Today in the Alps...
Updated: 10am Thursday 27 June 2019 – Could this be the hottest ever day in the western Alps?
As the heatwave reaches its peak today, this could be the hottest ever recorded day in some western parts of the Alps.
Maximum temperatures already hit 35°C in Chamonix (1035m) and 29°C in Val d’Isère (1860m) yesterday, and today they are expected to reach 37°C and 31°C respectively - a new all-time record by some way for Val d’Isère at least.
Down in the low valleys and around the big towns and cities (e.g. Chambéry, Grenoble) temperatures have been in the high 30°C’s and could hit 40°C today. Whatever the case, it is certain that many all-time temperature records will fall today, not only in the French Alps but possibly also in western Switzerland, especially in the Valais.
What makes this heatwave even more extraordinary is that we are only in June, with the hottest temperatures of the summer (and most heat records) usually reserved for July and August.
The danger to health of such extreme weather events is well documented, but they also have a significant environmental impact in terms of the damage they inflict on the glaciers.
Right now it may look as though there is plenty of snow up top in the likes of Les 2 Alpes and Tignes but the snow is melting at an alarming rate and, unless there is a major cool down soon, it won’t be long before the glacier begins to look threadbare. Temperatures of 18°C at 3000m – as forecast in the French Alps today - are simply extraordinary. As there hasn’t even been an overnight refreeze, the snow has been slushy from much earlier on in the morning than would normally be expected at this time of year.
Thanks largely to the massive base depths on the Austrian glaciers, the situation is slightly less critical further east in the Alps. However, it has also been brutally hot here, with steadily deteriorating snow conditions.
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Updated: 11am Monday 24 June 2019 - Major heatwave to hit the Alps!
A major heatwave is expected this week as a plume of exceptionally hot air from Africa will lead to potentially record-breaking temperatures in the Alps.
The French and Swiss Alps will be most affected, with temperatures in some of the lower valleys possibly edging close to 40°C later this week. Afternoon temperatures could easily reach the mid-20°Cs at 2000m, 15-18°C at 3000m and 5-8°C at 4000m, with freezing levels as high as 4800m.
Although it is already hot in the Alps, the heatwave warning only properly comes into effect tomorrow, with the very hottest weather likely from Wednesday onwards. It may cool down a fraction next week, but there isn’t any sign of a proper let-up any time soon.
This is bad news for summer skiing in the Alps (which had got off to a great start after a cold and snowy May), as the glaciers are expected to take a hammering from the scorching temperatures over the next few days.
The deterioration in snow conditions will be most marked in the western Alps (e.g. Tignes, Les 2 Alpes), partly because this is where the hottest weather is forecast but also because base depths here are more modest than they are on the eastern Alpine glaciers (such as Hintertux).
This doesn’t call for immediate panic though - the snow won’t disappear overnight - but it does hugely increase the risk of poor or even unskiable snow conditions on some of the Alpine glaciers later in the summer and/or before their scheduled closure.
We will bring you more on the developing heatwave later in the week…
Updated: 9.15am Tuesday 21 May 2019 - More heavy snow at altitude in the Alps…
It has been an unusually cold and snowy May in the Alps. The conventional winter season may be long over but up on the glaciers snow conditions remain excellent, and exceptional even in parts of Switzerland and Austria where further significant snow has fallen in the last 24 hours.
Hintertux, for example, has seen another 30cm of new snow from the latest storm, while the Arlberg area has seen at least 60cm falling above 2500m, though there are no longer any ski areas open here.
All this snow may be great news for the Alpine glaciers but it is proving a headache for resorts looking ahead to their summer programmes. This is particularly true in the northern and eastern Austrian Alps where there is still lots of snow above 1500m (and sometimes even lower) on north-facing slopes, and as much as 5m to 6m at 3000m.
Updated: 10am Wednesday 8 May 2019 – More snow for some!
Guess what? It’s snowing again across some parts of the Alps! The western Alps will see the heaviest snow this time around, although it should be noted that the rain/snow limit is currently much higher than it was during the last storm.
It is already raining/snowing across most of the French Alps this morning, with the band of precipitation edging slowly east across the Swiss and western Italian Alps as the day progresses. By contrast, the Austrian and eastern Italian Alps should stay mostly dry during daylight hours.
