Issued: 31 March 2021
By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne
Europe’s 20-21 ski season is winding down more quickly than usual as ski areas decide to stretch this strange pandemic winter up to Easter weekend, but for many, no longer than that. The fact that many areas have had a predominantly warm and sunny week with temperatures well into double-digits above freezing down in the valleys and a fast thaw underway has only added to that end of season feel. Verbier is among areas announcing plans to close a week earlier than originally envisaged, in mid rather than late April.
But the week has not been without snowfall. After a warm spell, there’s been more snow in northern and western Scandinavia, a few centimetres for Swiss areas on the western side of the country and even fresh snowfall (before a very warm start to the week) in Scotland.
Not everywhere is closing early or soon though. Several glacier resorts in Austria and Switzerland have confirmed they’ll be open to late spring or even summer. In addition, currently closed Cervinia, in Italy, and Glencoe, in Scotland, are among areas still saying they’ll re-open later this season after Easter, if allowed to do so.
AUSTRIA REPORT| It has been sun, sun, sun this week in Austria with warm weather, typical of springtime.. The best conditions have therefore been in the mornings and on higher slopes. Quite a few ski areas are making it clear that they are having a final push for Easter week but will be ‘calling it’ a day after the weekend. Some bigger areas like the Skiwelt which closed early, but said they might re-open, have now made it clear they won’t be doing so until next winter. Hintertux (30/410cm / 12/164”) has the deepest base in the country and the ski area of which it is a part now has the largest amount of terrain open in the country, over 12km (75 miles) of slopes.
AUSTRIA FORECAST| It looks set to remain very warm in the Austrian valleys over the coming week with some areas seeing +20C at the base, so it really feels like the end of this strange season for most, and it looks like few Austrian areas will still be operational after Easter week. A mixture of sunshine and cloud but with little precipitation in the forecast. The freezing point was above 2000m altitude.
SWITZERLAND REPORT| It has been a predominantly dry and sunny week in Switzerland, but Swiss resorts have managed to report some fresh snowfall nonetheless, on top of the big dumps a few weeks ago now. Ski areas in the Valais canton in the west posted up to 15cm (six inches) of fresh snow on Friday/Saturday at the end of last week. Engelberg (50/600cm / 20/240”) continues to post the deepest base in Europe and reports 7cm (3”) of fresh snowfall at the weekend; it is open to mid-May. Verbier (45/270cm / 18/108”) and the 4 Valleys continue to post the largest ski area open in Europe, with over 300km (nearly 200 miles) of runs open but it has announced closure a week earlier than planned, in a fortnight, due to the ongoing losses involved in operating in the pandemic.
SWITZERLAND FORECAST| As with much of the Alps it is looking like the warm and sunny weather which has been dominant over the past week, especially since the weekend, will continue through to Easter. It’s looking cooler and a little cloudier next week, but there’s no snow or any other precipitation forecast and it looks like it will rarely drop below freezing, even at altitude.
FRANCE REPORT| French ski slopes remain closed and with high levels of infection in parts of the country at present most resorts have given up on any hope of starting the lifts up this season, although many remain open through Easter for everything but lift-assisted downhill skiing. There’s not much fresh snow to report and in fact, temperatures have been well above freezing right up to high altitudes, day and night, in the French Alps this week with full sunshine every day. Les Gets (70/330cm / 28/132”) has been staging some sanction ski competitions in the form of the French National Alpine Skiing Championships.
FRANCE FORECAST| The sunny skies and warm temperatures look set to continue to dominate forecasts for the coming week with above-freezing temps. Perhaps a little cooler and cloudier by the start of next week but no snow (or rain) forecast.
ITALY REPORT| Italy’s ski areas remain closed and most have now said they won’t be re-opening at this point even if the Italian authorities permit them to do so later in the final weeks of the season. One example, Cervinia, say they’ll definitely reopen in April or later in spring for glacier skiing if given the go-ahead. We’re also getting closer to spring glacier skiing season anyway with Passo Stelvio hoping to open from 29th May.
