Friday, 15 February 2019

The entirety of the Alps has been enjoying the beginning of an extended period of clear skies, warm weather and no new snow. Having begun on Wednesday of this week, and expecting to continue throughout much of half term, resorts will see conditions far more reminiscent of late season skiing as the mercury sits well above freeing and resort runs becoming heavily chopped over the course of the day.

By contrast, substantial snowfall has continued across much of North America, primarily falling south of the USA Canada Border. There has been little set up in the snow coming down in many resorts across Utah and Colorado, as well as in Mammoth and resorts based in and around Lake Tahoe.

Snow Alert

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

Squaw Valley, USA, 135cm

Heavenly, USA, 80cm

Jackson Hole, USA, 80cm

Austria

Many resorts in Austria were continuing to enjoy the after effects of last weekend’s heavy snowfall, with plenty of powder still available off piste away from the more accessible and known freeride areas. Warming weathers and an incoming half term crowd will quickly result in this getting tracked out over the course of the weekend however. Pisted runs across the country continued to offer great skiing, although again these are slowly starting to resemble more spring like conditions where the sun has hit more heavily.

Friday 15th February saw temperatures breaking double digits above freezing at the warmest points, while hardly ever dipping below 0C even on the upper mountains. For those continuing to search for untracked powder, the best options would be to stay away from the best known freeride areas, and instead look for more northerly facing slopes. Current forecasts show no change in this period of sunny weather until the latter part of next week.

France

Resorts across France enjoyed bluebird conditions for much of this week, taking advantage of the snowfall that fell Sunday – Monday night while simultaneously being bathed in fantastic sun. There has been plenty of powder riding to enjoy in resorts across the northern French Alps, while pisted runs are in fantastic shape. As we hit the height of the season, these conditions are perfect to welcome the arrival of half term crowds. Nearly every resort is well placed to open the full range of their slopes, with links between the major resort areas fully open.

Expect substantially increased crowds arriving in resort from Saturday 16th, especially in the biggest markets for UK skiers including the Portes Du Soleil, Three Valleys and Espace Killey amongst others. In smaller resorts there will be calmer conditions and a higher chance of finding less heavily tracked snow, although over the course of the week this will likely diminish as well. For those whose interests rest in cruising pisted runs however, there should be no shortage on offer.

Switzerland

Following chaotic conditions towards the start of the week in Western Switzerland, the skiing on offer had substantially improved by Friday 15th, with great on piste conditions under glorious sunshine – much with the rest of the Alps. While there was some wind affected snow over Zermatt and Saas Fee, there was untouched powder on the lower slopes and more consistently so as you move further west.

Again, as with much of the rest of the Alps, the warmer weather and blanket sun resulted in conditions more reminiscent of spring skiing, and is likely to continue as such well into the middle of the week. Across the major Swiss ski areas, including the Jungfrau, the Four Valleys, Davos / Klosters and elsewhere, webcams displayed fantastic conditions across the mountains, becoming increasingly tracked in and amongst the resort areas.

Italy

There wasn’t a cloud in sight above resorts across the North of Italy, with skiers enjoying warm days and unlimited views across the Alps. The slopes in Cervinia were surprisingly quiet given the great coverage and lovely skiing conditions. While the pisted terrain was well groomed, those looking to ski fresh snow would be advised to head below the treeline to avoid the wind affected snow sitting at high altitudes. Similarly, with the intensity and duration of this sunny periods, resorts that are predominantly south facing will start to see degrading snow by the end of next week.

With little new snow over the Dolomites in the past week, and further still in many locations, the mountains were starting to offer increasingly soft snow as the days progressed, chopped up by the busier crowds. Off piste options were diminishing as there become more heavily tracked. One way in which the Dolomite resorts tend to benefit around this time of year is drawing fewer numbers of half term visitors compared to higher profile resorts elsewhere in the Alps. This unfortunately is not the case for the Via Lattea, which tends to see a large British Contingent as it is, an issue that will only be exacerbated around half term. Good coverage of artificial snow has at least resulted in the area being able to offer a good range of slopes, although these will quickly becoming heavily chopped up and slushy. Watch out in particular for the return to Sauze d’Oulx.

Andorra

There was wall to wall sunshine across Andorra on Friday 15th, with temperatures well above freezing and the need for sun cream starting to grow. Almost the entirety of the Grandvalira area was open, although given the lack of snowfall and half term crowds don’t expect to track down much easily accessible off piste. There is little sign of any change in conditions over the next week.

Germany

Following a period of intense snowfall last weekend, resorts across Germany were enjoying a period of great sunshine and warm weather. Temperatures were consistently above freezing point, reaching highs of 10 – 12C. Conditions were far closer to those typically expected towards the end of the season, although thanks to the great snowfall there is no shortage of snow to enjoy. The only detriment will be slightly slushy snow on some south facing and lower laying slopes towards the end of the days.

Eastern Europe

There were overcast conditions across our featured Bulgarian resorts, with thick cloud but little signs of any snowfall behind a light dusting. Despite this, there were a large number of skiers on the slopes and good coverage. The weekend is expected to herald the arrival of an extended period of sun

It has warmed substantially in Jasna, giving beautiful bright conditions that have seemingly drawn out the crowd – there were long lift queues across the resort.

Scotland

Fairly mild, spring like temperatures prevailed across Scotland on Friday, though temperatures are expected to drop at the beginning of next week. Both Nevis and Glencoe are aiming to offer guests some skiing over the weekend, though at Cairngorm they have really been affected by temperatures of up to +14C – leaving a shorter length on the Car Park tow for skiing.

USA

Not much has changed in resorts across California – and that’s great news. With upwards of 25cm of new snowfall in Heavenly, Squaw, and only slightly smaller amounts across Mammoth a likely record breaking season continues. Mammoth themselves have announced that they will continue to offer skiing until at least the 4th of July, marking the longest non glacial season in North America. Across resorts in the area, the snow has not impacted operations with almost the entirety of each mountain open, and snow falling faster than it can be tracked in many instances.

Similarly substantial amounts have been falling across Colorado and Utah, with Purgatory seeing a huge 60cm in 48 hours, while other well known snow magnets including Telluride, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat attracting nearly as impressive accumulations. Although current forecasts indicate the heaviest period of snowfall has passed for now, lingering cloud cover may well provide top ups to keep the slopes fresh. Expect temperatures around -10C.

Although not reaching the levels seen in the central and western states, resorts in New England also enjoyed fresh snowfall – Smugglers Notch racked up almost 20cm overnight to Thursday overnight, while Killington, Mount Snow and elsewhere saw lighter dustings continuing through till at least Friday lunchtime. High winds were however impacting lift operations. By the weekend however resorts across the North East expect to be fully operations in terms of prepared trails and lifts spinning.

Japan

There has been little change in the fantastic snowfall across Niseko, with slightly warming conditions and brighter skies offering encouraging riding conditions as we move towards the weekend. With just shy of two metres falling in the first half of February, and almost four metres sitting on the upper slopes the season is progressing very well at the midpoint. All lifts and terrain were open on Friday, while the weekend is expected to see overcast conditions and potentially continued light snowfall.

It was far cooler in Hakuba, with lows of -14C reported on the upper slopes of Happo One. There continued to be a comparative lack of snowfall however, with the morning starting overcast but expecting to clear. The weekend is expected to deliver fresh snowfall at least. Despite the lack of recent snowfall, the low temperatures have meant that base depths being reported continue to show good coverage across the mountains.