Just when you thought the long winter of 2012-13 was over, along comes another cold front. And look at the result!
Above, is Saturday’s snow forecast for the Alps. The storm is due to start in earnest on Friday evening and continue right through Saturday in places. It could drop over half a metre of the white stuff on some high-altitude resorts.
It’ll certainly provide a dramatic change in the weather, which has been dazzling and balmy so far this week. The freezing point has been well above the 3000m mark, and spring-skiing tactics have been essential, whether you’ve been on piste or off. John Yates-Smith of tour op YSE was off-piste yesterday in Val d’Isere and sent in the picture below. He summed up the satisfaction of skiing the fast-changing conditions nicely.
“Spring snow is really easy to ski, but you have to get your timing right. Hit it too early, it’s sheet ice and very dangerous. Too late, it’s sheet slush and even more dangerous. In between it is wonderful to ski, and very safe.”
The key is to follow the sun, and hit each slope just as it starts to warm the snow up. The principle is the same whether you’re on-piste or off, but the penalties for hanging around too long are much more severe if you’re off-piste: because once the snow gets too wet and heavy, wet-snow avalanches are a real threat. Hiring a guide to keep you safe is vital, as the avalanche risk is often up to 4/5 by midday.
Anyway, enough about spring skiing: because there will be powder again on the menu this weekend. According to French forecasters Meteo Chamonix, the snow will fall down to 600m – something you’d expect in mid-winter. On Sunday the clouds will start to lift in the French Alps and on Monday in Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Then, temperatures are due to rise rapidly again. So if you want to ski the new snow in all its soft and grippy glory, you’ll need to be quick.
Here’s a brief sample of today’s webcams – showing the last of the sunshine. Of course, a lot of the lower resorts have now closed, and many more will stop the lifts over the course of the next week. However, a few will keep going into May, including Cervinia, Val Thorens, Val d’Isere and Tignes, as well several glacier ski areas – notably the Hintertux, which aims to stay open right through the summer.
Up in Scandinavia, spring is in control
In Are, Sweden, it’s a warm day, with temperatures up to +8C by the lake. Just under a fortnight of skiing is left here – and the charts are suggesting temperatures will drop back again one more time before the lifts stop spinning.
But in the American Rockies, winter has made a comeback
In the April 15 Snow Report, I mentioned that closing day in many Rocky-Mountain ski resorts had coincided with a big dump of snow. Well, since then the snow has continued – no doubt to the intense frustration of locals who now have to hike to get their turns. A few, however, are laughing: because there is a scattering of resorts still open – for example, Snowbird in Utah and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado. Both have notched up around a foot of snow in the last couple of days.
|France: see our main report. Winter is due to make a comeback this weekend in the French Alps – with snow falling down to 600m on Friday night. Currently, however, the sun’s out, and it’s warm. In Val d’Isere the daytime temperature is up to +13C at resort level. There, the snow’s 115-300cm deep, on-piste.
|Switzerland: it’s warm in the Swiss Alps too. In Zermatt, the temperature in town could be up to +19C today! Mid-mountain, the snow is up to two metres deep. The lifts on several sectors of the mountain shut this weekend – despite the new snow that’s expected. In Verbier (which closes on April 28), they’re expecting a high of +19C today as well. There, the snow is currently 45-280cm deep on-piste.
|Austria: in common with France and Switzerland, Austria is expecting much cooler conditions at the weekend. However, it’s warm today, with a high in Obergurgl of +13C expected. The resort has 49-136cm of settled snow on its pistes. The resort is due to close at the weekend. In Lech – which also closes on Sunday – there’s 60-170cm of settled snow, and the temperature in town is expected to reach +15C today.
|Italy: The snow is thinning in the warm, sunny weather. Currently, Cervinia reports 130cm of settled snow mid-mountain (down from 165cm on Monday) and is expecting a high of +17C in the resort. It is, however, in line for a decent dump of fresh snow at the weekend.
|Andorra: midwinter saw heavy snow in the Pyrenees, and the depth of the cover has allowed the resorts in Andorra to stay open longer than usual. In the Grand Valira – Andorra’s biggest ski area – the lifts will be spinning until April 28. The resort is claiming up to 200cm of settled snow on its pistes, although temperatures are up to +12C.
|Western USA: the season is now over for most American resorts – despite the heavy snow this week in the Rockies. However, Snowbird in Utah is still going, and reports 33cm of fresh on its upper slopes, and 279cm of settled cover, mid-mountain. In Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, there’s been 30cm of snow in the last three days and the mid-mountain base is up to 160cm deep.
|Western Canada: by its wintry standards Lake Louise is in for a mild day, with temperatures up to +2C. The snowpack is 175cm deep, mid-mountain, and the lifts close on May 5. Above Whistler, the mid-mountain snowpack is 243cm deep. Skiing will continue on Blackcomb mountain until May 27.