Europe 23/24

My SLC friend BobMc is currently in Andermatt, his first trip to the Alps. He reports that they're skiing down low in Dieni today. I hope that visibility improves soon for him and crew.



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Sunday 3 March 2024 - New storm in the southwestern Alps!

A new storm has hit the Alps, though its trajectory means that it will only really favour the southwestern Alps, with snow not extending nearly as far north and east as was previously hoped.

Heavy snow falling on the ski slopes of Prali, Italy, with view down the slopes over the chairlift and down to the village below – Weather to ski – Today in the Alps, 3 March 2024

Heavy snow in Prali today where up to 90cm is possible by tomorrow morning

Over the next 24 hours, the region that will see the most snow is the southern French Alps, including areas close to the Italian border like Isola 2000, the Queyras and Montgenèvre, and as far north as Val Cenis and Val d’Isère. By tomorrow morning, these regions will have seen 30-50cm, with even 60cm+ in the Queyras and Isola 2000.

On the Italian side, resorts that will do well include Prato Nevoso, Bardonecchia, Prali, Sestriere and the Monte Rosa region, especially the eastern end (Alagna). These areas will also see at least 30-50cm of new snow by tomorrow morning, with as much as 90cm possible in Prali!

The rest of the French Alps, the southwestern Swiss Alps (e.g. Zermatt) and the western Aosta (e.g. La Thuile) will see some snow, but probably only in the 5-15cm range at best. The rest of the Alps (i.e. the northern and eastern Swiss Alps, the eastern Italian Alps and all of Austria) will miss out on this storm.

Snow conditions are now exceptional across some southwestern regions (or at least will be once the storm clears) including in Isola 2000, Bardonecchia, the Milky Way and the Monte Rosa region. With some exceptions (like Val d’Isère), conditions are more average elsewhere in the Alps, and poor at lower altitudes where natural snow cover remains patchy or non-existent.
 
He reports that they're skiing down low in Dieni today. I
Dieni is as far east as Liz and I got from Andermatt in 2019. Andermatt is exposed to storms from the south. While it sounds like it is too far east for Fraser's current forecast, I'm sure they got plenty over the past 10 days or so.
 
Finally, I found official snowfall maps for Italy (only the Aosta Valley Region): from the VALLE D'AOSTA - SNOW AND AVALANCHE REPORT
  • Snow Depths Link
    • Snowfall 1-Day
    • Snowfall - Last 3 Days
    • Current Snow Depth
  • Historical Snow Depths Link
  • Avalanche Report Link


Obviously, snowfall has been huge in Monterosa - specifically in Gressoney - 162 cm / 5+ ft in the last 3 days.

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Big bases now in Montrosa - 200+ cm in Gressoney.
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And this new snow has turned well below average snow depths to well above average. (Valtournache/Crevinia was not doing all that well either until recent snows. Assume Zermatt was not great either).

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this new snow has turned well below average snow depths to well above average. (Valtournache/Crevinia was not doing all that well either until recent snows. Assume Zermatt was not great either).
Underscoring the classic Alps storyline that coverage tends to come in big dumps rather than smaller, regular topoffs. When you're a destination skier, it's all about the timing. Tony, Liz, and I had a sub-optimum Val d'Isere visit (but compared to other regions at the time, it was more than decent); however, I hate to see people get really shortchanged, i.e. Skieric at Zermatt or Jnelly cancelling his Montefon trip.
 
Underscoring the classic Alps storyline that coverage tends to come in big dumps rather than smaller, regular topoffs. When you're a destination skier, it's all about the timing.

WePowder's guide explains the best storm types and direction for most Alps resorts. It's not about the big dumps - only for certain Alps resorts.

They are pretty pessimistic about the Inner Alps (near the crest) and the Southern Alps. Areas like Zermatt/Obergrugl are slow to open and do not get big dumps mid-season. St. Moritz/Dolomites need southern storm tracks - that come in big dumps early or late. Monterosa needs big dumps that come early or late. If nothing comes before Christmas, do not expect a big catch-up mid-season since it's cold/less snowy. Need to see if Spring brings storms.

