Latest snow report
Updated: 1.30pm Monday 21 December 2015
Snow conditions remain poor across most of the Alps with no significant new snow in prospect for the next week at least.
Many people have reported some perfectly enjoyable skiing in recent days, but this is in no small measure down to the fine weather and lack of crowds. Today it is cloudier in the north-western Alps, with even some rain at low altitude, which has thrown the situation sharply back into focus. The sun will be back tomorrow though, and much of the Alps will enjoy plenty of fine and sunny weather over the next few days.
It still pays to aim high, and the best skiing conditions are in resorts with plenty of slopes above 2200m. Glacier only areas aside, this includes (but is not limited to) Val d’Isère, Tignes, Val Thorens, Courchevel, La Plagne, Arc 1950/2000, Verbier, Engelberg, Ischgl and Sölden. In the southern Alps, and low down generally, resorts are heavily or sometimes entirely reliant on snow-making.
Across the pond, it’s an entirely different story with excellent snow conditions in most western US and Canadian resorts.
Glaciers aside, the best snow conditions in Austria are in the higher western resorts, such as Ischgl (0/35cm) and Lech (30/35cm). However, even here, snow depths are very modest and more snow is urgently needed.
Further east, and especially at low altitude, snow cover is patchier or in some cases on-existent. That said, areas like the Ski Welt (e.g. Söll, Ellmau) and Saalbach-Hinterglemm have managed to open a decent number of runs on little more than 20-30cm of largely artificial snow.
The best snow conditions in France are in the higher northern resorts. These include Val d’Isère (30/60cm), Val Thorens (50/90cm) and La Plagne (5/80cm), all of which have plenty of skiing above 2200m.
However, lower lying resorts such as Morzine and Megève (0/40cm) are really struggling, with very little snow below 1600m, and only a small percentage of their pistes open.
The southern French Alps (roughly south of Les 2 Alpes) also have very little snow and are heavily reliant on artificial help to open any skiing at all. Serre Chevalier (0/30cm) has just 18 of 62 runs open, while Isola 2000 (where there is no natural snow at all) has just eight.
Most Italian ski resorts have little or no natural snow and are heavily reliant on artificial help.
In the Dolomiti Superski region, for example, which includes the likes of Selva, Corvara and Cortina, 692km of pistes are now open on a man-made base of about 30cm. It may seem less than ideal but this area actually offers by far the highest concentration of open pistes in Italy, if not the Alps.
The most natural snow in Italy is in the higher north-western resorts such as Cervinia (5/120cm) but, even here, cover is extremely modest - the 120cm upper base is measured on the glacier, and there is no off-piste to speak of.
The best skiing conditions in Switzerland can be found in resorts with plenty of terrain above 2200m, such as Zermatt (0/125cm), Verbier (5/65cm) and Engelberg (35/155cm). However, even here, snow cover is very modest for mid-December and there is no serious off-piste to speak of.
Below 2000m, snow cover is now very patchy. Wengen has 0/30cm depending on altitude, while Villars has 10/45cm.
The far south-east of Switzerland also has very little snow, even at altitude. St Moritz (0/15cm) has only managed to open a handful of pistes so far, mostly on artificial snow.
Rest of Europe
The Pyrenees have been suffering from the same mild and snowless weather that has afflicted the Alps in recent weeks. However, at altitude, snow conditions are comparable to some of the better parts of the Alps, with 25/65cm depending on altitude in Spain’s Baqueira Beret and 20/70cm in Andorra’s Arcalis.
Early season snow conditions have been steady, rather than spectacular, in most Norwegian resorts, with base depths of 20/62cm in Hemsedal and 75/75cm in Geilo. The best snow in Scandinavia is probably up in Finland's Ylläs, where temperatures are lower and there is 60cm of settled snow on the mountain.
Snow conditions are generally excellent in the western US, certainly compared to Europe.
Utah has recovered well after a slow start, with masses of fresh snow in Snowbird (115cm mid-mountain).
Much of Colorado also reports cold, powdery snow conditions, with 74/112cm at Aspen Highlands.
The excellent start to the season continues in Canada, even if snowfalls in most western Canadian resorts have been modest over the last few days.
One exception is Whistler (204cm mid-mountain), where another half a metre has fallen at altitude over the last 48 hours with plenty more in the forecast.
Further inland, all five lifts in Revelstoke are open with 70/163cm of settled snow depending on altitude.
Next full snow report will be on Thursday 24 December 2015, but see Today in the Alps for regular updates