November 2023 is turning into a month to remember for snowfall in the Alps, with most areas seeing repeat falls, and a good many clocking up to more than a metre of snow above 2,000m.
Ski areas in Austria are the latest to report heavy snowfall, with resorts including Lech (pictured above and at bottom today) and St Anton in the Arlberg reporting heavy snowfall down to resort level on Friday 17th November.
All the snow means that around 30 ski areas will be open this weekend, a good number of them including Andermatt, Crans Montana, Laax, Madonna di Campiglio, Tignes, Val Thorens and Verbier opening earlier than planned because of all the snowfall.
This weekend marks the start of the French ski season, a week earlier than scheduled.
A lot of the snow that has fallen below about 2,000m altitude in recent weeks has melted again and there have been reports of rain, gales and increased avalanche risk at times as temperatures fluctuate but Chris Radford from Henry’s Avalanche Talk (HAT) says that’s pretty normal for the first half of November and is actually rather a good thing.
“Temporarily it will be very hazardous and unpleasant. The wet snow spontaneous kind of avalanches will be common, but not the ones triggered by skiers though. We have seen evidence of floods and mudslides on the road into Val d’isere this week due to the rapid warming. But as it cools down, the wet snow will refreeze and create a very stable base. So early season melt freeze is a good thing for off piste skiers. Whereas long periods of cold dry weather is a bad thing and tends to create a weak layer,” says Chris.
The amount of terrain open at centres that already open is also fast increasing. Solden has led the way for ‘most open’ for several weeks and has jumped from 60km open a week ago to 90km this weekend, while its newly opened neighbour Obergurgl has 50km of runs open.
Next are two more Austrian Tirol resorts, Hintertux and the Stubai, both with nearly 40km of slopes open already, with Verbier holding 5th place. The Austrian areas may be trying to pre-empty a fifth Tirol resort, Ischgl, linked to Samnaun in Switzerland, which often opens with over 100km of slopes from day one. It’s season starts this coming Thursday and while some years has to make a huge snowmaking effort to open so much terrain, says this November there’s lot of the natural stuff lying (as pictured above).
Although snow conditions are unusually good for this early in the pre-season above about 2,000m thanks to all the snowfall this month, the experts at Snow-forecast.com say it’s too early to know yet how the start of the main season will play out in a month’s time and whether we’ll have better conditions on lower slopes than we did at the start of last season.
For the latest snow forecast and updates on where is best to ski now, as well as ski news, gear reviews and resort spotlights, you can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast directory.