Alps Weather (I hope no one is getting caught up in this mess)

jnelly

Member
I saw this come across my s.m postings this morning. I feel bad for anyone having to navigate this event.,,def sounds like a huge setback for a wide portion of this region.
Hope all is well and prepared for a good holiday! Cheers

 
As Tony mentioned in a different thread, the Alps at Xmas/New Year are not a good idea for long-distance destination skiers. You may get excellent conditions (was it last year when Morzine was buried at this time?); however, the odds are not good.
 
How bad is it in the northwestern Alps right now? Here are dozens of pix from the Portes du Soleil over the past week. It looks like closing weekend in May.
o_O

Luckily, @Weathertoski mentions this in his blog today:
It turns much more unsettled from the west on Sunday. This much anticipated change in the weather is likely to bring significant snow to the northwestern Alps (exactly where it is most needed) late on Sunday and on Monday.
 
the Alps at Xmas/New Year are not a good idea for long-distance destination skiers.
From Fraser's 8 past summaries, 3 of them were very bad at the holidays. 5 out of 9 are not the odds I would want given pricing and crowds during that time.
 
5 out of 9 are not the odds I would want given pricing and crowds during that time.
I think that 5 out 9 is being charitable based on what I recall Fraser posting in recent years. If I'm not mistaken, the best Alps holiday period in recent memory was last year when even low-elevation danger zones had deep snow. That before/after pic of Praz de Lys in the CNN piece was sad. I'm hoping to stop there to kick off my March trip after landing in Geneva.
 
I think that 5 out 9 is being charitable based on what I recall Fraser posting in recent years.
A review shows 2012-13, 2017-18 and 2019-20 being good over the holidays in most of the Alps. Fraser didn't report much during 2010-21 because France and Italy were closed and Switzerland and Austria limited to locals. But I recall that would have been a strong holiday season also.

2013-14 was a season that favored the south over the north (that's the one where we booked mid-February in Zermatt during the first week of January). Most of December was dry but a big dump hit Italy right at Christmas. So while most of Italy was excellent, I'll concede that one to James because the more numerous areas on the northern side of the Alps were not so good.

At any rate I think we can say Alps conditions at Christmas are a coin toss. Average western North American resorts (in the 250 inch/season range) are mediocre or worse at Christmas about a third of the time.

Most of us know about the North American short list of favored early season spots, topped by Targhee's as yet unblemished record. The Alps also have some favorable snowy microclimates like Val d'Isere, Andermatt and Warth, though AFAIK nothing in Targhee's or Alta's class. However, Fraser's audience of primarily piste skiers have some good choices due to the massive water supply for making snow that we do not have in the American West. The Dolomites are the conspicuous example (as witnessed by sbooker and family a few years back), with not only the huge snowmaking capacity but a winter climate where rain is rare.
 
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I believe that when a ridge engulfs the eastern US it's likely to also do the same over Europe.
 
Lots of fun stories about the Holidays in the Alps....


 
Fraser's snow report for the Alps:

10am Friday 6 January 2023​

The snow situation in the Alps has received a lot of adverse media attention this week, much of it justified, some of it not.

Looking at the facts first: snow depths are below average for early January right across the Alps, considerably so for most. But you don’t necessarily need a huge amount of snow for there to be some perfectly acceptable piste-skiing. The really serious problem area is in the northwestern Alps below about 1600m, where natural snow cover is either very patchy or non-existent.

This region includes the northern French Alps roughly north of Grenoble, and the northern and western Swiss Alps. Resorts in these areas where the majority of skiing is below 2000m – such as Megève, La Clusaz, the Grand Massif, the Portes du Soleil, Villars, Leysin, Gstaad, Grindelwald and Wengen – can still offer some skiing albeit on a limited basis. In Morzine’s case, they are currently only offering two very short runs.

Higher resorts in the northwestern Alps (such as Val d’Isère, Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens and Verbier) are in better shape, with plenty of open pistes. However, snow cover is still patchy lower down and there is no off-piste to speak of. Another issue is that holidaymakers from the nearby snow-starved lower areas are flocking to these higher resorts adding to the pressure, though some resorts have now limited or stopped anyone not staying in resort from buying day passes.

The main reason for the current snow shortage in the lower resorts of the north-western Alps is the unusually high rainfall in recent weeks, sometimes falling as high as 2500m due to the unseasonably warm temperatures. This rain has washed away a lot of the lower-lying snow.

Less rain fell further south and east, with some southern and notably south-eastern parts of the Alps having missed it completely. As is usually the case, resorts such as Isola 2000 and Auron in the extreme southern French Alps, Nassfeld in the far south of the Austrian Alps, and Livigno and Alta Badia in the central/eastern Italian Alps, have all missed the rain and been able to offer consistently decent snow quality, on-piste at least.

