Issued: 21 April 2021
By Patrick “Snowhunter” Thorne
Winter weather has continued to hang on to parts of Europe bringing more fresh snow to the Alps, Scandinavia, Scotland and the Balkans at times over the past week. But the grasp has got less secure as we move into the latter half of April, with some warm periods too.
More ski areas have closed, but in this odd season ski resorts in Scotland and Slovakia have been given permission to re-open over the coming week. Jasna, in Slovakia, says it will re-open slopes on the northern side of Mt Chopok for the coming weekend. In Scotland, most areas have ruled out offering any snow sports when they’re permitted to re-open next Monday. But several have not yet confirmed they won’t. Slovenia also deserves a mention with ski centres here too allowed to reopen and three have now dome so, two saying they plan to keep operating into May.
After closures in the Pyrenees the weekend before last, all ski lifts have now ceased operating in the entire Iberian peninsular with Sierra Nevada, the last resort still open, finishing its season on Sunday, with fresh snow and 30km of runs open for the final weekend.
Against all these closures some ski areas, which wouldn’t normally stay open later in the season, have announced they are doing so this year. Austria’s Pitztal glacier, usually open from September to April says it will be open to early June and Crans Montana, in Switzerland, has also announced it will be offering daily glacier skiing through to early June.
Elsewhere in the wider ski world, Afriski, in Lesotho, in Southern Africa and ski areas in New Zealand were the latest Southern Hemisphere regions to post another spell of pre-season snowfall. The start of winter here is now around six weeks away.
AUSTRIA REPORT| Unseasonably cold in Austria this past week and some small fresh snowfalls. Most ski area here have closed their lifts, or at least those directly serving groomed runs, but ski touring is more popular than ever. Of the half dozen or so ski areas, which are still operating lifts and grooming runs, the main news is that the Pitztal glacier (317/412cm / 127/165”), with Austria’s highest lifts, has re-opened and plans to stay open to June (it normally closes in early May after an 8 month ski season. It’s also posting the country’s deepest base. In addition, Obertauern (150/170cm / 60/68”), which had initially decided to open three weeks earlier than usual, in mid-April, due to limited demand in the pandemic, has now extended its opening by a second weekend to the final Sunday of this month, only a few days before it would normally close anyway; crediting the good conditions.
AUSTRIA FORECAST| Continuing to be much colder than usual, but predominantly dry and often sunny. Temperatures are set to climb through the latter half of this week, up in positive numbers in the valley but still staying below freezing on higher slopes into next week.
SWITZERLAND REPORT| Although a swathe of more Swiss ski areas ended their seasons at the weekend, this was largely in line with normal end-of-season spring closures and the country continues to have far more ski areas open than any other in Europe, outside of Scandinavia. It has been great skiing this past week with cold temperatures maintaining the snow in great shape and some areas even reporting a few centimetres of fresh snowfall between predominantly snowy, clear conditions. Engelberg (35/605cm / 14/242”) continues to boast Europe’s deepest base and still have nearly a month of the season left through to mid-May. Conditions also look great at Zermatt (5/180cm / 2/72”), which ended its ‘winter’ season at the weekend but continues its year-round glacier skiing. It says it still has 65km (nearly 40 miles) of slopes groomed and open.
SWITZERLAND FORECAST| It should be clear and sunny through the remainder of this week, but the cold spell that has dominated through April does look like it will finally start to lose out to increasingly warm temperatures with above-freezing weather even on higher slopes by the weekend.
FRANCE REPORT| French ski resorts posted a good covering of fresh snowfall at the weekend and wintery conditions like the rest of the Alps. Most of the country’s ski resorts are now closed, just as their lifts have been all season. But, of course, ski touring continues where permitted. The country’s vaccination rate is also now accelerating raising hopes that summer skiing, due to kick off in June on the glaciers at Les 2 Alpes, Tignes and Val d’Isere, will go ahead as it did in 2021. Val d’Isère ski area is one of several that does in fact remain open for ski touring until May 2nd, with dedicated pistes available as well as some magnificent and easily accessible off-piste opportunities.
FRANCE FORECAST| It will remain cold, dry and with mostly clear sunny skies during the day. Temperatures will be rising in the valleys through the rest of this week and starting to get back up towards seasonal norms next week.
ITALY REPORT| As in France, Italy’s ski areas remain closed down by the pandemic, now approaching six months since the closure order was originally given. But the two resorts that were already open back in the autumn there when the closure announcement was given, look set to be the first to re-open, all being well: Passo Stelvio in six weeks at the end of May, and Cervinia a few weeks later in early June. Italian weather conditions have, in the meantime, been similar to elsewhere in the Alps, predominantly sunny and much colder than the seasonal norm, double-digits below freezing on the (closed) slopes.
ITALY FORECAST| Staying dry, cold and mostly clear and sunny. Temperatures climbing back into positive numbers in the valleys through the remainder of this week and starting to feel warm by the weekend down at resort level, still below freezing up high.