ITALY FORECAST| As with the rest of central Europe we’re looking at continuing sunny weather for most Italian areas through to Easter Sunday, with above freezing temperatures up to about 2,500 metres. There is a chance of some precipitation on Monday. With temperatures dropping this looks likely to be snowfall above around 2,000 metres altitude, rain at lower elevations.
GERMANY REPORT| The hoped-for easing of pandemic rules to allow ski areas like the Zugspitze, in Bavaria, to open for the final weeks of the season have not materialised so it remains just the two centres in Sauerland which are operational; both fighting nature with their white ribbons of machine-made snow on the green hillside. Winterberg (60/60cm / 24/24”) has the most terrain open, some 20km (13 miles) of piste. Willingen (0/50cm / 0/20″) remains the other option. The past few days have seen warm, dry weather in the region and temperatures climbing to double digits above freezing.
GERMANY FORECAST| Even with their stockpiled snow and temperatures heading to 15-20C for the start of April, plus full sunshine, it is hard to see the two centres staying open a whole lot longer; however, they’re obviously hoping to make it through to Easter.
SCANDINAVIA REPORT| After the heavy snowfall in the Alps, the Pyrenees and Balkans over the past few weeks, it was the turn of several Scandinavian ski areas to see some of their heaviest snowfall for the past month. On the whole, they have seen a spring mixture of cold and warm weather, some snowfall but also rain for many and plenty of sunshine as the daytime hours stretch away faster than further south. The rain came as temperatures reached 10 degrees above freezing at some areas over the weekend and, generally, it has been warm by Scandinavian standards. Western Norway was, as is often the case, the biggest beneficiary with Voss Myrkdalen (40/160cm / 16/64”) reporting more than half-a-metre (20”) of snowfall in the latter half of last week, 27cm (almost a foot) of that ahead of a deep powder day last Thursday. Up in the Arctic Circle, Sweden’s Riksgransen (100/200cm / 40/80”) is the first to hit the two-metre base mark and here temperatures have remained predominantly sub-zero (just) with the rain elsewhere falling as snow.
SCANDINAVIA FORECAST| It will be cooler over the run-up to Easter with mostly dry weather and temperatures a few degrees above/below freezing. A mixture of sunshine and cloud. Although further north, ski areas will see some more snow.tgr
SCOTLAND REPORT| The full range of weather for Scottish slopes with cold and snow into the weekend. The very warm and wet weather to start this week badly impacted the remaining snowpack. There’s more snow in the forecast though. Unfortunately, Scottish ski centres are closed by government order until the end of April but the operators of one of the five centres, Glencoe, say they do hope to open for a week or two at the ends of next month and early May if conditions permit.
SCOTLAND FORECAST| There are snow and sub-zero temperatures in the forecast for the Scottish mountains over the Easter weekend. Whether it is enough to repair the losses from the spring thaw so far, and whether that matters much with ski centres closed for another month anyway, is open to debate.
SPAIN / ANDORRA
SPAIN / ANDORRA REPORT| Although much of Europe is facing problems with the third wave of COVID, things are actually the best they’ve been all season just as it nears its end in Spain. After fresh snowfall last week Baqueira Beret (120/140cm / 48/56”) has announced the amount of terrain it has open for Easter week is to double to 90km (56 miles), the most there has been open in the Pyrenees this season. It is a response to a slight easing of restrictions in recent weeks allowing skiers to travel from a little further. Masella has also been stressing its Easter skiing credentials noting its high altitude, north-facing slopes protected by forest. That’s important because it has been warm and sunny in recent days, with temperatures at mountain bases into double-digits above freezing and above freezing too even at the top of the runs.
