Flippin ‘eck, Snowfiends. There we were, dazzled by the epic early-season conditions in places like Lake Louise and Utah, and we almost missed the openings of Zinal in Switzerland, Montgenevre in France and Madonna di Campiglio in Italy!
All three have opened for weekends only, for the time being – but Montgenevre in particular is in great shape given the date. The resort has already had two 50cm snowfalls this autumn, and its snow report talks of 60cm of cover packed down on its upper slopes.
You can see the news report from French TV station TF1 at this link. And in case you’re wondering, no, it’s not usual for a ski resort this far south in the French Alps to have such good snow in November. You can thank a couple of meaty storms bubbling up from the gulf of Genoa for that.
Elsewhere in the Alps several more familiar names have been making a fairly smooth transition from autumn to winter. High-altitude Obergurgl in Austria is usually one of the first resorts without a glacier to get going in the Alps, and opened on October 15 – with an impressive 70km of pistes on offer. Meanwhile, in Tignes, France, they’ve been skiing back down to resort level on the Double M piste for 10 days. There’s good skiing down to Plan Maison above Cervinia, too, and lots of action on the Austrian glaciers – notably the Hintertux, which has 58km of pistes on offer and a settled snow depth of 105cm on the higher pistes.
Here’s some video shot at Obergurgl on Saturday.
In other words, the Alpine season is unfolding steadily. But it’s not a spectacular start by any means. A week of mild, sunny weather has temporarily halted the winter at lower elevations – and at 1000m most mountainsides are snowless. Above 2000m, on shady slopes, there is a fair amount of white stuff about, and at night resorts have been able to run their snow cannons. In a couple of weeks’ time, when the mainstream season starts to roll, there should be some decent piste skiing about – at altitude. But we could do with a drop in temperatures and a couple more dumps to set things up properly across the whole of the region.
There’s no sign of significant snowfall to come in the immediate future. According to the Welove2ski snow forecast the higher Alps will see some snow on Thursday and Friday, but it won’t be heavy. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a bigger dump w/c November 26 – but the mid-range forecasts are not yet signalling a decisive shift towards winter. If you want to book an pre-Christmas ski trip now, then make sure you pick a high-altitude resort.
Meanwhile, up in Scandinavia, the webcam shot below shows how Are in Sweden was looking this morning. Thanks to an unusually chilly and snowy autumn, you can ski the lower half of the mountain down to resort level under both the VM6 and VM8 chairs.
And what of North America?
Well, it depends where you’re skiing. But if you were in Lake Louise in Canada this weekend, you might have been enjoying some of this…
In Alta in Utah, it was looking like this…
And in Kirkwood in California, they had some of this – thanks to half a metre of snow in the last 24 hours!
Not every resort is in such good shape for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, on November 22. In particular, the Colorado resorts could do with some more snow to deepen the cover and allow for more terrain to be opened. At the moment, the best conditions are in Utah and the Canadian Rockies: but Whistler may leapfrog over both in the next few days thanks to a meaty storm which is currently pummelling the Pacific Northwest. It’s already had 60cm of snow on the top half of the mountain this weekend, and is expecting up to 40cm more by close of play tomorrow (though it will be raining lower down).
|France: See main report. Montgenevre opened this weekend, and will open again on November 24 and 25. Its full-season opening is on December 1. In Tignes there’s good skiing on the glacier and on the Double M piste. Val Thorens opens on November 24, and Val d’Isere and Les Deux Alpes on December 1.
|Switzerland: There’s good cover on the Swiss glaciers, although it thinned a bit in the mild weather of the last week. On the Allalin glacier above Saas-Fee the cover is now 148cm deep – down from 165cm on Thursday. In Zermatt, there’s skiing down to Schwarzsee and over into neighbouring Cervinia too. The glacier above Engelberg is open once more for skiing.
|Austria: See main report. There’s good early-season skiing at Obergurgl and on the Austrian glaciers – including the Hintertux glacier the Molltal glacier, the Pitztal glacier, Kitzsteinhorn glacier, the Kaunertal glacier and the Stubai glacier glacier. You can also ski on both glaciers above Solden. Obertauern opens on Thursday.
|Italy: Glacier skiing is possible again above Val Senales. Meanwhile, in Cervinia you can now ski down to the mid-mountain hub of Plan Maison. Madonna di Campiglio is now opening at the weekends.
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski areas are closed.
|Western USA: See main report. In Colorado, the snow’s a bit thin, but elsewhere in the west the season is off to a good start, especially in California and Utah. Among the resorts currently open are Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail in Colorado, Snowbird and Alta in Utah and Heavenly, Kirkwood and Mammoth in California. Most of the rest will be open for Thanksgiving on Thursday.
|Western Canada: See main report. Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Banff National Park are both open and still have the best conditions of the resorts we report on. But Whistler has already had 60cm of snow on its upper slopes from the latest storm, and could be getting 40cm more this week.