It looks as though the shutters have come down on the mainstream ski season at just the right moment.
Last week ended with a spell of magnificent spring weather, allowing Tignes, Val Thorens, Solden and the Pitztal glacier to finish their “winter” seasons in style.
There are still several glacier ski areas still open, including the Hintertux, Stubai, Kaunertal and Kitzsteinhorn glaciers in Austria, as well as Zermatt and Engelberg in Switzerland, and (at weekends) Cervinia in Italy. But this week, the weather is going to be more changeable, and rather less magnificent. A Foehn wind will drag warm air up from the south, and in Italy especially there’ll be frequent spells of rain, which will spill over into the northern Alps from time to time.
At the highest altitudes (above 3000m), there’s likely to be a fair amount of snow too: especially along the western and central sections of the main Alpine ridge. The glacier above Zermatt will be one of the beneficiaries, although strong winds and low visibility will make conditions tough for skiers in the short term – as you’ll see from the picture above. (Zermatt is open for skiing all year.)
Meanwhile, skiers in Austria can expect more in the way of clear spells, though there will be rain/snow from time to time. Here’s how it was looking on the Stubai glacier in the Austrian Tirol earlier today. The glacier here closes on May 29.
Conditions in Engelberg in Switzerland were still pretty good this morning too. You’ll be able to ski here till May 22.
Next weekend, a cold front is expected. It should hit the western Alps on Thursday, and Austria on Friday, and for a time snow will fall down to 2000m. It should be followed by a spell of clearer weather at the weekend, but temperatures will stay low for the time of year.
That’s frustrating for the locals, who are longing for an extended spell of warm and sunny weather. But it’s good news for anyone who’s planning to ski the glaciers this spring or summer. The more snow that falls, and the more frequent the chilly spells, the better!
Meanwhile, in the southern hemisphere…
It’s just over a month till the first ski resorts open in New Zealand (Mount Hutt will probably be the first, on June 10) – but it could be that the ski areas of South America will beat them to the draw, if their run of form continues. A meaty autumn storm blew into the Andes in April, and this was how Valle Nevado, near Santiago, was looking last week. However, no firm dates have been set yet for opening day.
|France: see our main report. Tignes and Val Thorens both closed on Sunday at the end of their long winter seasons. Tignes will be open for glacier skiing between June 25 and August 7, Val d’Isere between June 12 and July 15, and Les Deux Alpes from June 18 to August 27.|
|Switzerland: Zermatt’s glacier is likely to get a lot of snow this week, but there could be periods of rain, too. Engelberg will be drier. There, the snowpack is currently 430cm deep on the highest slopes.|
|Austria: Austria did very well from recent falls of snow, and the glacier ski areas are in excellent condition – especially the Hintertux and Stubai glaciers. Currently, the former has up to 325cm of settled snow on its pistes.|
|Italy: Cervnia is opening its lifts to skiers each weekend through May and reports up to 225cm of snow on its slopes. It’s due a fairly wild week of weather now – with bouts of heavy rain on the lower slopes and snow higher up.|
|Andorra: in Andorra, the shutters have come down on the ski season. All eyes are now on the summer…|
|Western USA: in Colorado, Arapahoe Basin had about 10cm of news snow over the weekend, but also had to close a couple of its steeper trails because melt water was destabilising the snowpack. If it doesn’t get too warm, the resort will stay open into June. Meanwhile, in Utah Snowbird (weekend openings until May 30) has 256cm of settled snow, and in California Squaw (closes May 30) has 305cm.|
|Western Canada: in Whistler, Whistler Mountain has now closed, although on Blackcomb they’re hoping to keep skiing till May 30. The mid-mountain snowpack is now 158cm deep, and they’re expecting a high of +7C on the mountain.|
May 10, 2016Kristina Schreck
Hi there, Valle Nevado does indeed have a firm opening date, June 24. However, if it begins to snow early (as is predicted), the resort will open the ski runs and basic services earlier. The full resort and its hotels will open June 24.
May 11, 2016Sean Newsom
Thanks for the update on Valle Nevado, Kristina!