It snowed over the weekend in the north-eastern Alps. Parts of the Austrian Tirol had received 30cm of the white stuff by the time the skies cleared.
In France, by contrast, the skies remained clear in the mountains (though there has been fog at lower altitudes).
Is this the start of another amazing January in Austria – to match the epic snowfall of January 2019? Actually, no – despite signs last week that it might develop. Instead, we can expect more of the sunshine and settled conditions which set in during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Admittedly, there will also be a little fresh snow in the northern Alps on Friday (expect 10-15cm in most resorts). But that doesn’t change the fact that 2020 is getting off to a predominantly mild and sunny start.
One feature of this week’s weather will be a cooler breeze than the winds that blew over New Year. So we’re unlikely to see such a pronounced freeze-thaw cycle again, as temperatures won’t be so spring-like. So expect more in the way of hard pistes, unless you’re skiing on north-facing slopes above 2500m – well out of the reach of the recent thaws. This’ll be week for sharp edges and good technique, as well sunscreen.
Here’s Meteoblue’s snow forecast for the 24 hours up to Saturday morning.
As I said last week, this is the time of year you’d expect winter to bite hardest, so it’s disappointing to see a prolonged sunny spell take shape. But at least the back-to-front start to the season has left the higher resorts with plenty of snow – even if most of the best skiing is now on-piste, rather than off. You’ll need an experienced and quick-witted guide with you if you’re venturing off the beaten track, especially in the western Alps where sun-baked crust alternates with wind-scoured slopes and some powder in sheltered, high-altitude bowls. At least the avalanche risk is now mostly at the 1/5 or 2/5 level. What’s more, the snowpack is expected to become more stable as temperatures drop tomorrow.
Bear in mind also, that the cover on lower slopes – below about 1300m, is thin. If you’re planning a last-minute January break, aim high.