The western Alps are about to be walloped by snow. But the weather gets only two cheers from me this week, because the storm will be quickly followed by a spell of mild and sunny weather.
Here’s the snow forecast for the Alps for tomorrow, which gives you an idea of how intense the snowfall will be.
30-50cm of the white stuff is expected in places, and the freezing point will drop to 2000m for a time, too. In France, and parts of Switzerland and Italy, the glacier resorts are going to get a useful top-up.
Sadly, in the second half the week, the daytime freezing point will rebound and regularly top 3000m – as the sun comes out and mild winds blow from the south. The snowline will go scurrying back uphill, and even the glaciers will see some melting. That will of course mean the pistes will be hard first thing in the morning, after they’ve refrozen overnight.
The mild weather is likely to persist until next Monday, at least.
In other words, autumn in the Alps is up to its usual tricks. It got off to a promising start, with significant doses of snow up high in both the eastern and the western Alps. But once this storm has blown itself out, the march towards winter is going to lose some of its momentum.
That’s no cause for concern, by the way. The autumn glacier-skiing season is already in full swing in the Alps (see country-by-country reports, below, for details). Provided the weather turns by mid-November, and we start to see snow settling for good down to 2000m in the final week of the month, it’ll be a very decent start to winter.
That said, if your muscles are already twitching, and you want to ski soon, there’s no point taking any chances with the snow. Aim high, and check out our guides to early-season skiing, and where to ski at Christmas for advice on which resorts to target.
Here’s how to was looking earlier today, up on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes. A good day to be out in the mountains…
Pictured below is the Allalin glacier above Saas-Fee.
Meanwhile, in North America…
At last! The Colorado ski season is about to get underway. Thanks to an unusually mild autumn, it’s a couple of weeks later than normal. But the weather has turned at last – and high-altitude Loveland reported 45cm of fresh snow in one snowstorm at the end of last week. The snow-making crews worked the cannons hard too, and as a result the resort will open on Thursday.
Here’s how the resort looked at the end of last week.
Admittedly, there will only be three trails to ski, which will knit together into a single, mile-long run. But that’s bound to change soon, because more snow is forecast. Local snow guru, Joel Gratz is predicting light snowfall later this week, with more significant storms to come in early November.
That’s great news for the other ski areas planning to open soon. Arapahoe Basin will be the first. It usually beats Loveland to be the first resort in the state to fire up its lifts, but it missed out on the meat of last week’s snowstorm, and is a few days behind its rival.
Here’s how it was looking on Saturday, with the snow cannons running full pelt.
Up north, the resorts of Banff National Park are gearing up for the start of their season, too. Western Canada has also had an unusually mild autumn – which many see as a product of the powerful El Niño in the Pacific. But here the weather is also due to turn more wintry this week. Lake Louise is aiming to open on November 6, and Sunshine Village on November 11.
|France: in Tignes, the early-season skiing on the Grande Motte glacier has been very good, and the top half of the resort is due a top-up of snow on Wednesday night. It’s going to be warm there over the weekend, however: expect the snow to be firm first thing in the morning as a result. Les Deux Alpes is also open this week, for its busy winter preview. Sadly, the glacier will close again on Saturday.|
|Switzerland: currently Zermatt claims 120cm of snow at 2900m. Here, 11 lifts are currently open, serving 25 pistes. You can also ski on the glacier above Saas-Fee, and the Diavolezza glacier south of St Moritz where early-season conditions are also good. However, Engelberg’s glacier has postponed its opening to October 31.|
|Austria: the autumn season is in full swing, with eight glaciers now open in Austria for skiing – the Hintertux, the Molltal, the Pitztal, the Kaunertal, the Stubai, the Rettenbach, above Solden, the Kitzsteinhorn and the Dachstein. Currently, the Hintertux reports snow depths of up to 110cm. 34km of piste are now open.|
|Italy: The glacier above Val Senales is now open, as is Sulden. Cervinia will begin daily ski operations for the winter next Saturday.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are closed.|
|Western USA: at last! The weather’s turned in Colorado. High-altitude Loveland is about to open, and will shortly be followed by Arapahoe Basin. Meanwhile, in New England, a mild spell has put the breaks on an early start to the season. Killington has closed temporarily – until it’s cold enough again for the snow cannons to run.|
|Western Canada: the resorts of Banff National Park are usually the first to open, and Lake Louise is scheduled to start its lifts on November 6. It’s been a mild autumn so far, but the forecast for the coming week is much cooler, and there should be snow too. Hopefully, they’ll be up and running as planned. .|