Issued: 07 April 2021
By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne
With Easter weekend behind us, there’s a rapid shutdown of ski areas in the Alps; areas in countries like Austria, where the slopes were open to locals and bigger resorts in France that had stayed open hoping for the news that never came (that the ski lifts could open).
They are closing as temperatures actually drop in the Alps and many areas have seen fresh snowfall over the past few days. They are not all closing though, many areas with higher slopes are staying open, some planning to do so into May or (for glacier areas) later in the season still. Many leading Swiss areas plan to stay open a week or two longer as well.
One of the fastest season-ends, a few weeks earlier than usual, has come in the Pyrenees where Andorra’s season is over and most areas on the Spanish side have closed too (they never opened on the French side). This is a result of warm temperatures leading to fast thawing and very little business due to pandemic restrictions.
By contrast, things are looking more wintery in northern Europe with ski areas in Scotland seeing the lowest temperatures and most snowfall since the first half of February, potentially good news if they open some terrain when allowed to under the current lockdown-easing schedule on 26th April, as some say they might. Scandinavian ski areas have seen low temperatures and more snowfall too, leading to bases growing; about the only part of Europe where they’re not shrinking.
There has been more snow down in the Balkans too, but ski areas across Europe have been impacted at times by strong winds closing more exposed lifts.
AUSTRIA REPORT| Most of Austria’s ski areas decided to end their season after Easter weekend. Although pandemic restrictions are relaxing gradually in some areas, the changing of the seasons has impacted snow cover on lower slopes and business numbers do not justify staying open for most. That said quite a few of the larger resorts will stay open until a weekend or two later this month and several of the glaciers will be open into May or later. Among these, the year-round Hintertux (30cm/12” / 410cm /168”) has a great base going into the latter half of spring and indeed for its summer operations. It has actually been colder in the first week of April than it was for much of March with temperatures hardly climbing above freezing. Ski centres typically saw fog at lower elevations and sunshine on higher runs. There were also a few centimetres/inches of midweek snow for many areas over the past 48 hours.
AUSTRIA FORECAST| The snow clouds will clear from most areas by Thursday to be replaced by cloudy skies, but with the sunshine more and more apparent. Initially below freezing even down in the valleys, temperatures will climb into positive numbers down at resort level where it should get increasingly warm, whilst remaining nice and cold on the upper mountain.
SWITZERLAND REPORT| Switzerland has had the closest to a normal season of all ski nations in western Europe, albeit far from normal and it is looking like it will be the country where the most ski areas remain open through April. The latest to confirm it is doing so is Laax (50/370cm / 20/148”), which will end daily operations on Sunday, but then re-open for the next three weekends through to May 2nd. Slopes that remain open will be at Crap Sogn Gion, Alp Dado, Curnius and Plaun with midweek updates on conditions to be posted on Wednesday evenings each week. As to the current weather, some areas saw some fresh snowfall at the end of last week, and it has just begun snowing again in the past 24 hours, but mostly it has been sunny. This has reduced bases a little with Europe’s deepest at Engelberg (50/5780cm / 20/228”) down 20cm (8”); it’s staying open to mid-May. Andermatt (38/520cm / 15/208″), the only other area with more than a five-metre (200”) base, has been closing some runs due to heightened avalanche danger.
SWITZERLAND FORECAST| The current snowfall and low temperatures should continue through the middle of the week with skies clearing and temperatures rising towards the weekend. Valleys will be well into above-freezing territory by Saturday.
FRANCE REPORT| French resorts have begun calling an end to the season that never was. Big-name ski areas like Les Arcs decided Easter weekend was their last weekend of a season in which they battled to do business as ski lifts stayed closed, with cross-country skiing and ski touring seeing a spike in popularity as a result. It will be interesting to see how much that popularity continues next winter if the lifts are allowed to open again by then. After a warm weekend temperatures in the French Alps have been dropping to double-digits below and sunny skies. The spring snow clouds moved in on Tuesday too bringing light to moderate snowfall for many areas over the past few days.