SPAIN / ANDORRA FORECAST| Staying dry, warm and frequently sunny through towards the Easter weekend. Perhaps a little cooler and a little cloudier than over last weekend but still mostly 5-15 degrees above freezing, so definitely thawing temperatures.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT| Ski areas in southeastern Europe got one of their heaviest snowfalls of the season just over a week ago, which provided a big boost for the final weeks of the season. Borovets (140/250cm / 56/100″) now has their deepest base of the winter. The same goes for Bansko (30/220cm / 12/132”) which still has its home run back to the base village open. The past week since the snowfall ended has been much drier but still cold on the mountains so conditions have been excellent. Avalanche danger agencies have been warning of increased risk after all the snow, however.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST| Staying largely dry over the week ahead with temperatures predominantly in positive figures from the start of April, so what precipitation there is is likely to be rain rather than snow.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT| All Czech and Slovak ski areas remain closed as they have been for several months now after opening at the start of the season. Polish ski areas have also now been closed again by the government there. With high pandemic numbers and the snow cover melting away it seems unlikely that many (any?) will manage to re-open before next season. That said, it was a Czech ski area which was one of the first to re-open in Europe as the country eased its first lockdown in late April last year, so you never know.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST| A warm and dry, mostly sunny week ahead, underlying the ‘end of the season’ feeling in the region. It seems unlikely that temperatures will dip below freezing even on higher slopes at night.
North America’s ski season continues to move towards the end game with the majority of the continent’s ski areas set to close over the coming fortnight. Most are looking back on a more successful season than expected, operating successfully with pandemic safety measures in place. Most have faced higher costs and lower income but some have actually managed to increase business.
The past week has seen quite active weather systems across much of the continent bringing more snowfall in the west and some in the east too, but here many areas have also seen rain as temperatures warm, and strong winds between fronts. Although most Canadian and US ski areas close for the season by mid-April, several dozen stay open later in the month and a number have already confirmed that they plan to stay open to May, or even June; however, in a shock development late on Monday, one of these (and there’s none bigger) Whistler Blackcomb (274/274cm / 110/110”), was ordered to shut down for three weeks from midnight on Tuesday 30th, due to a spike in the Brazil-variant of the coronavirus there.
ROCKIES REPORT| One of the snowier weeks of a not-particularly snowy season in the southern Rockies, with some Colorado ski areas posting up to 30 inches (75cm) of fresh snowfall through the past seven days. Wolf Creek (120/129” / 300/323cm) was one of the bigger beneficiaries with two feet (60cm) of snowfall in 72 hours into the weekend. There was plenty of snow further north too, in Utah and Wyoming, but that’s less unusual this winter. It has been drier and often sunny since the weekend but stayed cold for most areas, rarely getting above freezing still even as we approach April.
ROCKIES FORECAST| It’s looking predominantly dry and sunny for the remainder of this week. Temperatures will climb a little bit but it still looks fairly cool for the time of year.
USA WEST REPORT| Warm and sunny in California after more snowfall last week. Mammoth Mountain (76/117” / 191/292cm) has announced it will be staying open at least through the US Memorial Day holiday on 31st May so we know the season will continue here for at least another two months. It has been wall-to-wall sunshine for much of the past week with temperatures climbing above freezing at resort bases but staying sub-zero higher on the mountain. Plenty more snow still falling further north and Alpental (146/261” / 366/653cm), with the world’s deepest base, has increased that by about 20 inches (50cm) compared to a week ago.
USA WEST FORECAST| Warm and sunny weather will continue into the Easter weekend in California, cloudy with snow flurries initially in the Pacific northwest but then dry later in the week. Much warmer here with temperatures generally above freezing, sometimes getting as high as 10 degrees above.
USA MIDWEST REPORT
MIDWEST REPORT| More and more ski areas in the midwest have now ended their 20-21 ski seasons, but half-a-dozen mostly in Michigan and Minnesota (although also in Wisconsin) are still operating. The still-open list includes Lutsen Mountains (24/48” / 61/122cm), in Minnesota, USA and Nubs Nob Ski Area (26/48” / 66/122cm), in Michigan, which have the region’s deepest snow. The past week has not been too unfavourable with even a little snow at the weekend and temperatures sub-zero a lot of the time. Mostly dry otherwise.
