Issued: 14 April 2021

By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne



EUROPE INTRODUCTION


Even as we approach the middle of the month, April continues to be a more wintery month than March was, with the snow returning to the Alps over the past few days and the mercury dropping to double-digits below freezing. Up to 35cm (14 inches) of fresh snowfall has been reported for some high altitude slopes, but the snow has been falling down to resort level in the valleys too. The snowfall has also continued up in Scandinavia and Scotland and it has even been cold, at times, in the southeast as well as the northeast of the continent.

Despite that though, of the hundreds of ski areas that were still open in the Alps, in Austria and Switzerland, there has been a mass close down over the past two weekends and now we’re down to double figures for the number of areas still open. The shut down has been much faster and a little earlier than usual due to the pandemic.  Most are closing for economic reasons, but government policy is still impacting some, with Andermatt in Switzerland forced to close earlier than planned this week due to tightened regulations in the canton where it is located.

Scandinavia is one of the few places in the world where mid-April is feeling a lot like mid-winter. Some resorts here have posted a metre (40 inches) of snowfall in the past week, including up to 60cm (two feet) in 72 hours.

All ski areas have now closed in the Pyrenees and most in Eastern Europe have ceased operating earlier than usual, some never having been able to open this season due to the pandemic. Others have closed early because of the limitations pandemic operations puts on them, making breaking-even at the end of the season impossible.

In the wider world, the past few days has seen increasingly snowy scenes in the Andes and on the ski slopes of Australia and New Zealand where the 2021 season is now less than two months away.

AUSTRIA

Obertauern resort this week

AUSTRIA REPORT| Austria has seen the fastest shut down of its ski areas of all the major ski nations.  Post-Easter the vast majority of the country’s ski areas have closed, and several of the glacier ski areas that normally offer skiing in the latter half of spring, but which have been shut through the ski season due to the financial implications of pandemic operating restrictions, are showing no sign as yet of re-opening. So with the likes of the Kaunertal and Molltal glaciers closed and many other areas like Arlberg closing early, we’re down to only about half a dozen Austrian areas still open. That shortlist does include the Kitzsteinhorn glacier (0/325cm / 0/130”) which on Tuesday posted the most snowfall in Europe to start the week, with 35cm (14”) in 24 hours.  Hintertux (15/410cm / 6/164”) reported 25cm (10”) of snowfall too and has the country’s deepest base.

AUSTRIA FORECAST| It will stay cold in the mountains into the weekend with temperatures well below freezing and occasional snow showers. Warming up by the end of the week in the valleys so down low that precipitation will mostly be rain.

SWITZERLAND

SWITZERLAND REPORT|   Switzerland continues to lead the main alpine ski nations in terms of ski areas still operating. Resorts are closing for the end of the season here as everywhere, but there are still more open here than any other European nation outside of Scandinavia, and more planning to stay open into May. One of these, Engelberg (40/605cm / 16/242”) went back above six metres/20 feet on its Titlis glacier after more mid-April snowfall, having dropped to 5.9m/236”. With centres with deeper bases in the Pacific Northwest now closed for the season that’s the deepest base at an open ski area anywhere. The news from Switzerland is not all good though, Andermatt, which had expected to stay open the next few weekends, has had to close earlier than expected due to new restrictions in the canton where it’s located.  Swiss ski areas further west have had a cold and sometimes snowy, sometimes sunny week. For many, the thaw has stopped for the time being and snow conditions are great.

SWITZERLAND FORECAST|   It looks like the cold weather is set to stay at least into the weekend with temperatures only really starting to climb down at the resort bases from Sunday.  Double-digits below but sunny on higher slopes. Monday could see more snow up high, rain down low.

FRANCE

Tignes resort this week

FRANCE REPORT| Fresh snowfall in the French Alps on Monday brought a rueful smile to many people. Few ski areas are bothering to measure snowfall at this stage but there looked to be 5-15cm (12-6 inches) at many areas from the pictures. La Plagne was one of the few to publish snow totals, 10cm/4 inches there on Monday/Tuesday. Ski lifts remain closed and many resorts, which had opened anyway, have now ended their seasons. But there’s hope for later in the year with Les 2 Alpes and Tignes both announcing their plans to open for glacier summer-skiing in June, Les 2 Alpes from the start of the month at weekends, then both daily from the middle of the month. Well, that’s the hope anyway.

