It’s beginning to look a lot like…winter, as the snow finally arrives in the Alps, turning parched resorts into powder fields and sending ‘wait-and-see’ skiers online for a last-minute January bargain.
Half a metre or more has fallen in the last week – more in some places – and there’s plenty more to come over the next few days.
It is a huge relief for ski resorts after the worst Christmas and New Year conditions in recent years – though the avalanche risk is high as there is little to no snowpack to hold the new snow. Already two skiers have died this week, one in Val d’Isere and another in nearby Saint-Colomban-des-Villards. Caution is advised for anyone wanting to go off piste, though with so much new fresh snow, there is plenty of great skiing to be found on piste right now.
‘The new snow was desperately needed following the very poor start to the season, although unfortunately it did not arrive until Saturday 2 January when the New Year crowds were beginning to disperse,’ commented Beth Begg at the Ski Club of Great Britain.
The heaviest falls came in the northern French resorts (Portes du Soleil, Trois Vallees, Chamonix valley) and western Switzerland (Verbier, Crans-Montana) where over 50cm of fresh snow has fallen since Saturday. These areas could see a further metre of snow by the end of the week, perhaps a little more in some favoured locations.
Further south and east, Italy and Austria fared less well with totals only topping 10-20cm in a couple of places (such as Lech/Zurs in the Austrian Arlberg). The good news is that more snow has been falling throughout the week, although totals will not be quite as impressive as further west.
A snowy spell of weather has also hit the Pyrenees which is desperate for snow following an almost bone-dry December. The heaviest snow is currently forecast for resorts in Spain and France (up to 50cm), but Andorra also looks set to benefit from around 30cm of fresh powder too.
Some decent skiing is now on offer in Eastern Europe and more snow is also forecast here, with Bulgaria likely to see the heaviest falls. Bansko may top 50cm by the weekend, and Jasna in Slovakia could benefit from around 30cm of new snow. This will help to improve the piste conditions significantly and hopefully allow for more terrain to open up in the coming days.
It’s still higher resorts that are faring best under the new onslaught – for example, a low-altitude resort such as Morzine (1000m) is as likely to see heavy rain, while its higher neighbour Avoriaz (1800m) can expect another big dump of snow.
A quieter week is forecast for most of the US and Canada, but many resorts here, particularly out West have had a superb start to the season and can survive the calm without qualms.
Ski Beat, Inghams and Crystal are among the operators trying to entice back those skiers who have delayed booking a holiday until the snow arrived and all are now reporting that the rush is on to snap up those last-minute bargains. Skiworld has been offering up to 50% off some of its holidays.
Louise Newton, Group Head of Marketing at Inghams, commented: ‘We have had one of the busiest New Years for ski bookings, and our reservations teams were open throughout the New Year Bank Holiday weekend. Inghams has some last-minute deals for those ready to hop on a plane with a few days’ to spare. Towards the end of January things get much tighter, and half term and Easter are now well sold.
‘The advice is to book now if you want any choice of accommodation. The snow is still falling and it’s set to be a great season in the Alps and North America.’
Tamsin Todd, managing director Crystal Ski Holidays who is currently on ski holiday with her family in Les Arcs said: ‘Finally, a blanket of snow covers the Alps and there's more where that came from. Especially the northern French Alps as well as the Swiss and Austrian Alps and north-west of Italy, 40cm in Bardonecchia in the Milky Way ski area. The forecast is that it will continue over the weekend and further snowfall everywhere.
Empty slopes, fresh powder and good prices, perfect time to go skiing.’