Latest snow report
Updated: 11.40pm Thursday 17 December 2015
Conditions remain far from ideal in the run up to Christmas, despite some fresh snow at altitude across the northern Alps.
Up to 20cm of new snow has just fallen above 2000m in parts of Switzerland and western Austria, however, lower down rain has further eroded the already modest snow cover. The increase in humidity also made it more difficult for the snow cannons to operate.
The weather in the Alps looks set to remain mild, even very mild at times, up to and beyond Christmas, which means that snow conditions will continue to deteriorate, especially at low altitude. Glaciers aside, the best skiing remains in the resorts with plenty of terrain above 2200m, such as Val d’Isère, Tignes, Val Thorens, La Plagne, Verbier, Engelberg, Ischgl and Sölden - to name just a few.
Lower down and on the southern side of the Alps, where there is very little natural snow, snow cannons have allowed a surprisingly high number of pistes to open, but their efficiency will be highly dependent on temperature and humidity over the next few days.
In short, there is still plenty of good skiing had if you know where to look, but the big picture is very concerning as we approach peak season.
Meanwhile, across the pond, it’s a completely different story, with excellent snow conditions reported in just about all western US and Canadian resorts...
Austria has seen 5-20cm of new snow above 1800m, which will at least temporarily improve the pistes in some of the higher resorts such as Ischgl (2-40cm) and Kaprun (20/90cm), as well as the glaciers of the Tirol.
However, rain lower down has further deteriorated the meagre snow cover in resorts such as Söll (10/30cm), even if they are still operating a good number of runs on mostly artificial snow.
The best snow conditions in the French Alps are in the high northern resorts, where there was 2-5cm of new snow above 1800-2000m on Tuesday night.
Tignes (30/70cm) and La Plagne (5/80cm) both have a good selection of pistes open, but lower resorts such as Morzine are really struggling.
The southern French Alps are also in very poor shape, with resorts such as Isola 2000 (30cm upper base) 100% reliant on man-made snow.
The snow drought continues in Italy with just the faintest of dustings from this latest storm close to some of the high border areas.
The most natural snow remains at altitude in the north-west (Aosta), where there is good on-piste skiing in Cervinia (25/120cm). However, even here, cover is very modest.
Most other parts of Italy are experiencing a snow drought and are heavily reliant man-made efforts. The Dolomiti Superski region has managed to open 530km of runs, almost entirely on artificial snow!
There is 5-15cm of new snow above 1800-2000m in many parts of Switzerland, though some southern regions have again missed out.
The recent snow has temporarily freshened up pistes in high altitude ski areas such as Verbier (6/70cm) and Engelberg (35/155cm) but, lower down, rain has further damaged the modest snow-pack in resorts such as Champéry (0/30cm) in the Portes du Soleil.
Zermatt (5/125cm) is probably still the best bet right now, with 150km of open pistes shared with Cervinia in Italy.
Rest of Europe
The Pyrenees have been affected by the same mild, relatively snowless weather that has plagued the Alps. However, at similar altitudes there is actually more snow, at least on the northern side of the chain.
Spain’s Baqueira Beret (40/80cm) is as good as anywhere in the Pyrenees right now, with most of its lifts running. Over in Andorra, there is less snow but still plenty open in the Grandvalira region (Soldeu/Pas de La Casa) where base depths are 20/50cm.
Snow conditions in Scandinavia are a bit mixed. Some of the better options right now include Norway’s Geilo (70cm upper base) and Sweden’s Åre (5/45cm), where there has been a little fresh snow this week.
Conditions in the western US are excellent right now, with lots of fresh snow and more in the forecast. Some of the biggest falls have been in Utah, with over 1m falling in the Snowbird/Alta region in the last five days. Here the mid-mountain base is now 130cm deep.
Colorado resorts are also in top shape with 107cm of settled snow on the upper slopes of both Winter Park and Steamboat.
The resorts of western Canada are also offering fantastic early season conditions. It just doesn’t seem to stop snowing in Whistler (166cm mid-mountain base), where there has been about 1m in the last week with lots more to come over the last few days.
Further inland, snowfall totals have been less spectacular, but the situation is also very positive. Sun Peaks has 110/120cm of settled snow depending on altitude, while there is 162cm up top in Revelstoke.
Next full snow report will be on Monday 21 December 2015, but see Today in the Alps for regular updates