Elsewhere, the north-western Italian Alps (e.g. La Thuile), the central and eastern Swiss Alps (e.g. Andermatt, Davos) and the Austrian Alps (e.g. Saalbach, Kitzbühel) have all seen a bit of rain but not as much as the northern French and western Swiss Alps, so have more open at low altitudes.

* * *

After another dry and mostly fine day tomorrow, the much-anticipated storm will hit the Alps on Sunday and/or Monday bringing snow to all regions in varying quantities. Between 20-40cm is expected above 1800m by the end of Monday across a wide swathe of the Alps, with 50cm+ in places, the heaviest snow generally likely to fall at altitude in the northern French Alps. The northeastern Alps (e.g. Salzburgland, Styria) will probably see the least snow from this storm.

The snow from this storm probably won’t be enough to get the lower areas of the north-western Alps that have lost most or all of their snow (e.g. Samoëns, Les Gets) back on track, but it’s a start.

After a milder drier interlude mid-week, the jury is still out as to what will happen with the weather in the Alps later next week, with some models pointing towards another major storm and others less convinced. Watch this space…
 
A depressing snow report and forecast.

WePowder is more optimistic and increased snowfall predictions. Yet they do say models diverge for storm 2, and cannot issue a Powder Alert.


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Higher resorts in the northwestern Alps (such as Val d’Isère, Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Courchevel, Méribel, Val Thorens and Verbier) are in better shape, with plenty of open pistes. However, snow cover is still patchy lower down and there is no off-piste to speak of.

This kind of takes away any of the benefits of skiing in Europe. One or two groomed pistes off a high-speed 6 or 8 pack chairlift is not a pleasant experience.

At least in the US, you can have 2 or 3 groomers off a high-capacity lift....plus all ungroomed, bumps, glades or bowls. This spreads skiers out.

Europe generally has too much capacity when confined to only groomed pistes. They are trashed by 11am. Hence the Euro desire to use carving skis to deal with quickly deteriorating surface conditions.

If these storms do not materialize, I am going to head US West Coast: Jackson/Targhee/Sun Valley or Whistler or Utah.

No amount of European good food, atmosphere, etc can make up for a universal lack of snow and off-piste.
 
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If these storms do not materialize, I am going to head US West Coast: Jackson/Targhee/Sun Valley or Whistler or Utah.
I somewhat expected this might be ChrisC's response when I posted Fraser's response to my questions yesterday.

No amount of European good food, atmosphere, etc can make up for a universal lack of snow and off-piste.
We're looking at it differently. Liz has some knee issues and is unlikely to be venturing off piste unless conditions are primo. If it gets worse she'll be requesting some non-skiing tourism like we did last spring. Nice and Monaco are an easy day's drive from our likely ski destinations. And if we go down there we'll probably hit Isola 2000 and Auron on the way.

Europe generally has too much capacity when confined to only groomed pistes. They are trashed by 11am. Hence the Euro desire to use carving skis to deal with quickly deteriorating surface conditions.
The larger the area, the more poorly the typical tourist skiers distribute themselves. Pistes in Orelle last spring had pristine groomer corn noon-2PM because 90% of the tourists in Val Thorens don't make the effort to go over there. Surfaus/Fiss was was an unholy congested mess of spring slop around its base areas but lots of elbow room with groomers not trashed in its outlying sprawl to the west. And James will point out that the pistes don't get so trashed in the under the radar places he goes. Rifflsee/Pitztal was a good example of that for us last spring.

Courmayeur above whatever its rain line was will surely have its modest number of pistes trashed in short order. That's why I suggested ChrisC relocate. So now he can pull the plug completely and not be on the hook for lodging costs there? Given ChrisC's very strong priority for off piste, this would be an understandable decision. Jackson/Targhee/Sun Valley looks like a quite compelling late January option the way this season is going. Whistler had a rather slow start and is still below average.

This year is shaping up so far as the inverse of 2017-18. During a bad year in the West and a great year in Europe we opted for a second Alps trip in April. And James pulled the plug on his December Utah trip and went to Switzerland.
 
No amount of European good food, atmosphere, etc can make up for a universal lack of snow and off-piste.
I don’t get this. My crew loves decent vegetables and we find them easier to locate in North America. There is only so much ham, cheese and bread one can take.
Give me (table service) American food every time.

Edit. That said there are more Asian based restaurants in Europe now. Thankfully.
 
If you haven't already seen this Facebook clip from a couple days ago -- an Austrian boarder unaccustomed to surface lifts taking out at least seven people on his way down.

That's a strike! Saw that on Jerry of the Day. Seems the Euros -unfortunately- contribute more than their fair share to on-slope chaos.

However, if you ever have stood in line at Breckenridge's Peak 8 T-Bar, Snowmass's Cirque Poma, or a Crested Butte high country T-bar... I would say less than half make it to the top. And that can include multiple attempts to mount the surface lifts.
 
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