FRANCE FORECAST| The skies will clear for long sunny periods in the final few days of this week. Looking cloudier but dry into the weekend with temperatures climbing back up to freezing point and into positive numbers in the valleys and on lower slopes by Saturday.
ITALY REPORT| Whilst French ski areas seem resigned to not opening this season now (and indeed plenty have already closed now the Easter holidays are behind us), in Italy, despite the latest lockdown, a few areas including Cervinia are still saying they’ll re-open in April if permitted to do so. Unfortunately, there’s no real sign of that opportunity being a likelihood in the near future. Conditions would be good for spring skiing as it’s been colder over the past week, rarely climbing above freezing with a mixture of sunshine and cloud and even a little midweek snowfall in the west depositing a few centimetres of April snow on higher slopes. Dry in the Dolomites.
ITALY FORECAST| Staying cold and generally cloudy into the weekend in the northwest of the country, but with no snow in the forecast. Drier and sunnier but still cold in the Dolomites further east.
GERMANY REPORT| The ski season that never really got started in Germany appears to be pretty much over. Of the two ski areas that had re-opened last month, Willingen, which had just a kilometre of slope open with thin cover on a green hillside, has closed. Winterberg (0/60cm / 0/24”), has extended for another week, to this weekend though. Social media posts from the Zugspitze, the country’s highest slopes, which had hoped they might reopen by late April or even early May, look increasingly frustrated and pessimistic. It has actually been cold and snowy this week to quite low elevations in Germany, but that doesn’t look like it will make much difference.
GERMANY FORECAST| After the cold snap, it’s looking warmer over the coming week, more springlike, with plus temps and sunny skies at the weekend.
SCANDINAVIA REPORT| Ski areas in Scandinavia have posted the biggest snowfalls in Europe once more over the past seven days, with the biggest up in the far north with Riksgransen (180/220 / 72/88″), up in the Swedish Arctic Circle and due to stay open to late-May, posting around 60cm (two feet) of snowfall over the last seven days with more snowfall reported most days in the past seven. Many other resorts in the region have had snow too, if not so much, and with warmer temperatures and long daylight hours, many will be staying open through the month and into May as much of the rest of Europe shuts the strange 20-21 season down and hopes for better things next winter. The largest ski area, Are (60/100 / 24/40”), also reports fresh snow in recent days, around 5cm (2”) a day but temperatures here are warmer, closer to freezing and occasionally climbing a few degrees above.
SCANDINAVIA FORECAST| Up in the north the snowfall is forecast to ease off but temperatures staying well below freezing and clouds remaining ‘heavy’ through to the weekend. Similar further south but with temperatures naturally a little warmer, which means a degree or two on either side of freezing.
SCOTLAND REPORT| Very wintery weather and lots of snow on Scottish mountains since Sunday afternoon. This is the coldest period since mid-February. Under the current lockdown easing plans, Scottish ski areas should be allowed to re-open in three weeks and so far two, Cairngorm and Glencoe, say they might do from the 26th. Nevis Range also says they’re re-opening but, so far, are promoting summer sports.
SCOTLAND FORECAST| The snowiest weather appeared to have past but it is due to stay fairly cold with more snow flurries. So, hopefully, the gains in snow cover over the past few days should be maintained.
SPAIN / ANDORRA
SPAIN / ANDORRA REPORT| Continuing warm, sunny weather has been dominant over the last week in the Pyrenees. After most of the open ski areas doubled or tripled their available ski area over Easter week. They’ve now cut back to ‘late-season, low-visitor-numbers’ open terrain. Sierra Nevada (30/100cm / 12/40”), which often has the deepest snow and longest season in the region, staying open to early May, has slashed theirs to 28km this week. Bases are starting to thin now at some resorts in the region. The season has ended in Andorra with Grandvalira (10/70cm / 4/28″) having thin cover for the Easter weekend on its remaining lower runs. Whilst in Vallnord (30/60cm / 12/24”), the Arinsal sector closed early due to poor cover leaving only the Pal sector still operating for the Easter weekend.
