Christmas snowfall in Europe

Fri 01 January 10

It's been a good snowy Christmas in France. Even if the temperatures last week were higher, the French mountains have still received good snowfall. Chamonix has topped Europe’s snowfall tally for the past seven days with a 103cm (3.5 feet) accumulation.

Christmas snowfall in Europe

Christmas snowfall in Europe © Photo: Formigal tourism reports that the Alps, Scandinavia, Scotland and Eastern North America have all reported heavy snow in the past seven days over Christmas.
Unfortunately some resorts including Engelberg and Val d’Isere have seen some periods of rainfall at resort level as temperatures have risen.

It’s been a good snowy Christmas in France. Even if the temperatures last week were higher, the French mountains have still received good snowfall. Chamonix has topped Europe’s snowfall tally for the past seven days with a 103cm (3.5 feet) accumulation.
40cm (16 inches) of snow fell in Serre Chevalier in the Southern Alps and 35cm (14 inches) at La Clusaz in the northern Alps. Further snowfalls are expected for the end of the week. 34cm (17 inches) of snow is expected in Tignes and Val d'Isere in the coming days.
The avalanche risk is high across the Alps with sadly several fatal incidents in the past week. In France Montgenevre (which currently has the deepest snow depth in France at 180cm/six feet) has the highest alert level of five, Ste Foy Tarentaise and Serre Chevalier are at level four.

Lötschental currently has the biggest snow base in Switzerland with 221cm (7.4 feet). Yesterday the resort reported another 16cm (six inches) of new snow. They've had 54cm (nearly two feet) in the past seven days. Nax has had the most new snow in the past week however with 80cm (2.7 feet). Other Swiss resorts with deep snow include Andermatt-Gotthard and St. Moritz which have snow depths of two meters (6.7 feet) each.
Yesterday there was 10cm (four inches) of new snow in Sölden, Austria, which has received 35cm (14 inches) on new snow in the past seven days. It now has 167cm (5.6 feet) on upper slopes. Lech Zürs has had 25cm (10 inches) in seven days, while the Großglockner / Heiligenblut and Montafon Gargellen have had 30cm (a foot) each. The Mölltaler Glacier continues to have the deepest snow depths in the country with 240cm (eight feet).

Formigal Christmas 09 snowfall
Formigal Christmas 09 snowfall
Photo: Formigal tourism

Italy still has the deepest snow in Europe with 312cm (10.5 feet) at the Marmolada glacier near Arabba and 2.6m (8.7 feet) at Boirmio, which was hosting World Cup downhill ski races this week.

Italian resorts are also reporting some of the biggest snowfalls of the past seven days. Sestriere had 60cm (two feet), Courmayeur 65cm (2.3 feet), Livigno 80cm (2.7 feet) and Bormio 90cm (three feet).

The fresh snow has arrived in the Pyrenees a little later than the Alps but the conditions are now near normal with a snow depth of nearly 60cm (two feet), but most stations are still only partially open. There’s been 30cm (a foot) of fresh snow in Gavarnie, Cauterets has 100cm (3.3 feet) and Piau Engaly and Peyragudes 70cm (2.3 feet).

In Spain many resorts had to close due strong wind, rain and warm temperatures but a cold front is expected to bring new snow New Year. Formigal has some of the deepest snow in the country with 120cm (four feet) of snow on upper slopes and most terrain open, 97km, and 70cm (2.3 feet) on upper slopes.

There’s been heavy snow in Scandinavia with lots of snow at Swedish and Norwegian resorts in the last week. In Sweden Valfjället and Ski Sunne got the most snow with 40cm (16 inches) each and Fjätervålen 35cm (14 inches) got the most snow.

The Christmas holiday also brought really low temperatures to large parts of the area, dropping to -15 to -25 at several resorts.

Elsewhere in Northern Europe there’s no outdoor alpine skiing in Belgium at the moment, but the Nordic resorts around Belgium´s highest peak ´Signal de Botrange´ (694m) are still busy with snow fans from Belgium and the Netherlands. Baraque Michel, Mont Rigi and Signal de Botrange are still open with 15cm (six inches) of snow, which received 3cm (an inch) more fresh snow last Sunday. More fresh snow is expected next week.

Scottish ski areas are enjoying their best Christmas for 14 years. Over 2000 skiers a day have been enjoying the excellent snow cover all over Cairngorml and temperatures are set to remain below freezing until at least Tuesday 5th January and the Scottish school holidays continue through to January 11th. Forecast strong winds are expected to drop to give a another good skiing day on New Year’s Day with bright sunshine and only pockets of cloud. More snow and blizzards are expected from 2nd January.

The picture in Eastern Europe is mixed with resorts in countries further west like Slovakia and Slovenia reporting fresh snow, but in Bulgaria the snowpack has diminished and is quite thin at all areas. In Slovakia Donovaly reported 10cm (four inches) of new snow today, Vel’ka Race 5cm (two inches).

Across the Atlantic the main snow news has been heavy snow across the Eastern side of the North American continent, with many ski areas in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and New York State reporting at least a foot (30cm) of new snow. More southerly states like West Virginia and New Jersey have also had snow. Most of the rest of the continent has seen limited fresh snow and major resorts are still only partially open.

In Quebec 97% of the Mont-Sainte-Anne trail network is now open to skiers and riders. In addition to this happy and welcomed news, night skiing is now in operation and Mont-Sainte-Anne has the highest nocturnal vertical drop of all Canada, with 100% of its terrain available. Both Mont-Sainte-Anne and it’s sister resort, Stoneham, have received 70cm (2.3 feet) of snow in the last week.

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Chamonix, France

Snowboard Guide rating 10 out of 10 “Chamonix offers some truly excellent freeriding and great natural freestyle terrain. It's not great for beginners and can suffer if there's not much snow. It's rough round the edges - but therein lies its charm. If you can, wait until there's fresh snow then jump in your car.”