THERE IS SNOW IN THE ALPS BUT MUCH MORE IS NEEDED
22nd December 2016
With Xmas & New Year upon us all eyes are on the snow as more is needed in many areas of the Alps – especially low down. So, what are conditions like and is it going to snow? UPDATED
The Alps remains much in need of snow.
There is one area in Italy that has had plenty of fresh snow – but more of that later and lower down this snow report.
It is the fourth December in a row that snow has generally been sparse, but overall it is better than last year.
Our reporters have been in La Plagne in France, Ischgl in Austria and Verbier in Switzerland.
All have high altitude skiing & snowboarding and it is the same story at those resorts, and many others.
There is good on piste skiing at altitude and some resorts runs are open, but most are on man-made snow.
There is little, if any, off piste though some areas of the south west Alps received a decent amount of snow last week – see here for our earlier report.
Our chief reporter, Jane Peel, was in La Plagne – see here for her resort review.
Our editor, James Cove, is in Verbier.
“Hats off to Televerbier as the lift company has done a fantastic job with the pistes and despite the lack of natural snow in recent weeks the slopes are generally in superb shape,” said James Cove.
“However the problems will come next week if no fresh snow arrives as many more people will be out on the slopes. At the moment there are around 3,000 people in Verbier, but next week there will be three times that with up to 10,000 expected and it will be the same in other resorts. It is going to get busy!” James added.
At the top of Verbier there is plenty of good snow and it looks like the middle of winter:
At the bottom of the resort, especially on the south facing slopes it is bare.
However it is testament to the lift company’s hard work they they have managed to get the nursery slopes of Les Esserts open.
That’s the slope at the bottom of this picture.
Our full and detailed snow report below, that was filed on Thursday 22nd December comes from Fraser Wilkin at www.weathertoski.co.uk.
If you are off to the Italian Piedmont this Christmas or New Year then you are in for a treat.
Resorts in this region (e.g. Sestriere, Bardonecchia, Prali and Alagna) have seen between 30cm and 80cm of new snow at altitude over the last few days, and over 1m locally in the far south (e.g. Prato Nevoso).
Some Aosta valley resorts (e.g. Cervinia, Gressoney) have also seen a useful fall of snow, as have a handful of French resorts close to the Italian border (e.g. Isola 2000, Montgenèvre and Bonneval-sur-Arc).
Elsewhere in the Alps there have been a few light snowfalls here and there this week but not enough to radically change anything, and many places have actually stayed dry.
So, with the exception of some south-western parts of the Alps, Christmas snow conditions are below par for the fourth year running.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still some perfectly good piste skiing to found – prolific snow-making (especially in the eastern Alps) has seen to that.
However, this cannot disguise the fact that below 2000m, there is very little if any natural snow to speak of across a good portion of the Alps.
The lower resorts of the north-western Alps are those that are causing the greatest concern right now, not least because snow-making has not been as effective here as it has been further east.
Morzine, Les Gets, Megève, Villars, Grindelwald and Adelboden are just a few examples of resorts that are only able to offer a tiny number of runs right now and are desperate for new snow.
Meanwhile, snow conditions are generally excellent across the pond, in both the western US and western Canada…
On-piste snow conditions are generally OK in Austria, even if snow depths are universally below par for late December.
Off-piste opportunities are very limited, however.
The patchiest snow cover (relative to altitude) is in the far west, where Lech (5/30cm) is still heavily reliant on artificial snow and only a third of the runs in the Arlberg area are currently open.
At the opposite (eastern) end of the Austrian Alps the snow-line is a bit lower, leaving it looking more wintry in Lofer (10/60cm) in the eastern Salzburgland, despite its lower average altitude.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that a higher altitude makes a huge difference to snow cover right now.
Glaciers aside, even the high Austrian resorts such as Ischgl (0/40cm), Obergurgl (10/55cm) and Kühtai (15/20cm) have paper thin cover although, as we stressed earlier, on-piste conditions are perfectly reasonable.
Some snow is forecast in the Austrian Alps later this weekend and early next week but only in very modest quantities. The wait for the “big one” continues…
Snow conditions in the French Alps are highly mixed right now.
The freshest snow is in resorts close to the Italian border, from the Maurienne valley southwards including Bonneval-sur-Arc (45/250cm), Val Cenis (25/220cm) and Isola 2000 (60/120cm).
One resort worth a special mention is Montgenèvre (90/200cm), which has probably offered the most consistently good top to bottom snow conditions of any resorts in the Alps so far this season.
Elsewhere in the French Alps, Val d’Isère/Tignes (30/140cm) and Val Thorens (60/135cm) are two good bets but, generally speaking, there is very little natural snow below 2000m and most resorts are heavily reliant on man-made efforts.
Weathertoski is just back from Courchevel (15/70cm) which is typical of the current situation – little or no natural snow at resort level but still offering plenty of good piste-skiing, especially at altitude.
The snow situation in the Italian Alps is a contrasting one with lots of fresh snow in the west, but very little in the east where they are much more reliant on artificial snow.
The very best snow conditions are in the southern Piedmont region, where Sestriere (50/140cm) is skiing as well as any mainstream resort in the Alps right now following 50cm+ from the recent storm.
Other good bets include Bardonecchia (40/160cm), Cervinia (35/170cm) and the Monte Rosa region (5/200cm), though do be careful off-piste as there is very little base at low altitudes.
The further east you travel, the more the resorts are reliant on man-made snow.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Dolomiti Superski area (e.g. Kronplatz, Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Cortina) where 880km of runs are open despite a modest (mostly artificial) base of just 20-40cm.
The Swiss Alps have seen bits and pieces of fresh snow here and there over the last few days, with 20cm in Andermatt (0/95cm), and a little on the ridges and peaks above Zermatt (0/105cm) and Saas-Fee (30/105cm), for example.
However, for the vast majority of resorts there hasn’t been any really significant snowfall for several weeks, which means that they are heavily reliant on man-made snow.
Among the more extensive options are Verbier (10/80cm), St Moritz (3/45cm) and Grimentz (20/50cm).
However, there are few if any decent off-piste opportunities anywhere in the Swiss Alps and still no major dumps on the horizon.
Rest of Europe
Some Pyrenean ski resorts saw a little snow earlier this week which has freshened up the pistes in Andorra’s Arcalis (35/70cm).
However, generally speaking, snow cover is still poor for late December especially low down.
Spain’s Baqueira Beret only has 5/25cm of snow depending on altitude and is heavily reliant on snow cannons.
Most Scandinavian ski resorts are now open and offering steady rather than spectacular snow conditions.
Norway’s Geilo has 40/65cm packed down on its pistes, while Finland’s Levi has 45cm.
There is still not enough snow in Scottish ski resorts for snow-sports.
Outstanding early season snow conditions continue in Whistler (178cm mid-mountain base), with fresh snow and more in the forecast early next week.
Most other western Canadian resorts are also in great shape, including Revelstoke (166cm mid-mountain base) which has clocked over 70cm of new snow in the last week, and Fernie (176cm upper mountain base) which has seen 65cm.
Early season snow conditions are generally excellent in the western US.
Jackson Hole in Wyoming has done particularly well with over 1m of new snow in the last week and plenty more in the forecast.
Colorado resorts have seen more modest falls but are also skiing well for late December, with 88cm mid-mountain in Beaver Creek and 86cm in Telluride.
For daily weather bulletins from Fraser then follow it all at www.weathertoski.co.uk.
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