MORE SNOW NEEDED IN THE ALPS
8th December 2016
There remains good snow at altitude in the Alps but warmer temperatures and rain have ruined it lower down. With Xmas approaching concerns are rising. UPDATED
First the good news.
At high altitude the on piste conditions remain good in many resorts and there are relatively uncrowded slopes.
This is St Anton in Austria.
The PlanetSKI content editor, James Cove, is passing through on his way to the glacier resort of Soelden.
As you do.
The views from the top are stunning with deep blue sky and snow capped peaks.
The trouble is that is the only place where the snow is – the peaks.
Below it is very thin and most is on artificial snow.
“I would love to be telling everyone about the great snow here in this part of Austria with deep powder and a fresh covering, but that is not the case. There is a good covering on the top slopes with very few rocks showing through and the pisteurs have done a great job with what they have,” said James.
“However there are now some worried peope in the resort as they know snow is poor and at the current time it looks like we might have a third poor Xmas in a row. All in all it is a sorry picture,” he added.
With yet more resorts opening this weekend there are worries across the Alps.
Courchevel opened on Saturday but much of the heavy snow in November has melted or been washed away by the rain.
Our reporter, Tord Nilson, is in the resort for its opening weekend.
“They’re working super hard to get tomorrow sorted. Tough conditions but it seems like it’ll be a good day tomorrow,” he said as he arrived in the resort on Friday.
And here was the picture in town on Friday.
Out on the slopes on Saturday it was pleasantly surprising.
“First day of the season at Courchevel was greeted with bright blue skies and the sun shining strongly. Although it’s been pretty dry recently, the pistes were in terrific shape with their 600 snow cannons really making a difference and giving me a brilliant day skiing,” said Tord.
“We were shown around the mountain by the owners of Supreme Ski School who were excellent in picking the perfect pistes at the right time of day. A good amount of pistes were open and when going up to the top there was even some off piste powder/slush to be found – fantastic! The opening party is now in full flow with a band playing 60s rock tunes on La Croisette!” added Tord.
PlanetSKI’s Chief Reporter Jane Peel is currently in St Moritz in Switzerland.
After spending all day Friday blasting around Corviglia mountain under blue skies she said: “The pistes are in excellent condition, and we were on sunny slopes all day long.
“The snow line is currently at around 2000m although we were able to ski all the way back down to the town at the end of the day, thanks to artificial snow.
“It’s too mild for the snow cannons to be on during the day but they are able to work at night to ensure the slopes remain in good shape.
“It’s clear, though, when you look down on the town from the mountain, that more snow would be very welcome, and soon!”
PlanetSKI was in Val Thorens, Val d’Isere, Tignes and Verbier the past week and on piste conditons at the top of the resorts are excellent.
“I have skied on some of the best groomed slopes I can remember with great snow, perfect grooming and no-one around,” said the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, of his time in Espace Killy.
See here for his report on Piste Perfection.
But lower down it is a different story.
This is the bottom of the World Cup Downhill course.
It has good covering but is all artificial snow – look at the area to the left.
And here is Verbier.
Good at the top – not so good lower down on south-facing slopes.
To illustrate the suituation we look at the images from web cameras in a number of resorts across the Alps earlier in the week.
See here for our article that looks at Alpe d’Huez & Courchevel in France plus Zell am See/Kaprun & Sölden in Austria, St Moritz & Engelberg in Switzerland and Selva Val Gardena in Italy.
Our full and detailed snow report below, that was filed on Thursday 8th December, comes from Fraser Wilkin at www.weathertoski.co.uk.
So the question on everyone’s lips right now is when will it next snow in the Alps?
The short answer is ‘on Monday’, but only in modest quantities and also only in the eastern Austrian Alps.
Everyone else will have to wait, though there are hints of a more significant change in the weather pattern sometime between 17 and 21 December 2016.
In the meantime, it should be emphasised that there is still plenty of very enjoyable skiing around at the moment, at least if you are happy to stay on the pistes.
The best snow conditions remain in the higher resorts of the western and south-western Alps, including Val d’Isère, Tignes, Val Thorens, Montgenèvre, Isola 2000, Sestriere, Courmayeur, the Monte Rosa region, Pila, Zermatt and Saas-Fee.
