The dry, sunny days of early autumn are now a fading memory in the Alps, as another spell of wild weather rolls across the region. Once again, the southern and western sectors will see the heaviest precipitation, and most of it will fall as rain. But up high there’s going to be another dump of snow, and again it’s going to favour the area around Cervinia, Saas-Fee and Zermatt – as it did last week.
As you can see from this murky shot of the Plan Maison mid-station above Cervinia, the weather’s already settled in, and 15cm of fresh snow is reported up high so far. That’s on top of the 110cm that fell last week, transforming conditions in the resort, and allowing for the opening of several pistes at the weekend.
Below is another indication of how the snow is stacking up in the area – courtesy of a photo taken above Saas-Fee at the weekend, when the sun was out. The resort opened pistes down to the Morenia mid-station to celebrate.
The area around the Matterhorn and Monterosa wasn’t the only place to get snow last week. The Grande Motte glacier above Tignes got about 20cm of snow from the same storm, according to the latest video snow report from British ski school Snoworks, posted on Friday.
Another indication of good conditions at altitude is the fact that Verbier opened up the Lac des Vaux piste for a winter preview at the weekend – and there was enough snow to ski off-piste, as you’ll see in the (French language) video below. Weather allowing, the lifts will be spinning here each weekend before a full-scale opening on November 26-27.
The next significant event in the Alpine calendar is the opening of Obergurgl in Austria on Thursday, November 13. This will be the first ski area without glacier pistes to open, full-time, for the winter. Judging by photos posted at the weekend, it’s already in decent shape, with up to 60cm of over on the higher runs.
Looking ahead: rain, snow – and lovely skiing on the glaciers
For the next two days, it’ll be raining at all but the highest altitudes, and it’s going to feel pretty soggy at village level, even in high-altitude resorts. However, on Wednesday and Thursday, the freezing point will sink to 1700m in Austria and 2000m in France, so the snow will be more widespread for a time – before the weather warms up again at the weekend. Check out our snow forecast for the Alps for details.
What does all this add up? Well, it’s not been a cold end to the autumn so far in the Alps: but on the highest slopes, there are exceptional amounts of snow. So whenever skies clear there’s going to be lovely skiing on the glaciers. Check out our guide to the best resorts for early-season skiing for more guidance on where to go before Christmas.
Oh yes, and the party season has already started…
In the American Rockies, winter arrives at last
In Colorado, both Keystone and Copper Mountain opened for the season on Friday, a week later than planned. Keystone had 50 acres of terrain on offer and Copper was running a couple of lifts and six trails. Both openings were fairly muted affairs, because so far the autumn’s been exceptionally mild in the Rockies.
Thankfully, that’s all about to change. A cold front is moving south towards Colorado, and local forecaster Joel Gratz is predicting three waves of snowfall over the next seven days. Each one will be fairly light: but together they could add up to 30cm in places. Resorts will be able to run their snow cannons both day and night as well, and get a decent layer of man-made snow on the most popular trails, too. According to Gratz, it’s not going to make up the current shortfall in snow cover, but it’s a big step in the right direction. Hopefully, it’ll get Breckenridge’s opening day back on track, too. The big, buzzing Colorado ski town was due to fire up its lifts on November 7, but had to postpone because of the warm weather.
Fresh snow in Canada
Another ski area which has had to postpone its opening day was Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. Like Breckenridge in Colorado it was due to open on November 7, but mild weather has been problem in the Canadian Rockies, too, and the date has been shunted back to November 13. There was fresh snow there yesterday, and a significant drop in temperature, so there aren’t likely to be any more delays.
Here’s how the base lodge was looking yesterday lunchtime.
Meanwhile, pictured below is the snow stake at neighbouring Sunshine Village, just after midnight, showing 15cm of new snow.
|France: above Tignes, the Grande Motte glacier is open for skiing, weather permitting, and as you’ll see from our main report, conditions are pretty good whenever skies clear. Pistes lower down will be opening up as the month progresses, and on November 29, the links with neighbouring Val d’Isere should be opening too. Meanwhile, in the 3 Valleys, high-altitude Val Thorens is due to open on November 22.|
|Switzerland: weather permitting, four glaciers are currently open for skiing in Switzerland – above Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Engelberg and Les Diablerets. Snow cover at altitude above Zermatt and Saas-Fee is exceptional in the wake of last week’s storm. Both Verbier and Laax are opening at the weekends, too.|
|Austria: the autumn glacier-skiing season in Austria got a much-needed boost at a couple of weeks back from a storm which dropped 150cm of snow in places – and most of the glaciers saw moderate snowfall last week, too. You can currently ski on the Hintertux, Stubai, Molltal, Pitztal, Kaunertal, Rettenbach and Kitzsteinhorn glaciers. On the Hintertux glacier, 40km of pistes are now open, and the snow is up to 185cm deep.|
|Italy: at the time of writing, the western end of the Italian Alps is being doused by yet more wet weather, which is going to leave a lot of snow at altitude. When the skies clear, there’s going to be some lovely skiing above 2500m in Cervinia, which is now open for the winter. Meanwhile, above Val Senales in the South Tyrol, six pistes are currently open for skiing on the glacier.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are currently closed.|
|Western USA: see our main report. In Colorado, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Keystone and Copper are all now open for the season. The weather is about to turn more wintry, too, which will help Breckenridge get to the start of its season too. (It was due to open at the weekend, but had to postpone because of the mild weather.)|
|Western Canada: in western Canada, Whistler has had heavy snow at altitude. The resort is due to open on November 27. In Banff National Park, Lake Louise has had to postpone its opening day until November 13, but thanks to falling temperatures and 20cm of snow on Sunday, there shouldn’t be any further hold-ups.|