Monday, 17 December 2018

Following a cool weekend in much of the Alps, and light snowfall in the North West, the conditions for Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th are likely to be relatively mild and calm. More terrain is slowly opening up, though many resorts remain restricted to the slopes that sit at higher altitude as they await further snowfall to provide adequate coverage elsewhere. Mid-week onwards is likely to deliver fresh snowfall, starting in the North West and moving its focus eastward through to Friday.

Much of Canada has seen fantastic skiing conditions over the weekend and into Monday, with Whistler in the midst of an ongoing storm front that’s doubled the snowpack, while many other resorts in British Columbia also enjoying fantastic fresh snow.

Snow Alert

Based on current weather forecasts for the next 9 days, the top three resorts for expected snowfall are:

Timberline, USA, 158cm

Argentiere, France, 134cm

Whistler, Canada, 132cm

Austria

Many resorts across Austria continued to rely on the heavy snowfall from the previous week which saw a substantial improvement in the available skiing. Much of the snowfall is heavily tracked, with diminishing opportunities to find untouched powder. There were bluebird days across much of the region since, with minimal top ups of fresh snow since.

Resorts across the Arlberg saw a light dusting over the weekend, allowing for a few more lifts to be open for the season. Beyond this, for the most part the skiing on offer is predominantly well groomed runs kept in shape thanks to low temperatures over the weekend. Night skiing is also now being offered in a handful of resorts including Obergurgl.

The weather for the course of the week is highly changeable, with a rising snowline accompanied by warming and more humid days. Tuesday and Wednesday are more likely to be clear and mild, while Thursday is the day where fresh snowfall is most probable.

France

The vast majority of French resorts saw their opening weekend on the 15th December, while those already open moved closer towards opening more of their terrain. This was coupled with moderate snowfall across many of these resorts.

The Paradiski region was operating 25 lifts serving 37 runs on Monday 17th, while the Portes Du Soleil region was similarly running approximately a quarter of their compliment. This is indicative of many resorts and connected regions, with the higher resorts and mountains offering promising skiing thanks to far more substantial quantities of snow recorded over the past few weeks. Despite supplemental artificial production however, there remains some work to do before runs sitting further down the mountain, as well as those away from major thoroughfares have adequate cover. Those resorts sitting at higher altitudes have been seeing consistent snowfall however, with as much as 20cm in Espace Killy, while the upper slopes above the Three Valleys saw almost that amount. These high alpine resorts are the outliers though, with only more moderate dustings in the majority of resorts. The coming week will deliver changeable conditions, with mild temperatures limiting the ability to generate large quantities of artificial snow, with the likelihood that many resorts will not be fully operational by Christmas.

Resorts including Argentiere (0/130cm) and Chamonix are forecast to receive some of the largest quantities of the snow expected in the coming days, though the area has yet to bring the majority of their terrain on line, in part due to challenging snow conditions. Wednesday could deliver 20-30cm of snowfall however, meaning Thursday could be a standout day to take advantage.

Switzerland

The four valleys in Switzerland was once again in great shape on Monday 17th, having reported 25cm of fresh snow in 48 hours, with the upper slopes in Verbier (150cm) looking especially promising. While about half the lifts are open across the whole area, the vast majority were in Verbier, though Nendaz was far more limited. The slopes were surprisingly quiet for the time of year, with plenty of untracked snow available to ski.

Zermatt (20/220cm) saw a light dusting of snow overnight, as the resort prepares to open its full range of terrain, stepping up from the already 247km available, as well as the link to Cervinia. Saas Fee (0/200cm) looked in similarly fantastic shape, with blankets of untouched snow. However, the upper mountain did have limited access due to high winds, primarily impacting the drag lifts. Both resorts saw light clouds but mild temperatures.

Snow also fell into many of the central Swiss resorts, with 10-15cm of new coverage over the past 24 hours in the Jungfrau. Although the upper piste depth broke 1m, the coverage at lower altitude remains patchy, with only 45km of the potential 21km of piste open. Engelberg (15/204cm) was faring better, with access to the valley open and a greater variety of skiing on offer, including the resorts famed off piste opportunities thanks to the fresh snow, and also looked somewhat colder than many other resorts.

Further west, the conditions in Davos / Klosters were relatively similar – 5cm of overnight snow freshened up the upper slopes, although there remained limited access down to the valley level and a large range of the mountain still to be opened. While the lower mountains were clear, the upper slopes sat in the cloud for the most part.

Other than an expected sunny interlude on Tuesday, there is likely to be a degree of cloud cover and potentially light to moderate snow, before warming as the weekend approached.

Italy

10cm fell over the Monte Rosa (20/120cm); with almost all the available terrain was open as of Monday 17th. The slopes were almost deserted; with a huge amount of fresh snow across which skiers can take enjoy the fresh snow and clear skies. Resorts across the Aosta Valley also reported a fresh dusting, including 10cm on top of the already substantial snowpack in Cervinia (5/205cm). Despite more mild weather arriving in much of the Alps, it remained quite chilly, sitting at -13C at summit. Other resorts in the region, including La Thuile (10/70cm) and Pila (20/100cm) also looked in fantastic shape, with the season in full swing as a far greater number of runs open up.

