There was a little fresh snow in the Alps on Saturday – followed by brilliant sunshine yesterday. With so many new ski areas opening at the weekend, and with so much early-season snow on the ground, smiles were a mile wide.
Pictured, below, was the scene above Le Fornet on Sunday – at the far end of Val d’Isere’s ski area. It was taken by fellow Welove2ski editor, Peter Hardy. He’s heading back now after a memorable six days in both Val d’Isere and Tignes. “Conditions have been nothing short of superb,” is his summary.
Among the other resorts which opened full time for the season on Saturday were Verbier, Les Deux Alpes, the Grands Montets above Chamonix, Monterosa, Courmayeur, parts of the Dolomiti Superski area, Madonna di Campiglio and Mayrhofen. Ischgl opened on November 28, and several resorts had more limited weekend openings.
Lots more sunshine to come
Of course the sunshine is lovely: but what everyone wants now is another couple of dumps to freshen up the slopes before the busy weeks of Christmas and New Year. At the moment the best chance of new snow is next Friday and Saturday, when a big lump of polar air is due in from the north. However it’s not certain yet how much of the white stuff is coming, and who’s going to get it. Austria and eastern Switzerland should see moderate snowfalls, but further west there may only be flurries. It all depends what happens to the high pressure which is currently dominating the Alpine weather. It’s due to drift into the Atlantic on Friday, but it may not go very far.
What’s more, the high pressure is likely to return next week, and block further snowy incursions from the north.
So we may yet get sick of the sunshine, which this week will start to affect the quality of the snow cover on sunny slopes. Temperature inversions are going to be a feature too, with foggy, chilly weather in the valleys, and milder conditions higher up. The freezing point will be up to 3000m in places tomorrow: and it will probably reach that point again next week too. So if you are planning a last-minute early season skiing trip, you need to aim for a high-altitude resort to be sure of top-quality cover.
Here’s a quick sample of the webcams today.
Across the Atlantic, the weather’s about to get interesting
I’ve just arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado – which in common with most Rocky-Mountain ski areas has got off to a solid start to the season. The broad, ego-boosting trails of Peaks 8 and 9 are in great shape, and there’s hardly anyone about.
But what everyone here is talking about is not the skiing now – it’s the forecast for the middle of the week. Local snow supreme Joel Gratz is predicting 25cm+ in many resorts on Tuesday night and Wednesday – followed by a sharp drop in temperature. On Wednesday morning, I’m getting a sneak preview of the 543 acres of new terrain on Peak 6 in Breck. Looks as though there’ll be powder on the menu when I get up there!
Further north, the white stuff has already made a comeback. Whistler had 16cm of fresh snow at the weekend, and Jackson Hole 15cm. Similar totals have been notched up by resorts in Washington State, such as Crystal Mountain. There, the storm is expected to stick around and drop maybe 30cm more before it moves on.
|France:Several big name resorts, such as Tignes, Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Les Deux Alpes are already open. You can also ski the Grands Montets above Chamonix. Several more resorts will be joining them on Deccember 6, including Alpe d’Huez, Courchevel and Meribel.
|Switzerland: Among the resorts already offering skiing are Zermatt, Saas Fee, Engelberg, Davos, St Moritz and Verbier. In Verbier, the cover is 20-90cm deep.
|Austria: the mainstream ski season in Austria is well underway now with skiing on offer at Obergurgl, Ischgl, Kitzbuhel and Mayrhofen, among others. St Anton and Lech will be joining in the fun from Saturday. There’s also superb skiing on offer on the glaciers – including the Hintertux, and the Kitzsteinhorn.
|Italy: Cervinia is off to a superb start this winter, with 145cm of settled cover at mid-mountain level. Parts of the Dolomites are now open for skiers, as are Courmayeur, Champoluc and Madonna di Campiglio.
|Andorra: The Pyrenees have got off to a cracking start to the season, and in Andorra both the Grandvalira and Vallnord ski areas are both open. Grandvalira reports 100-180cm of settled snow, on-piste.
|Western USA: See our main report. Snow is moving down from the north, along with a lump of frigid air, and it will bring snow to many parts of the Rockies over the next couple of days. Almost every resort worth its lift pass is now open for the season. In Colorado, Vail reports 53cm of settled snow, mid-mountain. Up in Montana, Big Sky has about the same. Meanwhile in Utah, Canyons Resort reports 45cm of cover on the upper slopes.
|Western Canada: In Banff National Park, Lake Louise reported around 5cm of snow at the weekend and has a settled base of 42cm, mid-mountain. Meanwhile, Whistler clocked up a reasonable 16cm of snow at the weekend, and has a mid-mountain snow depth of 76cm.