Issued: 10 February 2021
By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne
It has kept snowing in the Alps over the past week, if perhaps not quite so heavily as a week or so back. In parts of France and Switzerland and north into the Tatra mountains of northeastern Europe the snow turned an eerie orange hue at the weekend as a dust storm from the Sahara desert blew right up across the centre of the continent depositing a dusty layer on the snow.
Extremes of temperature have also been noted with very warm temperatures recorded down in Bulgaria and the southeast of the continent, but very cold up in Scandinavia. That cold air is now moving down towards the Alps with very cold, clear weather expected by the weekend here.
In terms of the virus, the good news is that ski areas in Slovenia have re-opened and it currently appears that centres in Poland and Italy, where the 2021 Alpine Skiing World Championships kicked off in Cortina d’Ampezzo at the weekend, will be allowed to reopen from this weekend.
AUSTRIA REPORT| A mixture of sunshine and snowy weather over the past week. Some glorious sunny days with the fresh snow but also 10-20cm snowfall top-ups as fronts move through. All in all, its good news for conditions overall. Although temperatures have been creeping up above freezing in the valleys meaning some have seen rain at resort level with snow higher up. Hintertux (165/370cm / 66/148”) has seen its base, the deepest in Austria, grow 20cm (8) since last week with snowfalls most recently on Sunday and Monday, sunshine before after.
AUSTRIA FORECAST| A major cold snap is now moving into the Austrian Alps with temperatures set to dip to 15-25 degrees below freezing at the top of the slopes, but also reach double digits below even down in the valleys. No precipitation forecast and after initially cloudy weather there should be full sunshine later in the week.
SWITZERLAND REPORT| Swiss ski areas continue to be the ones that have stayed open through the second wave of the pandemic, with no signs so far that doing so has had much of an impact on virus cases there compared to other countries. The past week saw a scientific study published which indicated very low risks of transmission in a gondola where basic precautions are taken, compared to working in a shared office or using public transport. Despite being open, business is of course way down in Swiss areas with few people able to travel there. The country’s resorts have again posted some of the bigger snowfalls in Europe over the past week, albeit smaller falls than the huge dumps the week before last. Ski areas in the east of the country posted 15-20cm (6-8″) snow totals on Sunday then a little more on Monday. Samedan (100/110cm / 40/44”) was one of those seeing a decent freshen up to its slopes.
SWITZERLAND FORECAST| After a little more midweek snowfall Swiss centres will see skies clear and temperatures plunge through the latter half of this week, with dry weather and the mercury registering 10 to 20 degrees below freezing by the weekend.
FRANCE REPORT| France saw drier, rather warm weather up to last weekend after the big snowfalls of the previous week. The snow returned at the start of this week but more like 10-20cm accumulations rather than any more huge dumps. The government is keeping ski lifts closed through February although ski resorts can open (some are, some not). If the ski lifts do open the spring conditions could be good with accumulated bases between 2 and 3 metres (7-10 feet) at many leading areas. Although, for some, regular depth updates aren’t being posted at present. Flaine (180/300cm / 72/120”), Avoriaz (180/290cm / 72/116”) and Val d’Isère (130/270cm / 52/108”) have the deepest reported bases. Ski touring and cross-country skiing are booming at present with the lifts closed but many French resorts open. But participants are warned the avalanche danger currently remains high.
FRANCE FORECAST| The snowy weather of the past few days should ease by Thursday with temperatures on a downward trajectory towards double-digits below freezing by Friday on higher slopes and subzero celsius in resorts too. Skies will clear for some sunny, very cold days over the weekend.
