World Snow News 57

Update for January 15th 2009

Welcome to another update from the team for the 2008/2009 ski season. We would like to highlight the benefits of being a member of (and remind current members reading this) that you can recoup the cost of joining many times (£3.95 / €4.40) via the discounts we have negotiated. As well as the extra weather / snow information, this makes good sense in the current economic climate. These include:

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  • Europe

  • Light snowfalls at many resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees have brought the dry spell to an end

    Only a handful of resorts have seen enough snow for a really significant improvement

    Favoured resorts in the southern French Alps, Austria, Germany and Italy received over 10cms of fresh snow on Wednesday

    Many other Alpine resorts, especially those in France and Switzerland, have seen no significant new snow in 2 weeks

    Clear, cold and dry conditions everywhere give way to snowy conditions over much of the Alps this weekend

    This snowfall marks a change to unsettled westerlies, often snowy and lasting a week or so. Windier too

    Freezing levels climbing to about 2000m at times over the SW Alps next week

    A similar pattern for the Pyrenees, but with less snowfall for Andorra and a risk of a brief thaw around Thursday

    Snow conditions have already improved across Scotland. Expect much more snow here

    Blizzard conditions at times with snow also falling over much of upland England, Wales and Ireland

    The Sierra Nevada will see occasional light snowfalls. Becoming windy next week

    Bulgaria has seen light mid week snow. Fine and less cold this weekend. Cloud and light snow returning around Wednesday

    Only westernmost resorts in Scandinavia saw fresh snow last week. Atlantic fronts will soon bring widespread falls

  • North America

  • It has been bitterly cold in both Eastern Canada and the United States

    The main belt of snowfall has been in the south of the Great Lakes and across New England

    More dangerously cold weather and some further snow to come for this region

    Appalachian resorts have great fresh snow conditions but the wind chill remains extreme

    Ski areas across California, Nevada and the Pacific NW have been relatively mild

    Mid-continent, the Rockies have seen modest snowfalls and typical January temperatures

    A blocking high over the Midwest means that the weather will change very gradually next week

    Europe Weather Overview

    The approaching Atlantic systems mentioned in the last editorial have started to influence the weather at the European ski resorts. Approaching weather fronts steadily weakened as they moved onto mainland Europe. Their remnants combined with a low pressure system in the Adriatic to bring Light to moderate mid-week snowfalls as far as central Europe. New snow has freshened up the pistes in Scotland, Western Norway, The Pyrenees, The Southern French Alps, The Italian Alps, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, The Tatras and Bulgaria too. Some places have been lucky enough to receive 10 or 15 cm of snow but 2 or 3 cm was more typical. Unfortunately, it has remained dry through much of the French Alps and the Swiss Alps. In these areas, very few resort have seen any fresh snow since the New Year. Although it has remained cold throughout, two weeks of combined of sun, wind and refreezing has taken its toll and led to a thin crust forming on many off-piste slopes. Even so, after two weeks without fresh snow it is still possible to find untracked soft snow on shaded north-facing slopes and gulleys. Piste conditions remain excellent everywhere.

    A spell of fine weather on Friday and early on Saturday will be displaced as the next Atlantic fronts approach from the West, associated with a deep depression taking up residence between Scotland and Iceland. Alpine Snowfall on Sunday, and more especially on Tuesday, should be more widespread and heavier than last time and it looks like snow will fall at those French and Swiss resorts that have not seen fresh snow for two weeks. The unsettled Westerly pattern that follows the first front will bring very variable weather conditions through next week (snow, wind, some sun too) and for the first time this season, some brief periods when the freezing levels will climb to significant elevations, especially further south where it will rise to 2000m at times leading to rain on the lowest slopes of the Maritime Alps in France and Italy. High freezing levels are also a feature of the weather over the Apennines of Italy and the Pindos of Greece.

    By the weekend of the 24th, secondary low pressure systems are forecast to take a much more southerly track right across France and Germany. If this proves correct, and we stress that confidence 8 or 9 days out is low, expect substantial snowfalls falling to progressively low elevations, especially across the northern parts of the Alps and lesser ranges to the north; places like the Jura and Black Forest, with fine, calm and cold weather to follow for the following week. Just remember that if a long-range forecast is too good to be true, it probably is. Our advice is to check the Europe forecast after the weekend before making any travel plans.

