There’s been little new snow and some rather warm weather in the Alps over the past week. The big snow news has come from North America where resorts have reported up to 90cm of new snow in the past 72 hours and Whistler just under a metre of snow in the past week. There have been significant snowfalls at Californian resorts to the south too. See our "where is the snow" gallery.
With the exception of a brief half-term opening by Les 2 Alpes, Tignes' glacier had been the lone ski area open in France for the past seven weeks. The snow is currently 70cm deep on the glacier there. After the great early November snowfall in the French Alps, which has reportedly left most high-altitude slopes above 2,000m coated with about 60cm of snow, Montgenevre decided they could not wait any longer and, and with snow depths of 30-60cm (lower/upper slopes), opened 10 runs last weekend and plans to again this weekend.
Val Thorens is due to open (on schedule) this Saturday, Nov. 24. The snow depth there is 30-60cm and we’re forecasting temperatures to remain at or a degree or two below freezing up until opening day, with no fresh snow except for a nice centimetre as the icing on the cake on Friday, just before opening day.
Austria is where you’ll find the most ski areas open at present, but they have also had warm weather with temperatures reaching 10C in the mountains this week and no fresh snow in the past seven days.
The best snow conditions are on the glaciers – most of which have been operating since at least late September and have seen several metres of snowfall in the intervening two months. The Stubai glacier near Innsbruck has a base of 110cm, the Kitzsteinhorn at Kaprun has one metre, and Solden 85cm.
Austria’s most snow-sure non-glacier ski resorts have also begun opening, despite the warm weather, thanks in part to those same heavy pre-season snowfalls. Obergurgl-Hochgorgl opened last weekend and has 70km of slopes open served by 15 lifts and 2cm-70cm of snow. Obertauern ran a few lifts last weekend but will open properly Thursday, Nov. 22 with 15cm-40cm of snow while Ischgl kicks off on Friday, Nov. 23 with 0cm-60cm.
Several of Italy’s top resorts have opened or are opening, including the upper runs at Bormio, glacier slopes at Cervinia, and several intermediate trails on the glacier at Passo Tonale. Bormio reports 60cm of snow on upper slopes where temperatures dropped to -11C today. Cervinia has even deeper snow at 160cm on upper slopes with even colder temperatures of -17C at the summit last Monday, but it’s warming up (-7) now.
After the success of last weekend, Madonna di Campiglio is opening 5km of slopes and three lifts again this weekend, Nov. 24 and 25.
Cortina kicks off its ski season with the opening of the first slopes in Faloria this Thursday, Nov. 22, with the rest of the resort’s slopes, as well as most of the rest of the vast Dolomiti Superski area, open from Dec. 1.
There are currently nine resorts open in Switzerland including Engelberg, which re-opened after a 10-day scheduled maintenance closure on Nov. 16th, with 0-80cm of snow and eight runs/four lifts operational. The year-round resort of Zermatt has opened more terrain recently, now with 75km of skiable runs, one of the biggest open ski areas in the world at present, and currently has 0-40cm of snow. Its neighbour, Saas Fee is reporting the deepest snow in the country however with a 148cm base on the upper slopes and has eight runs/five lifts open.
Also open in Switzerland are the glacier ski areas of Glacier 3000 between Les Diablerets and Gstaad with a 70cm base and the Diavolezza Glacier near St Moritz – each with limited terrain but good snow conditions. The glacier at Laax is currently open at weekends but will be open permanently from Dec. 1.
There’s nowhere open in the Pyrenees at present and while there have been some good pre-season snowfalls earlier in the month, much of this has melted away with temperatures into double figures.
Scandinavian ski areas got off to a great start with all planned openings from mid-October (when Ruka in Finland opened – the first non-glacier resort to do so) going ahead on schedule and heavy snow in the first week of November leading others to open early. In Norway, around 30 resorts are open now, with big resorts like Hemsedal setting early season records, offering more open lifts and terrain than usual at this time of year, and great conditions. Also Åre and some 20 resorts in Sweden are open, but with limited terrain. For the deepest powder snow, head to cult classic Roldal, which reports yet another 47cm of snow in the past 72 hours, although it's projected opening this weekend is threatened by a warm front over Norway this week.
No snow has been reported in Eastern Europe as yet although temperatures are below freezing on upper slopes at Bansko in Bulgaria, but nearer to +6C down in the resort.
It is the usual roller-coaster weather for Scottish ski areas already. Having had several snowfalls over past weeks, there was heavy snowfall at the weekend which left the mountains white. However temperatures have been back in double figures the past few days and most slopes are now green again. This time last year there were huge snowfalls then damaging blizzards on the west coast at Glencoe and Nevis Range, this year the gales are getting up again but, so far, not so much snow.
Canada is reporting some of the best conditions in the world at present with heavy snowfall and low temperatures, which allows the snow to settle and enables snowmaking. Whistler opened ahead of schedule last Saturday and has reported 99cm of snowfall in the past 7 days. Sun Peaks also opened last weekend and has a 79cm base with 10cm falling in the past 24 hours.
In the US there’s a flurry of activity as many resorts all try to open for the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend and most big-name resorts in the West have either opened or are about to. In terms of fresh snow, the North-West is currently topping the OnTheSnow ‘Snow Dump’ chart with up to 90cm of snow in 72 hours at some Washington state areas, similar to last year. Happily this autumn, unlike in 2011, resorts in California to the south are doing well too. Kirkwood reports 56cm of new snow in the past three days.
“This current storm system has come through in two waves and has dropped over two feet of snow at Kirkwood, and it is still coming down,” said Casey Blann, Kirkwood’s general manager. “The early-season conditions are really good and are looking even better going into this holiday week. We hope to re-evaluate our terrain as this storm continues and see what else we might be able to open for later this week.”
THE WEEK AHEAD
Looking ahead, where is the snow going to fall over the next few days?
Well, temperatures in the Alps are expected to drop to sub-zero figures. Austria and France aren’t forecast any new snow, but by the end of Monday, Nov. 26 we're forecasting fresh snowfalls for Switzerland and Italy: almost 30cm in Saas-Fee and 16cm in Bormio.
Across the ocean, it just won’t stop snowing in Whistler – we’re projecting another 60cm of snow in the next week. Colorado ski areas will see plenty of sunshine but no snow and it’s going to get warmer in California, with temperatures hitting 8C at Mammoth and no new snow in the next week.
Our next “Where is the snow in Europe and North America?” report will be published Wed, Nov. 28.