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Snow conditions in Europe’s Alps + a glance at America

I’m not sure one can follow that heading with … “couldn’t be better”, mainly because of the avalanche danger that threatens the region, but without doubt Europe looks all set for a fabulous winter season.

The  mother of all storms hit the Alps late last week. Called Andrea and classified as a hurricane, the storm hit the mountains 4 days ago and top resorts such as Verbier, Val d’Isere, Tignes and Zermatt had to be closed. Zermatt had almost a metre of snow in 24 hours and the local ski schools were warned “Zermatt cut off by big avalanche. Top of town out of bounds”.

Last Friday 20,000 homes in the northern French Alps were without power and in the Austrian Tyrol the police said that thousands of households had also lost their electricity supply.

“With winds peaking at 170 kph we can safely talk about a hurricane. Heavy new snow, freezing temperatures and the hurricane we are talking about high risk. The avalanche risk across Tirol is high and it will rise,” said Rudi Mair, manager of the avalanche action team in Tyrol to The Austrian Times newspaper.

In parts of France the wind is reported to have had gusts of 200 kph.

It snowed heavily in the Dolomites, Italy, too.

The vast majority of resorts had significantly reduced operations. In France the entire Three Valleys links were closed due to the elevated avalanche risk.

The resort of Ischgl in the Tyrol has been cut off after huge snowfalls. “The main access road along the Paznaun Valley from Landeck to Ischgl was open at the weekend, allowing holidaymakers to get in and out of the resort. But since then the road has been closed as a precaution because of the risk of avalanches.”

Ischgl in Austria after receiving epic snow from Hurricane Andrea

Epic snowfall in Ischgl

Austria seems to have borne the brunt of the snowfall. The Arlberg region, which offers some of Austria’s finest skiing (St. Anton is there), reports snow depth on the Galzig now at 5.5m and on the Valluga at 5.8m! Now that’s epic!

Four days of non-stop snowfall left on average 1.5m of snow on the mountains. Locals are saying it is the biggest amount of snow since the record breaking year of 1999 and that the skiing and snowboarding conditions will be very good but very dangerous…

By Monday there had been an increase in lift operations and blue skies could be found in France, Switzerland and Italy.

And today? Well, today is a bluebird day and anyone lucky enough to be up there will be sampling the superb conditions. Damn, we missed it by 2 weeks. We skied over Christmas/New Year. However, it snowed long and hard before we got there… so we can’t complain!

Things are looking up across the pond too. After a fairly dry start, 25cm of fresh snow has fallen across the high resorts of Colorado in America and decent amounts of fresh snow fell in Canada too, with places like Banff getting around 20cm. Heavy snow is expected at Whistler on Tuesday… This will be a relief, according to weather experts December had recorded the 11th least extensive snow cover in the United States in the past 46 years. California has reason to be worried. The average snow depth for resorts in the Lake Tahoe area at present is just 19 inches (40cm).  The resorts in this region normally get an average of 300 –  500 inches per season.

But, there’s a long way to go yet, and surely that snow will fall?!

Alaska, on the other hand, would like it to stop for a while. 5.5 metres of snow has fallen in the last few weeks and the residents of Cordova, a small fishing village, have had to be rescued from their collapsing houses!

What is the weather up to?

 

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