ITALY REPORT| Italy is the prominent ski nation in Europe and indeed the world this week as Cortina stages the Alpine Skiing World Championships (officially ‘behind closed doors’ although 3,500 athletes, volunteers and officials are in resort for it) and the country appears to be edging towards re-opening its ski slopes, after more than three months, next Monday the 15th. The government announced ski areas in ‘yellow regions’ could open. The country has divided its regions into yellow, orange and red categories depending on the state of the pandemic. Most resorts are in yellow regions at the time of writing though of course, this can change at any time. As to snow conditions, reports indicate they are amongst “the best in years” in Italy with good cover at most resorts. There was more fresh snow at the weekend leading to the first events of the world championships having to be postponed. Livigno (120/240cm / 48/96”) posted one of the bigger snowfalls (in what has been a fairly dry week) in Europe at the weekend scoring another 20cm (8 inches).
ITALY FORECAST| A similar picture to the rest of central Europe with some midweek snowfall before the weather dries up for the week ahead. The big factor, apart from lots of sunshine, will be very low temperatures, getting to 10 or 15 degrees below freezing in the resort and as low as -25C on Italy’s highest slopes up to around 3,000m.
GERMANY REPORT| German ski areas remain closed due to the pandemic restrictions there with the country’s lockdown, currently set to expire next Sunday, looking likely to be extended at the time of writing. Some reporters speculate restrictions may be eased with any extension, but whether that allows ski areas to belatedly re-open (most German ski areas close in late March anyway), remains to be seen. Conditions have been rather warm at lower elevations in the south of the country and some have seen rain rather than snow. But in the north there’s been more of an ‘Arctic blast’ bringing some significant snowfall.
GERMANY FORECAST| After the warm weather for many German areas over the past week, it will be much colder for the coming week, getting well below freezing even down in the valleys. There’s no snow in the forecast, but clear skies and sunshine.
SCANDINAVIA REPORT| It has continued to be predominantly cold, dry and often sunny in much of Scandinavia, so little powder to be had but good fast gliding on the groomed runs. Base depths are good in most areas thanks to January snowfalls. Pandemic stats continue to be impressively low in Finland and Norway thanks to the efforts being made, including Norway’s recent decision to pretty much close its borders. Beitstolen (130/150cm / 52/60”) has one of the best snow depths in the region with lots of snow lying and most of its runs open.
SCANDINAVIA FORECAST| Another dry and sunny week ahead, in fact, much of Scandinavia will have wall-to-wall sunshine right through until the start of next week. Temperatures remaining low, typically 10-20 degrees below freezing.
SCOTLAND REPORT| Scotland’s incredible ski season, with ski areas closed, continues and the irony of this being one of the best snowfall seasons of the past three decades is now getting national mainstream media coverage in the UK with the BBC and Sky both covering the situation in television news at the end of last week. More heavy snowfall has been reported across the Highlands with images of buried cars and disappearing access roads of the type normally sent in from the mountains of Western North America or Japan. Ski touring is permitted if you do not have to travel more than a few miles to do it and there’s hope, but no certainty at all, that ski areas might re-open in early March if Scotland’s infection rates continue to fall.
SCOTLAND FORECAST| Very much more of the same as the unusually consistent cold and snowy spell continues to mid-February, so now approaching two months Very cold weather and more snow is forecast.
SPAIN / ANDORRA
SPAIN / ANDORRA REPORT| The Pyrenees continue to rather limp along with limited areas open due to the pandemic and with only limited terrain at those that are open as, with only locally based people able to visit, there’s limited demand. It remains ski areas in Andorra and some of those in Spain that are open whilst those over the French border still have their lifts closed by the government, although resorts can open for other winter sports and activities. La Molina (50/80cm / 20/32”) has the most terrain open in Spain at present with 70km (43 miles) of its runs open, about half the total. As to the weather, it was dry and sunny and in the latter half of last week rather warm, but temperatures have dipped at the start of this week and snow is now falling again.