FRANCE FORECAST|   Cold and sunny for the remainder of this week with temperatures rarely getting above freezing above 1500 metres.  More snow showers possible at the start of the weekend and temperatures should rise back into positive numbers in the valleys by Sunday.

ITALY

ITALY REPORT|  Italy remains largely locked down with all ski areas closed by government order as they have been since late October. So, we’re coming up to six months now. The weather has been colder than usual for the time of year here too, rarely getting above freezing even down in the valleys. It has been mostly dry and sunny however, except at a few resorts along the northern and western fringes of the country. The next hope of ski areas opening in Italy will be, as in 2020, at summer ski areas like Passo Stelvio or Cervinia, possibly in late May or June.

ITALY FORECAST| Staying cold, mostly sunny, mostly dry with temperatures due to climb back up to seasonal norms and positive numbers early next week.

GERMANY

GERMANY REPORT|  The two German ski areas permitted to re-open, Willingen (0/40cm / 0/16”) and Winterberg (0/50cm / 0/20”), continue to operate, at least at the time of writing. Both had expected to close by now with just ribbons of white snow on the green hillside for several weeks, but the cold spell has prolonged their opening and the season has now lasted more than a month for them both, extended by the day. The Zugspitze glacier, by contrast, appears to have given up on its hope of a late-season opening. It also reported winter returned over the past few days with 40cm (16″) of fresh snow on Tuesday, but it still has not been allowed to open this season.

GERMANY FORECAST| Mixed weather with temperatures slowly climbing to ever warmer numbers through this week. Starting low at present so some precipitation will initially fall as snow, but increasingly turning to rain. Some sunny spells too though.

SCANDINAVIA

Voss resort this week

SCANDINAVIA REPORT| Scandinavia continues to be the place to be for cold weather and fresh snowfall in Europe, as well as still having most of its ski areas open. Sweden’s Vemdalen (30/75, / 12/30”) posted 35cm (14”) of snowfall to start this week, one of the biggest falls in the country all season.  It was also a powder weekend in parts of Norway with Voss (50/110cm / 20/44”) reporting plenty of fresh snow at the start of the weekend.  The only negative for skiers was strong winds bringing it all in, which closed higher lifts and in some places whole ski centres in the region for a time on Saturday and Sunday.

Strandafjellet resort this week

SCANDINAVIA FORECAST|  After the snowy weekend and start to this week sunshine will dominate for the remainder of the week and into the weekend. Temperatures fluctuating by altitude, latitude and time of day between about 10 degrees below freezing and 10 degrees or so above.

SCOTLAND

Glencoe resort this week

SCOTLAND REPORT| It is less than a fortnight now until, it is hoped, Scottish ski areas will be able to re-open as the country’s pandemic operating rules ease. So far, Glencoe has said they hope to re-open ski lifts for a few weeks from April 26th, Cairngorm say they are considering it and Nevis Range say that they won’t. There’s no word either way from Glenshee or the Lecht. Late April and early May opening of course rely on some snow cover and the good news is that the past week has been one of the coldest and snowiest in Scotland for several months. Glencoe described the resulting boosted snowpack as “lovely wind packed powder snow,” which locally-based ski tourers have been able to enjoy.

SCOTLAND FORECAST| It is warming up again on Scottish slopes and there’s no more snow in the forecast but temperatures should continue to be below seasonal averages. So, hopefully, the thaw won’t be too fast as the re-opening day comes closer.

SPAIN / ANDORRA

SPAIN / ANDORRA REPORT| The ski season has ended early in the Pyrenees with La Molina the last resort still open up to last Sunday when most of the others, of the limited number that had opened at all this winter in Spain and Andorra, closed on Easter Sunday.  Normally, at least a few ski areas in the region would battle the April thaw to the end of the month but with so few people able to ski this year due to pandemic restrictions, there’s not much point in 2021.  Not quite everywhere in the wider area has closed though, Sierra Nevada (20/100 / 8/40”), down on the Mediterranean coast, remains open. Although it has about a fifth of its terrain skiable and with a closure date set for this coming weekend, a fortnight earlier than normal.

