The UK may have enjoyed a surprising scattering of snow in late 2022, but many of the slopes of the Alps are currently more wet than white. A combination of mild weather and rain in France and Switzerland has forced some of them to shut down entirely.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, the experts were forecasting a brilliant start to the season. Then the rain came. By Christmas Eve, it had swept through the northern parts of the French Alps and some parts of Switzerland, washing away previous snowfall and leaving many holiday skiers disappointed. On December 28, the website weathertoski.co.uk reported that snow conditions in the North-Western Alps were “generally poor for the time of year, and much more snow is needed.” By the time the New Year rolled around, things had gotten “very bad” and some resorts were still closed to skiers.
It’s not all bad news though. Conditions are significantly better in the southeastern parts of the Alps, especially in the Dolomites, which have avoided the worst of the weather. North America and Scandinavia also have abundant snow. While that will offer no consolation to those whose ski vacations have been a disaster, it is proof of how unpredictable the snow can be. With this in mind, it pays to know how to choose a ski resort where the white stuff is almost always guaranteed, regardless of what the season throws at us.
If you are going to travel to the slopes soon, you can be aware of the latest and if you can cancel here.
Top Tips for Finding a Snow-Safe Resort, Whatever the Forecast
Heading high is one of the most important factors for guaranteed snow conditions. Each 1,000 m that rises is equivalent to an estimated drop in temperature of 9.8 °C if it is clear and 6 °C if it is cloudy; every meter higher means you’re well above freezing, the point where rain (one of the worst words in the skier’s lexicon) turns to snow (one of the most positive). Be careful, experts warn, as ski resorts battle the impacts of climate change, that the freezing level will continue to rise at altitude.
The French station of Val Thorens is the highest village in Europe (2,300 m) with access to some of its highest slopes, up to 3,230 m. It’s one of the best bankers for snow safety, but any season with slopes up to 3000m is a good bet.
good luck icy
Glaciers go hand in hand with high-altitude resorts. These gigantic blocks of ice that can be more than 100m deep are excellent at preserving snow once it has fallen, and when mostly scraped off they are still useful for honing ice skiing skills.
The highest glacier for skiing in Europe, the Plateau Rosa at 3,500 m, which is accessed from Zermatt in Switzerland and Cervinia in Italy, offers 21 km of groomed slopes. Other notable glacier resorts include Solden and Hintertux in Austria and Tignes in France. In all of them you can find super-fans honing their skills in training courses during the summer and autumn months, snow levels permitting, and their snow safety qualities make them very popular in winter as well. .
north face, happy face
We all know the benefits of a south facing garden as it receives more sunlight and the same principle applies to the slopes of a ski resort. Although it’s lovely to bask on the sun drenched slopes, it’s not good for the quality of the snow, unless it’s frizzy to your toes and then it doesn’t really matter. Since the north-facing slopes are unaffected by the sun, conditions stay much more consistent and the snow stays better for longer, especially late in the season. The problem is that most trail maps rarely reveal the orientation of the trails – you need a proper chart to assess accurately.
Location, location, location
Some destinations have been lucky with benign weather systems. Japanese resorts, especially those on the northern island of Hokkaido, are a good example. They are not high, they do not have glaciers and they are not excessively endowed with north-facing slopes. What they do have is geographical good fortune.
The wind blows from Siberia, hits the Sea of Japan, and then throws up to 15m a year of the lightest, fluffiest snow known to mankind. The Utah resorts of Alta and Snowbird have similar annual snowfall, thanks to a similar effect. Most of Utah’s storm systems come from the Pacific Ocean, but local geography also has an impact. The Great Salt Lake, northwest of the city, warms the oncoming air and aids in humidity. Warm air rises, cools, and snow begins to fall, a phenomenon known as lake-effect snow.
Snow production has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years and many resorts have invested millions in the latest technology. The resorts in the Italian Dolomites are a great example where almost all of its 1,200 km of pistes are covered in snow cannons, if real things are anything to go by. As long as it’s cold enough, there will be snow… it may not be natural.