World Snow News 58 World Snow News

Update for January 23rd 2009

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  • Europe

  • There have been moderate to heavy snowfalls across the European Alps
    Superb deep powder conditions have been reported from most resorts.
    The disturbed westerly flow will bring further bands of snow, high winds and low temperatures over the next 10 days.
    Make the most fair-weather on Sunday 25th because the forecast is for unsettled weather until midweek. 

    Heavy snow has fallen in Scotland. All Scottish ski resorts were open this week, for the first time this season.
    Remaining unsettled with some fine days, but also further snow and by late in the week, blizzards once again.

    Andorra saw light mid-week snow and skiing conditions there are reported as very good.
    Quite mild until the weekend, freezing levels about 3000m, with rain on lowest slopes but new snow higher up.
    Blizzard conditions on Saturday. NW winds slowly abating, but still strong next week with fine spells between bands of snow. Colder

    Moderate snowfall and westerly gales for the Sierra Nevada on Friday and Saturday. Less windy and sunny next week.

    Bulgaria received light midweek snow. Cold with further light snow this weekend and a spell of heavy snow on Tuesday or Wednesday.

    In Scandinavia, most resorts saw 20-30cm of fresh snow earlier this week.

    Apart from some fine weather early next week, cold and snowy south east winds will persist for at least the next 10 days.

  • North America

    It has remained bitterly cold and often snowy in both Eastern Canada and the United States. Largely fine elsewhere
    Lake-effect snow continues to fall in the wake of Clipper systems. These have also brought regular snow to Appalachian ski areas
    Winter snowfall totals at some Appalachian resorts are currently greater than at Whistler. This is very unusual
    The large scale weather pattern over North America has started to change and will greatly affect snow prospects over coming weeks
    Snow is already falling at resorts in Northern California and Nevada
    The shifting jet-stream brings the increasing prospect of transcontinental West to East Storms crossing the United States
    Expect heavy snowfalls in a band from North California through Nevada, Utah and Colorado and the plains and Appalachians
    The first of these west-east systems, already affecting California and Nevada, will reach the Four Corners area this weekend.

    Europe Weather Overview

    The European Alps continue to enjoy an exceptionally good ski season. Snowfalls during the early part of this week were both widespread and heavy. Many major ski resorts reported 20 to 50 cm of fresh snow on Tuesday/Wednesday leading to perfect skiing conditions. This new snow was especially welcome at the popular French and Swiss resorts that had been very cold, sunny and dry ever since the snowfalls of New Year.

    On Thursday night, a very deep low pressure system (940 millibars) was again located between Scotland and Iceland. A week ago we suggested that "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..."

    On this occasion, our long-range forecast looks like it was mostly on the money. As of Thursday night, a secondary low has formed in about the expected place (in the Atlantic, west of France) which means that heavy snow will arrive right on time, starting Friday morning. It will also turn colder, just as forecast. The part that we got wrong is that there will be only a brief spell fine weather to follow with settled weather not expected until Wednesday at the soonest. This is because another secondary depression is forecast to follow the first one. Next week is best described as unsettled and cold but with improving weather from midweek. After heavy snowfalls on Saturday (also in the Massif Central),  Sunday promises to be generally fine across the Alps with clouds lifting and winds abating. However, please be aware that the avalanche danger is likely to be very high everywhere so seek expert advice before venturing off-piste. The secondary low pressure bringing the snow on Saturday will be just 970 millibars, deep for central Europe and certainly enough to generate strong winds at altitude leading to drifting and an unstable snowpack with windslab sitting on top of loose and unbonded snow. Some of the best and safest skiing on Sunday will likely be below the tree-line.

