Heavy snowfall is set to smother the Alps this weekend in a much-needed boost for skiers after record-breaking warm weather turned slopes into green fields.
Snowless terrain in some parts of the Alps and Pyrenees has seen winter sports enthusiasts either head for pastures new or ditch the skis for other activities like horse riding or mountain biking.
In France, only Puy St Vincent has reported more than 2m of snow on top and has 95 per cent of its runs open.
However, that looks set to change from this weekend, with experts predicting heavy snowfall for much of the Alps.
“After another dry and mostly fine day tomorrow, the much-anticipated storm will hit the Alps on Sunday and/or Monday bringing snow to all regions in varying quantities,” alpine weather expert Fraser Wilkin told Planet Ski.
“Between 20-40cm is expected above 1800m by the end of Monday across a wide swathe of the Alps, with 50cm+ in places, the heaviest snow generally likely to fall at altitude in the northern French Alps.
“The snow from this storm probably won’t be enough to get the lower areas of the north-western Alps that have lost most or all of their snow (e.g. Samoëns, Les Gets) back on track, but it’s a start.”
Some popular resorts such as Tignes and Courcheval are higher up, and so had escaped the worst of the lack of snow, with many pistes already open. Both are expecting to see snowfall at the weekend.
In Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc, a “heavy” fall of snow is expected throughout Sunday and Monday, bringing delight to skiers.
A more “moderate” fall of snow is expected in the French resort of Avoriaz, with heavier snow expected on Monday.
Moderate falls of snow are also expected at the weekend in some Swiss resorts, such as St Moritz, close to the border with Italy.
Before the turn of the year, December temperatures had provided snow fall to give many resorts a positive end to 2022.
But since then, France has experienced its warmest winter weather since 1997 and eight other European countries have clocked record highs for the first week of January. Rain has also played a part in snow melting.
The Swiss Alps have seen temperatures that locals have commented are closer to what might be expected in June.
The Splügen-Tambo resort closed on Monday with the message: “Due to the lack of snow, the heavy rainfall and high temperatures, we have to close our ski resort until further notice. It is no longer possible for us to prepare the slopes because we have too much water . . . and the snow does not freeze at night.”
Fraser Wilkin, of Alpine tour operator Snow Wise, told the i: “Things are looking pretty desperate in lower altitude northwestern resorts such as Morzine, Megève, La Clusaz, Villars and Gstaad.”
France, though, is set to be the biggest beneficiary of a glut of snow set to fall in the coming days. Around 30-60cm has been forecast for the mountains.
In Austria, where snow has been preserved to form thin trails on otherwise barren hillsides, around 10-30cm of snow has been forecast - with colder conditions on their way. And while Italy is the least in need, it will benefit from an extra helping of around 20-40cm this weekend, while up to 55cm could fall in Switzerland.
North America and Scandinavia
Mountains in US and Canada have been hit with a totally different problem - temperatures that are too cold. The well-reported bomb cyclone effect has brought freezing temperatures to parts of North America, which havve wrecked havoc with transport and led to dozens of deaths.
On the skiing front, hillsides in western Canada have had consistently ski-friendly conditions but temperatures in the -30Cs have seen runs closed for safety reasons. It is a similar story in the US, where western ranges have been closed due to the cold and eastern US hills have been shut due to warm weather. However, the situation is likely to improve in weeks to come.
Scandinavia, it seems, has the best and whitest situation - with up to 90cm in Norway, Finland, and Sweden. And more snow has been forecast for the week ahead.