SPAIN / ANDORRA FORECAST|  There’s snow expected at Sierra Nevada in the latter half of this week so it will be interesting to see if there is a last-minute decision to extend the season with around 30cm (a foot) forecast by Saturday. The sun returns on Sunday so it could be an epic last day.

BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT

BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT|  There’s an end-of-the-season feeling in Eastern Europe with most, but not yet all ski areas in the region now closed. Among the latest to call it a day on the winter was the largest, Bulgaria’s Bansko, which had managed to keep its long ski road to the village from the ski area open right to the end, thanks to some late season cold weather and snow boosts in April. Borovets (5/110cm / 2/44”) remains open though, at least about 12km (7 miles) of runs, around a fifth of its terrain.

BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST|  Temperatures look set to continue to yo-yo between 10 below up top overnight and 10 or more degrees above freezing down in the valleys. So very much spring in the mountains. The chance of some snow on higher runs at the weekend but the general feeling is of the season-ending.

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT|  Some cold weather and unusually late snow but the season is really over in the region now and with ski centres still closed anyway due to the pandemic that very much looks like a wrap on winter 2020-21.  Some resorts like Jasna would normally be open to the last few days of the month but there seems to be no hope of then re-oping this season now.  That said, they did ask on Monday if people would still go skiing if they opened next week, which returned a resounding “yes” on social media, so perhaps anything is possible.

CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST|  It is set to stay much colder than usual for mid-April through the remainder of this week with sub-zero temperatures and fresh snowfall forecast to continue.

NORTH AMERICA

The end of the ski season continues to arrive a little earlier than usual across North America with fewer than 50 areas open now as a swathe more ski centres closed last weekend. Virtually all of the ski areas in eastern Canada have closed and there are only a dozen or so still open in western Canada.  There’s a similar number still going in the Us east, with the majority of the still-open areas on the continent on the US west.  All ski centres in the midwest are now reported closed.

As to conditions, well there have been cold snowy periods right across the continent.  The heaviest snowfall has been up in the Canadian Rockies as well as the US Pacific Northwest, as it has been all season.  But there’s been more sunny, dry days than snowy ones.

ROCKIES

Marmot Basin resort this week

ROCKIES REPORT| About three-quarters of ski areas in the Rockies have now closed, but a significant number are open for one more weekend at least, with some like Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge (52/52” / 130/130cm), Snowbird (83/83” / 206/206cm) and Winter Park (74/74” / 185/185”) open into May. Unlike quite a few still-open ski areas elsewhere in the world, there’s lots of terrain open too, most still operating 60-60% of their runs. The weather has turned more wintery at the start of this week with low temperatures reported and some snow flurries.

ROCKIES FORECAST|   Staying cold in the mountains for the rest of this week, predominantly clear and sunny but with light to moderate snowfall forecast for the weekend. 

USA WEST

USA WEST REPORT| Warm and sunny weather led to the closure of most southerly ski areas along the mountains of the US west coast. Although Mammoth (42/67” / 104/168cm) has said it is going to be staying open at least until the end of May. Last week saw some more snow (as well as periods of rain and wind) further north in Washington state but it has now turned warmer and drier.  Mt Baker (203/213” / 508/533cm) remains open and with one of the world’s deepest snowpacks.

USA WEST FORECAST| Continuing warm (freeze-thaw night/day) conditions in California and the south and actually looking warmer, sunnier, and for this season unusually dry further north up in Oregon and Washington too, where plus temps will continue at night, as well as day.


USA MIDWEST REPORT

MIDWEST REPORT| The season has ended earlier than usual in the midwest too.  Almost all ski areas in the region had closed by Easter Sunday but Lutsen Mountains, in Minnesota, was one of the few that powered on through to Easter Sunday. Announcing their upcoming closure on Saturday, a resort spokesperson explained: “The crew has been endlessly pushing snow for the past week, adding a foot of base nightly during these warm spring days and replacing it again the next evening. The net result of these efforts: we anticipate meeting our goal of 40+ runs open through April 11, but in that process have exhausted our snow reserves.”

