in early November. Lake Louise is due to open on November 6.|