Latest snow report
Updated: 1.40pm Thursday 3 December 2015
Snow conditions in the Alps are highly variable right now, depending on exactly where you are.
The most snow is across the north-western half of the Alps. By this we mean the northern French Alps (e.g. Tignes, Val Thorens, Chamonix, Avoriaz), and the northern and western Swiss Alps (e.g. Verbier, Mürren, Engelberg.
Now that the recent snowfalls have consolidated, these areas have somewhere near to “normal” snow depths for early December – just a fraction below in most northern French resorts, but above average in some parts of northern and western Switzerland, for example in Mürren, where the snow pack at 2300m is currently 40% above average.
The area with the least snow is the southern Alps, especially Italy, where with one or two exceptions there is very little natural snow indeed. That said, the recent cold weather did allow their impressive snow-making systems to operate on an industrial scale, which will allow a surprising number of new openings this weekend (e.g. the Sella Ronda resorts), almost entirely on man-made snow.
The extreme southern French Alps (e.g. Isola 2000), the far south-east of Switzerland (e.g. St Moritz) and parts of southern Austria are in a similar position to Italy.
The rest of Austria is “somewhere in between”. The glaciers, as you would expect, are doing fine but elsewhere it’s a mixed picture. The Arlberg resorts (e.g. Lech, St Anton) have reasonable, though far from exceptional, snow cover with a decent number of pistes expected to open this weekend.
However, the lower resorts of the Tirol and Salzburgland are still threadbare lower down, and need more snow in order to look forward to anything like a convincing start to the winter season.
Looking further ahead and there’s good news and bad news for the Alps. The bad news is that no significant snow is expected anywhere until 12 - 14 December at the very least. The good news, however, is that thereafter there are signs of a pattern change which will hopefully see a return to winter. However, we must stress that this is a long way off and far from certain as things stand.
Across the pond, snow conditions are more consistent, with generally pretty good conditions for early December in western US and western Canadian resorts.
Glaciers aside, Ischgl (10/30cm) and Obergurgl (30/50cm) are the best bets in Austria right now thanks to their high altitude slopes and state of the art snow making.
The Arlberg resorts of Lech (30/35cm) and St Anton (5/50cm) join them tomorrow, though snow depths are also modest.
Elsewhere in Austria, there are bits and pieces opening or scheduled to open this weekend but, with generally modest cover, forget any serious off-piste for now.
The best snow conditions in France are in the high resorts of the northern Alps, such as Val d’Isère/Tignes (28/90cm) and Val Thorens (85/115cm), both of which already have a good selection of pistes open.
Elsewhere there are a number of other options, with a whole raft of further openings this weekend. Included among these will be the 3 Valley resorts of Courchevel and Méribel, as well as Les 2 Alpes.
Further south there is less snow but, with artificial help, a selection of resorts will also be open here, including Montgenèvre (20/30cm) and Isola 2000 (10/30cm), almost entirely on artificial snow.
Many Italian resorts have a serious lack of snow right now. That said, they do have the best snow-making in the Alps, which has allowed a number of Dolomite resorts (e.g. Kronplatz) to open a handful of runs on just a 10cm base! Other resorts such as Selva (10/30cm) and Corvara will join them this weekend.
The most natural snow in the Italian Alps is in the far north-west, in resorts such as Cervinia (20/125cm), but even here it is some way behind what we would expect for early December.
The greatest extent and variety of skiing in Switzerland remains in Saas-Fee (12/125cm) and Zermatt (5/140cm), even if they missed the heaviest of the recent snow, with Zermatt saying it will open 165km of pistes this weekend!
Elsewhere in Switzerland, there are lots of partial openings with the best snow in the western and northern resorts, such as Verbier (15/50cm) and Engelberg (40/160cm), though off-piste opportunities remain limited.
Rest of Europe
There are currently lots of possibilities for skiing in the Pyrenees, though it has also turned much milder here after a very snowy end to November. Among the better options right now are Spain’s Baqueira Beret (60/100cm) where most lifts are open, and France’s Cauterets (40/100cm).
Snow depths in Andorra are generally more modest, but all ski areas are partially open, with 20/40cm of settled snow depending on altitude in the Grand Valira region.
Scandinavia also has plenty of options, albeit mostly very modest in extent. In Finland, Levi is operating 11 lifts and has a 40cm upper base. Further south in Norway, Hemsedal has 8 lifts open and an upper base of 30cm.
The majority of the big name resorts in the western states are at least partially open and in pretty good shape for early December.
In California, Mammoth is offering 78 trails and an upper base of 122cm, while in Colorado, Winter Park has 62 trails open on an 84cm upper base.
If there is one state that is still obviously behind the curve it is Utah, where Snowbird (56cm mid-mountain) has comparatively little snow by its own super-snowy standards.
Snow conditions are pretty good in western Canada and will improve further over the next few days.
Whistler (87cm mid-mountain) is just beginning a very stormy spell of weather, with over 1m of new snow expected at altitude over the next few days.
Further east, the Banff/Lake Louise area (76cm mid-mountain) is not expecting quite so much new snow, but is still in excellent shape for the time of year with the majority of trails now open.
Next full snow report will be on Monday 7 December 2015, but see Today in the Alps for regular updates