    This deep low pressure system will track eastwards bringing heavy snow to the Balkans, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria too - affecting Bulgaria on Tuesday and Wednesday. Greece has been located right on the periphery of the icy central European airmass for much of the winter which means that its snow fortunes have oscillated. At the time of writing, it is rather mild with heavy and thundery showers down the east side. As a result some resorts have a poor snow cover. The good news is that we expect it to turn steadily colder again during this weekend and next week; most places will see some new snow. The local ski resort for Athenians, Mount Parnassos, always gets very busy on January weekends, no matter what the snow conditions are like. If you are heading there you can expect a fairly cloudy and breezy couple of days with some sun on Saturday and light snowfall on Sunday as the lower temperatures arrive. Next week will be breezy with bands of snow or snow showers and also some sunny periods. Further east, Helmos should see heavier snowfalls but for really snowy conditions head north to places like Vermio (3-5 Pigadia) after heavy snow falls between Tuesday and Thursday.

    A second weather system, moving southeast and crossing the Alps on Monday and Tuesday, will bring a second period of cold, snowy and windy weather. The second half of the week looks like it will be more settled, if only for a few days, but we should be grateful that, despite all of this Atlantic air, it will stay cold throughout with any precipitation falling as snow rather than rain at all levels.

    The expected tracks of these two depressions should deliver the heaviest snowfalls to the northern part of the French Alps and the Swiss Alps, but once again it is the Italian Alps that look likely to see the very heaviest falls - places like Cortina for example are expected to see very heavy snowfall on Monday. The lightest snowfalls will be in the Maritime Alps of France and eastern Austria. Even here, expect 25cm or more in total.

    The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have enjoyed an excellent winter season too. Apart from a brief spell of mild weather over the past few days, the low temperatures have meant that the relatively modest elevations of resorts here has not been a problem. Whereas the Alps saw mostly find weather in early January, according to our hindcasts, these areas were treated to regular falls of snow and extremely low temperatures but lacking much snow report information, we can only estimate how good conditions must have been.

    Temperatures are falling again across central Europe. Strong SE winds at resorts in the Czech Republic on Friday will soon moderate. The next ten days should see further frequent light snowfalls and low temperatures. Snowfalls should be a little heavier at Zakopane in Poland and there is nothing in the forecast to suggest that there will be another mild spell any time soon.

    North America Weather Overview

    For the last fortnight, North America has been covered by a mild and dry ridge of high pressure over the West and a very cold, but relatively dry trough of low pressure over the East. The jet-stream usually runs more or less east-west but recently it has deviated northward through western Canada, and then dived far south into the southeastern United States. This led to exceptional cold in the eastern United States, especially in the wake of the frequent Clipper systems that have made it such a snowy winter in places like Chicago and if you don't mind the cold, such a great ski season in the Appalachians where snowfall totals have been greater than the usually very snowy southwest of Canada.

    A Pacific weather system affects California and Nevada on Thursday night. Initially, high freezing levels have restricted snowfalls in the far West to the higher peaks, above about 2500m, but rain will turn increasingly to snow at lower levels and the good news is that this snow won't clear the Tahoe region until the middle of next week, ending the run of Spring-like conditions. As the jet-stream returns to a more typical east-west direction, this system will be driven across the USA, reaching the Four Corners region before the weekend and here too the snowy conditions will persist for several days, accompanied by gradually falling temperatures. As forecast last week, snow showers are already affecting ski resorts in Colorado which is very welcome because the last significant snowfall was eleven days ago.

    Further North, at places like Whistler, our forecast last week proved accurate with falling temperatures and prevailingly dry conditions. We had hoped that there would be a light snowfall on Friday or Saturday but seven days later all we expect is a period of cloud. Tuesday onwards should see and increasing chance of catching some snow showers but we don't expect any really significant snow until Friday 30th. Snow depths in Whister are reported as 1.3m; not bad but well short of the average for the time of year but now that the jet-stream is returning to a more normal path we expect the second half of the season to be snowier than the first. The same goes for Alberta resorts like Banff where Thursday temperatures of -15C continue to preserve excellent piste conditions despite modest snow depths for mid-January. Although the next ten days should be prevailingly sunny, with just a few days of light snowfalls, the longer term prospects are better.

    Please view our Ski-Club twice-weekly summary page for a fuller discussion of specific resort snow conditions.

    The snow-forecast team - January 23 2009

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