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Is this the worst ever start to a European ski season?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
PowderAdict, many places in the western Alps and in the Pyrenees (which are the regions I pay attention to) have natural snow above 2000/2100m. But I think man-made snow is a must for most resorts these days. Whether the situation is worse or not these days I cannot say, but there are enough resorts with good snowmaking - particularly useful to get the resort runs open and keep them open at the end of the season - that it seems unnecessary to take a risk on one which doesn't. If I were running a ski resort I'd be carefully considering the need for investment in cannons. The Pyrenees have been using them for years, but still continue to make incremental investments year after year.

(I suspect that the Pyrenees is significantly better prepared for climatic changes that may impact the industry than the Alps are, generally speaking. It's not unusual for a resort to have between 30% and 70% snowmaking coverage over their pistes. A few have almost the entire piste map covered. And yet it's not because the Pyrenees are particularly less snowy than the Alps; indeed the snowfall has been respectable enough over recent seasons, and there have even been a couple of interesting datapoints recently in that the European resort with the greatest snow depth at some point mid-season has been a Pyrenean one for the last couple of seasons. Rather, it's because the season starts really early in the Spanish Pyrenees and Andorra due to some unfortunately-timed bank holidays, and because the best snowfalls are often at the end of the season which brings in customers but the temperatures fluctuate wildly so the lower runs get trashed very quickly. In April it's great to see so many resort runs still open and reasonable long after the natural snowline has receded, thanks to the huge work put in to creating and compacting the early-season base. It's amazing how long snow lasts once it's been flattened into concrete slabs in November!)


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Tue 20-12-16 18:54; edited 1 time in total
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@Pyremaniac, @SnoodyMcFlude, I guess the point I was asking/making, is that snow sports now only exist in many parts of the Alps due to snow cannons. I also guess that once one resort made the snow cannon investment, every other local resort had to do the same. The old argument in a bad year would have been "No one else has any snow either, so stay here", but as soon as the next resort could produce snow.........
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Huge amount of snow in the "retour d'est" regions, NW Italy and southern part of french alps, piemonte aosta and hautes alpes, isola 2000 montgenevre sestriere cervinia alagna. Plus valley descents on artificial in these areas, which is normal mid december.

Another retour d'est is under way right now, dumping another 60-120 cms in these resorts. So massive snowpack in the SW of the alps.

Remainder of the alps, hardly any natural snow till very high up. So there is snow, it is just divided very unevenly.

Apparently also suite reasonable snowcover in Pyrenees.

So decidedly not the worst ever season start.
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Or go tot the Lebanon where they already have over 1 metre of snow on the bottom of the slopes

http://www.skipass.com/forums/enmontagne/stations_ski_ailleurs/autres/sujet-138058.html
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PowderAdict wrote:
@Pyremaniac, @SnoodyMcFlude, I guess the point I was asking/making, is that snow sports now only exist in many parts of the Alps due to snow cannons. I also guess that once one resort made the snow cannon investment, every other local resort had to do the same. The old argument in a bad year would have been "No one else has any snow either, so stay here", but as soon as the next resort could produce snow.........


Right, but as others and I have been saying, snowsports are existing perfectly well above 2100m without snow cannons. (I don't know what the "equivalent" altitude is in Austria, say, but I would think they're seeing a similar split between upper runs and lower runs.) The snowmaking makes sure that the lower runs remain convenient. Was it ever different? I think it's pretty certain that decades ago there was more snow... but are the 2010's really that different from the 1990's? I think people are getting more demanding, rather than the conditions getting worse (over the short term) to be honest.

I agree with what you say about the investments, certainly.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Tue 20-12-16 19:01; edited 2 times in total
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http://u.cubeupload.com/vegetaleb/15541170140386581964.jpg
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Limone Piemonte, 50 km north of Côte d'Azur

http://cdn.wepowder.nl/forum/1/19694-w800.jpg

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I've had the "honor" of skiing Alta/Snowbird in their lowest snow year in record and whistler two years go when the mountain was barren below 4500 ft. Guess I'll experience the alps worst winter as well. Frustrating times.
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Best start for 3 years.
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Champagny Boxing Day 2015 and Jan 4th 2016

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Onnem wrote:
Huge amount of snow in the "retour d'est" regions, NW Italy and southern part of french alps, piemonte aosta and hautes alpes, isola 2000 montgenevre sestriere cervinia alagna. Plus valley descents on artificial in these areas, which is normal mid december.

Another retour d'est is under way right now, dumping another 60-120 cms in these resorts. So massive snowpack in the SW of the alps.

