Snow overview: 3 April
All change this week as weather patterns become more unsettled. As mentioned last week, a gradual breakdown in the fine and warm weather affecting much of Europe has begun. And it certainly has been very warm during the past few days, with prolonged sunshine and classic spring snow conditions. Typically this has meant firm pistes in the morning, softening to slush by early afternoon; but you can still get better quality snow on shadier slopes. Altitude is the key to finding the best conditions now, though.
A few snow showers reached Austria and eastern Switzerland last weekend, but it is really the latter part of this week that we should begin to notice a cooling off and more snowfall just ahead of the Easter bank holidays. It will be a progressively cloudier week in general, with rain showers for lower lying slopes and snow above 1800-2000m initially. Low cloud and fog will reduce visibility at times too.
While the change to cooler, unsettled weather will be a shock to the system after weeks of prolonged sunbathing and shirt sleeves on the slopes, it does mean welcome new snow to the high resorts that shape this latter part of the season. And the good snowfalls earlier in the season mean slopes here remain relatively well covered.
Austria has some of the deepest snow cover in the higher, favoured western resorts. Safe bets at this time of the year are Ischgl, St Anton, Obergurgl and the Stubaier and Hintertux glaciers. All have the majority of slopes still open and good cover. There was 5-15cm snow reported last weekend, notably in the Salzburg area but snow cover in these lower resorts is likely to suffer from rainfall this week.
In France many smaller, low resorts are now closed for the season; the long dry spell having rapidly thawed snow cover. But the skies are at last clouding over and Wednesday is expected to deliver wintry showers to the main, high resorts. Again, these will fall as snow above 2000m. Chamonix, Flaine, Val Thorens, La Plagne and Tignes all have plenty of skiing to see out the season.
Conditions in Italy are mixed, with some runs to resort now closed but other areas still enjoying relatively good cover (Canazei in the Dolomites, for example). The skies have clouded up in the west, and showers are also moving east into the Dolomite regions; there has been welcome new snow in Passo Tonale. Cortina is about 50% open, with wet spring snow. Visibility in Cervinia has been poor, but 30cm of new snow has fallen to end the week. La Thuile is predicting 20-30cm on the upper mountain.
In Switzerland, the areas most to benefit from snowfall this week are in the east and south. Of these, Engelberg and Andermatt have been consistent leaders throughout the season. But for more reliable cover at this time of the year, there is some excellent skiing in Saas Fee and Zermatt. As elsewhere, the mild and wet weather has affected snow quality.
Rest of Europe
Sadly, Scotland’s sudden return to winter is a little late for this year’s ski season; the warm weather had melted the snow base in all five areas. But more snow has fallen than expected and we now hear that the resorts have been quick to take advantage of it for Easter. Limitd terrain is open at Cairngorm now. April generally can produce some of the best snow conditions in the Highlands. The Pyrenees is still holding up well for the time of year and more snow is due there. Cauterets and Andorra are the safest bets.
There is certainly no shortage of snow over in western Canada. In fact, winter seems very reluctant to leave. Reports of 40-70cm snowfall in a week are simply incredible amounts. It might not be the light, fluffy powder of early season but it is powder nonetheless. Take your pick: Whistler, Banff, Fernie … And another 15-25cm is forecast for the Alberta region this week. California in the US too is enjoying an April spurt, which looked highly unlikely a couple of months back. Resorts are talking of extending the season to make the most of it. Colorado is back to more settled conditions, and has had a fairly lean season by all accounts. But cover is adequate to see out the final week or two.