The mainstream ski season in the Alps may be over; but someone has clearly forgotten to tell the Snow Gods. At altitude, May is turning into a memorably snowy month.
This was how it was looking in Tignes, France, last Friday, May 15.
Well, this was the Hintertux glacier earlier this afternoon…
This was the Stubai glacier…
Here’s how it was looking on the Pitztal glacier…
And this was the top of Schmitten, above Zell am See…
As you’ll see from today’s snow forecast, it’s the eastern end of the Alps, and Austria especially, which is getting most of the snow.
And there’s more to come tomorrow.
In fact, our snow forecast for the Alps is currently showing snow in the region for the next five days.
What does all this white stuff mean? Nothing special, actually. Spring is up to its usual tricks, and the Alpine climate is staying true to its flukey form. Remember the late spring and early summer of 2013? They were unusually snowy too.
And if you’re wondering whether El Niño might be having an effect, join the club. The Pacific Ocean climate anomaly is back this year, and compared with 2014’s mini-event, this year’s episode is likely to be fairly strong, and long.
But whilst El Niño’s impact on the weather around the Pacific is usually fairly predictable (during a powerful episode, at least), its effects on this side of the planet are much less clear cut. Other climate phenomena such as the North Atlantic Oscillation have an effect too, and the interplay between them is complex and by no means fully understood. This blog from the BBC is a good introduction to the subject.
In the short term at least, we can be sure of one thing. When skies do eventually clear – and provided temperatures don’t jump too high, too fast – there’s going to be some lovely skiing up on the glaciers. Not many of them are open right now, but the lifts will be spinning next week in Austria on the Hintertux (which is open all year) the Stubai (which closes on July 3), and the Kaunertal (closes June 7). There’ll be skiing above Zermatt in Switzerland, too.
Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere…
Down Under, the ski season is almost within touching distance. In Australia, for example, Perisher in New South Wales, is hoping to get the lifts running on June 6.
Meanwhile, on the south island of New Zealand, Mount Hutt will be one of the first ski fields to open, when it fires up its lifts on June 12. Yesterday was the first day of snow-making there, as you’ll see from this video…
|France: French ski resorts are now closed, but the glaciers above Val d’Isere (June 6 – July 12), Les Deux Alpes (June 20 – Aug 29), and Tignes (June 27 – August 9) will all be open for short summer seasons.|
|Switzerland: currently Zermatt reports 200cm of snow at 2900m. Here, nine lifts are currently open, serving 17 pistes. Meanwhile, Engelberg has 50cm of mid-mountain snow, and 320cm at the top.|
|Austria: four glaciers are currently open in Austria for skiing. On the Stubai glacier, the snow is up to 260cm deep on the pistes. Meanwhile above Kaprun, the Kitzsteinhorn glacier reports snow 150-330cm deep on its pistes. It’s closing early for the summer this year, on May 25.|
|Italy: Cervinia is opening for the weekends in May, and currently has up to 215cm of settled snow on its pistes.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts have now closed for skiing.|
|Western USA: In Colorado Arapahoe Basin will be open, seven days a week, until June 7. Over the last three days, it’s had 30cm of fresh snow and reports 152cm of settled mid-mountain cover.|
|Western Canada: Whistler has now shut the lifts on both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. They’ll reopen to skiers on Blackcomb mountain on June 20 for the short glacier season.|