Further south, a less substantial snowpack has limited the number of lifts running in the Milky Way and nearby Bardonecchia (20/60cm). The resorts were however reporting more than 50% of the snow on the ground was man made, with only 23 out of the potential 230 trails open. With any luck, the low pressure forecast to result in precipitation across the region will move things in the right direction.

While the weather over the Dolomites is clear and cool, a lack of snowfall is leading to hard packed piste and limited off piste opportunities. Substantial artificial production has resulted in the majority of the lifts and slopes being skiable, although the off piste opportunities leave much to be desired. Although the conditions were suitable for the recent world cup races, they may not be as enjoyable for recreational skiing off the beaten track. There is a minimal chance of fresh snow on the horizon for the region, despite there being the likelihood of the more westerly resorts seeing a mid-week top up.

Andorra

The snowpack in the Pyrenees has been slowly growing over the past few days, though the resorts have seen far less snow than their Alpine counterparts. The Grandvalira area is now operational across their key bases, with Soldeu (5/30cm) having opened this past weekend. A light dusting of 4cm was reported overnight, although the skies were bright and predominantly clear during the day, as was the case across the country. Despite not boasting the most substantial snowpack, the coverage on piste looked consistent, aided by artificial production.

Germany

This weekend saw two days of light snow and very cold conditions across many of our featured German resorts, with heavy cloud and some snowfall persisting into Monday. Further terrain opened, including 7 lifts in Feldberg (28cm). Further terrain also opened across Garmish (45/115cm), with 13 lifts spinning in total, although there were no resort runs open. Oberstdorf (65cm) also expanded the available terrain across three slopes of the mountain, although cloud cover obscured visibility. Berchtesgaden and Lenggries remain closed.

Tuesday will be the most favourable ski day of the coming week, with clear skies under which to enjoy the fresh snow. Heading forward however, humid conditions may impact the snow quality as well as risk rain on the lower resorts.

Eastern Europe

Bansko operated a slightly wider range of terrain on by Monday 17th, with 5 lifts serving 5 slopes, with skiing down to resort level where the temperature was sitting solidly above freezing. The conditions were far more favourable at higher altitudes, with 50cm of snow on the ground. Borovets (50/60cm) opened this past weekend, aided by snowfall on Friday evening resulting in some promising coverage on the upper mountain as the skiing kicked off. There is the potential for another moderate dump of snow growing heavier over the day and continuing into Tuesday.

Spindleruv Mlyn (0/50cm) was spinning 5 lifts on Monday 17th, with a good degree of coverage across the pisted terrain among the trees. Temperatures are forecast to stay mild for the early part of the week, with the potential for fresh snowfall later on. Rosa Khutor (5/149cm) was reporting by far the most substantial upper piste depth in Eastern Europe, with great coverage across the upper slopes and plenty of off piste opportunities available. Despite this, the snowpack is relatively soft due to unseasonably mild temperatures. One resort in which there was fresh snow was Poiana Brasov (20/53cm), where reduced visibility and light snowfall were the main factors in the skiing conditions.

Scotland

The Lecht was the sole resort open on Scotland, though skiing was limited to a single beginner area, made available through artificial coverage from a Snow Factory. Mild weather diminished the likelihood of a substantial change in conditions over the short term.

USA

The snowless spell in much of California and the South West continued, with the resorts generally operating a large share of their terrain, though by this stage the off piste will be tracked and more varied. This is exacerbated by the unseasonably warm weather, sitting above freezing across the region. This lack of snow is replicated across the central Rockies region, as well as across New England, with the exception of a light dusting in isolated areas.

The exception to this are the resorts closest to the West Seaboard, including Mt Hood and Mt Baker, both of which benefitted from the same Similarly, Alyeska, in Alaska is looking to be in line for up to 50cm of snow by Wednesday.

Although long distance forecasts are liable to change, current predictions show renewed stormy conditions arriving from this coming weekend across Colorado and Utah, freshening up the slopes in time for Christmas.

Japan

Consistent snowfall dominated the conditions for the last few days in Niseko (90/180cm), helping grow the snowpack as it approaches 2m on the upper slopes of Grand Hirafu. The last seven days saw 76cm come down, although mild temperatures over the weekend unfortunately led to some rainfall at village level, changing only to damp snow as you move up in altitude. Although the coverage is growing, the upper mountain lifts and off piste access remained restricted on Monday 17th December. Hakuba (10/40cm) is comparatively bereft of snowfall, seeing only 12cm over the weekend. Temperatures were equally mild, and only a limited range of terrain was available to ski. Rusutsu (80/100cm) saw the most favourable conditions, with heavy snowfall and a large range of their terrain and lifts operational, with only a handful of trails yet to be opened.