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How does this warm March compare to previous years?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I've only got a couple of years of skiing under my belt so am relatively new to it (and consequently new to all these warm weather fears). Anyway, I was reading earlier about the 2010-2011 season and the lack of snow during the season coupled with a warm March meant the season was practically over by the end of March.

I just wondered how similar this year was to that season, or are these weather conditions just typical of spring kicking in, and it's the norm rather the exception? If the warm weather continues for the rest of the month will that be the end of the season by the start of April?

Just interested in the thoughts of those who have witnessed many more seasons that me Smile
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Handy Turnip - from what I can tell by looking at snow depths on Iglu.com this season in France is more like 2011-12 than 2010-11. However I'm no expert. Hopefully someone who knows more will be along soon.
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There's always snow somewhere. The season may have been a bit rubbish in some of the Northern Alps but loads of areas in the Southern Alps, Scotland, and probably loads of other places I'm not aware of have record breaking depths of snow. The glaciers and high skiing areas will always have plenty of snow right into summer. I don't remember 2010/11 as being particularly memorable but just looked up how many days I skied and I did 27, 22 of those in Scotland including one day touring off Arthur's Seat in the middle of Edinburgh so again it couldn't have been that bad a season, my last day was the 9th April though which does seem quite early. i have a weeks holiday planned for the first week in April, venue to be chosen nearer the time but expect to have a great weeks skiing, in lovely soft spring corn if no powder is available.
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lynseyf, fair point - Scotland and the Pyrenees have done pretty well this year. I guess I'm a bit fixated on the Northern Alps as I've got two trips planned (late March & April).
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2010/11 was poor for the entire winter in most of Europe. This meant when it warmed up later in the season what there was melted pretty quickly. However I skied in L2A in April as usual and despite temperatures of 15C at 3400 there was still decent skiing above 2400m, it was pretty dodgy below that.

This year is nowhere near that bad although I'll know better at the weekend.
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It is not unusual to have a warm period like this in Western Europe this time of year , apart from North Austria I don't think depths are that bad and at record levels in the South side of the Alps , this winter has been warm and stormy and at some point we had to have a dry period . I go to the Tarentaise in the French alps several times a season and I'm not too concerned about my next trip end march/ start of Apeil and I'm sure the weather will change to colder possibly snowier weather soon . 2010/11 was a very unusual year with hardly any snowfall after January followed by really warm and sunny weather , this year there has been a lot of snow in February and from what I have seen a lot of snow still around now .
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As a comparison same views at resort level in L2A 1650m

Les Deux Alpes
April 9th 2011
Les Deux Alpes Easter 2010
April 4th 2010
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Most of the northern French Alps have snow depths at or above the seasonal average, according to Meteo FRance. Les Saisies, at 1650m, has 130 cms at the base of the slopes. Pisted snow is more resistant to melt and it's surprising how much warm weather it takes to melt that much snow. But you only ski on the top bit and when there's no overnight freeze even at 2000m (which is the case at the moment and for the next few days at least) the condition does deteriorate quite rapidly. So yes, this spell is typical of "spring kicking in" but if it goes on solidly for weeks it doesn't look like a great end to the season and for places where current snow cover is below seasonal average it could be pretty disastrous. But nobody knows how the weather will develop - it might get cold again and give us some decent dumps at the end of March and in April. Though even decent dumps, that late in the season, don't "freshen things up" for very long, with long days and the sun higher in the sky. It's still a lovely time to be in the mountains though.
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Cheers for the pics Claude B, that's a really interesting comparison.

You're right pam w, it all depends on how long it lasts - at the moment it's just a blip, let's hope that's all it is!! Smile It's just strange seeing temperatures of 8/9C in early March.

