It’s been a cracking day in the Alps – with bright sunshine, fresh snow and lowish temperatures all on offer.
But the weather’s looking changeable now in the run-up to Christmas. There’ll be an unwelcome spell of warmer temperatures at the weekend – with occasional rain on the lower slopes, especially in the western Alps. Temperatures will drop again on December 25, but may bounce back before New Year.
The good news is that most resorts will weather the thaw with ease – even if conditions on the mildest, wettest days are likely to test everyone’s patience, as well as their ski clothing (make sure you’re wearing your most efficient base layer if it’s soggy).
Across the northern Alps, the last ten days of generally wintry conditions have made a big difference to the quality of the snow. There’s white stuff lying right down to the valley floors, and up above about 1500m the cover is very respectable for the time year. Above 2500m it’s excellent. For example, in the Tirol, St Anton reports 110cm of snow packed down at St Christoph, and 130cm on the Valluga, at the top of the ski area. Meanwhile, in Val d’Isere, they’ve got a metre of snow packed down on the valley runs at 1850m, and 160cm at 3000m.
Here, the quality of the snow down to Arc 1600, on its cold, north-facing slopes, was generally excellent, although it was a little crispier towards Arc 1800 where the sun had got to it. Above 2000m it was a dream: soft, light and super-grippy. Snow depths are 40cm on the lowest runs and 155cm 3000m on the Aiguille Rouge.
As a result of the pre-Christmas thaw these snow depths will be thinner on the lower slopes – and deeper up top, where all the precipitation will fall as snow. So if you’re planning a last-minute festive escape, I’d counsel aiming high when you pick your resort. To get the best snow you need access to plenty of pistes above 2000m.
Meanwhile, in most Italian resorts they’ve had less snow than in the north. However, my fellow editors have had some great skiing on-piste above Champoluc, in the Aosta Valley, over the last couple of days – although the lowest run back to the resort is closed.
Here’s how it looked there yesterday.
And here’s how it looked above Canazei in the Italian Dolomites today.
As you can see, the pistes are looking thick and white, which is just what you’d expect in a resort with one of the world’s best snow-making systems. But the cover is much thinner away from the groomed runs.