Meanwhile, the Northern and Western Alps (Chamonix, Avoriaz, La Rosiere, Gstaad, Engelberg, Andermatt, Arlberg) get storms often - only need to worry about rain incidence.

I would never really book a trip to Zermatt without snow on the ground. But Montefon was hindered by poor low elevation temps and rain.
 
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I'm not sure if WeathertoSki got this storm quite right. Zermatt, Gornegrat is at 1.2 meters. And Monterosa is over 2 Meters. Off by about 50% - with a 50-90 cm estimate.

Only point this out since WePowder was forecasting Armageddon for Monterosa. As well as OpenSnow. Always had them at 1.5M. - so both were quite right.

Gressoney / Monterosa is now cut off from society:






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The difference in on mountain dining between La Rosiere and La thuille was stark and confirmed what I’ve read about on mountain dining in France. Basically a self service buffet soup was the best I could find. At this point, as excited I am by future trips to the French alps from a ski perspective, the Italian and Swiss lunches would be sorely missed.

Not sure I agree with this.

St. Moritz and Zermatt surely benefit from their Italy proximity (<10 miles for each). Otherwise, Switzerland combines cheese, potatoes, bacon, and egg....in various combinations and just names them differently - not exactly enlightened. But the Alps were historically poor, so you ate what you had.

France does on-slope meals quite well. Especially the Plat d'Jour at most eateries. Even Val d'Isere has places you can eat <15 Euros - shared salad, fresh pasta and wine.
 
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Not sure I agree with this.

St. Moritz and Zermatt surely benefit from their Italy proximity (<10 miles for each). Otherwise, Switzerland combines cheese, potatoes, bacon, egg....in various combinations and names them differently.

France does quite well. Especially Plat d'Jour at most eateries. Even Val d'Isere has places you can eat <15 Euros - shared salad, fresh pasta and wine.
I had two first class lunches at Serre Chevalier recently. Easily as good as a couple of memorable lunches I’ve had at Courmayeur.
 
The difference in on mountain dining between La Rosiere and La Thuile was stark and confirmed what I’ve read about on mountain dining in France.
You dined at both La Rosiere and La Thuile the same day? We dined at neither. It's often the story with a single day at a new big area. We didn't have the time, skiing 28K yet still downloading the bottom of La Thuile at 4:15. But we felt little need for lunch considering the breakfasts and dinners we were getting in Courmayeur.

I agree with others that on mountain dining quality may vary by resort but there are very impressive ones in France, including at Serre Chevalier as sbooker mentions. With James we had lunch every day in Val d'Isere. l'Empreinte Aveline was gourmet. The other three were more on the order of:
<15 Euros - shared salad, fresh pasta and wine.
Average+ for the Alps, but of course far above average for North America. Italy does have the best value per $$ in dining of the alpine countries IMHO.
 
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Just was playing around.....and looked at some dates:
  • 3 days/nights/guided skiing at Skier's Lodge La Grave. (<$1000)
  • 2.5 days in Monterosa based in Gressoney. With a fully guided day or 2 half days. Likely stay a bit down valley.
  • Cheaper flights to Milan.
 
Off piste was a bust today. The trams opened but our one run off the back of the Arp cable car was terrible and we wound up with a 30 minute trek out of unskiable cement. Skied on piste the rest of the day. Visibility was good, place wasn’t too crowded, and had a great lunch at Chiecco. It is obvious that the off piste possibilities here are endless but seems like we just kind of had bad luck with the temperatures. Our guide basically said the Genoa low storms typically bring lots of snow but it is often heavy and warm.

