It’s been a depressing week to be a skier or snowboarder, with headlines and social media full of pictures and reports detailing what a disaster the season is so far in the Alps, as rain and mild temperatures wreak havoc on the slopes.
However, these reports often focus on the worst cases; above 2,000m it’s largely business as usual. Indeed, the French government meteorological agency reports that above 2,200m altitude snow levels are actually at the seasonal norm.
The world’s biggest ski area, the 3 Valleés in France, which has 85 per cent of its terrain above 1,800m, says it has 444km of its 600km of slopes open – and it’s a similar scenario at the majority of the big resorts that most of British skiers visit.
That’s not to pretend everything is fine: lower resorts are indeed suffering from the warm weather and periods of rain that have damaged the snowpack. Outside the Alps it’s a very varied picture too: Western North American ski areas have been buried by huge snowfalls, but in Bulgaria there’s almost no snow.
The question on everybody’s lips is, when will the snow arrive? And the answer is – hopefully – soon. Skiers heading to the Alps this weekend could be welcomed by desperately needed fresh powder. Below is the latest picture from the pistes across the globe. Find more tips on how to make sure your next ski holiday has snow guaranteed in our guide.
Most French ski areas have plenty of high-altitude terrain so although conditions are not as pristine as we’d like (and there’s little left for off-piste freeriding anywhere) most resorts have two-thirds or more of their terrain open. Lower altitude ski regions are suffering from recent high temperatures and rain damage. Skiers in Morzine and Les Gets are having to head up to Avoriaz to ski and there are reported to be only 13 open runs open in La Clusaz. Higher up though it’s closer to normal for La Plagne, Les Arcs, Val Thorens, Serre Chevalier, Tignes and many others.
Little Puy St Vincent is the only resort in Europe currently reporting more than two metres of snow lying up top, and it has 95 per cent of its runs open.
Cooler weather is forecast for the weekend and some significant snowfall (30-60cm of snow potentially), over the first few days of next week. Find more on the best resorts in France in our guide.
Austria has always been highlighted as a potential early victim of climate change as many of its ski areas top out below 2,000m. However, most of the nation’s big ski areas are mostly open due to the huge snowmaking arsenals most resorts have to hand. They’ve piled snow on the pistes, and while the valley sides have turned green around them the white ribbons remain on the landscape. It’s not pretty, but it’s certainly functional.
The Skiwelt area (Söll and Westendorf), Ischgl and Saalbach-Hinterglemm each report 200km of open slopes. Austria also has more glacier ski areas than any other destination in Europe and Sölden is currently a stand-out with its snow 74-164cm deep and 98 per cent of its runs open.
There’s colder weather and snow forecast across Austria from Sunday, with 10-30cm accumulations likely. Find more on the best resorts in Austria in our guide.
The Dolomites have probably been the least impacted at lower levels of all the major ski regions in central Europe. In the past week, it has not been as warm so there have not been the rainfall issues that hit further west. As a result, most of Dolomiti Superski is open, including the Sellaronda circuit. Val Gardena has virtually all of its approximately 180km of slopes open and is busy with New Year holidaymakers. It’s not such a bright picture in the Italian Alps, although again high ski areas such as Cervinia and Sestriere report that most of their slopes are open.
In Italy too, snow is on the way from the weekend, heaviest in the west, with 20-40cm accumulations expected by Monday. Find more on the best resorts in Italy in our guide.
Swiss media have been reporting on ski areas forced to close due to the warm weather, but the majority of these are small areas, with highest lifts at 1,800m. Well-known Andermatt has said it iss facing issues and is sorry for any closed areas, but 21 of its 22 lifts are currently spinning and most of its runs open. Lower ski areas such as Villars are facing more challenging times.
Verbier in the 4 Valleys has little of the freeriding terrain for which its famous available but has still managed to keep 320km of pistes open, about 75 per cent of the maximum possible, with a 10-55cm base.
The region and other Swiss areas are in line for 20-40cm of snowfall to start next week so perhaps powder skiing can return. Find more on the best resorts in Switzerland in our guide.
Western Canadian resorts have had some of the most consistently good conditions since the season started in Alberta two months ago, but in recent weeks they’ve seen temperatures in the -30ºCs closing runs for safety reasons. It’s been warmer (still below zero but closer to freezing point) with fresh snowfall reported in the past few days.
Whistler Blackcomb has about half of its huge area open and reports the snow 1.5 metres deep up top. Eastern Canada was suffering from warm weather and rain in the run-up to Christmas but then Storm Elliott brought about 50cm accumulations and bitingly cold temperatures in the days before New Year.
Unfortunately, it has been a little too warm again since and the thin snow cover has seen rain damage. The largest area, Tremblant, has about 60 per cent of its slopes open still and reports the snow 130cm deep up top.
Overcast skies are forecast across Canada for much of the coming week, with sub-zero temperatures and light snowfall expected. Find more on the best resorts in Canada in our guide.
The Western US is where the world’s snowfall appears to be hiding, with storm after storm moving in off the Pacific over the past few months, each one bringing several feet of snow. 2023 has kicked off with California’s Mammoth Mountain posting the world’s deepest snowpack at over four metres. Several resorts in the Colorado and Utah Rockies reported up to 90cm of snowfall in 24 hours on Monday. Ironically all the snow and stormy weather has probably caused more resort closures than limited snowfall in the Alps.
It’s a less promising picture in the Eastern US, unfortunately, with New England having similar warm weather problems to Western Europe.
It’s looking drier in the West over the coming week, with lots of sunshine, which will be a welcome respite. In the East it’s set to be colder with light snowfall, good news for there too. Find more on the best resorts in the USA in our guide.
Scandinavia is the one part of Europe it feels like real winter is underway. Temperatures have reached double-digits below freezing, the snow has been falling and up in Lapland resorts such as Levi in Finland have just emerged from several weeks of polar night, the sun finally reappearing above the horizon. Norwegian resorts are posting the most snowfall so far, with Hemsedal reporting a 30-90cm base and about 80 per cent of its slopes open.
Over the next week it’s essentially “snow, snow, snow”, with 5-15cm for many areas daily.
The Pyrenees have been suffering similar issues to the Alps with the biggest area Grandvalira (Soldeu El Tarter and Pas de la Casa) having to reduce the amount of terrain it had open in recent days. However, it still has 110km of slopes in operation despite a snow depth of just 10-35cm. That’s around 55 per cent of its full 210km of slopes in normal times.
Temperatures have dropped and there was excitement on Monday as fresh snow arrived. It’s been sunny again since but more snowfall is expected at the weekend.
There’s a bit of a north-south divide in Eastern Europe, with ski areas in the Czech and Slovak Republics managing to open some terrain but a rather sad picture in Bulgaria to the south, with almost snowless hillsides and just a few short ribbons of machine-made snow.
There are signs of colder weather and snow on the way, at last, next week. Find more on the best resorts in Eastern Europe in our guide.
Apart from a pre-Christmas blip, it has been a cold month in Scotland, there just hasn’t been a lot of snowfall yet. Most centres have some skiing available, but so far just a few runs, mostly relying on machine-made snow. It’s a gradually improving picture at present though.