SPAIN / ANDORRA FORECAST| It should be colder and remaining mostly dry over the coming week.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT| Bulgarian and Romanian ski areas remain open but we’re into the last week of the season for most of them. It’s actually one of the best late-seasons in years, after heavy snowfall in late March and more snow (mixed with rain and sleet) this week as temperatures stay mostly low. Bansko (15/215cm / 6/86”) reported 30-40cm (12/16”) of fresh snow on Monday to start this week. So bases are looking very healthy, and Borovets (110/250cm / 44/100”) has the deepest.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST| It looks like springtime will get back in charge for the final weekend of the season after this midweek snow/sleet, with the sunshine returning and temperatures climbing above freezing. In fact, temps could be up to double figures in the valley and plus at the top of the slopes too.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT| Ski areas remain closed due to the pandemic in both the Czech and Slovak republics due to pandemic restrictions. The season would be pretty much over for most ski areas in the region anyway. Against that, it has actually been one of the coldest weeks in the Tatras for a month or so and snow has been falling through this week. So it could have been a good Easter week here if it had not been for the virus.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST| Getting progressively warmer, although staying cooler than it was in the latter half of March.
The ski season is winding down across North America now with many ski areas closing after the Easter weekend or planning to close this coming weekend. Although dozens more will be staying open through the latter half of April and some into May and beyond.
Some of the snowiest weather was reported on the eastern side of the continent into the weekend with ski areas in Quebec and New England reporting 6-12” (15-230cm) of fresh snow ahead of a sunny Easter weekend. The big shock of the past week came just after we went to press last week with the news that health authorities in British Columbia had ordered the closure of the continent’s largest ski area, Whistler Blackcomb, for three weeks, due to a spike in cases with the Brazil variant of the virus there. On Wednesday last week, owners Vail Resorts announced the ski area would now be staying closed and thus shutting early for the second season in a row due to the virus, even though it could potentially have re-opened for the final month of the season in late April, if permitted to then. Revelstoke has also closed, saying it is due to being unable to adequately staff for the new stricter regulations and Big White has closed early too. Most other BC ski areas stayed open but rules have been tightened and some closed last weekend anyway, or will be doing so this coming weekend.
ROCKIES REPORT| As with many regions of the Northern Hemisphere, ski areas in the Rockies have begun closing down and the majority of resorts will have closed by the end of this coming Sunday. But not all. Temperatures have been yo-yoing 10 degrees above then 10 degrees below freezing, with just a little snow/rain on Tuesday. With the end of the season nigh, there has also been some stock-taking done on snow cover stats. Figures for Aspen (54/77″ / 135/191cm) show 20-21 is just a little below average there, but for Loveland (57/57” / 142/142cm) it’s a huge 200 inches (5 metres) below the average 422 inches of snow per season. That is despite good March snowfall in the Rockies, which saw ski areas post 5-6 feet of fresh snow putting them back somewhere on track.
ROCKIES FORECAST| It looks like it will be mostly dry, getting ever warmer, with a mixture of sunny and cloudy weather. Among areas staying open through the latter half of April and into May (some only opening at weekends) are Arapahoe Basin (54/54” / 135/135cm), Breckenridge (20/67” / 50/167cm), Winter Park (74/74” / 185/185cm) and Snowbird (92/92” / 229/229cm).
USA WEST REPORT| Although it is the end of the season for ski areas along the US west coast, there seem to be more here staying open longer than further east, if perhaps only for a week or two longer. Up in the north around Washington State, it is still snowing and Alpental (139/257″ / 348/643cm) recovers its status of being the only ski area in the world with a 20 feet/six-metre upper slope base depth now Switzerland’s Engelberg has dropped back down below that mark. Further south, it’s been dry, mostly sunny and with temperatures hovering a few degrees on either side of the freezing point.