Remainder of the alps, hardly any natural snow till very high up. So there is snow, it is just divided very unevenly.

Apparently also suite reasonable snowcover in Pyrenees.

So decidedly not the worst ever season start.



Of the roughly 1000 ski resorts across the European Alps and near-Alps, less than 50 have good conditions right now.
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@Onnem, it doesn't look to me as though e.g. Champoluc has had 60-120cms yet

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Quote:
Aside from the various glacier runs, is anywhere open with only natural snow, or does every resort now need man made?
Loads of runs at altitude in the 3 Valleys and Espace Killy are currently open on natural snow - I skied them the weekend before last.
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under a new name wrote:
@Onnem, it doesn't look to me as though e.g. Champoluc has had 60-120cms yet


Retour d'est comes from SE and favours easterly exposed flanks. Most snow in SW Italian alps, plus eastern side of Monte Rosa. Snow quantity will decline from Alagna, to Gressoney, to Champoluc. Alagna may get 150-200% of Champoluc.
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@Onnem, we're based in Serre Che and we've been monitoring where the snow is falling and it's not been in the Southern French / Hautes Alpes - down at Isola / Mercantour they must have had all of 20cm.

Abries (Queyras) which was meant to score big time has had all of 10cm at the most.

For sure some resorts well South in Italy have done better but it's rather frustrating and what has fallen has been trashed by high winds at altitude. That photo of Limone is below the treeline, but that what happens in the winter with storms, you get the snow, then you get the wind!

We're still trying to decide (where to go) on a road trip for tomorrow but I'm not too enthused about potential conditions.

When you're actually out in the mountains it's a different picture to being in front of a screen Laughing
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@Onnem, so Alagna gets 20cms?

Not quite 60-120...
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Nearly all of the pistes are open in Val d'isere (or at least will be once the current high winds have died down).
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Retour d'est is notoriously difficult tot predict, seems this one is less copious than predicted. Pila got knee deel though, courtesy of wepowder
http://wepowder.nl/report/14474

And read meteomorris' prediction (paste URL into google translate, it's in Dutch)
http://wepowder.nl/forum/topic/235283

Update, indeed less than forecasted, but still nice piccies, ses this forum topic
http://wepowder.nl/forum/topic/235281
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@Onnem, I've been ski touring and alpine the Queyras for a good few years and last three years Val Maira and over that time have a pretty good idea about the Retour D'Est having luckily been there when it happens three times now!
Talking to local refuge owners and the like along with the guides you tend to get more of a hands on knowledge.
And I tend to think the likes of wepowder are just bigging things up that do not frankly exist!
Pila next to Aosta is so far North of Turin that there's no way any snow falling there could be considered a by product of a classic RDE rolling eyes


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Tue 20-12-16 21:35; edited 1 time in total
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Weathercam wrote:
we've been monitoring where the snow is falling and it's not been in the Southern French / Hautes Alpes - down at Isola / Mercantour they must have had all of 20cm.


Yep, was talking this afternoon to a friend who is just back from Isola and said there wasn't very much at all down there...
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@under a new name, I agree with your points about peoples memories and also that this is not unusual - in isolation- but as @davidof makes the point in his stats about the recurrence in the French Alps over the last three seasons (if you include parts of Austria four seasons) this is IMO what makes many people despondent. Maybe we are wrong to expect picture postcard white scenery at Christmas but we do. Maybe that's because for lots of years we did find it, the likes of 88-89 apart.

I stopped skiing for about 12 years until 2005/06. Since I've been back on the planks IIRC of the winters up until 2013/14 only 2006/07 was a bad start, at least in Austria. So, my recent experience of poor winter starts has gone from 1 bad start in 8 to 5 bad starts in 12 which is why I suspect I and others are thinking like this. Yes we can debate statistics from now until the snow finally comes in sufficient quantity, however, as is often the case in many aspects of life, perception trumps reality?
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Prato Nevoso
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Weathercam wrote:
@Onnem,
And I tend to think the likes of wepowder are just bigging things up that do not frankly exist!
Pila next to Aosta is so far North of Turin that there's no way any snow falling there could be considered a by product of a classic RDE rolling eyes


Meteomorris is a serious forecaster with 25 years of focus on predicting offpiste conditions.

And yes, Pila is not only too far north but most importantly top far in the inferior of Valle d'Aosta to get the full load.

Champorcher is beter positioned for ESE like now. And Alagna, Macugnaga etc get more with SSE.
When Abries only gets 20 cms it's nog much of a RDE.

