Today in the Alps...
Updated: 8.10am Friday 24 October 2014 - Storm over – what next?
There were a few more cm of snow in the central and eastern Austrian Alps last night but essentially the big storm is now over. So how much snow actually fell and will it stick around?
Official Austrian sources confirm that 60-100cm of new snow fell above 1500m between Tuesday and Thursday across a wide swathe of the central and northern Austrian Alps with up to 130cm in a few very favoured spots. At (or close to) resort level the highest figure was 73cm in Warth am Arlberg near Lech. Two examples of locations that saw a metre or more were the top of the Schmittenhöhe (1956m) above Zell-am-See and the Höhe Tauern national park near Obertauern (2315m).
In Switzerland the national avalanche service confirm that 60-80cm fell in the north-eastern quarter of the Swiss Alps (roughly in a line from Andermatt across to Davos and northwards). 30-60cm also fell at altitude in the Bernese Oberland (Wengen, Mürren) and the Lower Engadin but it was generally less than 30cm in the west of the country and little or nothing in the far south.
France also saw some snow, though in more modest quantities, with 5-30cm at altitude across the northern Alps - but the far south remained completely dry.
Not surprisingly Italy also missed the lion’s share though there were a few cm here and there close to the border regions.
So the big question now is will any of this snow stick around?
There are lots of factors that go into answering this question but our view is this - above about 2000m and on slopes not too exposed to the sun there is probably enough snow now in the north-eastern Alps for it to remain until winter. The one thing that could really scupper this theory is a warm, moist Atlantic airflow, but there is no sign of that in the near future. Indeed with high pressure dominating the weather is set fair for some time now which means cold nights and mild sunny days. This might not sound ideal for snow preservation, but it will allow the fresh snow to bed down nicely and any snow loss will be slow and predictable (at altitude).
So this recent snowfall only stands a chance of being significant (in terms of the beginning of the season) in the north-eastern quarter of the Alps.
Right now you can ski on 13 Alpine glaciers. In Austria - Hintertux, Stubai, Mölltal, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Rettenbach (Sölden) and Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun). In Italy - Val Senales and Passo Stelvio (Cervinia opens again at the weekend). In Switzerland - Zermatt, Saas-Fee and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz, with Engelberg and Glacier 3000 opening this weekend. In France you can still only ski on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes, but Les 2 Alpes will open this weekend (for the half term period only).
Snow forecasts and snow reports will be back in November 2014
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Updated: 9.30am Thursday 23 October 2014 - Still snowing in Austria!
The sun is out across the western Alps this morning but further east (notably in Austria) it is still chucking it down – adding to the already considerably snowfall totals amassed here over the last 36 hours.
We are still waiting for all the stats to come in, but we can be sure that above 1800m something approaching 1 metre of snow has fallen across parts of the north-eastern Alps – in particular the Austrian Vorarlberg and Tirol (especially north of the river Inn). Even south of the Inn the Kaunertal and Pitztal glaciers are both reporting 80cm of new snow this morning and in Lech we have just had it confirmed that there is at least 70cm at just 1450m.
Elsewhere the largest snowfall totals have been across the north-eastern Swiss Alps, with at least 60-80cm at altitude. The western Swiss and northern French Alps have also seen some snow but in more modest quantities – generally 5-30cm at altitude, with a bit more in places (such as on the northern flanks of Mont Blanc). By contrast, parts of the southern Alps haven’t seen any snow at all.
This morning the snow will continue for a time across much of Austria (away from the south) though it should become dry in the far west (Vorarlberg) and west Tirol later. Elsewhere in the Alps (except for a few early flurries in the far east of Switzerland) it is mostly dry with sunny spells – though still cold.
Updated: 9.25am Wednesday 22 October 2014 - First major snow of the autumn!
As expected, the first serious snow of the autumn has arrived though it will be a while before we can establish exactly how much has fallen where. What is certain is that the greatest accumulations will be reserved for the north-eastern Alps, notably Austria, where a metre or more is still possible in places (at altitude).