That's unfortunate. Courmayeur's summit is decently high - almost 2,800m. I would expect mid/low-density powder to maybe 2200m -bottom of Gabba lift. (I have a high tolerance for somewhat manky snow, being in Seattle for a couple of years).

There must have been a decent amount of warm air up the valley. Hmmm. Well, even in Winter 2018 in Val d'Isere, our guide said there were some rain periods at the village/resort level from the southern storm - maybe +100m from Val d'Isere proper.

I have only seen massive humidity come into the WA/BC Cascades, killing snow - UT/CO/WY generally are too arid.

Courmayeur is not quite an all-week place - but if you take advantage of the off-piste - it's definitely a 3-day mountain.
 
All in all, I would call the 5 days a success. A picture perfect day on the Vallee Blanche, a great day today at LT, and 2.5 mixed days at Courmayeur. Certainly worse skiing wise and weather wise than my previous trips but no travel difficulties, easy logistics, and some of the best food I’ve ever had. For a short trip, I echo Chris in thinking Courmayeur as a base offers much of what I love about skiing in Europe in an easily accessed compact setting.

It's impossible to time everything right. If you come away satisfied, you win. I'm almost sure the moisture could creep into the heli-ski terrain - it's only a few miles up the valley.

Tennis, swimming, basketball - very easy to time/no timing, almost nothing required but booking a ticket to a sunny climate. (Scuba - different. Pick where reefs are still living in a less traveled place).

Worse than other trips? If you want the sun at Zermatt and St. Moritz in sun - hmmmm, not me - I like snowy days thrown. I think the scale of the place wins out for the Alps - I would probably love a semi-heavy day on the Toula Glacier. But my expectations are slightly lower - I am OK with heavy snow on a trip.....you just need fatter skis.....somewhat tied from being on the West Coast.

As a skier, my worst enemy is wind! It closes lifts. Compacts great snow. Creates Avy conditions.
 
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They are pretty pessimistic about the Inner Alps (near the crest) and the Southern Alps. Areas like Zermatt/Obergurgl are slow to open and do not get big dumps mid-season. St. Moritz/Dolomites need southern storm tracks - that come in big dumps early or late. Monterosa needs big dumps that come early or late. If nothing comes before Christmas, do not expect a big catch-up mid-season since it's cold/less snowy. Need to see if Spring brings storms.
I am generally skeptical of such claims of winter being less snowy than shoulder seasons. I do not have much in the way of monthly split data in the Alps, and most of what I do have is from the northern side. Those places, with sufficient altitude, are like Colorado, quite even by month Nov.-Apr. The lower places get more snow midwinter, likely due to more rain in shoulder seasons like the Northeast. For the crest and southern I only have two locations with monthly info. Mateo Swiss has a 30 year summary for Passo del Bernino, on the Italian border SE of St. Moritz at 7,567 feet.
Nov.​
Dec.​
Jan.​
Feb.​
Mar.​
Apr.​
44.88​
44.84​
42.28​
33.86​
41.50​
57.52​
The shoulder months are higher than midwinter but not dramatically so.

33 years from Isola 2000:
Nov.​
Dec.​
Jan.​
Feb.​
Mar.​
Apr.​
21.44​
32.08​
34.61​
23.04​
29.56​
31.40​
These numbers look erratic, no obvious pattern. Volatility is very high, about the same as Mammoth.

Even at Passo del Bernino, where the pattern WePowder hypothesizes can be discerned, it's going to be overwhelmed by volatility. There will be years where they get hammered in January/February. I'm quite confident that the southern Alps overall have high volatility, though Isola 2000 is probably an extreme case.
I would never really book a trip to Zermatt without snow on the ground.
Due to that volatility that probably applies if you want off piste skiing anywhere in the southern Alps. If there's an exception, I'd say it's Cervinia. It's high, mostly intermediate terrain and exposed to storms from the west to some degree. Yes, Zermatt is just over the ridge, but much of its off piste is steeper boulder fields that need a lot of coverage.
 
