Alpine snow

  • Skiing on the De L'aiguille mountain over La Clusaz in the French Alps. Photo: David Cheskin/PA.

    A high resolution satellite image showing the dry and clear conditions over much of the Alps on New Year's Eve at midday (GMT). With little cloud over the area, the spine of snow can clearly be seen running from south-east France through to Austria.

    One forecast model's estimates of snowfall amounts across the Alps (in cms) for the following ten days, starting from midnight on Wed 1st/Thurs 2nd January.

  • Alpine snow
    02.01.2014 17:05


    Michael Schumacher’s life-threatening skiing accident last Sunday, which followed news of several deadly avalanches in the Alps last month, has prompted much talk of snow conditions and ski safety this week. With many enthusiasts bound for the slopes over the coming weeks, we take a look at conditions in the Alps, as well as recent events.

    The snow report 

    Each year, skiers and snowboarders descend upon popular Alpine resorts, with December widely signalling the start of the ski season. However, many resorts got a head start to the current season after early snowfall in November blanketed large parts of the Alps. Despite this early covering, December saw high pressure bring drier, brighter and milder conditions, with just a few top-ups of snow here and there. Luckily the previous snowfall kept good skiing at high altitudes, but conditions became sketchier on the lower slopes in the run-up to Christmas. Thankfully, as Christmas came and went, many resorts received a much needed dump of snow, with the southern Alps enjoying the largest bounty. The Italian resort of Madesimo, near the Swiss border, emerged on Boxing Day with more than 2m of fresh snow. As 2013 gave way to 2014, various fronts pushed a mixture of rain and snow across the Alps.

    Recent events

    The recent shifts in the weather could certainly have been a contributing factor in the recent deadly snow slips in the Alps. With heavy snow fall and strong winds occurring after a drier and milder spell, the snowpacks would have increased in weight and instability. A skier or boarder venturing near unstable areas of snow could be all it takes to set a slab of snow in motion. In addition, parts of the mountainside could still have a relatively thin covering of snow in places, with off-piste areas at greatest risk of having exposed rocks or other obstacles.

    The snow forecast

    The rest of this week will see frontal systems pass over the Alps, bringing further snowfall, although rain is possible across lower slopes for a time. Much of next week will see settled conditions dominate, with little to speak of in the way of fresh snow.

    By: Laura Caldwell