Latest snow report
Updated: 12.30pm Monday 7 December 2015
Snow conditions in the Alps are less than ideal as we move to within 12 days of Christmas week, the beginning of the high season period.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some good piste skiing around, most notably at altitude across the north-western half of the Alps. However, even here, conditions have been deteriorating in the warmer weather.
In this region, the best snow conditions can be found in the likes of Val d’Isere, Tignes, Val Thorens, Chamonix in France, and Verbier, Mürren and Engelberg in Switzerland. That said, snow depths in these areas are now mostly a little below average and, with no new snow for some time, the pistes are often hard.
However, as we have heard from many of our colleagues across these resorts, it is still perfectly possible to experience some enjoyable skiing. Just don’t expect any serious off-piste opportunities.
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 colder weather at the end of November did allow their impressive snow-making systems to operate on an industrial scale, which has allowed a surprising number of recent openings (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 snow is rather thin or patchy. The Arlberg resorts (e.g. Lech, St Anton) have just about enough snow to open a decent selection of pistes. However, the lower resorts of the Tirol and Salzburgland are generally still threadbare, and need more snow in order to look forward to anything like a convincing start to the winter season.
Snow conditions are generally much better across the pond, especially in Canada, where Whistler has serious quantities of new snow at altitude.
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. However, forget any serious off-piste for the moment.
The Arlberg resorts of Lech (30/35cm) and St Anton (5/50cm) are also now open, though here snow bases also remain very modest.
Elsewhere in Austria, bits and pieces are open but much more snow is needed.
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.
A number of other big name resorts partially opened last weekend, including Courchevel (31/78cm), Méribel (20/50cm) and Les 2 Alpes (5/60cm). Once again, some decent on-piste skiing is possible here, but the general consensus is that more snow would be very welcome, especially lower down.
Further south there is less snow but, with artificial help, a selection of resorts are also open including Montgenèvre (20/30cm) and Isola 2000 (10/30cm).
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 resorts such as Selva (10/30cm) and Corvara to open a surprising number of runs – even if it is a case of skiing on ribbons of white among the green fields.
The most natural snow in the Italian Alps is in the far north-west, in resorts such as Cervinia (20/125cm), but even here they are now considerably behind the curve for early December and more snow would be very welcome.
The greatest extent and variety of skiing in Switzerland is in Zermatt (5/140cm), even if it missed the heaviest of the snowstorms back in late November.
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 several 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 reports generally quite good conditions, even if the skiable terrain is still quite modest in extent. In Finland, Levi is operating 11 lifts and has a 40cm upper base. Further south in Norway, Geilo reports 25cm of fresh snow and an upper base of 70cm.
Most western US resorts haven’t seen a huge amount of snow over the last week but, on-piste at least, snow conditions are still pretty good for the time of year in the big name Colorado resorts of Vail (64cm mid-mountain base) and Aspen (54/81cm).
Further north, it’s snowing in Jackson Hole (74cm) with significant accumulations expected here over the next couple of days.
Over in Utah, snow depths are still below par in Snowbird (51cm mid-mountain base) but snow is forecast here too, especially towards the end of the week.
Snow conditions are generally excellent in western Canada.
Whistler (126cm mid-mountain) has seen 55cm of new snow in the last couple of days, with plenty more to come.
Further east, the Banff/Lake Louise area is not expecting quite as much new snow, but is still in excellent shape with around 95cm of settled snow at altitude.
Next full snow report will be on Thursday 10 December 2015, but see Today in the Alps for regular updates