Dazzling spring sunshine dominates the weather in the Alps at the moment: but there could be snow on Friday.
Greetings from a sun-drenched Tignes, snowfiends! I’m here courtesy of Mark Warner, and the sunlight’s so bright here you can barely open your eyes unless you’re wearing goggles or sunnies.
Here’s how it was looking this morning. In a word, magnificent.
Here’s another view…
Temperatures are mild, but not as toasty as I was expecting: and the snow’s holding up well. Yesterday afternoon I was skiing with my six-year old son on the north west-facing slope, pictured above. It’s only just above Tignes-le-Lac, and the snow was firm till 2pm – and not madly slushy after that. There’s plenty of cover too; testament to the heavy snow that fell in the week before Easter.
Of course, to get the best from these conditions you need your wits about you. The freezing point today is up to 3000m in France and 2600m in Austria. Anywhere facing east, south or south-west will be slushy by lunchtime and often earlier than that, and the trick is to ski each slope within 90 minutes of the sun first touching it (starting of course with the east-facing slopes). Leave it later than that, and you’ll find the cover wet and heavy, especially below 2500m.
If you want to ski after lunch, then head up above 3000m if you can, or seek out the shadiest, north-facing pockets.
If you’re in a high-altitude resort, such as Tignes, Val d’Isere, Val Thorens, Obergurgl or Cervinia, and you apply these spring-skiing tactics you can still have a great day’s skiing even when the rest of the Alps seem to be steaming.
By contrast, below the 1800m mark the season is fading fast. Many low-lying resorts have already shut down their lift systems, and most of the rest will follow suit on Sunday.
At this time of year, aiming high is the only rule of thumb that counts.
Here’s a quick look at the day’s webcams, starting with Val d’Isere, which shares the Espace Killy ski area with Tignes: you can see the Grand Motte glacier in the distance, top right of this picture. In Val today, the snow is 85-185cm deep.
Meanwhile, here’s Cervinia today, on the Italian border with Switzerland. The snow here is 30-280cm deep.
Finally, pictured below is Obergurgl in Austria, where the snow is 22-134cm deep.
What’s coming next?
Essentially, we’re getting more of the same spring sunshine over the next four days – although it will be cooler at the Austrian end of the Alps tonight and tomorrow. However, it looks as though change will come on Friday, with the arrival of a cold front from the north. This is not certain, but if it comes it may be preceded by some thunderstorms, and there could be a short sharp dose of heavy snow at altitude, especially in Switzerland and Austria. It’s worth keeping an eye on our Snow Forecast for the Alps to see if how the outlook develops.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic…
Western Canada is the place to be at the moment, thanks to low temperatures and new snow. Whistler reported 19cm of fresh this weekend, and more is falling overnight. Meanwhile, in Lake Louise they had a foot of fresh snow to play in on Saturday…
|France: Above 2000m, there’s still plenty of cover, and anyone employing spring-skiing tactics should have a great day on-piste, despite the strong sunshine. The sunny weather looks set to continue for the next three or four days, although there could be a stormy/snowy interlude after that. Currently, in high-altitude Val Thorens, the snow is 135-235cm deep. On the Grands Montets above the Chamonix Valley the snow is 130-200cm deep.|
|Switzerland: conditions in Switzerland are similar to those in France. There’s plenty of snow at altitude, but you’ll have to be skiing at the top of your lift system to have any hope of finding cover unaffected by the thaw. Keep an eye on the snow forecast over the next couple of days. There could be a dose of heavy snow on Friday night. Currently Verbier in the west reports a mid-mountain snow depth of 169cm, and 270cm at the top, while St Moritz in the south has 4-150cm of cover across its pistes. However, only a handful of pistes are now open here.|
|Austria: Austria currently has the deepest cover in the Alps, thanks to the snow just before Easter. There’s great on-piste skiing to be had for those who follow the sun around their resort, but you’ll need to aim for a glacier or a high-altitude area such as Obergurgl to find any snow unaffected by the thaw. Bear in mind that many of the lower lift systems have now shut down for the season. Currently, on the Hintertux glacier, the snow is up to 290cm deep on the pistes. Meanwhile on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, the snow is 210-370cm deep.|
|Italy: lift systems are closing quickly across the Italian Alps now that Easter is done and dusted. For the best snow, and the largest number of pistes still open, head to Cervinia, which shares its skiing with neighbouring Zermatt, and offers some of the highest slopes in the Alps.|
|Andorra: sad to say, the ski season is now over in Andorra…|
|Western USA: many Colorado resorts have now begun their final week of skiing – and they may get a decent send-off from Mother Nature. Local snow guru Joel Gratz reckons there could be moderate or even heavy snowfall in the middle of the week. Currently, in Vail, Colorado, the mid-mountain snowpack is 107cm deep, and the daytime high is expected to hit +12C. In Utah, Snowbird has 182cm of settled mid-mountain snow. Utah could see heavy snow, mid-week, as well.|
|Western Canada: April has been one of the best months, snow-wise, in western Canada this season, especially in the Rockies, where Sunshine Village has 186cm of settled snow on its mid-mountain pistes. Nearby, Lake Louise has a mid-mountain snow depth of 172cm.|