The rain/snow limit will start at around 2200-2500m in most places (but lower in the western Italian Alps) before dropping to around 1600m tonight. We are expecting around 15-40cm of new snow to fall on the glaciers of the western Alps (e.g. Tignes, Les 2 Alpes, Zermatt, Saas-Fee), which is good news for their summer ski operations.
The storm will reach the Austrian Alps tomorrow, bringing modest top-ups to the Austrian glaciers, most of which already have a huge snow base.
Looking a bit further ahead, it will stay unsettled at least until the weekend with further precipitation at times, mostly in the northern Alps with further significant snow likely for the Austrian glaciers, especially on Sunday.
Updated: 9am Monday 6 May 2019 – Big snowfalls to low levels in the northern and eastern Alps…
There was a lot of snow across the Alps at the weekend, heaviest in the north and east where it fell to very low levels. There are still some flurries across the eastern Alps today, notably in Austria, though the sun is out again further west.
Over the last couple of days the heaviest snow has fallen across the northern Swiss Alps (e.g. Engelberg), Austria and the eastern Italian Alps (Dolomites). With over 50cm of new snow having fallen in places (e.g. Engelberg, Hintertux), it is going to make for some spectacular skiing once the weather clears, which it is in the process of doing today. This amount of snow is not unheard of in May by any means, but what has been unusual is just how low it has fallen – even down to 400-600m in places.
Yesterday saw the final wave of big “winter” closures, including Tignes, Val Thorens, Chamonix and Cervinia, and from now on the main focus for skiing in the Alps will be on the glaciers. However, exceptional snow cover in the northern Alps means that many resorts (e.g. Engelberg) will actually be able to offer skiing below the glaciers for some time to come. Indeed, for most of the eastern Alpine glaciers (including those of Hintertux, Stubai, Kaprun and Engelberg) these are probably the best conditions that we have seen in for a generation or more.
Updated: 9.30am Friday 3 May 2019 – Snow to very low levels in places this weekend!
With most (but not quite all) non-glacial terrain due to close this weekend, the main winter season is pretty much over, but if you think that this means that it is no longer possible to find some excellent snow conditions in the Alps, think again!
Not only are snow depths in the northern Alps still very impressive, but there is also more snow in the forecast, especially for the northern and eastern Alps where 30-60cm of new snow is possible by the end of Sunday, which could benefit the glaciers in Hintertux, Stubai and Kitzsteinhorn. What’s more, the rain/snow limit (which will initially be around 1300-2000m) will drop to below 1000m later in the weekend, and perhaps as low as 500m in places on Sunday. The weather will then improve for a while early next week, following which more snow is likely again at altitude across many parts of the Alps.
Another round of big-name resorts, including Tignes, Chamonix, Val Thorens and Chamonix, are scheduled to close on Sunday. Thereafter, nearly all the action will be confined to the glaciers, although some resorts in the northern Alps (e.g. Engelberg) will still be able to offer skiing well below glacial level, thanks to having such a good snow base.
From next week onwards the largest and most varied ski areas on offer in the Alps will probably be Hintertux, Stubai and Engelberg.
Updated: 9.00am Thursday 2 May 2019 – Winter still isn’t over!
Another round of big-name resorts including Val d’Isère and Ischgl closed yesterday, even though snow conditions in the Alps remain excellent for early May.
There are now just a handful of resorts open still offering extensive non-glacial terrain, most significant among these being Tignes, Val Thorens and Cervinia, all of which are scheduled to close on Sunday.
The weather in the Alps remains cool and unsettled with further rain/snow due at times over the coming days, especially in the northern and eastern Alps. The rain/snow limit will sit between 1400m and 1800m over the next couple of days, but could descend to as low as 400-700m in parts of Switzerland and Austria later in the weekend.
Over the next five days the greatest snowfall accumulations (in terms of open ski areas) will be on the Austrian glaciers, with the likes of Stubai, Hintertux and Kitzsteinhorn all likely to collect 30-60cm of new snow by Monday. This new snow will add nicely to what are already huge snow bases - great news for their spring and summer ski operations.
Another resort worth mentioning is Switzerland’s Engelberg, which will also see new snow this week, where the runs are expected to remain open all the way down to 1800m until 25 May.
Updated: 9.00am Tuesday 27 April 2019 – Winter is still going strong in the Alps!
Since we last reported on Saturday there has been plenty of new snow in the Alps, especially in Switzerland and Austria. Over the next couple of days it will warm up again across the Alps, but another wintry blast is expected later this week, with snow likely to 1000m again in some northern and eastern parts of the Alps this weekend.
