After the snow deluge that blanketed Europe for much of December up to Christmas, the snowfall has eased to a more regular rate and conditions have stabilises. That is particularly good news in the French and parts of the Swiss Alps where the huge snowfalls led to travel problems and piste closures while lifts were dug out and runs made avalanche safe. However the off piste avalanche risk remains high at many resorts in Europe.
In Austria, Sölden has reported the most new snow in the past week with an impressive 1.1m (just under four feet) of new snow with Lech in the Arlberg in second place with 75cm (2.5 feet) which gives both well groomed trails and great off piste conditions. After four months the country’s deepest snow depths are no longer on the glaciers but now both Ehrwald and St Anton have reported a 2.3m (7.6 feet) base. There is a high (grade 4) danger of avalanches in Serfaus Fiss Ladis and a extensive danger (grade 3) in Berwang, Fieberbrunn, Pitztal and Seefeld. Skiers have to be extremely careful in off the slopes.
In France ski resorts have seen the most of the snow of anywhere in the world over the past few weeks and now have some of the deepest snow bases anywhere – which bodes well for the rest of the winter. The Chamonix Valley – which had to largely close its slopes for three days before Christmas due to operational difficulties and avalanche danger caused by the massive snowfalls, is now full open again and reporting the deepest snow in the country at 3.1m (10.3 feet). But conditions are great across the country.
Resorts in the Aosta Valley continue to dominate Italy’s snow stats with 2.3m (7.7 feet) at Cervinia and snow depths in Monterosa between 1.8 and 2.1m (6-7 feet). La Thule, Courmayeur and Pila are also among the top 10 in the country for snow depth. Snowfall has been limited over the past week with the most snow in the south of the country including more than 30cm in the Apennines. More than 1000km of piste are now open in the Dolomiti Superski region.
Switzerland had good snow falls over the last week. Laax reports 80cm for the last seven days, Gstaad 70cm and Verbier 125cm (4 feet). Over the Christmas Weekend many resorts got fresh snow around 10cm-20cm. Resorts like Engelberg, Lötschental, Gstaad and Verbier could offer a white Chrsitmas with good snowfalls. The best snow depth in Switzerand can be found in Saas Fee with 325cm (11 feet) at the mountain station. Second are Gstaad and Lötschental with 300cm each. Moderate snow falls can be expected for Friday and Saturday.
Conditions have improved dramatically in the Pyrenees a fortnight after resorts in the region could hardly open due to a lack of natural snowfall and temperatures too warm for snowmaking. Baqueira Beret in Spain has a 150cm (5 feet) base and Vallnord / Arcalís in Andorra has up to 140cm base depth and Grandvalira is getting closer to opening its full 205km of piste available this winter (the first time a resort in the Pyrenees has offered more than 200km of lift served terrain). On the French side of the border Cauterets is up to 130cm (4.3 feet) and Piau Engaly 120cm (4 feet).
There have been some good snowfalls in Scandinavia in the past 24 hours with the region’s largest resort, Are in Sweden, issuing a powder alarm today (Wednesday 28 December) for 20cm of snow in the past 24 hours and Oppdal in Norway also issuing an alarm for the same accumulation yesterday.
After the good start to Scotland’s winter in mid-December, the double digit Christmas temperatures have taken their toll and all five centres have had to cease winter sports operations as snow cover has thawed away. On the West Coast Glencoe and Nevis Range are expecting fresh snow later today (Wednesday 28 December) and Nevis range hopes to re-open on Thursday.
Conditions remain good in Western Canada where most resorts in Alberta and British Columbia are sitting on healthy bases of around 2 metres/7 feet and most are receiving a few centimetres of fresh cover to keep conditions top notch. Whistler issued a powder alarm for 20cm of new snow on “6 December. On the east Coast conditions are less spectacular but resorts in Quebec reported fresh snow for Christmas. On 22 December Mont-Sainte-Anne went from 6 open trails to 22 as a result, and the Canadian weather service is expecting 15cm of new snow to fall in the east over the next 24 hours.
US media continues to bemoan snow conditions that range from ‘below average’ in Colorado (But still perfectly good in most cases) to ‘very challenging’ at other areas. The Denver Post reports that snow depth averages in Colorado are the lowest this century - Vail, for instance, measured a meager 19 inches — compared with a Christmas Day average for the 2000s of nearly 33 inches.” That’s 48cm compared to 83cm. It’s a similar picture in most other regions except for Washington state and Alaska where snow depths are among the world’s greatest (as usual) at 3-4m. There has however been some good snowfalls in the past week with Stowe in Vermont on the East both reporting around 25cm in 24 hours on December 25th/26th dramatically improving conditions, particularly on the east.