USA WEST FORECAST| Little change in the forecast for California, staying dry and if anything, getting a little warmer. In the north, there’s still more snow in the forecast for the rest of this week with mostly sub-zero temperatures. Sunny on Sunday.
USA MIDWEST REPORT
MIDWEST REPORT| It feels like the end of the season in the midwest with most of the half-dozen or so areas, which were still operating, closing at the end of Easter Sunday. Most of the rest had already called it a day on 20-21 in March. That’s not for want of trying by ‘mother nature’. Some parts of the region reported their coldest start to April in years and there was even some snow, but the battle with springtime and peoples’ preferences for biking and golf by this point of the year is inevitably being lost even if the snow is still lying several feet deep on some closed runs.
MIDWEST FORECAST| Conditions getting progressively warmer and sunnier through the week ahead. Most areas seeing temperatures at least 10 degrees above freezing, some 20 degrees above.
USA EAST REPORT| Excitement in the eastern US with a return of winter in the first few days of April. In particular, resorts in the north of the region posted images of April powder snow and reported up to a foot (30cm) of snow arriving just in time for the Easter weekend. Sunday River, in Maine, was among the areas reporting snow-making was back on (unusual for April) thanks to the low temperatures too. As with much of the Northern Hemisphere, for the majority of ski areas in the region, the season has already ended with the Easter weekend or will this coming weekend; however, some, including the region’s largest, Killington (16/35″ / 40/86cm) in Vermont, will aim to carry on into May. The sunshine returned and temperatures began to rise at the start of the week.
USA EAST FORECAST| It has been warming up in the northeast after the cold and snowy end to last week and it is forecast to keep getting warmer. Sunny until Thursday/Friday when forecast precipitation more likely to be rain than snow for most as temps reach double digits above freezing.
CANADA WEST REPORT| As mentioned in our introduction, an unfortunate upturn in virus cases in BC, particularly with the newer Brazilian variant, means most of the province’s ski areas have closed early already, or will be closing this coming weekend. So the focus has switched to Alberta, where Banff’s ski areas will remain open through the remainder of this month; as will Jasper’s Marmot Basin (155/155cm / 62/62”). Conditions remain good with more fresh snowfall this past week, Lake Louise (153/190cm / 61/76″) posting 30cm (a foot more) into last weekend with similar falls at other areas. After a sunny start to this week, the snowfall is now returning.
CANADA WEST FORECAST| It looks like the snowfall should continue through to Thursday/Friday with three-day accumulations of up to 30cm (a foot). Sunshine returning to end the week and through the weekend, temperatures remaining just below freezing though.
CANADA EAST REPORT| As with New England further south, eastern Canada saw cold weather and some decent snowfall (10-30cm) in the final days of last week, a great step up after the previous rain. But it has been very warm again since the weekend, so very springlike conditions. Tremblant (76/127cm / 30/51”) is down to about half of its terrain still open.
CANADA EAST FORECAST| It is looking very warm for the week ahead, with full sun forecast through the weekend so the remaining snow cover will be melting fast at the few still open resorts.
JAPAN REPORT| Most of Japan’s ski areas are now closed but a good selection of the big players remain open through April intending to make it through to the country’s ‘Golden Week’ at the start of May. It’s typical spring weather across the country’s ski areas, generally staying a little above freezing with a gradual thaw in place. That’s not a big problem at ski areas like Niseko (135/425cm / 54/170”) with its huge base. So no snowfall to report in the past week, if anything a bit of rain. Breezy conditions closed higher lifts for a while at the weekend.
JAPAN FORECAST| There are lower temps than there has been recently for the latter half of this week and the chance of a bit of light snowfall on higher slopes in Hokkaido. But otherwise, more spring weather and the gradual thaw continues.