Improving conditions in the Alps

6th January 2017, by Fraser Wilkin

Finally looking like mid-winter in Warth-Schröcken. Photo:

Finally looking like mid-winter in Warth-Schröcken. Photo:

Latest snow report from Weather to Ski

Updated: 9.30pm Thursday 5 January 2017

Conditions have improved dramatically over much of Austria (away from the far south) as well as many northern and eastern parts of Switzerland, thanks to significant new snow. Resorts that have been transformed include Laax, Davos/Klosters, Lech, St Anton, Ischgl, Saalbach, Kapurn and Kitzbühel, but there are many more besides. These areas have seen in the order of 30-50cm of snow from this storm, locally even more.
Some French and Italian resorts have also seen a little new snow but, generally speaking, the western and particularly the southern Alps (e.g. Alpe d’Huez and the Dolomites) have missed most of the action and, with some exceptions, remain heavily reliant on artificial snow.
Beware of some extreme cold over the next couple of days, especially in Austria where on the glaciers the wind-chill could be close to -40°C!
Looking a bit further ahead, there will be further snow flurries at times. This weekend they will be mostly in Austria, then perhaps more generally across the northern and north-western Alps early next week. At this stage these flurries are not expected to be particularly heavy but there are indications of some heavier, more widespread snow moving in from the north-west later in the week.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Californian resorts await one of their biggest storms in years… 

Heavy snow has transformed the Austrian landscape in all but the far south, with 25-50cm (locally 60cm+) falling quite widely across Vorarlberg, the Tirol, the Salzburgland, Styria and Upper Austria. Lech (60/80cm), for example, had virtually no natural snow just a couple of days ago, but now has 50cm of fresh and will be skiing superbly once the weather clears.
Further east, resorts such as Saalbach (45/85cm) and Kaprun (50/140cm) have also been transformed with at least 40cm of new snow.
Off-piste opportunities are increasing, but always take an experienced guide as the situation is complicated right now and the danger from both avalanches and snow covered “hazards” is considerable. 

A little new snow in Les Gets but much more is needed. Photo:

The northern French Alps have seen a little fresh snow (5-15cm) which has helped to freshen up the pistes in the likes of Avoriaz (40/50cm) and Flaine (6/75cm) but not enough to really transform the situation as there is still no real base below 1800m or so.
The best overall conditions are therefore still in the high resorts close to the Italian border, from about Val d’Isère/Tignes (30/130cm) southwards, including Val Cenis (20/220cm) and Montgenèvre (90/200cm).
Off-piste possibilities remain relatively limited across the French Alps.

Only a handful of Italian ski resorts benefited from the recent storm, with most missing out altogether. One notable exception was Cervinia (35/150cm) where 20-30cm fell at high altitude and skiing conditions will be excellent once the weather settles down.
Elsewhere in Italy, Sestriere (50/40cm) is another good bet, despite it missing out entirely on the latest Alpine snowfall.
Further east, however, resorts are more reliant on artificial snow. The Super Dolomiti ski area (40cm upper base) saw a dusting of snow this morning, but the 900km+ of pistes open here are still mostly down to man-made efforts.
Off-piste opportunities in Italy remain relatively limited and mostly confined to the western Italian Alps. 

Most Swiss ski resorts have seen fresh snow from the latest storm, with significant fresh snow in the north and east, but more modest amounts in the south-west.
Laax (20/90cm) and Klosters (20/75cm) are among the resorts that have benefitted most with at least 40cm of new snow. Wengen/Mürren (10/40cm) have also done quite well with around 20-30cm of new snow but, in the far west and south-west, Zermatt (0/110cm) and Verbier (20/80cm) missed the heaviest falls and saw more like 5-12cm.
Generally speaking, on-piste skiing is steadily improving in most areas in Switzerland. However, off-piste opportunities remain limited, not least because there is still no real base at medium and low altitudes. 

Rest of Europe
In Bulgaria, conditions are improving in Bansko (40/70cm) with 20cm of new snow today and more in the forecast.
The Pyrenees are still struggling though, with skiing mostly confined to high altitude pistes. Andorra’s Soldeu has 20/40cm of settled snow depending on altitude, while Spain’s Baqueira Beret has 10/30cm.
Most Scandinavian resorts are in reasonable shape, though it has been very cold recently, especially in Finland where Ruka has an upper base of 45cm.
Scottish ski resorts are currently closed due to insufficient snow, though some limited skiing was possible earlier in the week. 

Excellent snow conditions in Whistler now. Photo:

In the US all eyes are on California right now as one of the biggest storm cycles in years gets underway. Mammoth has seen around 80cm of new snow this week with another 3 metres or more possible at altitude in the next 7 days. However, with warmer air in the mix, rain is possible at times at resort level.
Elsewhere in the western US, most Colorado, Wyoming and Utah resorts are offering fantastic skiing conditions with lots of fresh snow and plenty to come over the coming days. Alta now has a 187cm mid-mountain base, while Jackson Hole has a 223cm upper base, and Crested Butte a 154cm mid-mountain base. 

Whistler (190cm mid-mountain base) hasn’t seen a huge amount of snow in the last few days but snow conditions remain excellent by most standards.
Further east there is also some excellent skiing to be found in the Banff/Lake Louise area (90/145cm), and in both Sun Peaks (104/137cm) and Revelstoke (181cm mid-mountain). 

Next full snow report will be on Thursday 12 January 2017, but see Today in the Alps on for regular updates

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