Updated: 5.10pm Thursday 9 July 2015 – Record-breaking heat-wave over, but it’s set to stay warm…
The serious heat is over for now but temperatures are set to stay well above average for the foreseeable future.
Lots of all-time high temperatures were recorded in and around the Alps last weekend and early this week – including 39.7°C in Geneva, 38.2°C in Innsbruck, and 29.4°C in Alpe d’Huez (1860m). It cooled off a little mid-week but the heat is building again and temperatures are likely to stay well above average for the foreseeable future.
All this is not great news for the glaciers of course, with many summer ski areas wondering if they can last the course. The Grande Motte glacier above Tignes is particularly vulnerable, but other areas are also at risk of premature closure if the summer heat continues.
So the results are in...
Today in the Alps will be back in Autumn 2015,
but Snow News will continue to bring you regular updates over the summer...
Updated: 10.15am Monday 6 July 2015 - Temperature records tumble
Temperature records were broken at the weekend as the Alpine heatwave continues.
On Sunday, Val d’Isère (1850m) broke its July record with 28.2°C, while Alpe d’Huez (1860m) recorded an all-time high of 28.5°C. In Chamonix (1030m) the temperature soared to 35.7°C - just short of its 37.2°C record high. In the foothills some spots were very close to 40°C!
The weather will remain blisteringly hot early this week before cooling off slightly on Wednesday and Thursday. However, it seems that the heatwave will return on Friday, lasting over the weekend and well into next week.
The consequences of this heatwave, the most significant since the record-breaking events of 2003, are serious. We are keeping a particularly close eye on the glaciers, which are losing snow at an alarming rate, especially in the western Alps. Just take a look at the difference on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes in the last week alone.
Not only has the snow not been refreezing overnight, the day-time shade temperature has been reaching 16°C at 3000m, and glacier ice is now clearly visible (see top picture) across wide swathes of piste. How long they can keep going with summer skiing this year is highly questionable.
Other glaciers are also suffering but, generally speaking, less so in the eastern Alps, at least for now.
Updated: 9.25am Monday 29 June 2015 - Major heatwave for western Alps
A serious heatwave is forecast for the western Alps this week with temperatures into the mid 30°C’s in the lower Alpine valleys, and freezing levels reaching 4700m (that’s almost the height of Mont Blanc)…
Indeed, Météo France have issued alerts for much of France, with the hottest weather in the south-west of the country early in the week (Bordeaux could hit 40°C on Tuesday) spreading to the Rhônes-Alpes region later.
Remarkably, Chamonix (1035m) should exceed 30°C every day this week with 33-34°C possible from Wednesday onwards. What’s more, the exceptionally high temperatures show little sign of letting up and are likely to continue over the weekend and into next week. In short, it is the most serious heatwave in France since 2003, with some early July records likely to be broken. Although still hot, the eastern Alps (especially Austria) will be less affected.
It has been well documented how Alpine glaciers have been shrinking in recent years with numerous summer ski areas forced to close over the last decade or two, including Verbier, Val Thorens, La Plagne and St Moritz.
The imminent heatwave is not good news for the remaining glaciers, which will be taking a hammering over the next couple of weeks and could be increasingly difficult to maintain (for skiers) later in the summer. The Grande Motte glacier in Tignes, for example, is vulnerable to hot summers and although it only reopened on Saturday is already looking a little bit worn...
Updated: 9.45am Thursday 25 June 2015 – Heatwave imminent
There are currently eight Alpine glaciers available for summer skiing, with a couple more due to open this weekend.
In Austria the best bet is Hintertux, which offers around 21km of pistes and is open 365 days a year. The Stubai glacier is another good option, but will only operate until 3 July. More limited options are the Mölltaler glacier in Carinthia which has three runs open throughout the summer and (further north) the Dachstein glacier which will continue “until the snow runs out”, typically early to mid-July.
In Italy you can ski on the underrated Passo Stelvio glacier near Bormio and, as of this weekend (27 July) in Cervinia, where the glacier is shared with Zermatt.
In France you can ski on the relatively small Pisaillas glacier above Val d’Isère until 12 July. The nearby Grande Motte glacier above Tignes is more extensive and open until 9 August. The best option in France though is probably Les 2 Alpes (the largest skiable glacier in the Alps) which remains open until 29 August.
In Switzerland you can only ski in Zermatt, which is open most of the year, with Saas-Fee joining the fray from 19 July onwards.
So far, the snow is holding up quite well, especially on the glaciers of the eastern Alps such as Hintertux and Passo Stelvio. It is, however, forecast to get very hot in the Alps next week which could (should it continue) cause problems with the snow cover later in the summer season.
Updated: 10.20am Friday 12 June 2015 – Summer ski season “warming up”
June is probably the quietest month for skiing in the Alps. Right now you can ski on six Alpine glaciers - Passo Stelvio in Italy, Val d’Isère in France, Zermatt in Switzerland and Stubai, Hintertux, and Dachstein in Austria.
Following a colder and snowier than average May, early summer skiing conditions have been pretty good so far this season. However, June has been much warmer and it remains to be seen how things will hold up later in July and into August.
