Today in the Alps...
Updated: 9.25am Friday 19 December 2014 - Height is right!
It’s an exceptionally mild day across the Alps today, with freezing levels close to 3000m in the west! However, unlike yesterday when it rained to 2500m over parts of the northern Alps, it will be mostly dry with plenty of sunshine above any low level cloud/fog.
Later this afternoon, cloud will thicken up again from the north-west as a cold front brings colder air and a little snow to the northern and eastern Alps tonight and tomorrow.
Back to yesterday and after the euphoria of Wednesday’s snow it was a pretty miserable day across the northern and western Alps, with rain or drizzle for many and snow only above 2500m in the west, and 2000m in the east (Austria). This mix of mild air and high humidity saw a rapid deterioration of snow conditions below 2200m or so.
Basically, anywhere that didn’t already have a skiable base before Wednesday’s snow event still hasn’t, with only the highest slopes seeing any net benefit. This is evident in the shocking number of resorts that will not be able to open for the start (or perhaps all) of the Christmas week. Among the high profile casualties in France are Morzine, Les Gets and Flaine, but there are dozens more - both in France and elsewhere across the Alps.
That said, there is still plenty of decent skiing around if you know where to look – i.e. up!
In France, some of the best bets are Val Thorens, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Les 2 Alpes, Serre Chevalier and Isola 2000. Indeed Isola 2000 claims to be the only resort that is 100% open in France (could that even be the Alps?). In Switzerland, the best skiing is to be found in Zermatt, Saas-Fee, St Moritz and Davos/Klosters.
In Italy, Cervinia, Monte Rosa, Livigno, Passo Tonale, Val Senales, Sestriere and Cortina all offer a reasonable amount of skiing (among others). And in Austria, Sölden, Hintertux, Kaprun, Obergurgl and Ischgl are among the better bets.
So it’s certainly not all doom and gloom, but what is undeniable is that at low altitude, particularly across the northern and western Alps, this is one of the poorest starts to the season on record.
To find out if any relief is on the way check our detailed Alpine forecast later today...
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Updated: 9.10am Thursday 18 December 2014 - One step forward, one step back...
First the good news - yesterday, the cold air hung on a little longer than expected and it snowed to relatively low levels in the northern and western Alps for much of the day. Now for the bad news - it was only a matter of time before the very mild air behind yesterday’s warm front made its presence felt, and today these same areas will see freezing levels reach 2800m!
On Wednesday, the snow hit the northern French Alps first (around mid to late morning), quickly spreading across much of Switzerland and then into western Austria in the afternoon. The rain/snow limit started at around 800-1000m in the western Alps (lower in some central parts of the Alps) only increasing significantly later in the night, by which time the heaviest precipitation had already passed. Some snow also crept over the borders into Italy but, generally speaking, the southern Alps saw less snow with some places staying completely dry.
Some examples of new snowfall totals in the last 24 hours (at resort level unless otherwise indicated) are La Plagne – 20cm, Les Arcs - 20cm, Verbier - 15cm, Val d’Isère - 12cm, Lech - 10cm, Saas-Fee - 9cm, Mürren - 9cm and Zermatt - 6cm. Higher up, as much as 30cm was recorded in some parts of western Switzerland.
Today a second warm front will again bring (mostly light) precipitation to the northern and western Alps in particular. This time, however, freezing levels are much higher, reaching 2800m in parts of the north-west this afternoon with a rain/snow limit rising to between 2200 and 2500m (though lower still for a time in some central Alpine valleys).
Tomorrow will be mostly dry and still extremely mild before it turns colder with a little snow across the northern Alps on Saturday.
So what does this all mean for skiing conditions? Well, sadly, exciting as yesterday’s snowfall might have been, it won’t change the overall situation a great deal.
Those resorts that already had a decent base might benefit to some extent, at least at high altitude. Lower down however, today’s unusually high freezing levels will create something of a soggy mess. Indeed we hear that the likes of Morzine, Les Gets and even the Grand Massif (Flaine) will not be able to open this weekend for the beginning of the busy festive period!
We will post a more detailed snow report later today...
Updated: 9.20am Wednesday 17 December 2014 - Warm front alert!
Yesterday saw further snow showers across many eastern parts of the Alps including eastern Switzerland (e.g. Davos, St Moritz), the central and eastern Italian Alps (e.g. Livigno, Passo Tonale) and much of Austria. Quantities were relatively modest – typically 2-10cm above 1500m.
Today a warm front is approaching the Alps which will have implications for everyone, but especially the north and west. This warm front marks the boundary between the (relatively) cool air over the Alps at the moment and much milder, very moist Atlantic air sweeping in from the west.
Today rain will reach the northern French Alps first then spread east to reach much of Switzerland and the far west of Austria by the end of the day. Because the air currently in place over the Alps is relatively cold it will snow to quite low levels to begin with. However, slowly but surely, the warmer air will mix out the colder air with the rain/snow limit rising to 1400-1700m in most places by evening.
This process will happen much more quickly in resorts exposed to the north-west (e.g. Alpe d’Huez, Portes du Soleil, Villars, Wengen), and more slowly in the internal valleys where pockets of cold air will hold on the longest (e.g. Val d’Isère, Andermatt). Tonight the rain/snow limit will continue to rise reaching 2200m in the west later.
It should also be noted that the bulk of the precipitation will fall across the western and northern Alps, becoming lighter the further south and east you go. Many Italian resorts, for example, will see little if any rain/snow, except locally close to some border areas. The same can be said for the far south of the French Alps, as well as parts of southern Switzerland, and southern and eastern Austria.
Tomorrow (Thursday) a second warm front will bring further rain to the northern and western Alps with a rain/snow limit around 2000-2500m in the west, 1600-2100m in the east. Many southern Alpine areas will again see little if any precipitation.
