In the northern and western Alps, December 2012 just keeps on giving. In many French and Swiss resorts it snowed every day at altitude from December 14 to December 19 – and the accumulations have been impressive. In Switzerland, SLF – the national avalanche service – estimates up to 140cm fell in places over five days. In France, Meteo France’s avalanche report reckons there was a metre of fresh snow in the same period in the Haute Tarentaise – home to the resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isere.
As you’ll see from the picture, above, there was plenty of fresh snow to be skied in the Arlberg resorts of Austria, too.
This is on top of the heavy snow that hit the northern Alps in the period November 28-December 7 – featured in earlier editions of our snow report.
As a result, snow depths are nothing short of miraculous – given we haven’t even reached Christmas yet. Above Flaine in the Grand Massif, for example, there’s 110cm of settled snow on the lower slopes, and 240cm higher up. In the Three Valleys, Val Thorens has 150-230cm. Verbier reports 90-215cm, and Andermatt 82-330cm.
Meanwhile in Alpe d’Huez Welove2ski reader Michael Lucas reported “two days of continuous snow” on Monday and Tuesday, as well fresh powder and excellent skiing on-piste.
You can even ski down to Bourg-St Maurice from Les Arcs. Amazing!
However, there are a few caveats about this super-abundance of snow:
- As I said – it’s been snowing almost continuously. Yesterday, there was sunshine for the first time in ages – but it’s gone again now. Visibility is poor. Above the treeline, you’ve got to hire a guide/follow an instructor to get the best of it, on-piste or off.
- The avalanche risk is high – bobbling about between 3/5 and 4/5 in the northern and western Alps.
- Temperatures have not been consistently low, as they were in early December. There was rain up to 2200m last weekend, and there’s more in the forecast now. Meteo France expects it to rain between 1500 and 2000m over the next couple of days, which is spoiling the skiing surface lower down.
- Not every part of the Alps has been so blessed with the white stuff – notably the Italian Dolomites. The cover is still good for the time of year, but not as extraordinary as it is in the north-west.
Here’s a quick survey of the today’s webcam shots.
What’s next? Unfortunately the outlook for Christmas week is far from clear. It looks as though quite a powerful thaw is coming at the weekend: it could be +6C in both Tignes and Lech on Sunday – so altitude will be the key to getting the best-quality snow. Thereafter, however, the forecasting models are undecided. Some see the thaw settling in for several days. Others predict a sharp drop in temperature and more snow. Keep an eye on our Alpine snow forecast for updates…
Meanwhile, in Scandinavia, it’s been snowing hard in Are, Sweden, today.
In America, there’s plenty of the white stuff about, too.
Breckenridge in Colorado has – at last – got its winter back over the last week, and reports 70cm of snow in the last seven days. 30cm fell on December 17-18. Needless to say, the resort’s film-makers were quick to take advantage of it. Here’s their latest video…
But it’s the Californian resorts which look most promising for a Christmas snow-fest in the US – thanks to a powerful Pacific storm which is going to send two weather fronts across the mountains. There’s already been plenty of snow there in the last week. Heavenly on Lake Tahoe resports 60-odd cm in the last seven days. Kirkwood, nearby has had double that on its upper slopes. The forecast is for another 60cm this weekend.
Here’s the latest video from Heavenly. Please please please, oh Great Gods of Snow, can you keep the white stuff coming Welove2ski rolls into town at the end of January?
And finally – don’t forget Whistler, in Canada, which continues to have a great early season. This morning skiers woke up to half a metre of fresh snow, and mid-mountain depths of 225cm deep! It’s been snowing hard in Fernie too…
|France: See our main report. There’s been more heavy snow across the region this week, with up to a metre falling in places. A thaw is now settling in – for the weekend at least – so aim high to find soft-grippy corduroy and powder off-piste. In Morzine, there’s 60-200cm of snow on-piste. The cover is thinning because of the rain, but there’s still plenty to ski on, even at village level. Higher up, Meribel reports 105-185cm of snow on-piste, and Tignes 100-195cm.
|Switzerland: See above. There’s no shortage of snow in Switzerland, and even in the lower resorts the cover will hold up well in the coming thaw. The avalanche risk is considerable – 3/5 – and at lower altitudes it could rise as the new snow gets heavy in the rising temperatures. Verbier’s snow report currently claims 131cm of settled snow, mid-mountain – and in Engelberg there’s 145cm of snow mid-mountain.
|Austria: Generally Austria hasn’t had quite as much snow as France or Switzerland, but it’s still in good shape, given the date. Aim high in the coming thaw for the best skiing surface. St Anton currently reports 80-130cm of snow on its slopes. In high-altitude Obergurgl there’s 91-198cm of settled snow. Lower down, in the Skiwelt, the snow is 45-95cm deep.
|Italy: The resorts of the Italian Dolomites got a welcome top-up of snow on Saturday: as a result, Canazei reports settled depths of up to 130cm. Above Madonna di Campiglio the cover is up to 150cm deep. Further west, Cervinia reports 185cm of snow, mid-mountain.
|Andorra: The Pyrenees are feeling the effects of the thaw too and in the Grand Valira ski area depths are down slightly: the cover is currently 20-70cm deep, on-piste.
|Western USA: See our main report. The season in the American Rockies has got its mojo back, and there’s more snow in the forecast for Christmas – to add to this week’s falls. Currently, Snowbird in Utah has 154cm of settled snow, mid-mountain, Jackson Hole 114cm, and Vail 48cm. Mind you, California will be the place to ski in the wake of the weekend dump, with 60cm of fresh snow expected in places.
|Western Canada: Whistler has had 62cm of snow in the last 24 hours, 50cm of it overnight. It’s going to be a powder day! Current depths, mid-mountain, are a whopping 225cm! Inland, Fernie’s reports a whopping 124cm of snow in the last week, and a settled snow pack of 204cm. In Banff National Park Sunshine Village reports a settled snow base of 127cm.