Well, thank goodness for that. After a rather shaky start, the autumn season on the Alpine glaciers is back on track.
It’s all down to last Wednesday’s snowstorm, which dropped up to half a metre of the white stuff on the eastern end of the Alps.
As a result, the Stubai glacier in Austria and the glacier above Val Senales in Italy both opened on Friday, followed by the Rettenbach glacier above Solden today. The Rettenbach is the setting for the opening races of the World Cup season on October 24 and 25, so it’s particularly reassuring to know the pistes here are in good nick. Here’s how the Seiterjochl run was looking yesterday.
Pictured below is how the glacier above Val Senales looked on Friday.
They’ve joined a small number of glaciers which were already open for autumn (or which stay open all summer): the Hintertux, Pitztal and Molltal glaciers in Austria, and Saas-Fee and Zermatt in Switzerland.
Pictured below was the Allalin glacier above Saas-Fee earlier today.
Next up should be the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes, which is due to open on Saturday. Here’s how it was looking earlier today.
What’s more, as you’ll see from our current snow forecast for the Alps, there’s a dusting of snow due tonight and tomorrow in the western Alps, especially along the Franco-Italian border. There could be a heavier fall there on Friday, too – although this is much less certain.
Generally, however, high pressure is currently in control of the Alpine weather, and is unlikely to loosen its grip until the end of the week. A cool easterly airstream is keeping temperatures low-ish for the time of year, but it’s likely to warm up again on Friday in the east.
Most of the mid-range weather charts are suggesting this settled pattern of weather will break down next week – in which case, snow is likely – but we can’t bank on it just yet.
As for the longer-term outlook for the Alps…well, you might as well ask the cat. There has been speculation recently that the UK (and, by extension, north-western Europe) could be heading for a frigid winter, thanks to the powerful El Niño, which has developed in the Pacific. But the UK’s Met Office has been at pains to explain that this is by no means certain. “There is evidence that, in the past, moderate El Niños have helped to shape colder and drier-than-average winters in north-western Europe,” Met Office climatologist Sarah Ineson told me last week. “But for a powerful event, as this year’s is likely to be, the limited data we have makes the influence less clear”
Meanwhile, in Canada, Whistler saw snow at altitude on Friday, although it’s nearly two months before its scheduled opening day (November 26).
Further south, in the Colorado Rockies, the weather has been mild and sunny lately and there’s no sign yet of the snow cannons starting their early-season work in either A-Basin or Loveland. These two high-altitude resorts race to be the first to open in the state, and at least one of them is usually open by mid-October. Perhaps they’ll get a chance to start preparations at the weekend, when temperatures are likely to drop, and there’s some natural snow in the forecast.
Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere…
The central Andes, near Santiago, were the place to be last week, thanks to a decent dump on Thursday, which brought 40cm of snow to Valle Nevado and 25cm to Portillo. Valle Nevado has extended its season until October 12 as a result; as has Catedral Alta Patagonia, further south.
Nevertheless, the season is winding down in the south as the spring sunshine grows ever stronger. In New Zealand, The Remarkables closed yesterday and more resorts will follow suit this weekend – as they will in the Snowy Mountains of Australia. New Zealand in particular has had a memorable season. But this photo from the Remarkables’ pond-skimming party on Saturday sums up the mood there now.
|France: all of the French glacier ski areas are currently closed. However, the Grande Motte above Tignes will be open again from October 3.|
|Switzerland: currently Zermatt claims 145cm of snow at 2900m. Here, 15 lifts are currently open, serving 13 pistes. You can also ski on the glacier above Saas-Fee.|
|Austria: five glaciers are currently open in Austria for skiing – the Hintertux, the Molltal, the Pitztal, the Stubai, and the Rettenbach, above Solden. The Hintertux has the most terrain on offer, with 18km of pistes.|
|Italy: The glacier above Val Senales is now open. Cervinia will be opening again on October 17.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are closed.|
|Western USA: Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon had to close its lifts on August 2 after a low snowfall and a hot summer (thanks to Martin Bell for the update!). Hopefully, the Colorado resorts of Loveland and Arapahoe Basin will shortly be starting their race to open, but it’s still too warm to get the snow cannons going.|
|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.|