Ahhhh….the glories of April skiing.
As forecast, the northern Alps were swept by a band of snow and rain on Tuesday. But it stayed warm – so even in high-altitude Tignes it rained for a time and only the newest Gore-Tex seemed to keep the rain out. By midday we were all sodden – wringing out gloves and even goggles at every coffee break.
Then, yesterday, the sun came out.
Below about 2500m the snow had been wet – and it refroze overnight. So the usual spring-skiing rules applied. You had to wait for the slopes to soften a bit before the fun started. Up high, however, it was like winter. 10-20cm of soft, fluffy winter snow awaited our skiing pleasure – and everyone went nuts.
Anyone with any sense skied the glacier first, and before dropping down to ski the warmer conditions on the valley runs. Amazingly, north-facing slopes beneath the 2704m Toviere didn’t start to soften until after lunch, and they were still a dream to ski until 3pm.
It’s nice to be reminded how good the spring can be in a high-altitude resort. You need plenty of slopes facing in different directions, which warm up at different times of the day. And a glacier definitely helps. But even in a long, hot spring like this one it can be a joyous experience.
Today, in Austria, there’s a little bit of snow about (with rain lower down). Elsewhere, it’s been another day of brilliant sunshine and rapidly-rising temperatures. A cool north-easterly breeze slowed the effects of the sun a little – but by lunchtime any slope facing east or south below about 2700 was soft and wet – and at 2000m was a real slush-fest: good for learning how to snowboard, and not much else. But anyone who focused on skiing the conditions, rather than worrying about about the piste map had a blast.
The outlook is for slightly cooler weather at the weekend, with more cloud, and the odd shower, falling as snow high up. Then more sunshine next week.
Here’s how it’s looking this afternoon in Serre Chevalier in France – where there’s still two metres of snow on the higher pistes. Down in the valley, the snow’s now 25cm deep…
Pictured, below is high-altitude Val Thorens, where the snow is 100-210cm deep, on-piste.
Finally, pictured below is Obergurgl in Austria, which is clearly not sharing in the sunshine today. It is, however, getting a dusting of snow, too. The cover here is 31-109cm deep.
Warm, too, in the Pyrenees
In Andorra, Hayley Firth of Andorra-resorts.com reports that conditions are very similar to the Alps. Spring has definitely sprung, but there was snow last week, and the pistes in Soldeu and Pas de la Casa are holding up well. The trick is to catch them just as the sun starts to soften the snow, and plan a long lunch somewhere sunny for when it gets too slushy.
Warm in North America as well
Remember that gloriously snowy spell in the western resorts of the US? Well, it’s finally come to an end – and temperatures have been rising ever since. At the bottom of the lifts yesterday, some resorts in Utah recorded a high of +20C – although it will be cooling off over the weekend, and some snow is expected in the Rockies. Meanwhile, up in Canada, Lake Louise reports a dusting of snow overnight and is expecting a high of +4C today.
|France: There’s still plenty of good skiing to be had in the high-altitude resorts, provided you stick to high, north-facing slopes, ski on a glacier, or else adopt spring-skiing tactics – tackling slopes as soon as the snow starts to soften. There may be a dusting of snow on Friday and Saturday, but nothing signficant. Currently, Val d’Isere reports 63-142cm of settled snow on its pistes. On the Grands Montets above Chamonix the snow report records 88-267cm of cover, on-piste.
|Switzerland: as in France, spring has returned to the Swiss Alps, and you need to aim high, and stay on north-facing slopes to find wintry snow. Failing that, spring-skiing tactics will deliver a good morning on the slopes, before all but the highest slopes turn slushy. Cooler temperatures are expected over the weekend, and a dusting of snow at altitude, before the sun returns on Monday. Currently, in Saas-Fee the cover is 47-330cm deep, on piste. Meanwhile, Verbier reports cover that is 13-160cm deep.
|Austria: Austria had a little snow at altitude today, and rain lower down. Very quickly now, the action is focusing on the high-altitude resorts, and the glaciers, as the lower areas shut their lifts. Currently, Obergurgl reports 31-109cm of settled snow, while the Hintertux glacier has up to four metres of snow on its pistes.
|Italy: the weather has warmed up quickly in the Italian Alps this spring, and the lower pistes are thinning fast: many of the lower ski areas are now shutting their lifts, and turning their thoughts to summer. However, at altitude, there’s still plenty of snow. Currently, in the Aosta Valley, Cervinia has 50-295cm of settled snow on its pistes. Meanwhile on the Presena glacier above Passo Tonale there’s 550-600cm of snow bedded down on the pistes.
|Andorra: the Pyrenees had fresh snow last week, but the weather’s been mild since then. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of snow, on-piste. Currently, Soldeu in the Grandvalira ski area reports 50-180cm of cover.
|Western USA: see our main report. Late March and early April were a spectacular time to be skiing the western resorts of the US – but the weather’s calmed down now and spring conditions have returned. In Colorado, Vail reports a settled base, mid-mountain, of 175cm. On the slopes, they’re expecting a high of +6C. In Utah, The Canyons reports a settled snowpack of 165cm. At the bottom of the lifts, the temperature may touch +15C today.
|Western Canada: spring-like conditions prevail in Whistler at the moment, with Alpine highs of -1C expected today (down in the valley it’s +10C). Currently, there’s 250cm of snow on the pistes, mid-mountain. Inland, Lake Louise reports a settled snowpack of 202cm, mid-mountain, and is expecting a high of +4C.