In 2011 it seems it didn't take long for the warm temperatures to have a terminal effect, but like you say that was more to do with the lack of snow base at that point than the warmer weather.
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Pretty rare not to get a warm spell in March. It's only really a problem if it's prolonged or if it's not snowed much previously.
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Fingers crossed for that cold snap kicking in on the 19th!
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Hope so I'm skiing right up to 26th April Shocked
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agh, 2010/2011, what a crappy vintage, this was Val Thorens at 3000 meters (cime de carron) at the end of the season



and who can forget the agony of Alpe d'Huez in early April

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davidof, wow.. and that's at 3000m! When you say that was the end of the season, was that May or late April? I assume at resort level in VT it was pretty bare!
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Still falls between February and April
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Handy Turnip wrote:
davidof, wow.. and that's at 3000m! When you say that was the end of the season, was that May or late April? I assume at resort level in VT it was pretty bare!


They had snow making in resort so it was ok but it was absolutely bare below the town and the sunny link pistes over to les Menuires. That was the closing Sunday. On the Orelle side there were rocks and bare patches all over the pistes down from the Carron, good slalom practise.

It was still worth skiing.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 12-03-14 21:46; edited 1 time in total
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pam w wrote:
Most of the northern French Alps have snow depths at or above the seasonal average, according to Meteo FRance. Les Saisies, at 1650m, has 130 cms at the base of the slopes. Pisted snow is more resistant to melt and it's surprising how much warm weather it takes to melt that much snow. But you only ski on the top bit and when there's no overnight freeze even at 2000m (which is the case at the moment and for the next few days at least) the condition does deteriorate quite rapidly. So yes, this spell is typical of "spring kicking in" but if it goes on solidly for weeks it doesn't look like a great end to the season and for places where current snow cover is below seasonal average it could be pretty disastrous. But nobody knows how the weather will develop - it might get cold again and give us some decent dumps at the end of March and in April. Though even decent dumps, that late in the season, don't "freshen things up" for very long, with long days and the sun higher in the sky. It's still a lovely time to be in the mountains though.


I think you must be having overnight freeze at 2000m. Do you not have clear skies there? Even if overnight temperature stays above freezing snow will refreeze under clear skies and calm conditions just like we get frost and ice at home without temperature going to freezing.
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Handy Turnip, We were in Les Houches this week in 2011. It was incredibly warm. Over 20 degrees some days, skiing slush by 10.00AM. Also, there had been no snow there since for about 9 weeks. Got cold again the following week, not much more snow, but was still open in mid-April
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Thornyhill, gives me more confidence that snow is a bit more resilient than I'm giving it credit for!
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This was Toura at 2600m at L2A on 13th April 2011. So even in that awful year there was decent skiing a bit higher up.

Les Deux Alpes
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Handy Turnip, winters are very variable. In Northern Alps (France/Switz) this year had a bit of a slow start but has been pretty good since with higher than average depths now especially on N facing slopes (well, they were higher when I last heard, which was about 10 days ago). Snow is both more and less resilient than you might imagine. Often more resilient as people don't know/understand just how much there is, particularly in gullies, etc.

I am hoping for a nice warm few weeks of spring skiing into May myself.
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Thornyhill, in 2011 I think Les Houches was closed by April 1st. There was certainly no snow by mid April when I was there.... even Le Tour was closed that year; pretty much the only skiing was on Grands Montets and that, in places at 2000m, was largely pisted mud.

However, even in that awful season there were still some good runs to be had mid-late April on Grands Montets. I've skied Easter almost every year for the past 25 (and I realise Easter varies in when it falls!) and, apart from 2011, have had an excellent time. 2011 we spent as much time hiking as skiing, including a very pleasant walk from the top of the Le Tour chair over to the Vallorcine gondola, at c.2000m.

A year or 2 back I arrived in April to spring in the valley (green grass, flowers, 15-20C) and within 2 days we had 3ft of snow and -5C. So far this year feels average to me, but it could all start to get scratchy in the next 3 weeks if these temperatures keep up, or could be fantastic with a big dump, who knows... However, I'm pretty confident that by early April skiing above 2000m will still be ok even without big further snowfalls. I certainly hope so, with 2 weeks booked in April!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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This was April in lech in the very poor 2010/11 year.

This year snow levels are lower in the Arlberg than 10/11

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