SPAIN / ANDORRA FORECAST| The snowfall should continue to midweek and could total 20-30cm (8-12”) accumulations by Thursday. Temperatures should stay fairly cool, as low as ten below freezing on upper mountains, but occasionally creeping above freezing in the valley. Strong winds expected on Saturday, sunshine on Sunday.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT| After the cold and snowy January weather in Bulgaria, things have turned decided springlike over the past few days with Bansko (40/170cm / 16/68”) seeing 15C down at the resort base on Saturday. Temperatures were about half that up on the mountain tops but still warm for the time of year. Thankfully, it has got progressively colder through the week.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST| The downward temperature trajectory continues into the weekend by which time we should again be seeing subzero temperatures from top to bottom of the mountain. Some decent snowfall (10-q20cm – 4-8″) is expected at the weekend and there could be snow on Tuesday too, but it will still be quite warm at that point so rain on lower slopes is, unfortunately, a possibility.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT| Plans to re-open ski areas in the Czech Republic from this coming weekend have been axed after a fresh surge in the virus in the country, which is one of the hardest hit in Europe by population size. Ski areas in Slovakia are also currently still closed. Season pass holders are getting increasingly vocal about the lack of skiing they’ve been able to access due to the lockdown extensions. As to the weather, warmer earlier in the week but in recent days getting colder and snowier with many resorts seeing 10-20cm (4-8) inches more snowfall over the start of this week.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST| It is looking progressively colder over the next few days in the region with temperatures dropping as low as 20 degrees below freezing by the end of the week. Snowfall from Thursday on could bring as much as 50cm (20 inches) more cover to some resorts by the end of the weekend.
After the heavy snow just over a week ago things have calmed down a little in most parts of North America this past week. Instead, the dominant factor has been very cold weather, with some areas seeing temperatures dipping to 20 or 30 degrees below freezing, especially in the north and east. This has even caused some areas to temporarily shut down whilst it is considered too cold for safe operation.
Although there has not been so much snow there has been some snow in most areas. The heaviest, as is often the case, in the continent’s Pacific Northwest corner where several resorts in Alberta, BC and Washington state have reported more than a metre (40 inches) more snow in the past week. The deepest base of any resort in the world at this point in the season is now claimed by Alpental, in Washington state, with over 5.5 metres (18.5 feet) lying following big snowfalls there.
ROCKIES REPORT| It continues to be a less than stellar season in the Rockies, particularly at the southern end of the chain. Hesperus Ski Area (45/45cm), in southern California, only opened late in January due to lack of snow and warm weather and has now closed again for the same reason. But against that, at the centres further north and higher in altitude more snowfall was reported at the weekend. In fact, there was quite a decent dump. Crested Butte (50/50” / 124/124”) was one of the ski areas reporting around 20” (50cm) of fresh snowfall over the weekend, greatly improving conditions. It has around 100 of its 120 available trails open at present. Aspen Snowmass (41/61” / 103/150cm) got slightly more, 23’ (58cm) and has more like 90% of its terrain open now. Conditions in the Rockies returned to sunshine from Sunday.
ROCKIES FORECAST| The current sunny weather should gradually change to snowier conditions over the next few days in the Rockies and get increasingly snowy into the weekend. Ski areas should hopefully have totals of 10-20” (25-50cm) over the 3-4 days to Sunday. Staying cold (5-15 degrees below freezing) on the mountains but climbing a few degrees above freezing in the valleys at times.
USA WEST REPORT| After the heavy snowfall in California a little over a week ago things have quietened down a lot there and resorts have reported a return to sunshine and glorious conditions with the fresh snow. Further north in Washington State, however, it has been dumping down more than anywhere else in North America. Alpental (123/326” / 307/566cm) is now posting the world’s deepest base after recording nearly 5 feet (1.5 metres) of snowfall in 72 hours over the weekend and the start of this week.
USA WEST FORECAST| It’s looking like another fairly dry week in California and the southwest with temperatures creeping above freezing at lower elevations, but staying cold up on the slopes for most. A little snowfall is possible on Saturday. There’s no real let-up in the snowfall in the northwest with temperatures staying below freezing and light snow forecast up to the weekend. But then it will be heavier again with several feet likely to fall from Saturday into the start of next week.
