Where is the snow? 1st Feb 2018

The last major storm that cut off St Anton from the rest of the world ended 9 days ago now. Since then the weather's been largely clear and mild throughout the Alps, great conditions for piste skiing but the night-day freeze-thaw has created hard packed snow in the mornings that softens up under the sun each day before re-freezing overnight, basically spring conditions. But that's about to change.

Starting this morning the snow has started to fall almost universally across Europe with the Italian Dolomites and the Austrian Tirol receiving the majority of the fresh stuff. That's resorts such as Selva Val Gardena, Cortina, Kaprun and St Anton receiving up to 70cm in the next 3 days. The freezing point is going to drop tomorrow down to below 500m in most resorts so even the lowest of ski areas will get decent snowfall and no rain, which should see the snow settle nicely.

Whilst the weather may clear towards the end of the weekend in France it's looking likely to remain cloudy in Austria and Italy. In Selva and Cortina, the snow should fall pretty consistently for the next 9 days which may well bring some whiteout conditions to the mountains. If the visibility gets super bad you may find yourself up the mountain struggling to identify where you are or how to get down to resort. Due to this, I thought I'd share a few little pointers on skiing in low visibility.

Tips for skiing in a whiteout:

  • Piste markers line the edges of every piste, they are poles spaced evenly so you don't stray from the controlled areas.
  • The piste signs/markers are coloured to show the level of difficulty. Green is the easiest (mostly gentle and wide) followed by blue then red and black being the hardest (often steep and narrow).
  • In poor visibility, it can be hard to tell between blue and black so make sure you check closely.
  • The numbers on the piste markers show how far you are from the end of the run (1 being the bottom). Useful both to tell how far you have to go or if you need to ring for help you can identify exactly where you are.
  • A thin band at the top of the piste marker pole indicates you are at the left-hand edge of the piste, on the right-hand side of the piste the band will be much wider and about halfway down the pole. These bands are often red, orange or fluorescent allowing you to tell whereabouts on the piste you are.
  • More something to be aware of - if the weather isn't looking great stick to tree-lined runs, visibility will be much better due to the contrast created between the trees and the snow. You'll be able to see a lot more and feel much more confident.
  • Make sure you always carry a piste map, you can pick them up for free at the bottom of most major lifts or the lift pass office. It's always reassuring to know exactly where you are if you're in a tight spot.

Just bear in mind that the way pistes are marked varies from country to country and resort to resort so these tips aren't always applicable but still handy to know. But not gospel.

Today's roundup in pictures:

Snow in next 3 days:

  1. Obergurgl - 70cm
  2. Cortina - 69cm
  3. Selva - 66cm
  4. Kaprun - 64cm
  5. St Anton - 57cm
  6. Zell am See - 56cm
  7. Ischgl - 56cm
  8. Klosters - 53cm
  9. Lech - 52cm
  10. Avoriaz - 45cm
  11. Morzine - 39cm
  12. Chamonix - 38cm
  13. Megeve - 36cm
  14. Kitzbuhel - 34cm
  15. Engelberg - 32cm
Chamonix's post on skiing the Vallée Blanche yesterday

Chamonix's post on skiing the Vallée Blanche yesterday

Engelberg Titlis mountain - today at 13.17

Engelberg Titlis mountain - today at 13.17

Webcam over St Christoph,  St Anton ski area - today at 13.05

Webcam over St Christoph, St Anton ski area - today at 13.05

Webcam over the lake in Zell am See - today at 13.16

Webcam over the lake in Zell am See - today at 13.16

facebook post from Courmayeur Mont Blanc - today at 10.01

facebook post from Courmayeur Mont Blanc - today at 10.01

Webcam on the Tofana piste in Cortina - today at 13.50

Webcam on the Tofana piste in Cortina - today at 13.50

Facebook post from Méribel, Coeur des 3 Vallées - today at 10.15

Facebook post from Méribel, Coeur des 3 Vallées - today at 10.15

Webcam at Dantercepies in Selva - today at 13.09

Webcam at Dantercepies in Selva - today at 13.09

Morzine Source Magazine - today at 09.40

Morzine Source Magazine - today at 09.40

One thing to watch out for is the avalanche risk status, as the new snow falling down onto the existing hardpack will create some very unstable conditions. I wouldn't go hunting off-piste spots in the near future, but if you must make sure you take a guide, appropriate equipment and check the forecasts vigorously.

Vaguely related links:

In Summary

The temperatures are dropping along with the freezing levels so the snowfall today and over the next few days should settle all the way down to resort. A nice little top up to the already vast snow accumulations. If you're heading out this weekend, France should have decent snow and clear skies but if you're looking slightly further down the line, I'd be looking at Italy and Austria for the next few weeks. Selva looks a great bet, as well as Zell am See, a chance to experience these resorts in optimum conditions.

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