Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski
Snow Report

Snow Report, January 5

There's been some more snow in the Alps, but a big dump is needed to set the season up properly.

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.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

And this is the scene in Saalbach, where the cover is 55-100cm deep.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

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.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski
Photo: YSE/Facebook

This is how Val Thorens is looking this morning, with 95-130cm of snow on the pistes.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

Meanwhile, below is Serre Chevalier, where the snow is 20-110cm deep.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

Below is the view over Verbier this morning. Here, the snow is 10-90cm deep, depending on altitude.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

Pictured below Lech in the Austrian Arlberg, close to St Anton. In Lech the snow is 50-110cm deep.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

And here is Obergurgl, where the snow is 50-136cm deep.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

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.

Snow Report, January 5 | Welove2ski

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 flag 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 flag 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 flag 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 flag 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 flag 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 flag 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 flag 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.

About the author

Sean Newsom

As well as founding Welove2ski in June 2007, Sean has written about skiing and snowboarding in the British press for 28 years. For the last 20 of them, he’s also been the ski travel editor at The Sunday Times.


Click here to post a comment

  • I was wondering if you were ever able to quote the snow depths for Big White in BC? I know you always quote Whistler, but Big White is an awesome resort with fantastic powder. We have a condo there and the snow is brilliant at the moment. They currently have an upper base of 176cm, with 36cm in the last 24 hours and a whole lot more forecast for today!

  • Hi – I wrote to you on 23rd December over my concern that Les Arcs simply seem allergic to turning their snow cannons on to enable fair snow on their pistes for their visitors. I had raised this concern with them over a month ago and received a political reply that temperatures and humidity did not allow it. This confused me as temperatures were minus and the pistes were near green. This excuse was reiterated to me just before Christmas when it was even colder but by someone higher up. All this was contrary to your, and all others, reporting that the resorts were using the cannons responsibly and indeed ‘flat out’. Les Arcs certainly was not and a visit at any time to any of the webcams will confirm this. Indeed I have not seen more than the odd one on momentarily for over a month.

    Me thinks there is a rabbit loose and it will soon find grass to eat.

    Thanks as ever for the great site.

    • Hi Geoff, the problem is that you need -4 degrees C to make any snow and it wasn’t quite cold enough on those dates. All resorts are desperate to make snow whenever they can, but this winter the thermometer has often been against them.

  • Thank you Peter: My frustration was that your organ and all others were reporting for many weeks by way of cheer up that the resorts were flat out with snow cannons and publishing some lovely pictures of just that many times. Les Arc [where I am going tomorrow] was certainly not and I am quiet sure did not suffer differential median temperatures to everywhere else over the weeks. I note that they are still never turned on despite temperatures hitting -15 at times.

    Bon Chance