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Snow Report Summary
As we enter the peak Holiday season, Europe still waits for the first big snowstorm of the season, although new snow and cold weather has started to improve conditions.
This Week's Headlines
- In the Dolomites, Cortina reports a foot of fresh snow - now 1.2m base on upper runs.
- Up to 20cm of fresh snow with lower temperatures in the Alps.
- Another wave of big snow storms in North America - up to a metre in last week.
- All five Scottish ski areas hope to open this weekend.
- Voss in Norway receives non-stop heavy snow for over a week - base reaches 1.8m.
- Race training at Val d'Isere cancelled due to too much snow on the course.
- Grand Massif delays full opening.
- La Clusaz due to open this Saturday.
La Clusaz - Bergerie - 18th December 2014
The Alps is still awaiting a decent snowfall that will really get bases built up but it's not all doom and gloom (unless you're desperate to write a Daily Mail scare story) because it has been snowing a bit. Crucially in this day and age, temperatures have been low enough at most elevations to get the snow cannons firing full blast, so most resorts have some terrain open.
At higher altitudes, the cover is actually quite decent; even if the numbers of 10-30cm snow depth sound a bit alarming there's cover none the less. What there isn't is any freeriding or 'off piste' to speak of.
With the first peak week of the season, Christmas, starting this weekend, most of the big resorts are keen to stress that thanks to the improving conditions and heroic efforts of their piste-preparation staff, they'll have most of their runs open.
The rest of the skiing world looks better. The Pyrenees are in better shape than the Alps, as is Scandinavia and Scottish areas which began opening last week gleefully announced they had better conditions (or at least more snow) after last weeks storm.
Across the Atlantic most of North America was already in good shape after the October and November snow storms but there's been more heavy snow in the past week too so it looks like an exceptionally good Christmas there. Only the NW corner has had the same problem as the Alps; warm weather and rain.
In the forecast
It looks like a bit of a rollercoaster with Alpine temperatures over the next few weeks, with some mild spells interrupted with a couple of very cold days... There are hints of a general cooling, with a little more precipitation, the other side of Xmas Day so we'll keep an eye on that and will have a clearer idea in time for next week's report.
There's been 5 – 20cm of fresh snow at most Austrian areas in the last 48 hours and the snow is still falling and the snow cannons firing. Cover isn't great, except on the glaciers and at high altitude where resorts like Hintertux, Kaprun, Pitztal and Solden still have 1.5 to 2m, lying from storms in October and November. The number of runs open varies tremendously from around 25% to 75% but most have committed to open much more terrain for Christmas week anyway. Amongst areas hardest hit, as for much of last season, is the Skiwelt with only 20cm of snow and very little cover, with 3cm of fresh snow reported in the last 24 hours, showing that even having Austria's biggest snowmaking system doesn't help if it's too warm.
There's been rather more snow in France than Austria over the past week, perhaps due in part to many of the areas being higher. Tignes has reported 15cm (six inches) of new snow and Val Thorens the most with 20cm, it's base of 50 – 90cm is starting to look quite healthy. Lower down in the 3 Valleys there's been a little less snow and depths are a little less, with a thin covering down to resort level, but 30-40cm on upper runs. Val d'Isere is claiming good conditions at altitude with the Espace Killy link to Tignes open and runs for all levels available at Fornet, Pissaillas, Solaise or Bellevarde. It had to cancel race training for Friday's World Cup racing due to too much snow on the course today after 15cm fell overnight.
Avoriaz has had 11cm of new snow and reports a 15-30cm base. One of the worst hit areas is the Grand Massif which cannot fully open for Christmas due to lack of adequate snow cover and is opening sectors linked by lifts and buses instead. Elsewhere it's the French Pyrenees that are looking good with 10-20cm falls and bases now up to 75cm.
Italian resorts have reported some of Europe's biggest falls in the last week, particularly Cortina which with another 30cm on upper slopes is one of the first to break the one metre snow depth in the Alps for a non glacier resort. Elsewhere most areas in the dolomites, where the giant Dolomiti Superski area expects to have most of its 1200km of piste open next week, has had 10-20cm of snow, on the West in the Alps it has been more 5-10cm of snow although the ViaLattea resorts of Sause d'Oulx and Sestriere claimed 20cm in 24 hours on Wednesday.
Swiss areas have a similar tale to tell to the other Alpine nations, with most resorts receiving 5 – 15cm of fresh snow in the past few days. Most of it has fallen above 1500m so resorts based at lower altitudes have little or no cover at resort level (although snow will no doubt be ploughed on to runs to make descents possible during Christmas week if it has not been already). At higher levels up on the ski slopes themselves cover is much more promising. Saas Fee has some of the deepest snow up top (1.9m), has had the most snow in the last few days (20cm) and thanks to its elevation has 10cm snow down to resort level.
Voss on the Norwegian coast is the big snow news story in Europe for the past week, receiving 20-30cm of new snow daily so its base is now put at 1.8m. Other Scandinavian areas are looking good thanks to cold temperatures and 10-20cm of fresh snow right across the region but nowhere else has come close to Voss with a metre of snow in the past week.
The Pyrenees have had more natural snowfall than the Alps over the past few weeks and bases are better as a result. Although there's been little fresh snow this week, bases in Andorra range from 30cmn on lower slopes to 90cm on upper runs, better figures than further north in most cases. There are similarly promising reports from resorts on the French and Spanish sides.
Little fresh snow has been reported in Eastern Europe, none in Bulgaria, but 5-10cm in Romania and Slovenia. Generally cover remains limited to areas with snowmaking.
All five (or six!) Scottish ski areas look set to open this Friday as Glencoe and Nevis Range say they hope to open tomorrow joining Glenshee, The Lecht and Cairngorm which all opened last weekend. As usual for Scotland the conditions are varying with strong winds at times (surprise) and warm spells then blizzard conditions but it's still good news that all look set to open for Christmas week. A sixth Scottish ski area at Lowther Hills may also open this weekend if volunteer crews finish installing lifts during the week and expected snow arrives.
Canada's slopes are in good shape – snowfall over the past month has been topped up at many areas this week, particular in Alberta and Central-Eastern BC, where another 20-30cm of snow has fallen, keeping cover fresh and depths around the metre mark. The only area of doubt remains whistler which reports fresh snow and top to bottom cover of 90cm but which locals are saying is too warm and wet so far at resort level. On the East resorts in Quebec and Ontario are also looking good, with 15-25cm of new snow and Mont Ste Anne reporting the deepest snow in the whole country at 1.2m.
Like Canada, US resorts are, on the whole, looking good from coast to coast. Californian areas have been particularly blessed this week with three feet of new snow at Mammoth, over a metre at Alyeska in Alaska. In between in that NW corner though there's still limited cover and Crystal Mountain. Normally one of the county's most snowsure destinations, it's one of those struggling to re-open limited terrain for Christmas week. But in most of the destinations favoured by Brits, it's looking good, with 1-2 feet of new snow in Colorado too and Jackson Hole has over a metre of snow down at resort level, with much more up top.