Where can you find the best powder right now?


By meteomorris on 15 December 2015 · 1

Winter in the Alps didn't really start yet. You can ski on artificial snow in some resorts, but if you want to ride powder than you'll have to search really hard. But where on the planet can you ride deep powder right now? Christmas is coming and that means that prices for accommodation will go sky high, so you better stay at a resort where you'll find good snow. You'll find an extensive overview about the snow conditions worldwide below. Keep in mind that conditions may change in a week or so, but also that a base won't disappear just like that.

If you don't have time to read the whole article, check out this summary:

  • Alps: The Alps have a very bad start of the winter, with the northwest as the only exception. If the snow will come down again from the northwest, the het Berner Oberland is the place to be.
  • Pyrenees: The Pyrenees have a very bad start of the winter is well. It's hard to find some powder and you'll mainly ride on artificial snow.
  • Scandinavia: The conditions in western Norway are pretty good. The temperatures will be (too) high next week, but the cold temperatues and the snowfall will return the week before Christmas. The conditions are good, but the days are short this time of the year.
  • Japan: Hokkaido had a good start of the winter. There's plenty of snow and it's pretty cold. It will be on like Donkey Kong when the snow starts falling again. Conditions aren't that good on the main island of Honshu.
  • Canada: The start of the winter in the Canadian Rockies couldn't be better. The snow cover is thicker than normal and there's more snow coming up. Whistler has a great start of the season even though the temperatures were a bit too high last week. You won't have any trouble finding great snow in this region.
  • USA: The start of the winter is really good in the west, but dramatic in the east.

The Alps

The Alps have a dramatic start of the season. There is just about no snow in the southern Alps, just like in the French resorts south of the line Grenoble-Val Thorens-Tignes. The same goes for the Austrian resorts at low altitude east of Innsbruck. An exception is the northwest of the Alps where the snow in some resorts even comes close to the long-year average. Without help from artificial snow skiing is not or only very limited possible in 70% of the areas. You'll find a summary by region and tips for NOW and for later below. No idea what I mean by a region? Just click on the name to check out the details.

  • Western Alps north: -
    In the high alpine you'll find a base between 20 and 60 centimeters, especially on north-facing slopes above 2200 meters. South-facing slopes are significantly worse. Most snow can be found around the Mont Blanc and in western Valais. You won't find any natural snow below 2000 meters.
  • Western Alps central: -/+
    Similar conditions as in the Western Alps north. You'll find a base between 20-60 centimeters on north facing slopes in the high alpine. There are more peaks higher than 2500 meters, so you'll have more options. You won't find any natural snow below 2000 meters.
  • Western Alps south: ---
    Dramatic conditions. The more south you go, the worse it gets. On average you will only find a little of snow above 2000 meters (but only on north-facing slopes). Expect 0-20 cm of natural snow. The snow machines are working overtime.

Best conditions in the Alps in the northwest
Best conditions in the Alps in the northwest

  • Northern Alps west: +
    This is where you'll find the best conditions. A lot of snow came down in November and they even got some freshies last week. You can even find some powder above 2000 meters. Conditions deteriorate fast below 1800 meter.

Most snow in Vorarlberg and on the glaciers
Most snow in Vorarlberg and on the glaciers

  • Northern Alps central: -/+
    The glaciers and Vorarlberg are okay, the other parts have little to no snow. The conditions aren't good below 2000 meters.
  • Northern Alps east: --
    The conditions are bad (except on the glacier of the Kitzsteinhorn). North faces are still white above 2000 meter, but you'll have to ride on white ribbons of artificial snow at lower altitude.
  • Southern Alps west: --
    A dramatic start of the winter. Large parts of the Piemonte simply have no snow at all. Only the regions that border France (Courmayeur) and Switzerland (Cervinia and Monte Rosa) have some natural snow above 2000 meter.
  • Southern Alps central: --
    A very bad start of the winter. You'll only find some natural snow around the Ortler and the Schnalstaler glacier.
  • Southern Alps east: ---
    A dramatic start. Most resorts in the Dolomites run on nothing more than artificial snow.

The Pyrenees

The Pyrenees have a very bad start of the winter. There's no snow to be found below 2000 meters and also above the tree line the snowpack is pretty thin. Without help from snowmaking skiing is not or just very limited possible in 80% of the resorts.