The heaviest snow over the last few days fell in both Austria and some central/northern parts of Switzerland. As a result all of the Austrian glaciers are now in great shape. Stubai, for example, saw 30cm of new snow in the last 24 hours and has a very impressive base depth of 600cm. Some big name non-glacial resorts such as Ischgl and Obertauern are also open, though both of these will finally end their excellent seasons tomorrow (1 May).
In central/northern Switzerland, the Titlis glacier above Engelberg has seen close to 1m of new snow over the last week or so. The base depth here is a massive 780cm - probably the deepest in the world right now. A number of other resorts are also still open in Switzerland, including Zermatt, where you can ski in the Klein Matterhorn area all year round.
Some eastern Italian resorts, notably the Dolomites, have also seen significant snow in recent days although most resorts here are now closed. One exception is Cortina where a handful of runs will stay open until tomorrow (1 May). Further west in Italy your best bet is Cervinia, which has seen less fresh snow but where a much larger selection of runs will remain open until 5 May.
There are also a handful of resorts still open in France, although recent snow showers here have generally been lighter. Val d’Isère closes tomorrow (1 May), while Tignes and Val Thorens continue until Sunday 5 May.
As for the weather in the Alps, snow flurries will continue in Austria today, especially in the eastern Austrian Alps. The southern and western Alps will, by contrast, see plenty of sunshine.
After a largely fine day on Wednesday, the weather will deteriorate again from the north on Thursday with further snow at times for the northern Alps until Sunday, with the heaviest falls on Saturday. The rain/snow limit will start at around 1800-2000m but will drop to 1000m or lower in places by the weekend.
Updated: 11.00am Saturday 27 April 2019 – Excellent late season snow conditions at altitude…
The weather in the Alps remains cool and changeable, with further snow in the forecast, especially in the north.
We have already seen a lot of snow at altitude this week in both the southern Alps and close to the main Alpine borders, in areas such as Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Cervinia, Monte Rosa and Andermatt. Yesterday, a cold front introduced even colder air from the north-west with snow falling to 1000m in some western parts of the Alps.
This cool and unsettled theme will continue over the next few days although most of the snow will fall in the northern half of the Alps, with a rain/snow limit between 1000m and 1500m, but perhaps even lower in places on Sunday.
Open resorts which should benefit from snow showers this weekend, especially tonight and tomorrow, include Engelberg, Sölden, Obergurgl, Obertauern and Kaprun. The western Swiss Alps (e.g. Zermatt) and northern French Alps (e.g. Tignes) may also see some flurries, but the snow will not fall as heavily as it will further east. The southern Alps will generally be drier, especially away from the high border areas.
Snow conditions in the Alps are very good for late April even if only a handful of (mostly high) resorts remain open.
If you are planning on skiing in the Alps next week, some of the better options include Tignes, Val Thorens, Zermatt and Cervinia, or some of the Austrian glaciers (e.g. Hintertux, Stubai, Kitzsteinhorn), all of which will be open all week.
Updated: 10.00am Friday 26 April 2019 – Return to winter for some…
The weather in the Alps remains very unsettled with significant new snow for some, especially close to the Swiss-Italian border, with over 1m of new snow having already fallen at altitude in parts of the southern Swiss and western Italian Alps (e.g. Monte Rosa region).
Further snow is expected today across some southern and western parts of the Alps, with the heaviest falls this morning being close to the high border regions between Italy and Switzerland (roughly in a triangle between Zermatt/Cervinia up to Andermatt and back down towards St Moritz). The rain/snow limit will fall from around 1600-1800m to 1000-1400m later today.
The weather will remain changeable over the weekend with further snow in places, especially in the northern half of the Alps where it could fall to as low as 1000-1300m at times. The southern Alps should, by contrast, stay mostly dry with more in the way of sunshine, especially away from the high border areas.
Next week, the weather will start changeable with some showers (snow to 1200m) in the eastern Alps, notably in Austria. It should be drier and brighter further south and west, settling down in all areas (at least for a time) mid-week.
Only a handful of Alpine resorts remain open for skiing, with more due to close this weekend or early next week. This weekend, given that the forecast is better for the southern Alps, a good bet could be Italy’s Livigno, part of which will actually remain open until 5 May.
However, if you are planning to ski next week the best options may be Tignes, Val Thorens and Zermatt/Cervinia. Most of the Austrian glaciers (e.g. Hintertux) will also be open, though the weather will be less inviting here early in the week.
