It’s a good day to be in Austria: either skiing the pistes in a glacier resort, or touring off-piste in search of just-melting firn snow.
The glacier pistes are particularly enticing right now because parts of the Austrian Alps had half a metre of fresh snow between Thursday morning and Saturday night last week. The East Tirol saw the heaviest falls, but it’s up on the Hintertux and Stubai glaciers that you’ll find the best conditions, because they’re least affected by the springtime cycle of daily melting and refreezing. It’ll be almost like skiing in winter up there today.
Here’s how it was looking on the Hintertux yesterday…
And this was the scene on the Stubai glacier this morning.
Meanwhile, ski tourers on slightly lower slopes will find the new snow melted yesterday in the sunshine and then refroze overnight. With sunshine in the forecast again today, it looks like the perfect recipe for firn snow: which forms just as the thick, load-bearing crust of snow softens in the morning sunshine.
As the Tirol’s avalanche service says in today’s report: “The season for firn-snow tours has finally arrived. A bit of luck and a splendid tour is assured this morning, after a night of clear skies.”
In the western Alps, there was less snow last week. 10-15cm was pretty normal in the French resorts – but at least it refreshed the pistes, which had a bit of a hammering in the long thaw over Easter.
By contrast, in some Swiss resorts close to the Italian border they had 20-35cm of new snow: this was Saas-Fee on Saturday morning.
As in Austria, the best place to be skiing is in a high-altitude resort, with plenty of pistes above 2500m. Off-piste ski-touring in search of firn snow is a possibility, too: especially in those parts of Switzerland where there was enough fresh snow on Friday to cover all the old tracks.
And this was the scene in Val Thorens this morning.
The sunshine is likely to persist into Tuesday, followed by a brief spell of snowfall on Wednesday, as a weak weather front crosses the region. Temperatures will generally be lower than they were last week.
Of course, with Easter now well behind us, many lower resorts have already closed, and more are following suit over the next couple of weeks. I see even high-altitude Obergurgl will be closing on April 24 this season. However, Tignes, Cervinia, Val d’Isere and Val Thorens will keep going into early May. And there will be a few glacier ski areas running after that (Zermatt and the Hintertux are open all year): but if you want your last fix of snow before the shutters come down on the mainstream ski season, don’t hang about.
I’ll be back with a full Snow Report on Thursday.