As the ski season edges ever closer resorts across the Alps have welcomed the first major snowfall of the winter, with many claiming the most impressive start to the season in recent years.
Resorts in the central and southern Alps, which spans France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, have been blessed with the most impressive snowfall, as a series of storms hit the area throughout November.
The all-important snowfall comes as many resorts open, or prepare to open, their slopes for the season, in time to welcome the first guests in the coming weeks and at Christmas.
Italian resorts are having a good start. In particular Livigno, Sauze d’Oulx and Pila, all of which have taken to social media to share their wintery updates, welcomed with applause by eager skiers and snowboarders. Cervinia, which shares slopes on the Plateau Rosà and Ventina glaciers with Swiss resort Zermatt, is boasting snow depths of 320cm on its highest slopes.
The Warren Smith Ski Academy, which runs early-season courses on the glacier, has been sharing regular updates and now the storms have cleared the conditions are looking remarkably good for this time of year.
The Presena glacier above Passo Tonale in Italy’s Trentino region has reported 80cm of fresh snow and is now claiming its base depth has 400cm, the deepest in the world at present and a very deep base for November.
Team GB’s athletes are currently out in the Austrian Tirol for pre-season training camps. Snowboarder Katie Ormerod is in Stubai, home to one of the most snow-sure glaciers in the Alps currently boasting 280cm of snow on the slopes. Alongside an image of her hiking in the snow, posted to her Instagram yesterday, she wrote: “Haven’t seen a pre-season like this one in so long!”
Skier and fellow Team GB athlete James ‘Woodsy’ Woods is also there. He shared a picture yesterday that showcased pristine slopes: “Sun’s back out and we’re doing it!” he wrote.
This morning the Austrian resort of Sölden posted a video from its webcam on the Giggijoch mountain at 2,284m, it showed a clear morning and well-groomed slopes. On the resort’s highest slopes, which reach 3,250m on the Tiefenbach glacier, snow depth currently surpasses 250cm.
While the weather turned sunnier at the weekend there is more snow in the forecast, due to arrive tomorrow and continue until the end of the weekend. “Biggest snowfall claimed over the weekend was 147cm at Limone, a small area in Italy. The heaviest snow was around the French/Italian border,” said John Armstrong from myweather2.com.
“The snow was accompanied by very strong winds, gusting at up to 100kph in some areas, which forced resorts to close and causing some damage, including a roof being blown off a mountain hut above Wengen.”
“It has been an exceptionally snowy November. The forecast is not looking bad for this time of year, with temperatures varying around 5ºC to 8ºC down in valleys at low resorts and staying above freezing at most areas, but it is getting colder again with more snow by the weekend.”
However with snow comes increased safety concerns and risk of avalanches, as the snow pack becomes unstable under the weight of the new snowfall.
Last January saw Austrian resorts paralysed by record-breaking amounts of snow fall, which forced lifts and slopes to close. There were a number of deaths due to avalanches and resorts were cut off when roads and rail routes were closed.
The French resort of Tignes reported over one metre of snow in some places this morning – however with such heavy snowfall comes a high risk of avalanches. The resort’s risk rating is currently classified as high, four out of five.
“The snowpack is very unstable, especially around the Italian border region of the Alps, including Tignes and Val d’Isere,” said avalanche safety expert Henry Schneiwind from Henry’s Avalanche Talk (HAT). “We are working with the local ski patrol to get more information and detail. The early signs are that the snowpack is very unstable as suggested by the 4/5 danger rating. The danger is most severe higher up above 2,200m, where it has stayed cold.”