The dramatic change in the weather was brought about by an active cold front (linked to ex-Hurricane Gonzalo) which hit the Alps last night and sent rain/snow levels plummeting from 2500m to just 800-1100m in a matter of hours.
Any snow across the southern Alps will tend to tie away today, but showers will continue piling into the northern Alps (snow still above 800-1100m) with some serious accumulations at altitude across northern and eastern Switzerland and Austria in particular. These snow showers will tend to concentrate more and more into the eastern Alps tomorrow (Thursday) with the best of any sunshine in the south and west.
By the end of tomorrow (Thursday) we estimate that total snowfalls (at 2000m) will be in the region of 50-100cm (locally more) across a wide swathe of Austria (away from the far south) and parts of northern and eastern Switzerland). Western Switzerland and the northern French Alps will see more like 10-30cm, though again one or two favoured spots might do better. On the whole Italy and the southern Alps will see less snow.
Sadly (for snow lovers) the early winter blast will be a short-lived affair with much more “normal” conditions returning to all parts by the end of the week. This will mean a rapid loss of any new snow at low altitude, particularly in the western Alps. Higher up in the eastern Alps, however, the snow will last longer, though it is unlikely to have any bearing how the beginning of the season pans out.
As for where you can ski right now?
The adverse weather conditions are likely to close many of the glaciers today, but in theory you can ski on 13 Alpine glaciers. In Austria - Hintertux, Stubai, Mölltal, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Rettenbach (Sölden) and Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun). In Italy - Val Senales and Passo Stelvio (Cervinia opens again at the weekend). In Switzerland - Zermatt, Saas-Fee and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz. In France you can still only ski on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes, but Les 2 Alpes will open this weekend (for the half term period only).
Updated: Tuesday 21 October 2014 – First serious snow of the season on its way
The first major dump of the season is almost upon us! October snow is not unusual in the Alps, even to low levels, but what is eye-catching about this particular storm (ex-Hurricane Gonzalo) is the sheer quantity expected to fall, at least in the north-eastern quarter of the Alps.
This morning the first weak fronts are already affecting the northern Alps with a scattering of showers and a dusting of snow above 2700m. The real fun and games begins tonight though, with the arrival of a very active cold front from the north-west. This will bring a massive drop in temperature to all parts with heavy precipitation across the northern Alps and a rain/snow limit lowering from 2500m to around 1000-1300m by dawn.
Wednesday will see this early onset of winter at its peak with strong north-westerly winds bringing quasi-continuous snowfall (above 800-1200m) to the northern sides of the Alps – a blocking pattern (known in German as the “stau effect”) that can deliver serious quantities of snow. This blocking pattern will persist into Thursday, though by then the heaviest of the snow should be confined to Austria. Throughout this period the southern Alps will be less affected with the only significant snowfall confined to a few isolated border regions.
In the northern Alps official Austrian weather organisations are talking about 100cm of snow above 2000m between Tuesday night and Thursday (locally 150cm), with the Arlberg region (Lech, Zürs, St Anton) as likely as anywhere to be at the higher end of this scale. The northern and eastern Swiss Alps are also likely to do well with 1m or more again possible in a few favoured spots. As we move west across the northern Alps the quantities of snow will diminish, but 15-30cm (perhaps more in places) is still likely at altitude across the northern French Alps.
For all the intensity of this early winter blast, it won’t last, with much more clement weather conditions expected to return to most part by the end of the week. Unfortunately, it is therefore unlikely to have much significance in how early season conditions might pan out, even if some higher level slopes (at least in the north-eastern Alps) do stay white for some time to come.
Updated: 9.30am Monday 20 October 2014 – Dump alert!
We’ve been banging on about it for a few days now, but the Alpine weather is about to get very interesting with the first really significant snowfall of the season expected mid-week. Read on to find out how much snow might fall…
This dramatic change in the weather is due to a blast of polar air that will displace the huge area of high pressure currently in charge of the Alps, and responsible for the summer-like conditions we saw this weekend.
