Warm, Wet Winter Puts a Damper on Alps Ski Season

Alpine ski resorts kick off the New Year in less than ideal conditions, but if you know where to look...

little snow coverage in ski resort

Many European countries have reported their warmest ever start to January on record, with temperatures reaching the mid teens in alpine valley towns. Spring-like conditions are found in parts of the Alps in low-altitude resorts.

A lack of snow, heavy rainfall and warm weather has led to a handful of ski resorts closing, while others run with reduced lifts. Despite the cold temperatures mid-December, rain and warmer weather followed, leaving poor snow cover.

The northern Alps and French Pyrenees have been worst hit by the unseasonably warm weather, with some resorts closing. Ax 3 Domaines, that borders Andorra, closed on New Year’s Eve having only been open a few weeks. Swiss ski resort Splügen (1,500m) has closed until things improve, while other Swiss ski resorts have opened bike trails.

Adelboden in Switzerland, slated to host the FIS World Cup Giant Slalom and Slalom races on 7 – 8 January, recorded New Year’s Day temperatures of 20°C, and elsewhere elevations of 2,000m sit above freezing point. The World Cup Chuenisbärgli slope, however, has been approved for the weekend races and we expect to see colder temperatures and storm cycles roll in from Sunday 8 January to turn things round.

Resorts with pistes over 2,000m have been able to keep skiing using artificial snow, as temperatures have to be near freezing for snow machines to be switched on.

“On the whole, the further south and east you are in the Alps, the better the conditions relative to altitude,” reports the expert at Weather To Ski.

“The weather is expected to change on Sunday, bringing significant snow to the northwestern Alps (exactly where it is most needed) … Whether it is followed by further storms remains somewhat uncertain, however, as the rain/snow limit, which is likely to fluctuate considerably due to milder air always being close by in the mix.”

Down in the southern Alps, resorts are faring slightly better. Serre Chevalier is seeing fine conditions and nearby freeride mountain La Grave looks the place to be with temperatures sticking close to zero with 1cm of fresh snowfall and another dusting expected.

The Italian Dolomites have avoided rain and conditions are much better, with off-piste skiing to be had.

For good measure, here’s a video of Candide Thovex doing what he does on a snow-and-grass-streaked mountain (his home hill La Clusaz where Alpine conditions are worst-off) – he’s called it ‘Dry times’:

And Fall Line’s backcountry editor, Martin Chester, is king at scouting out snow stashes, whatever the conditions:

Glen Plake has found some fun up the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix:

Meanwhile in Scotland it’s a totally different story. The mountains are covered in deep snow and skier’s have been at it since mid-December.

Our gear editor, Sophie Nicholson, started 2023 off just right in Scotland:

Glenshee has regular snow flurries and is looking good from the sky:

Image credit The Cabin Ski Hire

For snow depths and weather forecasts check out these sites:

In North America there’s too much of it. California is recording snowfall by the centimetre per hour, it’s falling so heavily. The Palisades ski area near Lake Tahoe has recorded up to 17cm per hour in a big-drop 24 hours that saw nearly a metre fall.

Check back in with us for updates on snow and weather from the Alps, and (hopefully) better news.

And, in case you needed confirmation that there’s powder on the ground in Japan, here’s a how Niseko is looking.