It’s a rather mixed picture in the Alps today, thanks to a wild and (at the start) mild weather system which raced across the region at the weekend.
To begin with, it brought rain – as high as 2500m in the French Alps for a time. Fortunately, it became colder on Sunday, and the rain turned to snow, but this more wintry moment didn’t last as long as expected, especially in Switzerland and western Austria (where they were hoping for a significant dump). In parts of France, there was 10-30cm of fresh snow above 2500m. In western Austria, Lech, Ischgl and the Skiwelt all report 10cm of fresh snow.
Further east, it snowed for longer, and the Kitzsteinhorn glacier, above Zell am See has had 20cm so far. Meanwhile, Saalbach nearby is claiming 45cm of fresh snow at the top of the mountain and 30cm lower down.
Here’s how it’s looking at Zell am See this morning. On the Schmitte, immediately above town, the settled cover is up to 69cm deep.
And this is the scene in Saalbach, where the cover is 55-100cm deep.
Again, much of the Italian Alps missed out on the new snow altogether.
The snow will clear out of eastern Austria today, followed by the sunny weather that’s already settled over much of the rest of the region. Temperatures are warming up sharply. In France today, local forecaster Meteo Chamonix reckons the freezing point will be at 2200m today and 2600m tomorrow. In Austria, it will be much colder today (-4C at 2000m in the Tirol), and cooler than France tomorrow, with the freezing point at 2000m tomorrow.
The high pressure sustaining this sunshine may weaken enough on Thursday and/or Friday to allow more snow to reach the northern Alps. But this is not yet a certainty, and if it comes it’s hard to tell how much snow will fall.
So where does this leave us? In need of another big dump, to be frank. In the western and southern Alps especially the cover below 2000m is thin – and the pistes generally quite lumpy (because the natural bumps and undulations of the underlying slopes have not been smoothed over by deep snow). You’re going to find pebbles breaking through the surface of the pistes in places, and off-piste, very little to ski on. In parts of the Austrian Alps and Switzerland the cover is deeper at lower altitudes. Lech is claiming 50cm on its valley runs today, and the Skiwelt 55cm. The Austrian end of the Alps is likely to be cooler too, although even here the lower runs will melt a little in the sunshine and refreeze overnight, making them hard first thing each morning.
At higher altitudes, the cover is better, but still thinner than it should be in early January. Right across the northern half of the Alps, you’ll find good-quality snow on most higher pistes, but great caution is needed off-piste, where the snowpack is unstable. There are wind-drifted slabs resting on top of layers of hardened crust, with poorly-bonded, faceted crystals in between. This is not a time to be taking risks.
Here’s a quick survey of the sunshine currently being enjoyed by most of the Alps, starting with Val d’Isere, where the snow is 40-90cm deep and 71% of the pistes are open.
This is how Val Thorens is looking this morning, with 95-130cm of snow on the pistes.
Meanwhile, below is Serre Chevalier, where the snow is 20-110cm deep.
Below is the view over Verbier this morning. Here, the snow is 10-90cm deep, depending on altitude.
And here is Obergurgl, where the snow is 50-136cm deep.
Meanwhile, pictured below is Madonna di Campiglio in the Brenta Dolomites, where the snow is 10-95cm deep. In common with many Italian resorts, there hasn’t been fresh snow here for nine days, although cover is still pretty good, thanks to December snow.
More snow expected in the Rockies
Last week was a quieter one for the resorts of Utah and Colorado, in the wake of the wonderful Christmas storms, however, although Colorado has seen fresh snow. Yesterday Vail was claiming 38cm in the last week, and a current mid-mountain snow depth of 112cm.
Now, the action is switching north, with heavy snow in the forecast for Montana and Wyoming. Yesterday, Big Sky reported up to 30cm of new snow since Friday, and Jackson Hole had had 20cm – with lots more to come.
In Canada, Whistler has been getting snow too: 17cm from a storm which could bring 30cm more to the upper slopes. However, it will finish with a mild spell, and much of the ski area could see some rain before the skies clear.
|France: see our main report. There light to moderate snow across the French Alps at the weekend, although to start with it fell as rain – right up to 2500m. Up high, conditions are good on-piste as a result, but lower down more snow is desperately needed, as the cover is already thin, and will be getting thinner in the coming mild spell. In other words, the mild season continues: aim high to get decent snow. Currently Tignes has 42-95cm of cover, on-piste, although the surface of the pistes is hard in places, thanks to the recent wind. Meanwhile, in the Grand Massif, Flaine has 35-100cm of cover. In Alpe d’Huez there’s 42-110cm of snow on-piste.
|Switzerland: fresh snow didn’t fall in the expected quantities across Switzerland at the weekend, and most areas got a modest 5-20cm top-up. Again, altitude is your best guarantee of good skiing, and you’d better not set your hopes too high on skiing off-piste, as the cover is very thin lower down, and unstable higher up. Currently Laax has 35-170cm of cover, and Davos 14-124cm. In St Moritz, the cover is 17-95cm deep.
|Austria: overall, Austria has some of the best snow right now, thanks to cooler temperatures and more prolonged snowfall during the holiday period. In the short term, it should stay a bit colder here than in the west too. Currently St Anton reports cover 25-155cm deep. In Ischgl it’s currently 10-65cm deep.
|Italy: the Italian Alps missed out on the meat of the weekend storms, and on the snow of December 27-28. Cover is thin on the lower slopes as a result, and many resorts are relying on their snow cannons to keep the higher runs topped up. Currently above Cervinia the snow is a metre deep, mid-mountain, thanks to heavy snow at the start of winter. Meanwhile, in the Dolomites, Canazei has up to 60cm of cover on its higher pistes.
|Andorra: in Andorra, the Grandvalira ski area reports a respectable 50-100cm of cover on its pistes, though it will be warm today – up to +7C on the slopes this afternoon.
|Western USA: see our main report. Late November and late December were wonderful times to ski the American Rockies, with frequent snowstorms in many places. The northern Rockies should see another dump today. However, there’s been less snow in Colorado and Utah than of late, and it’s going to warm up as well. Currently, Beaver Creek in Colorado has 109cm of snow packed down, mid-mountain, Jackson Hole in Wyoming has 147cm, and Snowbird in Utah 165cm.
|Western Canada: Whistler is getting snow right now, but annoyingly temperatures will rise during the storm, so the white stuff will turn to rain lower down. Currently, it has 130cm of cover bedded down, mid-mountain. Meanwhile, in Banff National Park, it’s looking very wintry, with a top temperature of -14C expected at Lake Louise, and fresh snow.