Updated: 4.00pm Thursday 25 April 2019 – Very unsettled, with snow for some…
The weather in the Alps is in a very unsettled mood right now. Over the last few days we have seen a mild southerly airflow which has brought snow to higher parts of the central and southern Alps including Zermatt, Saas-Fee and Monte Rosa, but there has also been lots of snow staining Saharan dust, and rain lower down.
By contrast, a strong Foehn wind has kept things mostly dry and warm but very windy in the northern Alps (e.g. the Jungfrau region in Switzerland, and Salzburgland in Austria).
Today, a new weather front embedded in this strong southerly airflow is approaching the Alps from the west. It will deliver further heavy snow to some western and southern parts of the Alps, especially the high border areas between France and Italy, Italy and Switzerland and eventually Italy and Austria. Open resorts that should see significant snow from this latest storm include Zermatt, Saas-Fee and the Monte Rosa region.
The weather will remain very unsettled on Friday and Saturday but the wind will gradually turn into the north-west. This will have the twin effect of shifting the heaviest snow into the northern and western Alps, and bringing the rain/snow level down, eventually to 1000m or lower.
Later in the weekend and early next week the weather will improve, first for the southern Alps then across all areas by Tuesday/Wednesday, with the north-eastern Alps seeing the improvement last.
In terms of snow conditions in the Alps, it is a complicated picture to say the least. This weekend won’t be great in terms of weather and visibility, not helped by the fact that the few ski areas still open are mostly high and above the tree-line, although some southern resorts (e.g. Livigno) may see some sun, especially on Saturday.
Resorts that remain open all of next week (when the weather should be better) include Val d’Isère/Tignes, Val Thorens, Zermatt, Cervinia and Hintertux. There are others of course but these are among the best options in terms of both snow conditions and the extent and variety of terrain available.
Updated: 4.00pm Wednesday 17 April 2019 – Back to full spring mode…
Weathertoski is currently in Tignes and skiing with Snoworks. Today was much sunnier than yesterday and, with afternoon freezing levels at around 2600m, meaning that the freeze-thaw cycle was much more pronounced. For the snow to stay firm and grippy all day long, you would have to have been on north-facing slopes above about 2500m.
Elsewhere in the Alps there has also been plenty of sun today with just the odd very isolated afternoon shower here and there set off by the heat. There will be no major change in the weather in the Alps over the next couple of days, with most areas seeing plenty of warm sunshine, but there will be a few scattered afternoon showers here and there, most likely close to or just to the south of the high border areas between France and Italy.
Snow conditions here in Tignes remain pretty good for mid-April, but after a chilly start to the week, the daily freeze-thaw process is becoming more and more pronounced again as temperatures rise.
If you are still thinking of squeezing some skiing in this season, there are probably only a few resorts that you might still want to consider - Tignes and Val d’Isère being chief among them. Other recommendations include Val Thorens, Cervinia, Zermatt, Obergurgl and Hintertux, but note that it will still become increasingly hard to find snow that stays firm and wintry all day long even in these resorts (all of which top 3000m).
Updated: 5.30pm Tuesday 16 April 2019 – Dusting of new snow for some western parts of the Alps…
Weathertoski is currently in Tignes and skiing with Snoworks. After a bright start this morning, the weather turned cloudy, with some very light snow above 1800m this afternoon, but no measurable accumulations.
Elsewhere in the Alps, there has been patchy light snow today in some other western regions, notably in France and Switzerland, but any accumulations have been negligible.
Wednesday will see a return to relative sunny weather right across the Alps. It will also be warmer with freezing levels approaching 3000m in some western regions, which might just be enough to set off the odd isolated afternoon shower. It will turn warmer still on Thursday and Friday with plenty of sunshine again for most but an increasing risk of afternoon showers (snow 2500m), especially in the west on Friday.
Snow conditions here in Tignes remain pretty good for mid-April, but after a chilly start to the week, the daily freeze-thaw process is becoming more pronounced again as temperatures rise.
If you are still thinking of squeezing some skiing in this season, there are probably only a few resorts that you might still want to consider - Tignes being chief among them. Other recommendations include Val Thorens, Cervinia, Zermatt, Obergurgl and Hintertux, but note that it will still become increasingly hard to find snow that stays firm and wintry all day long even in these resorts (all of which top 3000m).