Confirmation of the current snow shortage in the Alps has come today with news that several resorts have postponed their opening days.
Among those who have shunted their season starts back from the coming weekend are Courchevel in France (to December 13, “at the latest”) and the Skiwelt in Austria (to December 11). Meanwhile St Anton will be holding its opening-day concert on December 6, but not running the lifts for skiers until the following weekend. In neighbouring Lech, pictured below, the tourist office is telling skiers it can’t guarantee any pistes will be ready for opening day, on December 5.
It’s a similar situation in the Italian Dolomites. There’s snow at altitude, but the lower pistes are grassy, and the Dolomitisuperski lift system is unlikely to be opening any pistes to around the Sella Massif this weekend – although a formal announcement has not yet been made.
The news will not surprise anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the weather in recent days. Thanks to snowstorms in October and the middle of November, there’s no shortage of snow on the glaciers and on the top half of high-altitude resorts such as Cervinia, Obergurgl, Saas-Fee and Tignes. But lower down it’s been mild: too mild to run the snow cannons, and as a result many mid- and low-level resorts are way behind in their preparations for the early weeks of the season.
It’s a disappointing start, but not yet time to panic: because the mid-range forecasts for next week look promising. Check out the current December 11 chart, below, from the European Centre for Mid-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), generated by meteociel.fr.
It’s too soon to be sure of this outcome: but worth noting that America’s Global Ensemble Forecast System is also predicting a cold snap at the same time. Before then, there’s a good chance Saturday will see a drop in temperature, with the freezing point down to 1100m in the east, accommpanied light but widespread snow. This will allow resorts to crank up their snow cannons and start to lay down a hard-wearing layer of man-made snow on their pistes.
Here’s how our current snow forecast for the Alps on December 6 is looking.
And let’s not forget there’s already some decent skiing about if you’re prepared to aim high. Pictured below is the Pissaillas glacier above Val d’Isere earlier today.
So the outlook is hopeful, despite all those grassy pistes at 1500m. But all the same, if you’re planning to sacrifice any chickens over the next four or five days, it wouldn’t hurt to dedicate a couple to the Snow Gods…
For information on where you can ski now, see our latest Snow Report.