MIDWEST FORECAST| After a grey and rainy start to the week, it looks like it will be warm and sunnier over the remainder.  The long term forecast is for temperatures to drop again at the start of next week and some higher slopes might even see some snow on Monday if that plays out as expected.

USA EAST

USA EAST REPORT|  Many ski areas in Northeastern America have closed over the past few weekends and the weather has not been great for maintaining snow cover, but around a dozen areas do remain open at least to the end of this coming weekend. Hillsides are largely green now and we are talking ribbons of soft white snow, often carved into bumps, running down them.  Temperatures have been typically double-digits above freezing so very warm, top to bottom, leading some areas like New York state’s Hunter Mountain to close a little earlier than expected. Of the still-open centres, Sugarbush (12/40″ / 30/100cm) is posting the deepest remaining base.

USA EAST FORECAST|  Staying warm for a few more days but colder, with the possibility of sub-zero temperatures and the chance of some snow (or rain) on Friday, before warming up again at the weekend.

CANADA

CANADA WEST

CANADA WEST REPORT| Almost all ski areas in BC have now closed, partly due to the unfortunate pandemic uptick which has seen the province experience the most cases of the Brazil variant anywhere outside of Brazil, with Whistler an epicentre with more than 200 cases identified here. But some smaller BC ski centres remain open, as do bigger areas in Alberta which usually stay open into May, despite heightened operating restrictions in there too. There’s also been more snow falling, with the free-riding area at Fortress posting 60cm (two feet) of fresh as the weekend. Of the destination resorts, Lake Louise (173/220cm / 69/88”) with 15cm (6”) of fresh snow in the past fewAlmost all ski areas in BC have now closed, partly due to the unfortunate pandemic uptick which has seen the province experience the most cases of the Brazil variant anywhere outside of Brazil, with Whistler an epicentre with more than 200 cases identified here. But some smaller BC ski centres remain open, as do bigger areas in Alberta which usually stay open into May, despite heightened operating restrictions in there too. There’s also been more snow falling, with the free-riding area at Fortress posting 60cm (two feet) of fresh as the weekend. Of the destination resorts, Lake Louise (173/220cm / 69/88”) with 15cm (6”) of fresh snow in the past few days has one of the biggest ski areas open in the world now as well as some of the best conditions. days has one of the biggest ski areas open in the world now as well as some of the best conditions.

CANADA WEST FORECAST|  It’s gradually getting warmer but inland will still be mostly below freezing, especially upon the slopes. There’s little or no snow forecast for the coming week though, with sunshine the main weather factor of note.

CANADA EAST

CANADA EAST REPORT| As with many other parts of the world, the season came to a fast end over the past two weekends in eastern Canada with virtually every ski area closed.  Only Sommet St Sauveur (10/30cm / 4/12”) is reported to have a thin base of snow and a few kilometres of trails open into the latter half of the month.  This area is really just one large terrain park, which the centre tries to keep operating as late in to spring as possible.

CANADA EAST FORECAST|  It’s warm and fairly sunny in eastern Canada, hastening the already pandemic-speeded closure of most areas in the region. Largely a sunny weather forecast here but with some rain possible later this week.

ASIA

Niseko resort this week

JAPAN REPORT|  There was excitement in Japan at the end of last week with a few inches/cm of snowfall down to village level after most of March and early April being either dry or more often rain down at resort level when precipitation did come.  Niseko (105/4-5cm / 42/162″) is one of the ski areas which is still open, part of it anyway. It was also one of those reporting snowfall (10cm/4”) at the end of last week.  But temperatures have crept back up to nearer seasonal norms, around 10C, so it is predominantly back to the slow spring thaw again now.

JAPAN FORECAST|  Springtime weather continuing, warm temperatures, some cloud, occasional light rain and generally little to get excited about.  But it is still possible to ski until May at several areas, so that’s exciting enough for plenty of skiers this season.