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There is NO DATA with regards to snowfall in the Alps. Even everyone who predicts things never measures up to what happened. I forecasted this X, and Y happened. So basic. Not one service - WePowder, SnowBrains, WeathertoSki - does prediction vs. what happened. Not one point of data. None of them measure themselves. Give me pre and post-storm snow totals.

The only things I like and trust right now are Swiss Government data - and now Aosta Valley data,

I somewhat like the WePowder maps a bit (but they run high), and a few ski reports.
 
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I am going to find the best government Alps data and how these guys measure up.
Good luck with that. I went into the SLF office in Davos in person in 2013 and got nowhere, even though I name dropped someone who worked there that I had met at the ISSW conference in 2010.

I think there is a lot of data collected, but these governments seem anally retentive about letting the public see it. Perhaps we should assign James this task with his renowned schmoozing skills in French and German!

The main flaw in data collection in the Alps is that it's hard to measure accurately above tree line with wind effects. Here's the famous data from Sonnblick Observatory 10,184 feet.
Nov.​
Dec.​
Jan.​
Feb.​
Mar.​
Apr.​
Nov.-Apr. Total​
Season Total​
97.01​
106.85​
94.09​
80.20​
111.26​
115.59​
605.00​
892.05​
5.72​
5.69​
5.02​
4.33​
5.99​
6.26​
33.02​
65.86​
5.9%​
5.3%​
5.3%​
5.4%​
5.4%​
5.4%​
5.5%​
7.4%​
Yes those are inches, not centimeters! But those monthly 5+% water content numbers are suspicious. The driest continental climates in North America average just under 7%. Sonnblick is on the main alpine ridge with monthly pattern similar to Passo del Bernino. What's unique about Sonnblick is that there are no high altitude ridges nearby blocking storms from either north or south.
 
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Just was playing around.....and looked at some dates:
  • 3 days/nights/guided skiing at Skier's Lodge La Grave. (<$1000)
  • 2.5 days in Monterosa based in Gressoney. With a fully guided day or 2 half days. Likely stay a bit down valley.
  • Cheaper flights to Milan.
As in dates very soon to take advantage of the now considerable base? It doesn’t concern someone of your skiing ability that despite the base you might get ‘not quite winter but not quite spring’ conditions?
You’re hardly going to be satisfied with groomers and some substandard off piste like most tourists.
 
Good luck with that

I'm not going to pretend, but I think government weather stations are OK for what is happening currently - especially if you know .


I feel like I have Switzerland and parts of Italy.

Just need to see about France and Austria - but early stage is not promising.

As in dates very soon to take advantage of the now considerable base? It doesn’t concern someone of your skiing ability that despite the base you might get ‘not quite winter but not quite spring’ conditions?
You’re hardly going to be satisfied with groomers and some substandard off piste like most tourists.

I keep watching.... Monterosa is going to have a significant snowpack. I don't know what I am going to get. I like/love Couloirs - lots of rock-confining skiing. Short, precise turns. I do like wide-open powder turns. Then trees. (I am weirdly not into trees since going to BC in 2021/22)

Actually, I am seriously training to do Alaska. I think heli-skiing is hard work. Heli's don't fly correctly; you move 1-3 ft in the snow to not get killed.
 
I like/love Couloirs - lots of rock-confining skiing.
While we are on what we like….I like it just steep enough for me to be out of my comfort zone but certainly not confined by rocks or tight trees. Oh and nice chalk type snow too if I’m making a wish list. I struggle in crunchy snow. The worst I have experienced is second week of March under the Deep Temerity lift at Highlands. I was there alone and couldn’t turn. I had an anxiety meltdown before traversing out with my tail between my legs.
I had some good runs at Courmayeur last year before the guides errantly lead me to the trees above Val Veny.
Comfortable and fun -

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Certainly not fun -
My ski got stuck under a tree root and it felt like I nearly snapped knee ligaments. lol.

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