Four days of spectacular sunshine are on the cards for most of the Alps – followed by a switch to much wetter weather on Friday and Saturday.
After a changeable few days in the Alps, which brought fresh snow to the higher slopes and rain lower down, the sunshine’s back. Several days of more or less cloudless skies are expected, and to start with, it’ll be coolish for the time of year. In France today, for example, the freezing level will be at 2300m. In Austria it’ll be at 2200m.
Tomorrow will be warmer, with the freezing point at 2800m in France and 2600m in Austria.
Today should see some classic spring skiing, provided you take two precautions. First, you’ll need to stay above 2300m, to avoid the worst of the daily slushy-fication of the lower pistes. Second, you’ll need to follow the sun around the resort, tackling the east-facing slopes first and finishing on those which look north.
Tomorrow, you’ll have to build more altitude into your plans, and migrate to the highest slopes – above 2700m – more quickly. In many resorts that’s not an option, of course. But there are several which can oblige, including Val d’Isere, Tignes, Val Thorens, Zermatt, Cervinia and Obergurgl, as well as glacier ski areas such as the Hintertux, the Stubai and the Kitzsteinhorn. They’re the only kind of resorts worth your money at this time of year.
Anyone looking to ski off-piste should hire a guide. At the highest altitudes, there’s still some fresh snow about, left over from Friday’s fall. Meanwhile, lower down, the overnight refreeze is producing a load-bearing crust which will be fun to ski just as it begins to soften. However, to track down either surface you really need to know your snow. You’ll also need expert guidance to stay clear of wet-snow avalanches triggered by the rising daytime temperatures.
Here’s a quick squizz at the webcams, starting with the view up the valley from Tignes-le-Lac, looking towards the Grande Motte. Courtesy of Mark Warner, I was there last week – and boy do I miss it now. It’s one of the best places I know to ski in April – and one of the most beautiful. Currently the snow is 50-160cm deep, and the resort is due to close on May 10. The Grande Motte glacier is due to reopen on June 27 – although the cable car serving the top glacier runs is currently being repaired after storm damage.
Pictured below is Val Thorens, in the Three Valleys, where the snow 100-220cm deep. Here too, the lifts shut on May 10.
Meanwhile, here’s how it’s looking at Cervinia, which shares its skiing with neighbouring Zermatt. The snow here is 45-270cm deep. Cervinia finishes daily operations on May 3, but will open each weekend for the rest of the month.
Pictured below is the Stubai glacier, above Innsbruck, which will be open until July 3. Here the snow is up to 260cm deep, on-piste.
Finally, here’s how it’s looking on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun, where the snow is 200-370cm deep. The lifts here are closing early this year, on May 25, to prepare for a summer of lift-building and piste-repositioning.
What’s coming next?
The weather looks set to change significantly on Friday, thanks to a big lump of mild and moist air, which is due in from the Atlantic. Interestingly, it may be followed by a cold front on Saturday, which will bring a significant drop in temperature, and a decent dump of snow. This is by no means certain yet, but if comes the season will be ending with a bang.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic…
You’ll have seen from our last Snow Report that Utah had a big dump of snow in the middle of last week. Colorado saw the white stuff shortly afterwards – and high-altitude Arapahoe Basin notched up nearly 60cm as a result of the storm. Pictured above was the scene on Friday, when the storm was just getting underway.
|France: There are was high-altitude snow in the French Alps on Friday, and rain lower down. Saturday saw some powder-skiing at the highest altitudes as a result, but now we’re back to more conventional spring skiing, with a daily freeze-thaw cycle on the cards until Friday. At that point it’s going to get wetter, and temperatures may drop shortly afterwards. There could be heavy snow at altitude.
In France, most resorts are in the final week of operations or have already closed, but there will be a handful of ski areas continuing into early May. On top of those mentioned in the main report is the Grands Montets sector above the Chamonix, where the lifts will be running until May 3. There, the snow is currently 108-175cm deep.
|Switzerland: as in France, the season is winding down fast in Switzerland, but there’s still plenty of snow at altitude, and decent spring skiing on offer if you know how to tackle the sunny and mild conditions. Currently Verbier reports a mid-mountain snow depth of 146cm, and 250cm at the top, while Engelberg has 220cm of mid-mountain snow, and 350cm at the top.
|Austria: Austria currently has the deepest cover in the Alps at altitude, thanks to the snow just before Easter. As is the case right across region, it’s now time to migrate to the very highest ski areas. Currently, on the Hintertux glacier, the snow is up to 290cm deep on the pistes. Meanwhile above Obergurgl, the snow is 16-121cm deep.
|Italy: 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. Here, the snow is 45-270cm deep.
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts have now closed for skiing.
|Western USA: the ski season is winding down fast across the American west, but you can still ski in Snowbird, Utah, where the mid-mountain cover is over 200cm deep, thanks to last week’s dump. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Arapahoe Basin reports 145cm of mid-mountain cover on its trails.
|Western Canada: April has been one of the best months, snow-wise, in western Canada this season, especially in the Rockies, where Lake Louise reports over a metre of snow since April 1. Its season lasts until May 10 and it currently has 156cm of settled snow on its mid-mountain trails. Meanwhile, nearer the coast, Whistler has now shut the lifts on Blackcomb mountain. They reopen to skiers on June 20 for the short glacier season. Whistler mountain will be open until May 18, and reports a mid-mountain snowpack of 182cm.