GERMANY REPORT| Germany’s very strange 20-21 season continues, that very fact adding to the strangeness. When ski areas in the country’s North Rhine-Westphalia were allowed to reopen, more than a month ago now, as that region alone in Germany eased restrictions, they were already offering ribbons of white piste on a green hillside and the season had reached its natural end at most centres. At that point, it was expected only a few weeks of snow sports might be possible, But instead, April has been cold, even bringing some fresh natural snow and the end-of-season date keeps getting put back, now to at least the final weekend of the month. Winterberg (0/50cm / 0/20”) is reported to have most of the 13 lifts in the region still running but Willingen (0/40cm / 0/16”) is also still open.
GERMANY FORECAST| After the dry, cold weather midweek is seeing something a little more normal for the time of year with plus temps and rain. The rest of the week though will see more sunshine and freeze-thaw conditions with thawing daytime temperatures, But perhaps not warm enough for any dramatic slope cover reduction.
SCANDINAVIA REPORT| Quite wintery weather continuing in Scandinavia with the Arctic Circle seeing the most snowfall in Europe over the past seven days. Norway’s Narvik posted 21cm (9″) into the weekend with smaller but significant snowfalls just over the border at Riksgransen (0/270cm / 0/108”) and Bjorkliden (110/116cm / 44/46”) too. Some of the region’s big resorts like Geilo did end their seasons last Sunday but dozens more areas are staying open to the start of May, including the largest, Sweden’s Are (70/120cm / 28/48″) where about two-thirds of the slopes remain open. The season also continues into May up in Finland, of course.
SCANDINAVIA FORECAST| Probably a little above freezing for most Scandinavian ski areas with the weather largely cloudy with occasional rain. Staying below freezing at northerly centres, where that rain will hopefully be snow; not much in the forecast though.
SCOTLAND REPORT| Scotland’s ski season is starting again, kind of, some four months after it was curtailed by pandemic restrictions at the start of January. Of course, people have been out ski touring but until last Friday this was supposed to only be people resident in their local area. As of last Friday, the Scottish government announced skiers from across Scotland could go out ski touring, 120 days earlier than previously announced, so long as they returned home the same evening. Next Monday 26th marks another change with overnight accommodation possible again and ski lifts allowed to run again. Most of the centres have now ruled out offering any skiing. Only Glencoe say they are yet to make a final decision. The weather? Well, it has been predominantly dry, mostly sunny with the snowline moving ever higher. The low temperatures of the first half of April did continue into the weekend but it has warmed up towards seasonal norms over the past few days.
SCOTLAND FORECAST| The usual mixed bag of weather but after a warmer start to the week we’ll see a return to sub-zero lows on the Scottish mountains through the middle of this week and the chance that precipitation will fall as snow on higher slopes.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT
BULGARIA / ROMANIA REPORT| The ski season in Bulgaria ended on Sunday with Borovets and Vitosha the last to close, despite cold, snowy weather in the Balkans; however, ski areas in Slovenia have been allowed to re-open under new ‘red level’ restrictions following the latest lockdown there. A number, including Krvavec (0./100cm / 0/40”) and Kanin (20/439cm / 8/176”) say they intend to stay open to early May. Last year, Kanin was one of the first resorts to re-open after the first lockdown and was open for several weeks in the latter half of May 2020. Currently, the weather is favourable for skiers, cold with a mixture of sunshine and snow showers.
BULGARIA / ROMANIA FORECAST| It will start to warm up a little over the coming week but it remains unusually cold compared to seasonal averages and more snow showers are possible on higher slopes in the latter half of this week.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA REPORT| The big news for Slovakia was that after more than three months of pandemic closure, resorts in Slovakia are allowed to reopen from next Thursday. The biggest, Jasna, has already said it will be re-opening. The snow cover is good, they report, on the north side of the famous Chopok mountain. Lifts B3, B4, B6 and five slopes (13, 7, 1b, 1a and 2a) will be open, initially for four days until next Sunday 25th April but this may be extended. Those who can get to the ski slopes will only be allowed to get on a lift if they can provide evidence of a negative test, not older than 72 hours. Lift passes must be purchased in advance online.
CZECH REPUBLIC / SLOVAKIA FORECAST| Slovakia’s reopening day could be wet or snowy, with precipitation forecast as temperatures remain subzero up high, but getting warmer in the valleys. These mid-springlike conditions, with freeze-thaw temperatures and rain or snow, will continue into the weekend.
The “snowier April than March” picture has continued across much of North America with some significant snowfall in the Rockies going into the weekend (up to two feet or 60cm reported in Utah, about half that in Colorado) and a good dump too in the northeast with snowfall down to quite southerly latitudes there.
As with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, the majority of ski areas have closed already of course, with all ski areas now closed in the Midwest and all but one in eastern Canada (and the one survivor only opening very limited terrains at weekend). But against that some areas are announcing season-extensions into May thanks to good snow conditions and ongoing demand.