USA MIDWEST REPORT
MIDWEST REPORT| Some seriously cold weather in the midwest at the weekend led to hundreds of flights being grounded as temperatures hit a remarkable -20F. Crystal Mountain (56/56” / 140/140cm), in Michigan, is posting the deepest snow in the region and had one of the bigger snowfalls of the week, clocking up a five-inch (13cm) accumulation. All its lifts are turning, all runs open. Chestnut Mountain Resort (26/52″ / 65/130”), in Illinois, got rather more with eight-inches (20cm) there.
MIDWEST FORECAST| Conditions look set to remain very cold in the region, generally 10 to 20 degrees below freezing. Mostly dry too, and cloudy, although there may be some light snowfall for a period on Thursday/Friday.
USA EAST REPORT| Ski areas in the northeast have been reporting excellent conditions this past week. There’s not been much fresh snowfall after the heavy dump a week ago, but it has been cold and sunny with plenty of fresh cover left. Most areas report all lifts turning and all runs open at this point in the season. The deepest reported bases are in New York State, Maine and Pennsylvania, topped by Maine’s Lost Valley (28/93” / 70/233cm).
USA EAST FORECAST| It will stay cold for the week ahead, very cold in fact with temperatures dipping close to zero celsius at times. A generally dry forecast but many areas will see overcast skies with only occasional sunny spells and the clouds may occasionally drop a dusting of just an inch or so in 24 hours.
CANADA WEST REPORT| Quite a snowy week in western Canada. In fact, resorts here have seen some of the biggest snowfalls of the past seven days. Lake Louise (143/176cm / 57/70”) has posted over 60cm (two feet) of fresh snow falling and others in Alberta and eastern BC also seem to be seeing plenty of new snow, as much as a metre in 4 or 5 days in some cases. Not quite so snowy, for a change, further west but fresh snow along BC’s Coastal range too and North America’s largest ski area Whistler Blackcomb (250/250cm / 100/100”) remains fully open. Cold weather has also been a factor here with Sunshine ski area, near Banff, closing at the start of the week for safety reasons due to the ultra-low temperatures there.
CANADA WEST FORECAST| It looks predominantly dry and very cold over the coming week, with the best chance for snow at the weekend. Temperatures may get as low as 30 degrees celsius below freezing by then. Mostly cloudy skies but the sun will break through from time to time.
CANADA EAST REPORT| The government of Ontario seems to have reined back a little on their announcement that ski areas would re-open in early February, with that not having happened yet at the time of writing nor a date given. This remains the only part of North America where ski areas have been forced to close by government order due to the pandemic. In Quebec, operations are fairly normal now, other than pandemic restrictions of course, after the warm, wet and sometimes windy start of the season. Bases remain thin for the time of year but adequate and with great snow-making weather at present, if not much fresh natural snowfall, some centres have been adding more terrain. Mont Sainte Anne (30/60cm), one of the biggest resorts, has about 75% of its terrain open now.
CANADA EAST FORECAST| It’s very cold at the moment with temperatures dropping as low as zero Fahrenheit (-18C) although mostly a little warmer than that. Generally continuing clear and sunny during the week ahead but the chance of some light snowfall (just a few centimetres) around Friday/Saturday.
JAPAN REPORT| Having firmly put to bed fears that winter 2019-20 (with its warm weather and lack of snow could be the start of a trend) by surpassing last seasons snowfall totals by early January this winter, it continues to dump down on Japanese ski slopes, making it appear like this one is heading towards being one of the best on record, in recent decades at least (hopefully, that’s not tempting fate). The latest stats include an 80cm (32”) in 24 hours accumulation report at one area last Friday. Niseko (245/420cm / 98/168”) has gone through the 4 metre base depth mark with another 1.2 metres (4 feet) of snowfall in the past week. It is now past its season total snowfall for last season and only 25cm from overtaking the 2018-19 total according to SnowJapan.com data.
JAPAN FORECAST| Regular snow dumps are expected to continue through the remainder of this week causing both avalanche and off-piste snow suffocation dangers for those skiing into a hidden hollow with metres of light snow lying on top. The weekend should finally see skies clearing for a little while at least.