There are three things to say about the weather in the Alps right now.
1. We haven’t seen November snow like this since 2007.
It’s been six years since November has been marked by snow like this. There’s been snow on and off all autumn – but since November 10 the storms have come in rapid succession. November 10, November 15 and November 19 have all seen big dumps, with lighter periods of snow in between. All parts of the Alps have been blessed, but in contrast with 2007, when Austria got the lion’s share, 2013 has favoured the western Alps – until now, at least.
2. Next week, the sun’s coming out
Forecasting more than five days in advance is a notoriously flukey business, but there is consensus amongst the mid-range weather models that next week high pressure will return. It’s going to settle over the UK and dominate the weather in western Europe. So – in the western half of the Alps at least – this glorious run of blizzards is going to stop. In France and Italy, Sunday will probably be the last day of snow – although it’s likely to continue in Austria and eastern Switzerland until Tuesday.
It’ll stay cold – for a while at least – and once the skies clear the skiing will be superb, both on-piste and off. Off-piste, the avalanche risk will be considerable for a time – thanks to the high winds that have accompanied all this snow. But provided you can find a lift system that’s open, and take all the necessary precautions, you’re more or less guaranteed top-notch conditions. (Check out our guide to the best resorts for early-season skiing for ideas about where to go.)
3. Go skiing as soon as soon as you can
Bear in mind that the time to ski all this snow is as soon as the sun comes out: because there’s no guarantee it will snow again any time soon. One mid-range forecast I’ve seen has the high pressure sticking around until December 6 and, eventually, pulling mild air up from the south. Another predicts a return to wintry weather at the start of December. What’s more, these prognoses are changing on a daily basis. In other words, no-one knows for certain when the next storm is coming.
Of course, with so much snow having already fallen, there are no worries about the cover on-piste in the higher resorts in the run-up to Christmas. Low temperatures mean the snow cannons will be running at full tilt, too. But if it’s powder you’re after, next week has your name written all over it.
Right then: onto here’s a brief survey of the situation right now.
It’s snowing heavily in the Alps today – again!
Here’s the snow forecast for the Alps today.
The bright yellow on the map indicates areas where 50cm+ could fall in 24 hours…
Below is how Val d’Isere (opens November 30) was looking this morning.
This was Les Deux Alpes (opens November 30)…
This was Zermatt, which is pretty much in the eye of the storm this afternoon. Here, you can currently ski down to Trockener Steg at 2989m.
More resorts will be opening shortly
Regular followers of our Snow Report will know that although Obergurgl in Austria and a host of glacier ski areas are already open full time-for the skiing, most resorts are still closed in the Alps. Thankfully, that situation is beginning to change.
In France, Val Thorens opened its first pistes today, a couple of days ahead of its proper, full-time opening, on November 23. Here’s how it was looking this afternoon as the snow eased off.
Courchevel is also opening the Verdons gondola and the Saulire cable car on Saturday, thanks to the snow – and lift passes are FREE! How cool is that? Sadly, it’ll then close again until December 7.
This video shows how the Saulire was looking at the start of the week.
And here’s how it was looking outside the chalet-hotel Crystal 2000 in Courchevel today.
Meanwhile, in Austria, Hochzillertal and Hochfugen are opening this weekend for a winter preview. They’ll close again next week and get started full time on November 30. Pictured below was how it was looking in Hochfugen this morning. Note the guy skinning up, who clearly can’t wait till Saturday…
Resorts are opening early in the Pyrenees, too
As we mentioned in our last Snow Report, Baqueira-Beret in Spain is opening at the weekend, thanks to heavy snow last Saturday and Sunday. Now it will be joined by the Grandvalira ski area in Andorra, as well as the Pic Blanc in France.
There’s been more snow across the Pyrenees today. Pictured below is Grand Tourmalet this morning.
There’s been more snow in the American west
Several ski areas across the American west are already spinning their lifts for the season. But as far as openings go, the coming week is the big one, as resorts gear up for the Thanksgiving holiday. For the most part, conditions are pretty good too – especially in Colorado, where many resorts had 30cm or more of snow at the weekend. There was a further dusting on Tuesday night – and according to snow guru Joel Gratz about 15cm should fall over the next couple of days to add to it. Among the resorts about to open are Vail on November 22, and Steamboat and Beaver Creek on November 27.
In Utah, there was heavy snow at the weekend – followed by further dustings this week. Snowbird got going yesterday, joining Solitude and Brighton which were already open. Alta opens tomorrow and The Canyons on November 29.
In California, the Lake Tahoe resorts are getting their first big snowstorm of the season. This was Heavenly yesterday. The resort opens tomorrow.
Winter has hit hard in the Canadian Rockies
Finally, check out Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies, below: the resort reports 60cm of snow in the last week and a high yesterday of -17C. Today is going to be much warmer, at -13…
|France: See our main report. The Grande Motte glacier and several pistes above Tignes are open for skiing, and Val Thorens opens properly for the season on Saturday. Alpe d’Huez, Courchevel and Val Thorens are opening some terrain at the weekend.|
|Switzerland: You can ski on the glaciers above Zermatt, Saas Fee and Engelberg. Meanwhile, Verbier is opening every weekend until the start of the mainstream season. You can also ski at Davos, St Moritz and Laax.|
|Austria: the mainstream ski season in Austria is underway – thanks to the opening of Obergurgl today, November 14. There’s also good skiing on offer on the Austrian glaciers: although the weather won’t be great for the next couple of days. You can currently ski on the Hintertux, Stubai, Rettenbach, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Molltal and Kitzsteinhorn glaciers.|
|Italy: the glacier above the Val Senales/Schalstal in the South Tyrol is open for skiing, and the lifts above Cervinia are also running full time, offering access to the glacier above Zermatt, and now the celebrated Ventina piste as well.|
|Andorra: There’s been heavy snow in the Pyrenees, as well as the Alps. Grandvalira is opening for a weekend preview on Saturday, and then full-time from November 30. Vallnord opens on November 30 too.|
|Western USA: See our main report. In Colorado, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland and Breckenridge are among the growing number of resorts now open. In California, the first lifts are running on Mammoth Mountain, too. Many more resorts will open from Friday onwards, in preparation for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Generally in the west the cover is pretty good for the time of year.|
|Western Canada: Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village in Banff National Park are now open for skiing. Whistler is open too. The best conditions so far are in the Rockies – though they’re not quite as memorable as they were in November 2012.|