    Apart from a brief mild-spell, the strengthening Atlantic flow is good news for the Pyrenees. Andorra is too far east to benefit from the heaviest snowfalls but it will not miss out altogether. The Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain will see the full force of the Atlantic weather bringing heavy snowfalls to resorts like underrated San Isidro. Unfortunately it looks like the freezing level will be too high at times to guarantee that all precipitation falls as snow, and on Thursday rain could even fall at the level of the top station.

    Being located close to the centre of a large winter storm system means that Scotland and southern parts of Norway and Sweden will see the most severe weather in Europe this week. Very unsettled here and often very windy with westerly blizzard conditions in the Highlands and strong and cold southerly winds for southern parts of Norway and Sweden. The Westerly airstream to the south of this depression will be cold enough to deliver significant snowfall to the mountains of England, Wales and Ireland too, mainly above a thousand feet (300m) but perhaps even to low elevations on Tuesday and Wednesday. The first of the squally and wintry showers will arrive in the British Isles on Sunday.

    North America Weather Overview

    The forecast for North America is straightforward this time and compared to recent weeks, rather boring apart from the ongoing extreme cold in the East of the continent.

    The last of the clipper systems mentioned in the previous editorial departed New England on Sunday dropping several inches of snow around New York State after it had left more than 20cm (8 inches) of snow in parts of Indiana and Illinois. Bitterly cold air of an Arctic origin is pushing south behind this system with an intense anticyclone settling over the Midwest. This weather pattern is responsible for the exceptionally low temperatures across eastern Canada and eastern United States, including all of the Appalachian ski resorts and extending as far south as Northern Florida. Coldest so far has been the Winnipeg area of Canada, where temperatures on Tuesday night fell to -36C. On Friday night, as winds fall light, even lower temperatures are likely here and elsewhere. Killington is typical of the Appalachian ski resorts; great snow conditions but morning temperatures below -2OC are a problem because additional windchill makes it feel more like -40C (-40F). Expect a little more snow on Sunday followed by a sunny start to the working week but little or no respite from the intense cold. If anything, the chill intensifies on Friday when similarly low temperatures to the present ones are accompanied by a strengthening NW wind and light snowfall. At Mont Tremblant ski resort conditions are even colder; a chilling -25C at lunchtime on Thursday evening means that if you want to enjoy the 10cms of fresh snow, take care to avoid frostbite.

    California resorts around Lake Tahoe have been comparatively mild and sunny. Temperatures will gradually fall over the next six days but apart from a little snow on Wednesday fine weather will prevail.

    Further North, at places like Whistler the snowfalls have cleared as forecast. It was quite mild at mid-mountain elevations but colder in the valley due to a temperature inversion (under light winds, our forecasts often show sub-zero ground temperatures at elevations far below the free-air freezing level). The recent warming trend with rising freezing levels will continue until Sunday. Skiers and boarders need to be aware that despite the tempting Spring-like conditions, conditions in the backcountry are currently subject to a high avalanche risk and it is unclear what effect the warming trend will have on snowpack stability. Turning gradually colder next week, but you will have to wait until Friday for any fresh snow and even then we are not expecting very much. Inland, resorts like Sunshine Village in Alberta have great snow conditions and a week of fine weather to look forward to but the entire region has a high avalanche risk at the present time.

    Mid-continent American resorts in the Rockies have been neither unusually mild like the West Coast or unusually cold like the East. Typical top-lift (3500m) temperatures in Colorado were -10C on Thursday afternoon; cold but not unusually so and with moderate falls of snow over the past few days, sunny skies and very light west breezes, perfect skiing conditions. Expect more of the same fine conditions at Colorado ski resorts until snow showers begin on Thursday.

    You can also view the Ski-Club twice-weekly summary for a fuller discussion of specific resort snow conditions.

    The snow-forecast team - January 2009