Wondering where to go skiing in January 2017? This round up of current snow conditions around the world should help you decide
So far winter 2016/17 has been a weird one. Promising early snow in October and November lured many of us into thinking we were heading into a stellar season, only to have hopes dashed by lingering high pressure and cloudless skies throughout December. Unless you were in western North America anyway, in which case you were likely happily drowning in powder without a care in the world.
So now we’re in the new year, where’s the snow at? Here’s a round up of where has snow and where doesn’t, and how the season is shaping up so far around the world.
It’s no surprise to hear that BC has had more than it’s fair share of snowfall, but conditions are particularly good this season after a dreamy series of storms dumped across most of western Canada. Whistler is reporting a mind-blowing cumulative total of 507cm so far this season with a base depth of 199cm at mid-mountain (1650m) – with 90cms of that freshly delivered over the past week.
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Further inland the good news continues at Revelstoke, with a base of 193cm at 1950m following absolutely insane snowfall totals of 672cm so far this winter – that’s more than Tignes averages over a whole season! With more snowfall forecast over the next week, it’s safe to say that anyone heading to western Canada in the next few weeks is in for a good time!
After a slow start and late openings, winter is shaping up very nicely in much of the western US. Legendary freeride destination Jackson Hole is doing particularly well (as is its wont), with 6.5m (yes, really) of total cumulative snowfall so far, translating into base depths of 218cm at the top and 137 at mid-mountain.
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However not everywhere has done so well, and Colorado is generally a lot thinner on the ground: Vail has ‘only’ seen 218cm so far, with a base of 76cm. Saying that, they have 99% of their terrain open, and conditions many alpine resorts can only dream of at the moment.
Surprise, surprise: it’s deep in Japan! Hokkaido is like ol’ faithful, and can always be relied upon to deliver faceshots when needed. Hirafu (one of the villages that make up the Niseko area) is reporting a whopping 344cm of snow to date IN THE VILLAGE (which is only 260m above sea level!) and 444cm up at the top of the lifts. That’s total snowfall rather than the base, which has compacted to around 250cm, but nevertheless a great start to the season.
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The main island isn’t doing quite so well, but with 11ocm/20cm and snow forecast for much of this week this still plenty of great skiing to be enjoyed.
The Alps haven’t exactly had a great season so far – in fact Christmas conditions have been generally pretty poor for the third year in a row (unless man-made pistes are your thing). However, it hasn’t been all bad in Austria; conditions are split along the east-west axis, with snow being MUCH better in the east following a 30-70cm dump around the Salzburg/Oberösterreich area. The Schladming region has a base of around 130cm at the top and 60cm down low, and some of the lesser known spots like Hochkar, Loser and Hinterstoder are in really good condition with powder turns to be found for those in the know.
Further west things aren’t so good: pistes are holding up well on the glaciers and in high north-facing resorts like Ischgl, but even normally snowy resorts like St Anton have been languishing under the blue skies with only 50cm of snow on the upper mountain.
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However, that all looks set to change this week with two storms set to dump on the northern Alps, so if you’re going skiing pretty much anywhere in Austria in the next few weeks you can expect good conditions and plenty of fresh snow, even if the base isn’t super deep yet.
Italy is almost the exact opposite of Austria at the moment, with the best natural snow cover in the more westerly resorts like Alagna (200cm/5cm), Cervinia (150cm/30cm) and Sestriere (140cm/50cm) following the huge November storms which set up the base for the season (over 2000m at least).
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Further east – like last season – has been much drier and the resorts have been relying in man-made snow. However they are artificial snow experts, and as the cold and dry conditions are particularly conducive to making snow the Dolomites have managed to open around 1000km of pistes – meaning they actually have about the most extensive piste skiing available in the Alps right now, despite the poor natural snowfall and base depths of only about 40cm on the upper mountains.
Snow depths are pretty uniformly well below average in Switzerland, and few resorts are anywhere near being able to fully open. Better options include the higher glacier resorts like Saas Fe and Zermatt with bases of 118cm and 105cm respectively at the top (and dramatically less lower down); further north things are pretty desperate with only 33cm on the upper mountain in Davos and just 20cm in Engelberg, which hasn’t seen snow since 10th November!
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However, the series of storms moving in towards the Northern Alps seem likely to shake things up a bit with potentially 40-80cm of snow coming in the next 10 days… Not quite a total game changer but definitely good news and hopefully the sign of a more general pattern change.
Like much of the rest of the Alps conditions in France are very mixed: some of the higher resorts close to the Italian border have pretty decent conditions at altitude due to a combination of artificial snow and big November storms, while others are in dire straits, with little snow currently in the forecast to help matters.
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The best conditions can be found in areas like Val d’Isère (30/130cm), Tignes (40/130cm) and Montgenèvre (90/200cm). Chamonix, being Chamonix, also still has plenty of exploring on offer if you’re willing to put the effort in (and has seen at least one first descent recently) despite reporting just 100cm up top and nothing in the valley. Other areas like Megeve have just 20cm on the mountain and very limited skiing.
Scandinavia generally has been rolling along doing pretty well, though not spectacularly. Most resorts have a decent amount of terrain open, with the Norwegian resorts Geilo and Lillehammer 65cm and 50cm up top with about half that lower down. Are in Sweden has a base of just under 50cm with generally good conditions due to recent snow. Further storms are forecast to bring lots more – Are might see another 70cm in the next week, while Oppdal in Norway will be hoping that the forecast 80cm turns out to be true.
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