The next summer ski area to open will be Les 2 Alpes on 20 June, followed by Tignes and Cervinia on 27 June, and Saas-Fee on 19 July.
Updated: 10am Monday 1 June 2015 - Alpine glaciers in good shape – for now…
It’s June - traditionally the quietest time on the slopes, at least when it comes to skiing in the Alps! That said, conditions on the glaciers are pretty good right now thanks to a cooler and snowier than average May.
The weather is changing, however, with heatwave conditions expected later this week. Indeed temperatures are likely reach the lower 30°Cs in some of the Alpine valleys on Thursday/Friday, with freezing levels above 4000m!
This won’t present any immediate problems for summer skiers – the glaciers normally hold up quite well in June regardless of the weather. It is worth noting, though, that successive or prolonged heatwaves can leave some summer ski areas threadbare later in the summer – something to keep an eye on.
Right now you can ski on four glaciers in Austria – Hintertux (open 365 days a year), Stubai (open until 3 July), Kaunertal open until 7 June and Dachstein (open until the snow runs out!).
In Italy, Cervinia is now closed until 28 June, but further east the glacier at Passo Stelvio opened on Saturday and will remain open all summer.
It is not currently possible to ski in France right now, but Val d’Isère opens its Pissaillas glacier from 6 June to 12 July. Opening later this month are Les 2 Alpes (20 June to 29 August) and Tignes (27 June to 9 August).
In Switzerland the only option right now is Zermatt (open most of the year).
Updated: 9.30am Thursday 21 May 2015 - Further significant snowfalls in the Alps
It’s unseasonably cold in the Alps right now, with significant new snow in many places. This is great news for the glaciers of course, with 50cm of fresh reported in Hintertux this morning and 40cm+ in Stubai, Kitzsteinhorn and Kaunertal. Further west, Engelberg also reports 40cm on its Titlis glacier, scheduled to close this weekend.
The snow hasn’t just been confined to the glaciers either, with a temporary dusting to below 1000m in some northern parts of the Alps. More snow is expected to relatively low altitudes today, heaviest in the central and eastern Alps.
In Austria - you can still ski in Hintertux (open 365 days a year), Kaunertal (closes 7 June), Kitzsteinhorn (closes 25 May) and Dachstein (no fixed closing date).
In Switzerland - Zermatt offers year round skiing but Engelberg and Diavolezza (near St Moritz) are scheduled to close on 25 May.
In Italy - Cervinia is open until the end of May, but only at weekends.
Skiing resumes in France on the Pissaillas glacier above Val d’Isère on 6 June.
Updated: 9.20am Tuesday 19 May 2015 - Unsettled, further snow for the glaciers
The Alps are entering another unseasonably cool spell of weather, with snow to relatively low altitudes over the next few days, especially in Austria.
Although there aren’t any resorts open in France right now, this cooler weather is good news for Val d’Isère which will be the first resort to open (in France) for summer skiing on 6 June. A few cm of snow are expected here over the next few days, but nothing significant.
In Switzerland, you can ski most days in Zermatt (weather and lift maintenance permitting), on the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz (until 25 May) and on the Titlis glacier above Engelberg (also until 25 May). Some fresh snow is expected over the next couple of days, generally light in the southern Swiss Alps (Zermatt), but heavier further north (Engelberg) where it may briefly settle to 1500m or lower.
In Italy you can still ski at altitude in Cervinia, though only at weekends until the end of May. Access to the glacier (shared with Zermatt) is then possible again from late June. Further east, the glacier at Passo Stelvio near Bormio opens on 30 May. Again, some snow is expected in Cervinia over the next few days though generally in modest quantities.
Austria offers the greatest number of skiing options at this time of year. Hintertux (open 365 days a year) is our pick right now, but you can also ski on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier near Kaprun(closes 25 May), the Dachstein glacier (no confirmed closing date as yet), the Kaunertal glacier (closes 7 June) and the Stubai glacier (closes 3 July). Austria will see the lion’s share of snow over the next few days with 50cm+ possible in places. It may also (temporarily) settle to 1500m or lower.
Updated: 9.15am Friday 15 May 2015 - Heavy snow for parts of the Alps!
On Wednesday the temperature hit 20°C at 2000m in the Alps, but today it is snowing as low as 1200m in some parts!
The snow comes too late for the main ski season of course, but it will provide a welcome boost for the Alpine glaciers after the relatively modest snowfalls of the winter.
The heaviest snow will be in the western half of the Alps where 15-30cm will fall quite widely above 2000m, with 50cm+ in one or two favoured spots. An injection of unusually frigid air will also send the rain/snow level as low as 1200m across some northern parts of the Alps in the middle of the day, before rising again later. The wintry snap won’t last though, with freezing levels set to exceed 3000m again on Saturday.
Weather-permitting the following ski areas are open right now:
Switzerland – Zermatt, Engelberg, Diavolezza
Italy – Cervinia (weekends only)
Austria – Hintertux, Stubai, Kaunertal, Kitzsteinhorn, Dachstein