Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Two of our editors, Peter and Felice Hardy, are out in Tignes at the moment, courtesy of Mark Warner and Henry’s Avalanche Talk – and look what they were skiing this morning.
Jealous, moi? I might be…
About 15cm of new snow fell across the resort yesterday, part of a weather front that was still clearing out of Austria this morning. As you can see, it’s been followed by brilliant sunshine, so the time to ski the powder is right now, before the spring warmth turns it thick and lumpy.
Higher up, on shady slopes, there should still be some soft, fluffy snow at the end of the day, as the freezing point isn’t due to rise much above 2300m. Tomorrow, it’s going to be significantly warmer, so I imagine they’ll be migrating to the edges of the Grande Motte glacier, right at the top of the resort.
Generally speaking, conditions across the Alps are better than they were last week, when strong southerly winds and thick fog were a prominent feature in many resorts. But you’ll still need to be at altitude to really enjoy yourself. If you’re on-piste, stay light on your feet, adopt spring-skiing tactics, and be ready to move around your ski area with the sunshine. You need to hit each slope just as the snow begins to soften, but before it gets slushy.
If you’re off-piste, it’s best to hire a guide. He/she will lead you to the best snow, (whether it’s remnants of powder on high, north-facing slopes, or velvety corn snow which has just begun to soften); and keep you safe from wet-snow avalanches as temperatures rise each day.
The outlook is for mixed weather over the weekend, and spring-like temperatures. According to Welove2ski’s latest snow forecast, there should be another snowy interlude on Sunday, but there’s likely to be some rain around too, as well as moments of sunshine. On some nights, overnight cloud will also stop the snow refreezing below 2000m.
Then, early next week, temperatures are likely to surge – if latest maps from the European Centre for Mid-Range Weather Forecasts are anything to go by. So if you want good skiing, aim for a resort with slopes between 2500 and 3000m.
Here’s a quick squizz at the webcams in the high-altitude ski areas, starting with Val Thorens in France, which reported 15cm of new snow overnight and has settled cover 130-245cm deep. At village level, they’re expecting a high of just +3C today.
This is the view from the top of Serre Chevalier today. The resort missed out on yesterday’s snow, and has 8-105cm of settled cover on its slopes. At village level, the top temperature today will be +7C.
Pictured below is the Stubai Glacier, south of Innsbruck, which saw heavy snow at the end of last week and has up to 250cm deep on its slopes. It’s going to be cold all day up there, with the temperature not rising above -6C at 2900m.
And finally, here’s a little taste of the madness that awaits St Anton am Arlberg this weekend, when the 2016 edition of Der Weisse Rausch gets underway. Just watching this video makes the muscles in my legs scream.
Meanwhile, in North America…
The powder monkeys of Colorado are rubbing their hands in anticipation today as a five-day storm settles over their bit of the Rockies. Local snow guru Joel Gratz says the snow will come in waves, and drop at least 25cm of snow over most resorts – and it should settle down to village level, too. Several resorts there have already closed, and Vail will be bringing down the shutters on Sunday, but in Breckenridge they’ll keep going till April 24, and in A-Basin – well, they’ve got a tentative closing date of June 5.
|France: fresh snow fell yesterday in the French Alps above about 1800m, and there’s been some lovely skiing at altitude today as as result. Chamonix had some of the heaviest snow yesterday (up to 25cm) and reports up to 183-250cm of settled cover on the Grands Montets. Meanwhile, in Val d’Isere there’s 83-170cm of the white stuff on-piste.|
|Switzerland: there was a little fresh snow yesterday and overnight in Switzerland, followed by bright sunshine, and the best conditions are in the highest resorts – as is almost always the case at this time of year. Currently, Zermatt reports 220cm of settled cover at 2900m. In the south-east, Verbier has 20-220cm.|
|Austria: it’s been snowing, off and on, in Austria overnight and for much of the day – and this comes on top of quite heavy snow at the weekend. Still, many of the country’s lower resorts are already closed and the action has switched to the high-altitude resorts. Currently, Obergurgl reports 5-90cm of cover, on piste, and the Hintertux glacier 285cm on its highest slopes.|
|Italy: the season is winding down fast in Italy, with most ski areas in the Dolomites now closed, for example. Most of the action has retreated to the glaciers, and high-altitude resorts such as Cervinia and Livigno – where the snow is up to 119cm deep.|
|Andorra: in Andorra, the shutters have come down on the ski season. All eyes are now on the summer…|
|Western USA: see our main report. In Colorado especially, this has been a spring to remember, with frequent top-ups of snow, and there’s another one underway now. Pity, then, that many resorts have now closed. Currently, Breckenridge has 173cm of mid-mountain snow. In Utah Snowbird has 221cm, and in California Heavenly has 201cm.|
|Western Canada: temperatures have dropped back this week in Whistler, where the snowpack is currently 275cm deep, mid-mountain. Whistler Mountain closes on April 17: but on Blackcomb they’re hoping to keep skiing till May 30. Meanwhile, in Banff National Park, Lake Louise reports 93cm of mid-mountain snow and will close on May 8.|