Since Saturday, the weather across much of the Alps has been stunning.
I’m just back from a short trip to Val d’Isere, and there was flawless sunshine from start to finish. It’s been cold, too – cold enough for the snow cannons at village level to run during the day as well as the night.
This was Lionel, my guide, putting in some high-speed turns in the sunshine, above the Solaise, on Tuesday. As you can see, it was a magnificent way to the start the season…
If you saw Monday’s snow report, you’ll know there was heavy snow above about 2200m in parts of the western Alps last week – especially along the Franco-Italian border. Val d’Isere was one of the resorts that did particularly well, and the snow has settled to create a 150cm base on the higher pistes. At La Tête de Solaise restaurant, they reckon they’ve shovelled about three metres of snow off the roof so far this season.
A handful of other high resorts in the western and central Alps also have abundant snow at altitude, including Val Thorens, (150cm of settled snow on the higher runs), Serre Chevalier (194cm), Cervinia (160cm at the top) and Saas-Fee (145cm). Further east, the cover is generally thinner, but we’ve had reports of good piste skiing in Obergurgl in the Austrian Tirol this week (35cm of snow on the higher pistes). Ischgl is also in good shape thanks to its state-of-the-art snowmaking. The snow is up to 40cm deep, on piste, and 121km of pistes are open.
Here’s the morning view of the slopes above Samnaun, which shares its ski area with Ischgl.
Thanks to the wild weather last week in the south-western Alps a few lower resorts have almost mid-winter levels of snow. Montgenevre in France, for example, was able to open on Saturday, and has 150cm of settled snow on the higher pistes. More remarkably, there’s 70cm at village level too.
Here’s how the Front de Neige in Montgenevre looked this morning. You won’t find many base areas looking as snowy as this in the Alps at the moment.
And this is the top of Serre Chevalier, nearby. The southern French resort opens on Saturday for a preview, and then for the whole season on December 10.
The snow is deep across the border in Italy too. Pila, which opens at the weekend, has about two metres of snow packed down at the top. Bardonecchia has similar quantities, and is also opening this weekend.
So – up high in the west and lower down in the south-west, Mother Nature has been generous. But elsewhere the snow cannons have a lot of work to do. Fortunately, this cold, dry weather is perfect for snow-making. In places like Lech and St Anton (which open this weekend) they’ve made mountains of the stuff this week. You can get a sense of that from this webcam shot at village level in Lech.
They’ve been busy making snow above Canazei in the Italian Dolomites, too…
The immediate outlook is for more the same: lots of sunshine with cold nights (which will be good for snow-making). However the mid-range forecast for next week is for rising temperatures, starting on Tuesday or Wednesday. Let’s hope that spell isn’t too prolonged. We may have to wait 10 days before the dominant high pressure starts to loosen its grip on the region.
Meanwhile, in North America…
Across the Atlantic, they’re making up for lost time. In Snowbird, Utah, they had a metre of snow in a storm that eased up on Tuesday.
Here’s how it was in the car park on November 29.
And this was the scene on the slopes yesterday.
There’s been snow in Colorado, too – Wolf Creek in the south had 71cm, Breckenridge a more modest 33cm – and in Wyoming Jackson Hole had 60cm in two days. It’s finally opening for the season today. Here’s how it looked on Tuesday…
More snow is expected along the American Rockies next week.
North of the border, Whistler has been celebrating a strong start to the season, with 317cm of snow falling on the higher slopes in November – half of it coming in the last week.
|France: there’s a striking contrast between the scene in the high altitude resorts, and lower down at the moment in France. Below about 2000m there’s almost no natural snow, except in southern resorts, such as Montgenevre. Up high, along the Italian border, and in the south, there’s masses of the stuff. Fortunately, the weather is good for snow-making, so many resorts are building up their reserves: but all the same, to be safe, it’s worth booking a resort with lots of skiing above 2000m if you’re planning an early-season break.|
|Switzerland: there was heavy snow last week in several resorts lining the border with Italy – but is the case in France, the lower slopes are generally bare – except where there’s man-made snow. Among the resorts now open are Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Les Diablerets, Engelberg, Davos, Laax and Verbier. The snow on the Allalin glacier above Saas-Fee is currently 145cm deep.|
|Austria: Austria has been cold this week, and there’s the chance of a few snow showers in the east tomorrow, as well. Last week, the high-altitude resorts didn’t see the same heavy snow as those in the west but there’s still decent piste skiing on offer, thank to the snow cannons. Among those resorts currently open are Ischgl, Obergurgl and , as well as the Hintertux, Pitztal, Molltaler, Stubai, Kitzsteinhorn and Kaunertal glaciers. Currently, the cover on the Hintertux is up to 105cm deep.|
|Italy: there’s excellent skiing on offer in Cervinia, which boasts some of the best snow in the Alps at the moment. There’s deep snow up high elsewhere in the Aosta Valley, too – Pila, which opens this weekend, has two metres of the stuff on its higher pistes. Above Alagna, in the Monterosa, there’s 220cm.
Meanwhile, in the Brenta Dolomites, Madonna di Campiglio has been able to make lots of snow this week, and is opening full-time on Saturday, and there’s an increasing amount of terrain to tackle in the Dolomiti Superski area, too. 170 lifts and 250km of pistes will open at the weekend.
|Andorra: the Grandvalira ski area is already open and has 20-50cm of cover. Vallnord opens tomorrow.|
|Western USA: see our main report. In the Rocky Mountain resorts, winter is back on track, and the resorts are slowly coming to life. However, there’s only a limited amount of terrain in many areas. For example, only seven lifts and 9% of the terrain are currently open in Vail, Colorado. There’ll be more open soon: especially after the storms forecast for next week.|
|Western Canada: every now and again, Whistler has a big November, and the 2016 edition was one of them, with over 3m of the white stuff falling in a month. Elsewhere in western Canada, there’s snow, too – although not in quite the same quantities. In Banff National Park, Lake Louise has had 132cm of snow so far, and on the the higher trails there’s 93cm of settled cover.|