Edit; even Limone Piemonte only got about 60 cms


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Tue 20-12-16 22:01; edited 2 times in total
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@OP: No, I have seen it much worse than this. I was in the 4 valleys last weekend and I had great on-piste skiing, but at altitude - above 1700m - it ranked as the best and most extensive pre-Christmas skiing I've had in the last four years. My daughter came back today and they'd had a bit of snow, with the temperature -10C as opposed to about +4C last weekend. But it is thin. This Is not so much of a problem where there is plenty of off-piste snow to push onto the piste, but at lower altitudes, no, it isn't good, with no snow at all down to our village at 1500m, so it'll be buses back from higher-up for anyone Christmas Week, if nothing changes. So overall, not brilliant, but not catastrophic either. This could all change, of course, if there's a fall before the Weekend.

Last Sunday morning. Absolutely on our own at Savoleyres, above Verbier, about 2000m



Pistes below about 1900m were closed off and below about 1800m were almost without snow. For this area, it'll all depend on how well the snow gun stockpiles have been built up and can compensate for wear and tear (if the pistes are opened). what's positive is that the temperatures have been low enough to generate artificial snow and preserve what was there.
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@robboj, sure, fair points, and certainly perception, err, Trumps (sic) reality.
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queen bodecia wrote:
As far as the World Cup ski racing season is concerned the only races that have been cancelled so far were in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek (the latter was moved to Val D'Isère). Today's women's race in Courchevel was cancelled due to high winds.

I seem to remember a lot more was cancelled last season and St Anton's races were moved to Zauchensee. This season seems colder, but certainly dry.


I was this weekend at Val D'isere and the conditions were absolutely great for the time of the year!

The woman race was also moved from 2nd December to last weekend.
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It's a damn sight better than last year.
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under a new name wrote:
@robboj, sure, fair points, and certainly perception, err, Trumps (sic) reality.


Aha Sir! I see what you did there. the pun was entirely intentional! Very Happy Embarassed
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how do you think will be portes du soleil 13th jan and foward?
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@Danielald, who knows?
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Yeah was really bad today - this is KenX ripping in Sestrierrre / Pragelato where we scored 40-50cm of fresh.

Stunning difference in snow accumulation right across the Via Lattea from Montgenevre to Pragelato, with the best in Pragelato.

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Update with piccies from Piemonte
http://wepowder.nl/forum/topic/235443
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@Weathercam, looks awful, one of the branches on the tree in the centre hardly has any snow on it at all.
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@Onnem, thing is you can actually have too much as we've found out on numerous occasions when chasing storms.

Plus you're severely limited as to what is open, and that is especially the case at the moment as the resorts are not yet fully geared up as there's only roughly 25% occupancy, and then there's the avy risk higher up.

So great to loads of accumulation but most are unable to ski steep trees and deep powder and anything akin to a blue / mellow red and you'll just come to a grinding halt if it's not pisted rolling eyes
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Valfrejus, 50 cms
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Had a great day in Abries in the Queyras today. Soft and fresh in the trees and upper slopes. Gently snowing as we left.
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robboj wrote:
@under a new name, I agree with your points about peoples memories and also that this is not unusual - in isolation- but as @davidof makes the point in his stats about the recurrence in the French Alps over the last three seasons (if you include parts of Austria four seasons) this is IMO what makes many people despondent. Maybe we are wrong to expect picture postcard white scenery at Christmas but we do. Maybe that's because for lots of years we did find it, the likes of 88-89 apart.

I stopped skiing for about 12 years until 2005/06. Since I've been back on the planks IIRC of the winters up until 2013/14 only 2006/07 was a bad start, at least in Austria. So, my recent experience of poor winter starts has gone from 1 bad start in 8 to 5 bad starts in 12 which is why I suspect I and others are thinking like this. Yes we can debate statistics from now until the snow finally comes in sufficient quantity, however, as is often the case in many aspects of life, perception trumps reality?



The reality is, the European Alps are warming, melting and drying.

Average snowfall across the region has declined 10-30% in the past 40 years.

The number of yearround skiable glaciers has fallen roughly -50% in the past 30 years.

Tignes, France, one of the highest resorts in the world, has seen its season-length shrink by around -20% in the past 20 years.

The outlook is grim.
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Despite Donald Trump's assurances that global warming is not occurring @Whitegold has a point that in fact climate change is not helping skiing Sad
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What? Noooooooo! @Whitegold, if only you'd told us sooner.

By the way, 42% of your statistics are made up on the spot.
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I think eventually, there will only be really good years and really bad years.
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