Holy cow! Have you seen the latest snow forecast for the Alps for Wednesday?
I’d stress at this point that no-one’s quite sure just how much snow is going to fall. Our own forecast has hovered between bold predictions like the one currently posted, and a more modest outlook which would see less than half this amount fall. It all depends on how the area of high pressure sitting next door in western France, behaves. If it drifts east then the coming cold front will weaken. If not – BINGO.
At the very least, the looooong mild spell that’s marked the start of autumn in the Alps will be broken. After a very warm weekend, temperatures should plummet, and snow is expected to fall down to 1300m. The western end of the Alps will see it first, but it will drift quickly east, and it looks as though Switzerland and Austria will get the lion’s share. In the current, optimistic version of the forecast snow won’t finally clear from the east until Friday morning.
It’s great news for the glacier ski areas, which haven’t had a chance yet to extend beyond their core pistes. Saturday’s snow report from the top of the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes, by British ski school Snoworks, gives a you a good idea of the situation right now. There’s a good skiing surface right at the very top, above 3000m. But lower down, there was rain on Thursday and Friday. (Click here if you can’t see the video below.)
However, there don’t seem to have been too many complaints about the weather at the weekend, which was warm and brilliantly sunny. Pictured below is how it was looking on the Hintertux Glacier in the Tirol on Saturday.
However intense it is, this first wintry blast won’t last too long, sadly. Sooner or later, the high pressure to the west is going to move in and warm things up. On Thursday, local forecaster Meteo Chamonix reckons the freezing point will be back up to 2800m in the French Alps on Thursday (although it should be noted that this is a long way below last Saturday’s figure of 4000m).
The dry, sunny weather should persist until the middle of next week, so we’ll have to wait a little longer for a more permanent shift in weather patterns towards winter.
Nevertheless, the coming storm will do wonders for the skiing surface on the glaciers, and will serve as the perfect curtain-raiser for the opening races of the World Cup season above Solden on Saturday and Sunday.
The ski season is underway in the Rockies
In the Rockies, there was heavy snow on October 12, but the weather’s been mostly mild and sunny since then. So it was a bit of a surprise when high-altitude Arapahoe Basin announced that it would open for skiing on Friday, October 17. As usual just one trail was open at this stage, along with the first terrain park.
You’ll notice from the background of this shot there’s not too much natural snow lying around at the moment, beyond the groomed trail.
Fortunately, more snow is in the forecast, on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will fall as rain lower down, but local weather guru Joel Gratz reckons it will settle as snow above 10,000ft, which suits Arapahoe Basin just fine, as its base area is set an eye-watering 10,780ft. Hopefully, they’ll get the chance to fire up the snow cannons for a while and begin to prepare a second trail.
By the way, there’s no news yet from A-Basin’s early-season rival Loveland about when it will be opening – which is an indication of how mild the middle of the month has been. However, both Keystone and Copper Mountain are scheduled to fire up their lifts for the first time on October 31.
Meanwhile, in Canada…
There was snow last week in western Canada.
Pictured below, was the base area at Lake Louise in the Banff National Park on October 15.
And this was the scene at the top of Blackcomb Mountain above Whistler on October 18.
A spell of really wet weather is about to engulf Whistler, and it will get colder as the week progresses. So the rain will eventually turn to snow at altitude. At the top of the ski area, as much as 45cm could fall by Thursday night! That’s bound to get everyone’s blood fizzing in the run-up to the projected November 27 opening date.
|France: above Tignes, the Grande Motte glacier has now reopened for skiing. Top temperature up there today will be +3C. Meanwhile, above Les Deux Alpes, the glacier is opening on October 25 and 26 for a weekend of ski and snowboard testing.|
|Switzerland: weather permitting, two glaciers are currently open for skiing in Switzerland – above Zermatt and Saas-Fee. On the glacier above Saas Fee today, five pistes and the snowpark are open, and the temperature shouldn’t get much above -3C. Meanwhile, the Diablerets glacier will open this weekend for its winter season.|
|Austria: the autumn glacier-skiing season is well under way in Austria, despite the summer-like warmth. You can currently ski on the Hintertux, Stubai, Molltal, Pitztal, Kaunertal, Rettenbach and Kitzsteinhorn glaciers. All eyes are now on the coming cold front. Let it snow!|
|Italy: the lifts from Cervinia, up to the high-altitude skiing on the Swiss-Italian border opened at the weekend and will run again on October 25-26. The full season gets underway on November 1. Above Val Senales in the South Tyrol, three pistes are currently open for skiing on the glacier.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are currently closed.|
|Western USA: see our main report. It’s been a mild week in Colorado, but Arapahoe Basin managed to open anyway on Friday. More Colorado resorts will be opening on October 31.|
|Western Canada: western Canada has had its first snow. Expect the resorts of Banff National Park to open in early November.|