In the Alps, the dazzling weather continues.
There’s going to be a brief break in the sunshine on Saturday and Sunday, as the dominant area of high pressure drifts west into the Atlantic, allowing colder, more humid air down from the north. As you’ll see from our snow forecast for the Alps, some light snow is expected in Austria and Switzerland as a result. But the sun will be back on Monday. Some mid-range weather models have been predicting a more sustained breakdown in the weather on March 20, but that’s looking less likely now. It may even stay sunny until the end of March.
Needless to say the magnificent weather has put a smile on everyone’s face. Two of our editors were skiing in La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand earlier in the week, and said it was t-shirt weather on the sun-decks of the mountain restaurants. They reported that the snow was good everywhere on the higher slopes in the morning, and right through the day on any part of the mountains facing north. Bright sunshine, good skiing, the promise of summer to come: days like this have their own special magic.
As I said in Monday’s Snow Report, spring-skiing tactics are now essential if you want to get the best from these conditions, whether on-piste or off. As the day progresses, snow on all but the highest, shadiest slopes is becoming wet and heavy (and downright slushy where they face due south). Off-piste, there are natural “purging” avalanches on sunny slopes too, as the mountains shed their load in the heat. But the nights are chilly, and the snow is refreezing – and if you catch the snow as it begins to soften each morning you’ll find a a lovely, grippy surface with a firm base underneath.
Piste skiers can do this simply by following the sun around their ski areas. Off-pisters, on the other hand, should hire a guide, who will be able to lead them not just to areas of velvety, just-beginning-to-melt corn/firn snow, but to secret stashes of cold north-facing powder too. This is what Simon Halliwell of the Powderama ski school was doing on Tuesday, near Le Tour in the Chamonix valley…
Here’s just a brief survey of the webcams this morning. We’ll start with Les Deux Alpes, which has its own glacier and up to 225cm of snow settled on its higher pistes.
Pictured below is high-altitude Val Thorens, which reports 135-240cm of settled snow, on piste.
Below is Zermatt. You can see how the warm daytime temperatures are thinning the snow, but at 2900m there’s still 217cm of settled cover, on piste. Just across the Italian border, in neighbouring Cervinia the snow is 150-330cm deep.
Pictured, below is Nassfeld in southern Austria, where the snow is still a whopping 400cm deep on the higher slopes, although it is thinning now on the lower runs.
Pictured below is Canazei, in the Italian Dolomites. Temperatures in the valley will be up to +14C in the afternoon, but the snow is still 265cm deep on the higher slopes.
In North America, fresh snow and sunshine
There was fresh snow in the American Rockies at the start of the week – followed by brilliant spring sunshine yesterday. But as has often been the case this winter, the goods were not evenly distributed. Amongst the winners were Breckenridge in Colorado, which had 20cm of the white stuff, as well as Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which reported 27cm, and Snowbird in Utah, which garnered 36cm.
With clear skies and fresh snow on the ground the photographers were out in force on Wednesday. Below is Chris Figenshau’s shot from Jackson Hole, yesterday.
And this was one of Matt Crawley’s photos from Snowbird, part of lovely set you can see on Facebook.
Meanwhile, north of the border, there’s been a dusting of snow in the Canadian Rockies, although most resorts are still feasting on the heavy snow that fell last week. Pictured below, is Lake Louise in Banff National Park, on Sunday. It had a 6cm top-up overnight, and reports a seven-day total of 51cm.
|France: there was fresh snow in France at the beginning of last week – but that’s now a fading memory, burnt off by the brilliant sunshine which dominates the Alpine weather at the moment. Aim for a high-alittude resort if you’re heading out there in the near future. Currently, Tignes reports 116-220cm of settled snow on its pistes, and Val Thorens 135-240cm.|
|Switzerland: western and southern Switzerland had plenty of fresh snow in February and early March, but now spring-skiing tactics are essential if you want to get the best from the mild and sunny conditions. Currently, in Saas-Fee the cover is 113-369cm deep, on piste. Meanwhile, little Andermatt reports cover 100-400cm deep on its slopes, and Laax 30-150cm.|
|Austria: in the low-lying resorts north of Innsbruck, the snow is thinning fast in the spring sunshine. For the best conditions, head south, where Nassfeld in Carinthia reports cover 50-400cm deep, or to reliable, high-altitude Obergurgl, which reports 64-138cm of cover on its pistes. Meanwhile, in the west St Anton reports snow depths of 45-125cm depending on altitude, which is a little underwhelming by the high standards of the Arlberg.|
|Italy: there’s no shortage of snow in the Italian resorts. However, in common with the rest of the Alps, the warm weather is thinning the snow quickly on the lower slopes. Spring-skiing tactics are also essential if you want to get the best from current conditions. In the Aosta Valley, Cervinia has 150-330cm of settled snow on its pistes, and Corvara in the Dolomites 120-280cm.|
|Andorra: there was a good dump of snow across the Pyrenees a week ago – but as in the Alps, it’s been warm since then. Currently, Soldeu in the Grandvalira ski area reports 140-270cm of settled snow on its pistes. Across the border in Spain Baqueira reports its snowpack is 175-335cm deep.|
|Western USA: the fresh snow at the beginning of the week refreshed the pistes in some resorts and provided memorable powder days in others. However, it’s mild again in the spring sunshine. Currently, in Wyoming, Jackson Hole has 282cm of settled cover, mid-mountain, Breckenridge in Colorado has 2239cm, and in Utah, The Canyons reports 170cm. Cooler weather is expected at the weekend, and more snow.|
|Western Canada: the weather has quietened down temporarily in Whistler, but the snowpack is in good shape thanks to recent snow. Currently, mid-mountain, there’s 238cm bedded down on the trails. Inland, Sun Peaks has 183cm of cover on its upper slopes, and Revelstoke a healthy 241cm. More snow is expected in western Canada on Friday.|