Hallelujah, Snowfiends! It looks as though the long, mild, record-breaking autumn in the Alps is coming to an end.
Forecasts for the coming weekend are unanimous about the likelihood of heavy snow across the region, starting on Friday night, and continuing through the weekend. Currently, it looks as though the north-western Alps will see the biggest dumps – with up to a metre falling in places – although the whole of the northern half of the region should see snow.
By contrast, the Italian Alps will probably only get a dusting.
Here’s the current European weather map for Saturday night on meteoblue.com, showing the cold front sweeping across the region. (Meteoblue supplies Welove2ski’s own highly-rated snow forecasts).
And here’s the latest from Welove2ski’s snow forecast for the Alps.
According to MeteoFrance, the freezing point will be well below 1000m by Sunday morning, which means it will settle at village level in even the lowest resorts.
That said, and despite the forecasting consensus, we shouldn’t get carried away just yet. Six days is too far off to be sure of any forecast. After all, at one point, snow was also predicted for tomorrow and the day after in the Alps, and that’s all but evaporated from the forecast. So we will have to sit on our hands for a few more days before the celebrations start.
But it’s an exciting prospect nonetheless. It’s been much too warm for three weeks now. Last week, MeteoFrance announced that the first ten days of November were the warmest on record in Bourg-St Maurice. with daytime highs averaging 19.9C. We need a decisive shift in the weather.
You can see the effect of the warmth in the two webcam shots from Tignes, below. At glacier-level the early-season conditions are okay. But lower down there’s barely a flake of snow.
This shot looks towards the glacier on the Grande Motte…
And this one is the view up the Double M piste, from Tignes Val Claret. It’s not unusual for this piste to be open from top to bottom by now.
With the Espace Killy ski area due to open in less than two weeks’ time (on November 28), the new snow will be perfectly-timed.
Exactly how the weather develops beyond the weekend is much less certain. There’s no consensus yet amongst mid-range forecasts, and we could see either the return of calmer weather next week, or more snowstorms.
So, if you fancy a pre-Christmas trip, I wouldn’t go booking a low-altitude ski resort just yet. Pick an area with a glacier or with pistes rising to 3000m, as they do in Obergurgl in the Tirol, which was able to open last Thursday, despite the mild weather. For more tips, read our feature on the best resorts for early-season skiing.
A Christmas ski holiday is suddenly looking more feasible, too – especially as there are so many discounted ski holidays washing about. But once again, I’d factor some altitude into your plans. The last six months have been unusually warm in the Alps – and this trend may give any thaws extra bite if they pop up over the coming weeks.
Snowvember Continues in the western USA
You’ll have seen from my recent snow reports that the western resorts of America and Canada have had a snowy November so far. There’s more of the white stuff to come, too.
One of the most spectacular falls so far was in little Kirkwood, near Lake Tahoe in California, which picked up over half a metre of snow from a storm on at the start of last week. It duly opened on Saturday, and posted this opening-day video, below (if you ever get the chance, go there: it’s a fabulous, rootsy, west-coast experience).
In the Lake Tahoe area, Heavenly, Northstar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows also opened at the weekend, or just before it, and it was snowing there again yesterday. The outlook now is for a drier, milder week, but hopes are high that El Niño – which is fast becoming the most powerful on record – will produce lots more snow there this winter.
Southern Colorado has had plenty of snow lately too: and it’s getting another dump as I write this. Wolf Creek reports 25cm of fresh snow this morning. Meanwhile, here’s how it’s looking in Telluride at the moment. The resort opens on November 26.
In central and northern Colorado, snow is expected later today and tomorrow – which is good news for Breckenridge, which opened at the weekend…
Further north, there’s been snow too. Jackson Hole in Wyoming opens on November 26, but reports 116cm of the white stuff already, with more to come this week.
In Canada, Whistler is opening early
Up in Canada, Whistler had 90cm of snow on the top half of its two mountains last week, and has already announced it will open a week early – on Thursday. Another snowstorm is due in today, and The Weather Network predicts it will drop a metre of snow on its slopes. It’s often the way, in an El Niño year, that Whistler sees heavy snow in November. Perhaps it will be the case again in 2015.
What’s much less characteristic of El Niño winters is heavy snow inland, in the Canadian Rockies; but for now at least the resorts of Banff National Park are off to a strong start. All three resorts there are now open, and Lake Louise has had 68cm of snow in the last week, mid-mountain, most of which fell between Friday and Sunday. It looks as though there will be more snow this week, as Whistler’s storm pushes inland.
|France: all eyes are now on the forecast. Tignes is the only resort currently open, but the mainstream season in France is scheduled to get underway on November 28 when the Espace Killy, shared by Tignes and Val d’Isere, starts spinning its lifts. If the promised dump materialises, it looks as though we could be off to a flying start.|
|Switzerland: currently Zermatt claims 130cm of snow at 2900m. Here, 12 lifts are currently open, serving 31 pistes. You can also ski on the glacier above Saas-Fee, the Diavolezza glacier south of St Moritz and the Titlis glacier above Engelberg’s. Hopefully, by this time next week conditions in the Swiss Alps will have been transformed.|
|Austria: Obergurgl is now open – the first resort in Austria without a glacier to do so. You can currently ski down to the mid-station, thanks to tireless work by the snow-making and grooming crews. Elsewhere, the autumn season is in full swing, with eight glaciers now open in Austria for skiing – the Hintertux, the Molltal, the Pitztal, the Kaunertal, the Stubai, the Rettenbach, above Solden, the Kitzsteinhorn and the Dachstein. Snow is expected here at the weekend, although not in quite the same quantities as in the north-western Alps.|
|Italy: The glacier above Val Senales is now open, as are Sulden and Cervinia. Unfortunately, the Italian Alps aren’t likely to get much snow from the weekend storm.|
|Andorra: Andorra’s ski resorts are closed.|
|Western USA: see the main report. It’s game on in the western US, and the first significant wave of resorts is now open in both Colorado and California. As is usually the case at this time of year, there’s not a vast amount of terrain to ski yet in each resort, but if the current snowy trend continues, there will be lots more on tap by Thanksgiving, a week on Thursday. Among the resorts now open are Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, Mammoth Mountain and Heavenly and Kirkwood.|
|Western Canada: all three resorts in Banff National Park are now open, as is Big White. Whistler and Sun Peaks will be joining them this week.|