Early season snowfall across the Alps and Pyrenees could have been better. Saying that most of the main ski domains have cover at higher altitude and are able to offer reasonable skiing. Lower areas tend to be relying on man-made snow still. For the Alps significant snowfall is expected this weekend and into next week with temperatures to get very cold. Across the pond and it’s a very different picture with substantial early season snowfall from west to east USA and some really quite excellent early season skiing and riding available. Canada has generally also seen a good start to the season.
The French Alps have got off to a disappointing start this season in term of snowfall amounts. Although higher slopes can boast a fair cover, on lower slopes of the lower altitude resorts there’s been minimal snow to date with many of the lowest altitude areas bare. Best skiing is currently at the highest areas and includes Tignes (10cm/75cm)*, Val d’Isere (15cm/70cm) and Val Thorens (50cm/65cm). This weekend and into next week things should improve with significant falls expected. Though precipitation may fall as rain at lower altitudes initially, with temperatures set to plummet from Tuesday hopefully there’ll be fresh cover for all slopes as the week progresses.
Unfortunately, the amazing start to last season hasn’t been repeated this year. That said upper areas in Austria have fair cover enabling a good number of resorts to open. Lower slopes lack cover with many runs still broken or brown and a general reliance on snowmaking equipment. Standout resorts include Obergurgl (5cm/170cm), and Sölden (0cm/200cm). In a good note significant snowfall is expected on all but the lowest areas this weekend and into next week and this should improve conditions considerably. Temperatures are also set to plummet early next week.
The upper areas across the Swiss Alps are white and this weekend most of the leading resorts will be open. However, it’s not been the best start to the season and although higher altitude slopes have reasonable depth the snow is thin, patchy, or even missing altogether on lower resort slopes. Best picks currently include Zermatt (5cm/200cm) and Saas Fee (0cm/130cm). Fortunately, the Swiss Alps are expected to see substantial snowfall over the weekend and into next week and here too temperatures are also expected to plunge into the minus 20s. Wrap up warm and expect some great powder opportunities on the higher slopes.
The Italian Alps and Dolomites have probably seen the best of the very early season snowfall and have therefore been offering the most consistently good sport. Cervinia has had good skiing on groomed powdery snow with 70 per cent of the area skiable and links to Zermatt open. The resort currently holds 225cm of snow on upper pistes. Substantial fresh snow is expected this weekend and into early next week for most Italian resort with thermometer mercury also expected to plummet. This is great news as more resorts plan to crank their lifts into gar for the first time this season.
Resorts across British Columbia in Canada had a faltering start to the season having seen very limited early snowfall. More recently though conditions have improved. Snow depths are still below average for early/mid-December. Over the past week Whistler was reporting 60cm/60cm with Big White (90cm/90cm) and running at 50 per cent capacity. Some modest accumulations are expected this weekend and into next week. Resorts across Alberta have fared considerably better with good snow depths and conditions a mix of fresh and groomed surfaces. Sunshine Village has depths of 80cm/165cm and with colder temperatures the nicely groomed surfaces are being maintained.
It appears the great start to last season in Europe has switched stateside for this year. The west, Rockies and eastern states have all seen significant snowfall with generally very good snow depths and some excellent skiing on a mix of powder and groomed runs. This weekend should see the majority of remaining resorts that have not yet opened crank their lifts into action. Some standout areas include Mammoth (100cm/180cm), Steamboat (90cm/120cm), Killington (50cm/60cm). There’s not a substantial amount of fresh snow in the forecast but as it stands it’s looking like it should be a happy Christmas for those venturing across the pond to ski.
The ski season is now underway in all Andorra’s main areas. Snow depths are not great, but there is reasonable cover for early-December once you get above resort level onto mid and upper slopes. Snowmaking machines have been helping to provide cover where needed, but lower runs need more natural snow. The Grandvalira area is around 20 per cent operational with upper snow depths of 0cm/35cm. Pal/Arinsal (20cm/40cm) has over 50 per cent of slopes open. Unfortunately, there’s not likely to be much change over coming days with little fresh snow forecast.
Bulgaria’s main ski areas have seen a steady build-up of both fresh and man-made snow. Bansko has already opened around 20 per cent of slopes and is reporting 50cm depths across upper areas. It’s a similar picture for resorts in Romania and Slovenia with snow depths steadily increasing as the snow cannons pump out more of the white stuff. Temperatures are set to remain below freezing over the next few days across the majority of Eastern European resorts and with more snow in the forecast only a prolonged spell of warm or wet weather could dampen any festive feeling as we get closer to Christmas.
There’s not been an abundance of snowfall to date across Scandinavia’s resorts, but snow depths have gradually been building with snow cannons pumping out the white stuff. Expect the majority of Finland’s main ski areas to be open at least a few runs from this weekend with sport on mainly artificial snow including Levi (0cm/20cm) and Iso Syote (0cm/30cm). It’s a similar picture for Sweden with man-made snow making up the majority of the cover across the main ski resorts. In Norway and there has been more in the way of natural snowfall, especially for resorts in the west; Beitostolen (25cm/35cm), Hemsedal (70cm/70cm). Expect cold temperatures but only limited snowfall over the next few days.
An early-November dump of snow held promise for a positive start to the Scottish ski season. Little more fell though and with mild and wet weather leading into December the snow melted away to leave bare heather once again. There is some good news as both Glencoe and The Lecht are able to open a beginner area after purchasing Snow Factory equipment. This snow making technology can blast out snow at any temperature. Particularly helpful right now as there’s not much in the way of new snow in the forecast.
*Lower/upper snow depths for each resort are given in cm.