MORE SNOW IS NEEDED
1st December 2016
With December starting all eyes are looking at the snow conditions with the season already underway in places. It is a mixed picture across the Alps and worries are growing at some resorts. UPDATED
There is good news and bad news.
First the good news – many of the high altitude resorts in the Alps have superb early season conditions after all the November snowfall.
And the bad news?
Many of the low altitude resorts are struggling with no snow at all and worries over Xmas are growing.
There is no snow forecast for the next week or so, but the temperatures have dropped and that preserves what snow there is and allows the snow cannons to be switched on.
There are some of the best ever conditions on piste at altitude – see here for our latest report from Tignes and Val d’Isere as we whizz round the pistes having the slopes to ourselves.
“Skiing conditions are fantastic this weekend – not too cold (freezing levels are generally around or a little below 2000m) yet with low humidity/dew points, so there is very limited melting of any existing snow. The weather in the Alps will remain fine all week but it will gradually turn milder, especially at altitude, with freezing levels creeping up towards (or even exceeding 3000m) in the west later,” said the alpine weather expert, Fraser Wilkin, on Sunday.
Fraser provides PlanetSKI with a weekly overview and his latest one, from last Thursday, can be found lower down this article.
“Lots of resorts are cranking up their snow-making during the current dry but relatively cool weather. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Dolomites where 400km of runs are already open in the Super Dolomiti ski area (e.g. Cortina, Arabba, Alta Badia, Selva, Kronplatz).”
“The best natural snow conditions, however, remain at altitude in the western and south-western resorts such as Cervinia, Zermatt, Saas-Fee, the Monte Rosa Region, Val d’Isère, Tignes, Val Thorens and Montgenèvre. Here too, however, as is the case across much the Alps, there is very little snow below 1800-2000m.”
“I have been coming to Tignes in November for 20 years or so and these are some of the best conditions I can remember with the pistes in excellent shape and more than enough snow to do some of the off piste runs incluing the Chardonnet bowl,” said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove.
See here for a video report from Tignes presented by PlanetSKI’s senior news reporter, Katie Bamber.
PlanetSKI was also in the high-altitude resort of Val Thorens in the French Alps for its official opening – see here for our report from last weekend.
This is what it looks like from the top of the resort looking down on the village.
However turn the camera to the left to look at another part of Les3Vallees and this is what you see.
The resort of Les Menuires at 1,850m is beneath the snow line.
Our full and detailed snow report below, that was filed on Thursday 1st December comes from Fraser Wilkin at www.weathertoski.co.uk.
Snow conditions in the Alps are very mixed as we begin December.
Thanks to last week’s big storms, conditions are excellent at altitude in the western/south-western Alps, including resorts such as Val d’Isère, Tignes, Val Thorens, Montgenèvre, Alpe d’Huez, the Monte Rosa region, Cervinia, Zermatt and Saas-Fee.
We stress that this is “at altitude” because, even here, snow cover is often patchy below 1800-2000m.
Elsewhere in the Alps there is also reasonable cover at altitude, even if snow depths are less impressive.
Examples of resorts that missed the big “south-western” storms last week, but which can still offer some perfectly good piste skiing, include Ischgl, Obergurgl, Obertauern, Livigno, Kronplatz, Engelberg and Grimentz.
Lower down in the Alps, however, natural snow cover is now very patchy (as in Morzine and Villars, for example) and, except for a little snow in the far north-eastern Alps over the next 24 hours, there is no major dump in prospect for at least 8 to 10 days.
That said, snow-making is underway – on an industrial scale in the eastern Alps (e.g. Dolomites), but a bit more sporadic in the lower resorts of the western Alps, where freezing levels are that bit higher.
There is still plenty of it going on though, especially at night.
Glaciers aside, there are now lots of partial openings across Austria.
However, natural snow cover remains modest and artificial snow is very much in the mix.
The greatest extent of skiing in Austria is currently in Ischgl (0/40cm), where an impressive 125km of pistes are now open.
Obertauern (30/60cm) is another good entirely non-glacial option but, generally speaking, more snow would be welcome, especially lower down.
Tignes (42/155cm) and Val d’Isère (5/150cm) still offer as good an option as anywhere in Europe right now, thanks to last week’s big storms, with about half of their 300km combined area now skiable.
Val Thorens (85/150cm) is currently second in France in terms of extent of skiing available, but Montgenèvre (70/130cm) has also been offering some excellent skiing this week, and lots of resorts will partially open this weekend.
Like everywhere else in the Alps though, snow cover remains patchy below 1800-2000m, with lots more snow needed in the lower resorts to settle any pre-Christmas nerves
The western Italian Alps (at altitude) currently have the best natural snow cover in Italy.
Cervinia (35/160cm) still leads the way with 66km of pistes (shared with Zermatt) open today, but much more is expected to open this weekend.
The Monte Rosa region (Champoluc, Gressoney, Alagna) also has a lot of snow at altitude and will be open this weekend with up to 180cm of settled snow on its upper slopes.
Further east there is less natural snow, but Livigno (0/50cm) is open on a daily basis.
Snow-making is currently transforming the pistes in the Dolomites, where Kronplatz (20/40cm) has about half of its 32 lifts running today.
Snow conditions in Switzerland are best at altitude in the south, especially in Zermatt (0/110cm) and Saas-Fee (10/135cm), though snow cover at resort level remains patchy.
There are lots of partial openings elsewhere in Switzerland, including Davos (0/30cm), Verbier (10/65cm) and Grimentz (20/50cm), with more in the pipeline this weekend.
As with elsewhere in the Alps, however, snow cover is patchy below 1800-2000m, with very little new snow in the medium term forecast.
Rest of Europe
In the Pyrenees, Andorra’s Pas de La Casa (15/35cm) is open and offering decent piste skiing, despite its modest snow depths.
It will be joined by neighbouring Soldeu tomorrow.
Spain’s Baqueira Beret (5/25cm) is also offering some reasonable piste skiing but, generally speaking, the Pyrenees could do with some more snow, especially lower down.
Lots of Scandinavian ski resorts are now at least partially open.
Norway’s Geilo has a healthy 80cm mid-mountain base, despite only very modest recent snowfalls.
The snow is that bit fresher in Sweden’s Åre, where the mid-mountain base is now 51cm.
Finland’s Levi (40cm mid-mountain base) is also in good shape, with more snow in the forecast.
At present the Scottish ski resorts do not have enough snow to offer any lift-served skiing.
Conditions are excellent in Whistler (172cm upper base) at the moment, with well over 1m of new snow in the last week and more forecast over the next few days, before it turns sunnier but much colder early next week.
18 of the area’s 26 lifts are now up and running.
Further inland, the best bet remains Sunshine Village (88cm upper base), near Banff, where over 70 trails are open and snow is also forecast.
A handful of other western Canadian resorts are also open with lots more due to join them this weekend.
Conditions are much improved in the western US compared with a week or two ago, with new snow for most resorts and more in the forecast.
With 75cm of new snow earlier this week, Utah’s Snowbird (105cm mid-mountain base) is skiing particularly well right now.
Jackson Hole (64/120cm) is also in great shape, despite the limited number of lifts open.
Colorado resorts have generally seen more modest snowfalls, but there is still good skiing to be found in both Breckenridge (46cm upper base) and Telluride (53cm upper base).
For daily weather bulletins from Fraser then follow it all at www.weathertoski.co.uk.
See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.
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