Apart from a likely dusting of up to 10cm across Central Switzerland on the 25th itself, skiers across the Alps this Christmas week are just going to have to cope with what they’ve got – or mostly what they haven’t got.
That’s the bad news – but the really great news is reserved for those heading to the hills once the turkey has been eaten and the crackers pulled. SNOW – REAL SNOW – and lots of it may really be on the way and should make landfall on Friday and throughout the weekend. I emphasise ‘may’ because the situation is still volatile and such dreams could still turn to dust, but with every passing day it’s looking better.
A delightful weather system brewing in the Atlantic heralds what we expect to be the first proper snowstorm of the winter. At the moment it looks as if Switzerland and Austria will get the best of it, but it should feed all those snow-starved lower resorts in France and encompass much of Italy. Phew! The Seventh Cavalry isn’t here yet, but we can hear a distant bugle.
However for the moment, it’s not all doom and gloom out there – at least in the higher resorts. This Christmas snow report comes to you from Val d’Isere while my co-editor Sean Newsom, our regular snow guru, is otherwise occupied today at the birth of his second child who arrived this morning. It’s a BOY, congratulations Sean and Vera!
Here in Val conditions are frankly, pretty damned good. That’s what Lindsey Vonn thought when she won the World Cup downhill on Saturday and with clear blue skies there’s no change today as the beautifully groomed OK race course from Bellevarde to La Daille opened to holidaymakers.
The link to Tignes is complete as is the wicked black La Face, and indeed the only bits not open are the lower runs at Le Fornet and Le Laisinant. Much of the cover is artificial, thanks to their new Le Snow Factory, the largest in Europe. It’s capable of covering a whole mountain from green grass to half a metre in under a week – or Wembley Stadium in just one hour! Natural cover on the Pissaillas Glacier is only marginally short of superb.
Other high resorts such as Les Deux Alpes, Alpe d’Huez, and Val Thorens are in good shape. Courchevel and Meribel have cover, as does Avoriaz but it is suffering from heavy crowds bussed in from other parts of the Portes du Soleil and elsewhere.
As anyone who’s read a snow report recently will know, there’s been very little snow below 2000m in the Alps, and many lower resorts have struggled to open. Some have stopped trying.
In Switzerland the situation is an awful lot better. Zermatt offers some of the best skiing in Europe at present. High resorts in Austria and Italy are coping well but much more snow is needed – hopefully this will materialise at the weekend before the New Year crowds arrive.
Exciting times ahead in North America
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the powder monkeys are rubbing their hands together as huge storms bring the white stuff to Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Jackson Hole had to close the tram at the height of the storm because of high winds and the sheer volume of snow accumulating. There’s been half a metre in the past 24 hours and it is still dumping down. Over in Colorado, Vail has picked up 50cm in a week while in Canada, Whistler has 35cm of new snow and more forecast in the final run up to Christmas Day.
|France: see our main report. No new snow over the weekend, but lower temperatures allowed the snow cannons to run night and day. However, it’s warmer today with a high of 5C here in Val d’Isere and temperatures are even higher in the lower resorts. The only truly decent cover is in a handful of higher ski villages that includes Val, Tignes, Val Thorens, Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d’Huez. The top halves of these mountains are all in pretty good shape.
|Switzerland: as in France, it’s been a disappointing start to the season in Switzerland, although there are a few places where the snow is deep – notably Andermatt, where there’s up to 290cm of snow on the Gemsstock, and as well as Zermatt and Saas-Fee, which both had lots of snow on the higher slopes in November. The fresh snow last week has helped, too although cover is thin in Verbier where a limited number of runs are open. Meanwhile, in St Moritz, both Corvatsch and Corviglia are almost fully open, with a total of 92 groomed pistes. The snow there is up to 91cm deep on the higher slopes, but much thinner lower down. Zermatt has some of the best cover in the Alps, with 254km open and depths of 5/95cm.
|Austria: the main hope of respite comes at the end of the week when a rush of polar air will lower temperatures and some snow is expected – at the moment it’s a guess as to how much will materialise, but we are optimistic. Meanwhile St Anton has 5cm in the village and 70cm on the Valluga. Currently the best skiing is to be found in Ischgl and Obergurgl, as well as on the glaciers, including the Hintertux, the Stubai, the Pitztal, and the Kitzsteinhorn.
|Italy: early-season conditions have been very good above Cervinia, especially above 2500m. Above Champoluc and Gressoney in the Monterosa there’s also good skiing on the higher pistes, and there’s deep snow on the Groste sector of Madonna di Campiglio in the Brenta Dolomites, too. Generally, however, the Italian resorts have been suffering from the same mild weather as those further north. Aim high if you plan to ski there in the near future, although the Sudtirol should hopefully catch some snow this weekend.
|Andorra: Both the Grandvalira and Vallnord areas are skiing pretty well with 10/70cm and 176km of pistes open. It’s warm today – 8C – in Pas de la Casa and Soldeu. No new snow is forecast but the Christmas cover seems to be holding up well.
|Western USA: see our main report. November turned into a memorable month in the American Rockies with the snow storms coming in waves. As a result, many resorts were in great shape at the start of the season. That early promise faded a bit at the beginning of the month, but now the snow has returned with a vengeance and more is expected across the central Rockies. In Vail Colorado the Back Bowls are open, the settled cover is 76cm deep on the upper slopes and more snow is forecast. In Snowbird Utah it’s around 127cm deep and more snow is expected throughout the coming week. Further north, Jackson Hole in Wyoming claims 165cm at the top of Rendezvous as the blizzard continues.
|Western Canada: Whistler is experiencing a period of extended, heavy snowfall. It now has a substantial 130cm base. More snow forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, but Christmas Day promises to be fine and sunny. Meanwhile, in Banff National Park, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village have bases of 81cm an 95cm. The temperature is a chill -9C with snow flurries expected all week.