Latest snow report
Updated: 9.15pm Thursday 29 December 2016
Snow conditions remain way below par across most of the Alps as we approach the New Year. The two exceptions being the eastern Austrian Alps and parts of the south-western Alps.
The eastern Austrian Alps have seen 15-40cm of new snow (locally more) in the last couple of days, which means that resorts such as Schladming and Zauchensee are skiing very well right now. Thanks to storms earlier in the month, there are also good snow conditions in the south-western Alps, including resorts such as Isola 2000, Montgenèvre, Sestriere, Bardonecchia, Pila, Cervinia and the Monte Rosa region. Val d’Isère and Tignes also have decent conditions. However, note that most of these resorts still have very little base below 1800-2000m.
Most other parts of the Alps are heavily reliant on artificial snow. That’s not to say that that there isn’t still some perfectly good piste skiing available. However, the problem now is the New Year crowds, which is certainly putting pressure on those resorts that can only open a small proportion of their ski area – of which there are hundreds, especially in the northern and north-western Alps.
Anyone following our daily updates will know that a change to the weather pattern in the Alps is expected early in the New Year. However, widespread, heavy snow may not arrive immediately and some patience is still needed before the overall snow situation starts to return to anything like normal for the time of year.
Meanwhile, it’s a completely different story across the pond where there are excellent snow conditions in most western US and Canadian resorts…
Austria has an east-west split in terms of snow conditions at the moment. In the far west it hasn’t snowed properly for weeks – all too evident in resorts such as Lech (5/30cm) and St Anton (15/50cm), where natural cover is patchy and only 120km of the area’s 300km+ pistes are operational.
By contrast, the snow is fresh (although often wind-blown) in the eastern Austrian Alps, where resorts such as Obertauern (50/100cm) and Schladming (60/130cm) are both skiing very well right now.
However, most Austrian ski resorts are still heavily reliant on artificial snow - including the higher ones such as Kühtai (15/20cm) and Obergurgl (5/65cm).
Snow conditions in the French Alps remain very mixed.
The best skiing is still to be found in the resorts close to the Italian border, from Val d’Isère (30/130cm) and Tignes (40/130cm) southwards, including Val Cenis (20/220cm), Montgenèvre (90/200cm) and Risoul (40/110cm). However, even here, it is worth noting that there is very little base to speak of below 1800-2000m.
Not surprisingly, resorts with most of their skiing below 2000-2200m are in trouble. Only a small percentage of the overall area is currently open in Megève (0/20cm) and La Clusaz (0/50cm), for example.
The best natural snow cover in Italy is still in the western Italian Alps, including resorts such as Alagna (5/200cm), Cervinia (30/150cm), Bardonecchia (50/140cm) and Sestriere (40/160cm).
Generally speaking, the further east you travel, the more you are reliant on artificial snow. However, this is not a problem for the Dolomiti Superski area (e.g. Kronplatz, Cortina, Alta Badia, Val Gardena) which boasts the greatest concentration of open pistes in the Alps right now (nearly 1000km), despite upper snow depths of little more than 10-40cm. Livigno (0/48cm) is another good example of world-class snow-making.
Snow depths in Switzerland are uniformly way below where they should be for late December, with few resorts able to operate anywhere close to full capacity.
Some of the better bets right now include Zermatt (0/105cm), Saas-Fee (25/120cm) and Verbier (10/80cm), but even in these resorts there is very little snow lower down.
Further north, snow depths are generally much lower, with just 1/30cm in Davos and 0/20cm in Engelberg, both of which have fewer than half their pistes open.
Rest of Europe
In the Pyrenees, there is some reasonable piste skiing at altitude right now, but snow cover is patchy lower down and more snow would be welcome. Soldeu in Andorra has settled snow depths of 20/40cm depending on altitude, while Spain's Baqueira Beret has just 5/25cm.
Some Bulgarian resorts have seen a little new snow over the last couple of days, including Borovets (20/90cm), but more would be welcome in order to really ignite their season.
Snow conditions remain steady rather than spectacular across much of Scandinavia, with upper base depths of 45cm in Sweden’s Sälen, and 65cm in Norway’s Geilo.
Snow conditions remain excellent across most of the western US, not least in Jackson Hole (130/200cm) whose dreamy start to the season continues with another 30cm of fresh on Wednesday.
Colorado hasn’t seen as much snow as Wyoming, but great skiing can also be found in the likes of Copper Mountain (106cm upper base) and Breckenridge (86cm upper base).
Excellent early season conditions continue in Whistler (184cm mid-mountain base), with yet more heavy snow falling at the time of writing.
Further inland, it’s a similar story with powdery snow at all levels in Fernie where the upper base is approaching 200cm.
Next full snow report will be on Thursday 5 January 2017,
but see Today in the Alps for regular updates