After a six-week period of largely dry and sometimes warm weather, there have been some huge snowfalls in the Alps, as part of wider falls across Europe’s mountain areas.
Some areas received more than two metres (nearly seven) feet of snowfall in just a few days, with parts of Austria, Italy and Switzerland particularly hard hit.
Sadly a skier died on Monday skiing off piste on Mt Titlis in Engelberg. The fatality came as parts of the Alps hit the maximum level 5 avalanche danger over the weekend with exceptionally heavy snowfall. This, coupled with fluctuating temperatures and strong winds, created a highly unstable snowpack.
For most resorts though the snowfall totals were closer to 50-100cm (20-40 inches) at altitude. This has, however, dramatically improved snow cover for many areas which had had lower than usual snowfall during a previously often warm and dry autumn since the start of November.
The weather caused lots of logistical issues including power outages and blocked roads in a number of areas and flooding at some more southerly, lower elevation areas. The Italian ski resort of Arabba (pictured below), Switzerland’s Saas Fee and resorts in the Eastern Tirol were among those most badly impacted.
Ski resorts in Austria, France, Germany and Italy are currently closed, but lots of people are heading out touring, leading to concerns from mountain safety experts that they could be caught out on unprepared and unpatrolled slopes. There was evidence of this on the closed slopes above Kitzbuhel at the weekend when a skier had to be rescued after injuring himself.
Switzerland is allowing its ski areas to open and about 20 have opened so far, although several, including Andermatt and Laax (Pictured below), closed again over the weekend in anticipation of the weather coming in. World Cup Ski racing at St Moritz which was due to have taken place on Saturday and Sunday also had to be abandoned.
The snowfall was not just limited to the Alps and Dolomites however, the Pyrenees were also covered with heavy weekend falls with some ski areas in the Spanish Pyrenees reporting a further 50cm (20 inches) of snowfall on Tuesday. Grandvalira is pictured below.
Heavy snow is continuing in the Pyrenees where another 30-60cm (12-24”) is expected to accumulate over the next few days. Things are quieter in the Alps now but similar 30-60cm (12-24”) falls are likely at the weekend.