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austrian snow conditions

12th January 2009 permanent link

Just back from a week’s holiday in Gasteinertal in Austria, and prior to that over Christmas was in two other resorts in two different parts of the Austrian alps and – on the north side of the Alps anyway – it seems to be pretty much the same everywhere. The local papers and various websites I’ve read are talking about the best early-season snow in years. For all I know it might well be – it's certainly far better than some previous attempts I’ve made at Christmas / New Year grassboarding – but with some major caveats.

Namely: it has barely actually snowed since before Christmas. It has been cold, so the snow from before Christmas is still lying, but it’s old and hard now. The light dusting of new snow that Austrian radio was forecasting for the middle of last week showed no sign of materialising.

On-piste above about a thousand metres was good pretty much everywhere up to a week or so ago, but in most places is getting pretty compact and hard now. Lots of places are pleasant enough in the middle of the day and in the sun, a lot less so early or late in the day and in the shade. (This from the perspective of a snowboarder on holiday with two skiing beginners. I imagine the conditions might well be great for advanced piste skiers, but don’t take my opinion too seriously on a subject I neither know nor care about.) Easily accessible off-piste everywhere is tracked out, hard and not worth bothering with until there’s another big dump of fresh snow. Valley runs below a thousand metres are generally not much fun, for various reasons (see my separate area reports).

On the south side of the Alps it may be different: I seem to recall saying the best conditions so far are in the south-western French and Italian Alps.

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