Snow as far as the eye can see; Tignes, France last Saturday
200 northern hemisphere resorts still open, but warming temperatures bringing Spring skiing to high altitudes now.
J2Ski Snow Report 19th April 2018
This Week's Snow Headlines
- Heavy mid-April snow in unexpected places: Portugal, US Midwest and Iran.
- Hot weather hits the Alps.
- More than 50 ski areas in northern hemisphere to stay open in to May.
- World's deepest bases: Mt Baker 706cm, Engelberg 700cm.
- High Camp mid-mountain giant hot tub opens at Squaw Valley, then 30cm of snow falls.
After a roller coaster April, so far, of snow showers and sunny highs in Europe the sunshine seems to be winning and temperatures are moving inexorably upwards as winter finally loses its grip after one of the snowiest winters in memory. Most ski areas in Europe and North America are now closed and many of the rest will do so this weekend, leaving about 200 for another week. Around 50 areas will continue into May.
So not much fresh snow to report in most areas this week and it's more a case of 'classic spring skiing conditions' with most of the still-open ski centres having deep snowpacks which freeze overnight so are hard first thing, and slushy late on, but in a fun sweet-spot in-between.
There are exceptions of note. The Alps did get some pretty good snowfalls a week ago – 15cm right up to 60cm in some cases, and a 40cm fall in Tignes last Thursday. More recently the US Midwest has seen heavy snow – up to 75cm of it – in the first half of this week, setting snowfall records for the time of year and leading some centres that had already closed for the season (in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin) to re-open. There's also been some fresh snow across ski areas in Western North America. Portugal's Serra de Estrela has also reported more huge snowfalls as its incredibly snowy season continues and in Iran the main ski area of Dizin, which had been having a poor snow year, has, ironically, closed indefinitely after 70cm of snow buried access roads and lift terminals.
In the Alpine Forecast
Very warm in The Alps this week at least, and not much precipitation forecast.
Rising temperatures are de-stabilising what are now heavy, wet snow-packs off-piste so please exercise considerable caution (take local advice, really!) if leaving the pistes. On-piste Spring skiing should be great, if slushy later in the day, but the depth of the bases will give good skiing until the end in most ski areas.
See where it's expected to snow this week...
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Of the very little snow that has fallen in the alps since the accumulations a week ago, it is a few of Austria's high glacier slopes that have posted 5-10cm accumulations – mostly on Sunday. Otherwise it has been pretty hot sun and the majority of Austrian areas are now closed, as of last weekend. The notable exceptions include Kitzbuhel – now celebrating 7 months since it opened for the season back in early October, thanks to recycling snow saved from the previous winter. It's intending to keep operating through to early May. About half of Austria's eight glaciers are still also operating as are resorts like Ischgl and Obertauern which are both building up to big closing weekends at the end of the month. Snow depths remain good up high, though there's nothing left at resort level for most of the traditional village ski areas that are still open.
More than half of the leading ski resorts in France are still open this week but it's the last hurrah for a memorable season this weekend at many of them. Big names like Alpe d'Huez, Avoriaz, Châtel, Courchevel, Flaine, La Rosière, Le Grand-Bornand, Les Contamines, Méribel, Morzine, Samoens and Serre Chevalier will all be closing for the season by Sunday evening. And what a season it has been – resorts like Avoriaz, Flaine and la Rosiere will be closing with the snow still lying more than 4m deep.
It's not all over in the French alps yet either. About a dozen areas are open to late April or in to May including La Clusaz, Les 2 Alpes, Montgenèvre, La Plagne and Les Arcs for one more week, then Chamonix and Val d'Isere to May 1st, Tignes to the 6th and finally Val Thorens until the 8th of May. The weather this week? Mostly sunny, mostly plus temperatures, classic spring skiing.
Mostly sunshine and clouds in Italy where about 20 ski areas are currently still open, although some now only at weekends. Cervinia, Cortina, Val Senales, Livigno and Passo Tonale all intend to stay open in to the first week of May. Of these Cervinia continues to have the deepest base at 1.9-4.3m with its ski area fully open, along with the links over to Zermatt.
The Swiss ski season is winding down too and there are only about 15 areas still open. Samnaun, on the eastern side of the country and sharing its terrain with Ischgl in Austria is reporting the biggest snowfall in the alps of the past few days – 18cm/7 inches in Sunday/Monday and Engelberg still has Europe's deepest snow base at 7m – and over a month of its ski season still to run. Also open in to May are Glacier 3000 near Gstaad and Diablerets, the Diavolezza glacier near St Moritz and of course the year round skiing on Europe's highest slopes at Zermatt.
Temperatures in eastern Europe are also rising rapidly and all of the ski areas in Bulgaria were closed by the end of the weekend. Elsewhere about 95% of resorts are closed in other European nations too but are still turning the lifts on pretty good 50cm-2m bases despite the temperatures. Kanin and Bovec are reported still-open this week for example in Slovenia whilst Tatranská Lomnica (60cm - 140cm), Strbske Pleso (40cm - 50cm) and Jasna in the Low Tatra mountains of Slovakia plan to re-open at the weekend.
Scotland's incredible 2017-18 season has come to an end at the two Eastern ski centres of The Lecht and Glenshee as temperatures rose in to double figures this week. Unusually, Cairngorm has been closed the past few days by high winds and rain but reports improving conditions later in the week and that it hopes to re-open at the weekend. On the west Nevis Range says it will be open on selected days through to May 7th and Glencoe also says it swill be open in to May.
Most ski areas in Spain and The Pyrenees have now closed for the season, including the ski areas of Andorra, and temperatures are in double figures by the afternoon at most ski areas. About a dozen centres are still open for this week at least on the French and Spanish sides of the mountains however, most with at least 2 metres of snow lying so good for spring skiing in the sunshine in the mornings at least. Sierra Nevada in the south of Spain has a 4m base and has already announced it plans to stay open to May 1st.
As the temperatures warm up in the Alps, the more northerly parts of Scandinavia come into their own for spring skiing. 2018 looks like being no exception with many ski areas in the region open in to May and the most fresh snow in the past few days (15cm) reported by Levi in Finnish Lapland. The three Norwegian summer glacier areas are all set to open in the next few weeks for 2018 and Riksgransen in the Swedish Arctic circle is rapidly approaching its period of 24 hour daylight when they open the lifts sat midnight several times each week for skiing under the midnight sun.
Most of Canada's resorts closed at the weekend but a number remain open and are even getting fresh snowfall. They include the Banff resorts of Sunshine and Lake Louise as well as Marmot Basin to the north in Alberta and Whistler over on the BC Coast. Ski areas on the East have also seen colder conditions recently and about half a dozen in Ontario and Quebec are still intent on reopening at the weekend, including Mont Sainte-Anne and Mont Sutton.
Despite many of the big names closing at the weekend, the US probably has more ski areas open than any other country now – at least 50 areas are still operating or will be re-opening this weekend. Part of the reason for this is an unexpected very snowy spell in the Midwest, bringing up to 75cm of fresh snow and causing some areas to re-open, and continuing cold weather in the east where about a dozen areas have extended their seasons. It's been snowing too in the west and Mt Baker has gone back to the top of the global pile for snow depth hitting 7.1 metres, but here it's more of the usual late season spring suspects that are operational. Squaw Valley quests were taken by surprise as the resort opened its giant hot tub at its mid-mountain High Camp area for the first time this spring at the weekend, only for the heavens to open and several days of heavy snowfall to begin.