The main ski season in Europe is having its best start for five years and if the snow continues to fall at its current rate, potentially the best start this century, with resorts in the Alps reporting up to 1.5m (five feet) of snow in the past week, up to 1.3m (4.3 feet) of bit in the last 72 hours.

All this snow fall comes on top of regular snow dumps through October and November in many areas, along with low temperatures for snowmaking meaning there’s deep fresh powder on a good base at many areas, and pristine groomed slopes too.  60-90cm more snow is currently forecast coming up to the weekend in many regions too.

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Around 80% of ski areas will be open this weekend so it’s remarkably good timing too. The only real issue, ironically, is that the sudden arrival of so much snow has put the off piste avalanche danger up to the maximum level 5 in many areas, and caused some logistical problems with flights cancelled and roads blocked at times.  There have also been very strong winds accompanying the snowfall at times.

Tour operators report booming business as skiers and boarders scrabble to book holidays.  Ironically Christmas and New Year had been slow sellers through the Autumn as skiers were wary after three successive poor starts to the season for snowfall in autumns 2014-‘16.  Bargains were therefore available as more people opted for Easter bookings instead.

Ski areas in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland have seen the biggest snowfalls with many areas reporting around a metre of snowfall since the weekend and most at least 50cm.  Adelboden, Gstaad, Bormio, Sestriere, Villars, Tignes, Laax and Bormio have all reported more than a metre of snow.

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The deepest base in Europe (and the world) has reached 3.6m at both Engelberg and Glacier 3000 in Switzerland and some areas are reported to have almost had as much snow as they had all of last season already.

All the fresh snow is particularly welcome in the Dolomites where up to 75cm of fresh snow has been reported since Saturday (at Cortina d’Ampezzo).  This area has had to rely heavily on snowmaking for much of the past three seasons so a thick white coat so early in 2017-18 is very welcome.

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The Pyrenees are also welcoming all the snow, with up to1m of snow falling on the French side of the mountains reported by Font Romeu and Pyrenees 2000.  The Spanish side celebrated a double bank holiday over this weekend and saw bumper business as a result of all the snow.

The snow hasn’t just been limited to central Europe.  Small  ski areas in countries like Belgium, Denmark and Portugal (below) have all seen good snow cover too leading to excellent early season conditions.