ROCKIES REPORT| It has been a snowy week in the Colorado Rockies where the number of ski areas still open has halved in the past few days from eight to four. Of the four still open though, two have at least a fortnight more of the season left, two having at least six weeks. Closing day for Loveland (63/63” / 157/157cm) and Winter Park (74/74” / 185/185cm) is currently May 9th, whilst Breckenridge (62/62” / 155/155cm) will be open through to May 31st and Arapahoe Basin (54/54” / 135/135cm) probably into June. Ski areas reported up to 15 inches (37cm) of snowfall to end last week giving a very snowy weekend, which was the final one for resorts including Copper Mountain and Snowmass. Even bigger falls were reported further north in Utah though with Solitude posting a two-foot (60cm) accumulation. Snowbird (100/100” / 251/251cm), posted 18 inches (45cm). Since the weekend there have been generally clear skies, but it has stayed cold.
ROCKIES FORECAST| A little midweek snowfall for some but warming up at bases, although staying below freezing on higher slopes. The temperature will continue to climb through the remainder of this week with the next precipitation expected at the weekend, probably falling as rain on lower elevations with snow higher up.
USA WEST REPORT| Temperatures have been up towards +90F in some parts of California in recent days so the natural end of the season is definitely here. But some centres with more snowsure locations continue to operate some runs, and further north it is not so warm. Eaglecrest, in Alaska, announced a week’s extension to the season there. Mammoth (97/165cm) and Squaw Valley (46/98” / 114/246cm) plan to stay open through May. Ski areas in Washington State, which have been posting the deepest bases in the world all winter, are also now seeing temperatures double-digits above freezing and sunny days leading to a fast thaw and most of these closed at the weekend if they hadn’t before. Crystal Mountain (86/133″ / 218/333cm) is one of the few still open and indeed staying open into May.
USA WEST FORECAST| Mostly dry, sunny weather over the coming week, with temperatures dropping back below freezing on higher slopes overnight, but warm in the daytime. Cooler at the weekend with precipitation currently forecast for Sunday likely to fall as snow up high, rain on lower slopes.
USA EAST REPORT| Most ski areas in the northeastern US have now closed, several more doing so last weekend. But the weather has been far from springlike. A major storm at the end of last week brought up to 16 inches (40cm) of snow to the slopes for some great mid-April conditions and for some a fantastic end to the winter. Killington (30/30” / 76/76cm) is one of the few still open and is expected to try to keep some terrain open throughout May, as it does most years. Conditions are mixed though with the fresh snow providing a great refresh to what had become tired trail surfaces. But as we’re now in the latter half of April skiers can expect to encounter bare spots and variable snow conditions, so are being advised to exercise caution and obey all posted trail closures.
USA EAST FORECAST| After the snowy end to last week things have warmed up considerably and there’s been rain for some with temperatures more than 10 degrees above freezing. But a temperature dip is expected on Thursday, which could see several inches of late April snowfall ahead of the coming weekend. Temperatures will then shoot up again, however, but it should be sunny, initially at least, on Saturday.
CANADA REPORT| The vast majority of Canada’s ski areas have now closed for the season and those still open in Alberta have resumed their campaign to ensure everyone sticks to stricter covid-operating rules due to a surge in cases in the west of the country, including what has now been identified as the world’s biggest spike in the ‘Brazil variant’ of the virus outside Brazil. Whistler closed with more than 200 cases identified there. But not all areas have closed or closed early. Mt Norquay (80/130cm / 32/52”) has announced it is opening for two bonus long-weekends up to May 2nd due to the great conditions, joining its Banff neighbours Sunshine (70/219cm / 28/88”) and Lake Louise (157/200 / 63/80”), staying open into May. Both have over 100km of trails (most of their terrain) reported open making these some of the largest areas open in the world right now. It’s been getting warm and sunny down at bases but staying close to freezing, all be it with freeze-thaw conditions on the upper mountain. Almost all ski areas in eastern Canada are now closed. Only the Summit at Sauveur (30/60cm / 12/24”) has some terrain open, but it has been closing midweek to preserve what snow it has left for weekend use. It is deciding week by week whether to re-open the following weekend.
CANADA FORECAST| Staying sunny for the rest of this week, temperatures yo-yoing either size of freezing night and day. More changeable weather to end the week with the chance of fresh snowfall into the weekend.
JAPAN REPORT| A rather unexciting week in Japan after the snowfall in the first week of the month. The weather has been more predominantly warm and those ski areas that are still open are relying on their diminishing snowpacks rather than any fresh snowfall to see them through to May, as is the Japanese mid-spring skiing norm. Niseko (80/390cm / 32/156”) has seen its snow depth continue to drop, some fog, some rain and some wind so little to get excited about. Hakuba posted a little fresh snow on its highest slopes on Sunday morning, rain in the valley.
JAPAN FORECAST| There’s no real change in the forecast with more mild, changeable springtime weather and just the outside chance of some fresh snow up high overnight.