There are also dozens of other options but, as a rule (glaciers aside), the further north and east you go, the more you will be reliant on man-made snow.
In short, the snow situation in the Alps is not ideal right now, but for most resorts it is a long way from being disastrous and in many high resorts it is still pretty good.
Meanwhile, snow conditions are generally better across the pond, especially in Canada where Whistler is enjoying its best early season skiing for many years…
Glaciers aside there are plenty of skiing options in Austria right now, even if most of them are heavily dependent on artificial snow.
Among the more extensive possibilities are Ischgl (0/40cm), Söll (20/40cm), Schladming (40/100cm) and Obertauern (30/60cm).
All these resorts, and many more, are providing some perfectly enjoyable piste skiing but cannot escape the fact that off-piste possibilities are very limited and that snow cover remains patchy lower down, especially in the west of the country.
A little new snow is possible in the eastern Austrian Alps on Monday (e.g. Schladming), but most regions will need to wait at least a week (or probably more) before any hope of a more significant pattern change.
Lots of ski resorts are now partially open in France despite very little natural snow cover below 1800-2000m.
The best snow conditions are in the high resorts close to the Italian border, such as Val d’Isère (5/140cm) and Montgenèvre (70/180cm).
Val Thorens (60/135cm) and Les 2 Alpes (0/120cm) are two other good options right now though off-piste opportunities remain extremely limited.
Resorts where most of the skiing is below 2000m, such as Morzine and Megève, are showing far too much greenery, however, and need a lot more snow before they can start thinking about a successful start to the season.
Natural snow cover remains best at altitude in the western Italian Alps, including resorts such as Cervinia (35/160cm), Sestriere (40/120cm), Pila (20/200cm) and the Monte Rosa region (0/220cm), though even here snow is patchy below 1800m or so.
Elsewhere, there is plenty of good piste skiing to be had though, generally speaking, the further east you head the more important snow-making becomes.
The Super Dolomiti area (Cortina, Selva, Alta Badia etc.) has an astonishing 622km of pistes open today thanks largely to man-made snow.
No new snow is forecast in Italy for at least a week, possibly even longer.
Snow cover in Switzerland remains very patchy low down which means that the best skiing right now is in resorts with lots of terrain above 2200m, such as Zermatt (0/105cm) and Saas-Fee (10/135cm).
There are plenty of other options open, mostly thanks to artificial help, but there is very little off-piste to speak of and lots more snow is needed to ease any nerves before the Christmas rush.
If you are happy to stay on the pistes, other decent possibilities right now include St Moritz, Davos/Klosters and Samnaun (which links to Ischgl in Austria).
The forecast offers some hope of a pattern change somewhere between 17 and 21 December, but it is too early to be celebrating just yet.
Rest of Europe
All Andorran ski resorts are now up and running on a mix of natural and artificial snow.
The greatest extent of skiing can be found in the Grandvalira area (Soldeu, Pas de La Casa) where settled snow depths are around 50cm up top.
Several other Pyrenean resorts are also open, including France’s Cauterets (15/45cm), but more snow would be welcome.
Elsewhere in Europe, the greatest concentration of skiing opportunities is to be found in Scandinavia.
Sweden’s Åre (48cm upper base) is in reasonable condition following 10cm of new snow on Monday.
Good piste skiing can also be found in Norway, where Geilo has around 80cm packed down on its upper slopes.
Early season snow conditions remain excellent in Whistler (155cm upper base) thanks to cold temperatures – even if there hasn’t been a huge amount of new snow over the last week.
More snow is expected at all levels tomorrow and over the weekend though.
Further inland, Sunshine Village (106cm mid-mountain base) near Banff is also in great shape (though cold), with most lifts and runs now open.
Many western US resorts have had a top-up of new snow in the last few days and are skiing pretty well for early December.
Jackson Hole (Wyoming) has 67/120cm of snow settled snow depending on altitude, while Aspen (Colorado) has 74cm mid-mountain.
For the deepest freshest powder you need to head to the Pacific north-west, where it’s just starting to snow again in Mt Baker and the upper base is a very impressive 256cm deep
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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