Scandinavia

Western Norway has a great start of winter. The snow cover is thicker than normal and although next week will be warm, the long term is showing cold temperatures and snowfall again. Christmas will be definitely white over here. Too bad the days are very short because of the limited daylight.

Snowcover in the west of Norway is thicker than normal
Snowcover in the west of Norway is thicker than normal

  • Norway West: ++
    A great start of winter! The conditions are good above 800-1000 meters. Next week will be good!
  • Norway east and Sweden: --
    Because of the western current, the peaks more to the east didn't get that much snow. We still have to wait for cold temperatures and snowfall.

Obviously less snow in the east of Norway
Obviously less snow in the east of Norway

Canada, the northwest of the USA and Alaska

The Canadian Rockies have a great start of winter and you'll find the best snow conditions on earth here at the moment.

  • Canadian Rockies: +++
    November and December were exceptionally good. You'll find a good base and you can ride powder pretty everywhere. Last week was a little bit warm, but the cold temperatures are back and there's plenty of powder. You'll find the best snow conditions in the world in this region. Keep in mind there are some weak layers in the snowpack. Check the local avalanche forecast on a daily basis and adjust your plans on it.
  • Pacific Northwest: +
    The snow cover is thicker than normal, but the snow line was relatively high last week and will be again this week. This means that resorts not as high as Mt. Baker or Crystal Mountain only have good conditions at the top. It's much better in Whistler Blackcomb. The peaks are higher and the area is pretty big. Great conditions in this region in general!
  • Alaska: -/+
    The season in Alaska didn't really start yet. Of course, there are the ski resorts at the coast, but the days are short. The snow cover is still a bit thinner than normal.

Snow cover at the coast thinner than normal
Snow cover at the coast thinner than normal

USA

The start of the winter in the USA is pretty good, especially compared to the start of winter in Europe. You can find a snow cover almost everywhere that's equal or even thicker than normal for the time of year. Some freshies are coming down next week, but the snowline it is on the high side. Because of the unfavorable exchange rate of the US dollar versus the Euro (and better snow in Hokkaido and in the Canadian Rockies) the US is not on top of our list.

Great start
Great start

  • Northern Rockies: +
    The start of the winter has been better in this region. But do not be fooled by the long-year average. You can still find great snow in this region and there's more to come. The start is clearly better than last year.
  • Utah: +
    The start of the winter has been better in this region. But do not be fooled by the long-year average. You can still find great snow in this region and there's more to come. The start is clearly better than last year.
  • North and central Colorado +
    Or even ++. The start of the winter is so much better than last year. The snowcover is always a bit thinner compared to the regions more to the west, but you'll find a decent base here.

Also a great start
Also a great start

  • Southwest Colorado and New Mexico ++
    Great start and high expectations because of an El Niño year.
  • California +
    Too bad the snow line is still fluctuating, but the start of winter is pretty good. More freshies will come down next week.
  • Southern California and Arizona +
    Too bad the snow line is still fluctuating, but the start of winter is pretty good. More freshies will come down next week. High expectations because of an El Niño year.
  • Ice Coast (or the East) --
    Vermont had an exceptional winter last season, but the start is for from good. As in: really bad. Forget about the east coast for a while to ride powder.

Japan

You'll find a great base on Hokkaido (the northern island of Japan) and there's more snow expected this week.

  • Hokkaido: ++
    You'll find a good base in Hokkaido, but conditions should be better. The cold temperatures came in and we just have to wait for a current from the northwest that will bring snow. And they won't have to wait long in Japan. The snow machine will be switched on on Tuesday, so Hokkaido and the Canadian Rockies will the best powder areas in the world next week.

  • Main island of Honshu: -
    Bad start. Relatively little snow and often too warm. Fortunately, next week the wind will come from the northwest to west and there is plenty of snow in the forecast.

Conclusions

You will find the best snow in the first Christmas week in the Canadian Rockies, Hokkaido (Japan) or western Norway. For other regions and resorts: hold your horses and save your money for better days.

Comments


  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Expert
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 17 December 2015 · 22:48
    Hmmm. We may have a nation of political idiots, but that's no reason to assume the snow isn't good or that everyone is an idiot.

Reply

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