Obviously this entire episode is far from ideal given the already meagre snow cover across the Alps. Above 2200-2500m however, we could see some significant new snow over the next couple of days in the northern French, Swiss and western Austrian Alps.
After a very mild but mostly dry Friday it will turn colder again over the weekend with some snow for the northern Alps – especially eastern Switzerland and Austria, but still not in any great quantities.
Next week it looks like high pressure will return to bring lots of fine and settled weather. Stay tuned!
Updated: 9.25am Tuesday 16 December 2014 - A little new snow in places
There has been a little overnight snow across parts of the southern and eastern Alps - a couple of cm in resorts as far apart as Zermatt, St Moritz and Lech, for example – a bit more for some Italian resorts, such as Sestriere and Livigno. A little snow also crept over the Italian border into parts of France last night - e.g. Val d'Isère.
Today further (mostly light) snowfalls are expected across some eastern parts of Switzerland (e.g. Davos/St Moritz), the central Italian Alps (e.g. Livigno, Madonna di Campiglio) and large parts of Austria, especially the west (e.g. Obergurgl, St Anton). The rain/snow limit will be around 1000-1400m, perhaps a little lower on the northern side of the precipitation belt later. In general only modest accumulations of snow are expected in these areas – typically 2-10cm above 1500m but 15cm or more in a few favoured spots.
The western Swiss, western Italian and French Alps will see the driest weather with variable cloud and just the odd shower/flurry.
There is plenty of weather going on for the rest of this week - find out more in our latest detailed forecast out later today. For more on conditions in resort check out our latest snow report.
Updated: 9.15am Monday 15 December 2014 – Changeable with a little light snow in places
The Alps are still sandwiched between weak weather fronts to the north and low pressure in the Mediterranean. Today will therefore be mostly cloudy with occasional light showers, especially on the south side with a little (localised) snow above 1500-1700m.
The greatest chance of snow today is across the central and eastern Italian Alps from Lombardy (e.g. Livigno) towards the western Dolomites (e.g. Madonna di Campiglio), perhaps just extending over the Swiss border towards St Moritz.
There are also some showers in the Austrian Arlberg (St Anton) this morning which will become more generalised across the northern fringes of the Alps this evening. However, it should be stressed that any snowfalls today will again be modest and that most of the Alps will stay dry.
On Monday night and into Tuesday further showers will affect the northern and particularly north-eastern Alps with snow down to 1200m or lower for a time. Above 1500m, 5-15cm of snow is possible for parts of eastern Switzerland and Austria – in particular the Vorarlberg, Tirol and Salzburgland.
A few showers/flurries will also continue to affect the central and eastern Italian Alps but most of the Alps will see little if any precipitation.
It will continue unsettled mid-week but turn much milder on Thursday, which will temporarily raise the rain/snow limit to 2000m or higher across the northern Alps.
For more detailed information on current conditions in the Alps tune in to our latest snow report out later today...
Updated: 12.45pm Sunday 14 December 2014 - Mostly dry, variable cloud
The Alps are being squeezed by a weak cold front to the north and a developing (but also relatively feeble) area of low pressure to the south. The weather over the next couple of days will be highly variable with “bits and pieces” of snow here and there, but still no proper dumps.
Despite the (generally) poor snow conditions, the last few days have seen a string of new openings across the Alps.
In France, the 3 Valleys have done a remarkable job in offering 86 groomed runs with all their major resorts now open and connected. Further south, Serre Chevalier is another French success story with excellent cover at altitude and (it claims) around 70% of the mountain now operational.
In Austria, high profile St Anton and Lech are also up and running, but with just six skiable runs in the entire Arlberg area, here the situation is clearly more desperate.
We will have more a more detailed look at what’s open and where’s good in our detailed snow report tomorrow (Monday). In summary, however, while there is plenty of good skiing to be found if you know where to look, most of the Alps are either yet to get going or way below par for mid-December, with widespread heavy snowfalls desperately needed.
As we mentioned earlier there will be some snow in places this week but again with caveats. Early in the week it will be mostly light and relatively localised. Later in the week we may see some more organised precipitation but temperatures will also rise with the rain/snow limit rising to 1800-2200m.
There is some hope of a more pronounced (albeit temporary) return to winter next weekend, but that is still a long way off.
Updated: 9.50am Saturday 13 December 2014 - Mostly dry, relatively mild
Mostly places will stay dry today with variable cloud and sunny spells. That said, a few light showers could affect parts of the southern Alps from the eastern Piedmont through Lombardy and towards the western Dolomites. This may give a dusting of snow above 1500m in places, but nothing significant.
The strong south-westerly airflow will create a moderate Foehn effect on the northern side of the Alps which means it will be much milder here than further south. We are, for example, expecting a maximum temperature of + 8°C in both Chamonix and Lech which will do little to help the wafer thin snow cover here.
Generally speaking there remains a serious deficit of snow across the Alps though as we have been mentioning all week, there remains plenty of decent skiing if you know where to look. Among the better options right now are: Val Thorens, Serre Chevalier and Isola 2000 in France; Zermatt, Saas-Fee and St Moritz in Switzerland; Cervinia, Passo Tonale and Livigno in Italy; and Sölden, Stubai, Kaprun, Hintertux and Obergurgl in Austria.
However, many resorts are struggling. St Anton and Lech, for example, are open but with just a couple of runs each, the situation is pretty desperate.
There is better news in France where many of the big name resorts are now at least partially open – Courchevel and Méribel have now joined the fray - but much more snow is still needed to properly ignite the season.
We will go into a bit more detail on snow prospects in our update tomorrow (Sunday).