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Hip hip hooray
the snow is here to stay

The sun was hot but now we’ve got powder every day

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Sam Birch | Les Arcs Reporter | Published: 5 Apr 2019

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Hip hip hooray: the snow is here to stay

Springtime in the mountains can be pretty unpredictable. Following weeks of glorious, barely interrupted sunshine, we woke up this morning to suddenly very low temperatures and a generous helping of the white stuff all across the Alps.

From the very top of the hill, all the way down into the valley, the powder had come back, giving us a very unsubtle reminder that the end of the season is still a few weeks off.

On average, approximately 10cm of fresh snow fell on Wednesday night, which was immediately followed by an equal amount on Thursday. Whilst the snow depths in Les Arcs are happily maintaining a very respectable 3 metres at 3200m altitude, over 1.5 metres at 2000m and 50 centimetres at 1580m, there is no doubt that this particular April shower is very welcome indeed. Perfect visibility and smooth pistes are great but, at least once in a while, it is good to see some of the fresh stuff.

How is it looking?

Well, the temperature began to drop on Wednesday afternoon and the ‘winds of change’ blew in snow-bearing clouds from over the Italian border. The freezing level dropped down to below 800m overnight and, once the snow started, it continued to fall steadily throughout Thursday, giving all the resorts a decent covering of powdery snow. 

When persistent snowfall happens, it inevitably means two things for me: fresh tracks down the Clocheret piste (practically all day long) and absolutely rubbish visibility. Though the wind had died down, it was fairly predictable that the Aiguille Rouge and Grand Col lifts would stay closed all day. The oft-lauded silver lining to that situation is, however, that those sectors should be open pretty sharp-ish on Friday morning. This will give us all powder to play on and, even better, a forecasted perfect bluebird day in which to do it. If there is anything better than fresh tracks on consecutive days, I am not sure what it is.

Where shall I go?

The avalanche risk is relatively low at the moment, meaning the more challenging black runs off the Varet gondola are open and fully functional. This will make them pretty inviting for all-and-sundry but, remember, whilst they can look soft and fluffy there is a sea full of sharks out there (many hidden, sometimes icy moguls). This goes for many of the steeper slopes where the powdery top layer disguises some seriously bumpy stuff.

The precipitous Comborcière (black) run was closed on Thursday as the deep spaces between huge, solid moguls had filled up with soft snow and the Secret piste was particularly sneaky, with the top layer giving way to chunky mounds of hard ice underneath. The flatter blue runs, such as Plan des Eaux above Arc 2000 and Forêt above Peisey-Vallandry, have definitely slowed down due to the new powder. On Thursday night I expect the pisteurs will bash everything into shape, so riding should regain its consistency in most areas before the weekend. The colder weather means that the snow should continue to feel fresh into Friday morning, although the return of the sun’s rays might make the lower-altitude off-piste turn heavier as the day progresses.

Despite the return of the sun, temperatures are set to stay below zero for the next few days and there is the real possibility of more snowfall over the weekend. At present, all indications point to heavy snow on Saturday night, followed by a cloudy, flurry-filled Sunday. It is safe to say that winter in Les Arcs is far from over and, with more than three weeks left of the 2018/19 season, the spring skiing is proving to be an absolute joy.

Read more from our Les Arcs reporter Sam on his blog.