MIDWEST FORECAST| Conditions look fairly benign over the coming week but we are due for some warm weather in the midwest by Easter weekend. So that will no doubt mark the end for most of the rest of the ski slopes which are still open today.
USA EAST REPORT| Most ski areas in New England plan to close after Easter week, some mid-April although a few, including Vermont’s Jay Peak (30/55” / 76/137cm) and Killington (36/41” / 91/102cm), will aim for the start of May. Indeed, Killington often makes it through most of May with its Superstar trail piled high with snow to battle the inevitable thaw. Jay Peak is currently posting the deepest base in the state, however. The past week has been challenging in the east though with temperatures fluctuating through more than 20 degrees on either side of the freezing point and bringing periods of rain, as well as some sleet or even snow higher up, and then some cold, sunny days.
USA EAST FORECAST| There should be a dramatic change, from the past few very warm days, in the latter half of this week. A return to sub-zero and hopefully some snow arriving to start April. Drier but staying cold into the weekend.
CANADA WEST REPORT| Western Canadian ski areas have posted some of the best conditions in the world through most of this season and the past week has been more of the same with temperatures still predominantly below freezing inland, some more fresh snow at the weekend (20-40cm / 8-16” for many) and, when not snowing, plenty of sunshine. Most areas remain fully open and though the majority will be closing either the weekend after Easter or mid-April, some including the Banff and Jasper resorts will stay open into May, all being well. As mentioned in out introduction, Whistler Blackcomb (274/274cm / 110/110”) has been closed for three weeks by provincial health authorities due to rising virus cases so it remains to be seen whether it will open from around 20th April for a final month of the season.
CANADA WEST FORECAST| Staying cold with plenty of sunshine. Alberta will see temperatures start to climb later in the week. But there should be more snowfall over the Easter weekend. Staying cold and frequently snowy for the remainder of this week towards the west, some sunny spells and warming up towards freezing level at the weekend. Heavier snowfall (but still only moderate accumulations at most) in the west of the region, lighter snowfall and colder in eastern BC and Alberta.
CANADA EAST REPORT| A bit of a weather rollercoaster in Quebec this past week. The main factor was, unfortunately, heavy rain and warm temperatures which hit at the end of last week and forced many areas in the region to close for several days, a few even decided this was a sign to end their 20-21 season. Tremblant (76/127cm / 30/49”), however, posted thoughtful pieces online about how it feels to ski in rain and was one of just a few to stay open through the rain. After the rain, strong winds hit the region closing areas again on Monday; however, the rest of the week saw a return to colder weather with some seeing the rain turn to snow on Sunday/Monday before rapid warming over the past few days.
CANADA EAST FORECAST| The spring weather roller coaster isn’t over with more warm days of rain in the forecast for the coming week. But there are also cold snowy days and cold sunny days in the mix so it isn’t definitely the end of winter. Temperatures yo-yoing between 10 degrees below and 10 degrees above freezing.
JAPAN REPORT|Japan’s ski season winds down fast each year at the end of March, although a sizable number of the country’s leading ski areas aim to stay open into May, conditions permitting. Examples of resorts in the Myoko region already closed in the last week, are Cupid Valley, Ikenotaira, Suginohara and Tangram. Madarao and Akakura Onsen close the lifts on 4th April; however, ski areas aiming to stay open through May are largely in a strong position in terms of snow depth. Arai (439/439cm / 176/176″), Akakan (185/220cm / 74/88”) and Seki Onsen (470/470cm / 188/188”) all have plenty of snow lying. Niseko (185/470cm / 74/188”) has just scraped through the 12 metres (40 feet) season-to-date snowfall total after getting a few more centimetres (an inch) of snow in total over the past 7 days.
JAPAN FORECAST| The spring thaw looks to have set in properly now, as it should have. But, so far, temperatures are still not much above freezing at many of the main ski areas. Therefore, although the snowpacks are diminishing, they’re not disappearing too fast.