What a day!
The Alps are bathed in brilliant sunshine today. What’s more, temperatures are cool for the time of year, and there’s a thick blanket of snow in many parts of the region, thanks to the big storms last week.
In other words, if you’ve been skiing in the right places, you’ll have had magnificent day.
But let’s not forget how strong the March sunshine is. On south-facing slopes – even at altitude – it’s affecting the quality of the cover, and the snow is going through a daily melt-freeze cycle. Off-piste, it’s also getting very unstable on steep slopes as the day warms up. In the Tirol in Austria, for example, today’s avalanche report predicted wet-snow avalanches up to 2600m, as the mountains shed their loads in the sunshine.
There’s still some gorgeous powder around, as well as sublime, grippy pistes, but you’ll need to aim high or stay in the shade to find both. Otherwise, the best policy is to adopt spring-skiing tactics, and follow the sun around your ski resort, hitting slopes just as the snow begins to soften each day.
The outlook is for more of the same (with the occasional cloudy interlude) for several days. To start with, the temperatures will remain low-ish, with the freezing point hovering around 1500m, but it’ll swarm up next week, and we’ll see more full-blooded spring conditions take hold.
Here’s how a quick survey of photos and webcams, starting with Val d’Isere, which has 160-310cm of settled snow on its pistes.
Meanwhile, this is Serre Chevalier, south of Grenoble, where the snow is 35-180cm deep.
Pictured below is the magnificent view from the top of Mont Fort above Verbier. The Swiss resort reports 45-265cm of settled snow.
Below is Madonna di Campiglio in the Brenta Dolomites of Italy, which has 90-180cm of settled snow.
And this is Canazei, further east, where there’s 50-200cm of cover.
In Austria, high-altitude Obergurgl is in great shape at the moment, with 43-218cm of snow packed down, on-piste. Here’s how it looked this afternoon.
And this is Alpbach, which has 60-160cm of snow.
Finally, this is Zell am See, further east in Austria. There was less snow here than in the western and southern Alps last week, although there’s good cover at altitude. The Kitzsteinhorn glacier, in the background, reports up to 210cm on its slopes.
Meanwhile, in North America…
Mother Nature is having a bit of a breather after the big storms last weekend in California – which dropped 60-150cm of snow in most resorts. Another series of blizzards is expected between Friday and Tuesday, which is likely to drop another metre in places.
Meanwhile, up in Whistler, Canada, they’ve woken to 30cm of fresh snow this morning, with more to come during the day.
|France:After last week’s splendidly wintry spell, spring is creeping back into the French Alps. Temperatures are low, and the snow is both deep and soft at altitude. However, lower down it’s been affected by the March sunshine. In many places, the avalanche risk is still 3/5. Chamonix reports 234-320cm of settled snow on the Grands Montets, and Val Thorens 185-300cm.|
|Switzerland: conditions across the northern and western resorts of Switzerland are similar to the northern resorts of France: it’s sunny and cool, and the sun has affected the snow on the lower slopes. Currently, Engelberg reports 35-350cm of settled cover on its pistes. In the south-east, St Moritz has 76-126cm.|
|Austria: in Austria, the snow is deepest near the Italian border, and in the Arlberg, where St Anton reports 85-305cm of settled snow. Meanwhile, the Skiwelt has 50-60cm of cover. Bear in mind that the snow in the lower resorts will now be sun-affected on most pistes.|
|Italy: last week, Italy saw heavy snow, especially in the Dolomites, where over a metre fell in many resorts. Currently, high-altitude Cervinia reports 60-220cm of settled snow. In Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites it’s 110-200cm deep.|
|Andorra: the Pyrenees have had several top-ups of snow over the last week, and temperatures are low for the time of year. In Andorra, Pas de la Casa has 70-120cm of cover packed down, on-piste.|
|Western USA: see our main report. California had one big dump last weekend, and is line for another between Friday and Tuesday. Inland, the Rocky Mountain resorts have had fresh snow, but in smaller quantities, and the weather there is currently rather mild. In Colorado, Breckenridge reports 150cm of mid-mountain snow, in Utah Snowbird has 236cm, and in California Heavenly has 228cm.|
|Western Canada: in Whistler the mid-mountain snowpack is a very healthy 342cm deep, and more snow is expected. In Banff National Park, Lake Louise reports a mid-mountain snowpack of 120cm. Here too, it’s snowing today.|