We seem to have skipped spring in altogether. High pressure has settled over the Alps, warm air has been drawn up from the Med, and the daytime freezing point has jumped. Right across the region it’s up around the 3700m mark today, and almost everywhere the snow has been affected.
In the western Alps, where the cover is at its deepest, the warm weather is triggering powerful avalanches away from the groomed pistes. What’s more, the night-time drop in temperatures isn’t always stabilising the snow. One report today from MeteoFrance’s avalanche service recorded an avalanche on a south-facing slope at the end of the night. At this time of year, you’d expect the slides to be triggered between late morning and late afternoon.
As a result, the avalanche risk across much of the French Alps is now at 4/5, which rules out off-piste skiing. It’s no surprise really: there’s still a huge amount of snow on the mountains. There’s still a huge amount of snow in the higher villages, too. This shot was taken today in Val d’Isere earlier today…
Further east, where the snow isn’t quite so deep, the daytime cycle of melting and refreezing is more measured. The Tirol’s avalanche warning service reports a low avalanche risk in the mornings, rising to moderate or considerable by midday – which is more in line with what you’d expect in April.
Meanwhile, on piste, spring skiing tactics are essential if you’re going to get a decent day out of the conditions. Stay above 2000m if you can, wait for the sun to melt the top layer of the snow for half an hour or 45 minutes before you get stuck in – and then let rip. If your timing’s good, you’ll enjoy one of the smoothest, most flattering skiing surfaces on the planet. Just be ready to move on before it gets too slushy.
This is the final week of skiing in many big-name resorts, including Courchevel, Meribel, Obergurgl and St Anton, but the lifts will be spinning into May in several of the high-altitude ski areas, and beyond that on glaciers such as the Stubai. Several glacier ski areas reopen for skiing in June, and two – at Hintertux and Zermatt – are open all year.
Nevertheless, across the region, thoughts are now turning to summer sports. Summer is the most beautiful time of year in the mountains, and if you’ve never holidayed in the Alps in June, July or August, you’re missing out. Check out our new Summer section for tips on what to do and where to go.