The first (weak) cold front will reach the north-western Alps later today but the big change will come on Tuesday with a second more potent front bringing heavier precipitation and a big drop in temperature. Wednesday will see this early onset of winter peak with strong north to north-westerly winds bringing frequent and heavy snow showers across a wide swathe of the northern Alps. The southern Alps will be less affected by the snow but no one will escape the massive drop in temperature.
The biggest snowfalls are expected across the central and northern Swiss Alps as well as much of Austria (away from the far south). Above 2200m these regions could easily see 60-80cm between Tuesday evening and Thursday, locally more. The northern French Alps will also see some snow but in more modest quantities – perhaps 15-40cm at similar altitudes with the heaviest falls in the Haute-Savoie.
As the colder air digs in on Wednesday we will also see snow to low altitudes – as low as 700m in parts of Austria but more typically 1000-1300m further west. Any snowfall will be lighter and patchier in the southern Alps with some places missing out altogether.
By Thursday the heaviest snow showers will be confined to the eastern Alps (Austria) with high pressure and more stable weather conditions returning to most parts by the end of the week.
In the meantime there are 13 Alpine glaciers open for skiing today. In Austria - Hintertux, Stubai, Mölltal, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Rettenbach (Sölden) and Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun). In Italy - Val Senales and Passo Stelvio (Cervinia opens again at the weekend). In Switzerland - Zermatt, Saas-Fee and the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz. In France you can still only ski on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes, but Les 2 Alpes will open this weekend (for the half term period only).
Updated: 12pm Sunday 19 October 2014 – Still glorious, but big change next week...
It’s another glorious day today across the Alps, with lots of sunshine and freezing levels around or in excess of 4000m. All change next week though, with a dramatic drop in temperature and snow to 1000m in places by Wednesday.
This early taste of winter will be thanks to a blast of polar air sweeping down from the north-west. It won’t last very long, but it will bring significant snow to parts of the northern and (especially) north-eastern Alps later on Tuesday and into Wednesday, with 50cm or more possible in places – for example, at altitude in the Austrian Arlberg. The southern Alps will be less affected, but it will become much colder and windier everywhere. Stay tuned for full details on Monday morning...
Updated: 9.25am Friday 17 October 2014 - Balmy weekend but snow for some mid-week…
It’s a damp but mild start to the day across the northern Alps with any new snow confined to the very highest slopes/glaciers. The southern Alps are brighter and this weekend promises lots of warm sunshine across the board.
Next week is shaping up to be an interesting one, but there are considerable differences between the competing forecasting models. One thing they all agree on is a breakdown of the high pressure responsible for the Indian summer conditions over the weekend and a surge of colder, unstable polar air sweeping across the Alps from the north-west. How cold and how unstable, however, remains to be seen.
If this morning’s ECM (European model) is to believed we will see significant snowfall across the north-eastern Alps mid-week with snow to 1200m, and 30cm+ possible at higher elevations in, say, the Austrian Arlberg. However, there are big variations in the various forecasts this far out and we will probably need to wait until later tomorrow (Saturday) to get a better understanding of what is likely to happen. Either way it is the northern and particularly north-eastern Alps that have the greatest chance of seeing any snow.
In the meantime there will be 13 Alpine glaciers open for skiing this weekend. In Austria this means Hintertux, Stubai, Mölltal, Kaunertal, Pitztal, Rettenbach (Sölden) and Kitzsteinhorn (Kaprun). In Italy you will be able to ski at Val Senales, Passo Stelvio and Cervinia (though this means skiing on the Swiss side and for the moment at weekends only). In Switzerland you can ski in Zermatt, Saas-Fee and for the first time this season on the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz, which opens tomorrow (Saturday). In France you can still only ski on the Grande Motte glacier above Tignes.
Across the pond, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado wins the race to be the first US resort to open this season thanks to a mixture of natural and man-made snow. It’s only a token run though and for how long remains to be seen.