alan little’s weblog

january snow

26th January 2010 permanent link

I don’t claim to be a meteorologist, but I’ve lived in Bavaria for ten years, and had an active interest in snow sports for five of those ten years, and I’ve noticed what seems to be a fairly typical weather pattern.

Namely: there are often one or two big snow dumps before Christmas – I spent a fun day hiking in one of them at the beginning of November last year – but then January is generally cold but dry, with the really big snowfalls of the year coming later in February & March. This year has been typical: while northern Europe and the southern and western Alps (and the US too, so I gather) are under heaps of snow, here in the middle we had only a couple of very light snowfalls.

What this means, for early season skiing and snowboarding in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, is a lot of on-piste scraping around on cement-hard artificial snow; off-piste thumping and bashing your board over snow cover with not much depth and lots of sticks & stones (my board is currently in the shop for repair of couple of nasty holes).

You generally can find some decent snow, but exactly where is very variable, depending on the exact weather and the local terrain. Last January I was in Gasteinertal, and the good snow tended to be in sheltered runs lower down in the trees; this year I was in the Zugspitz Arena, further west and a little lower down, and in those ski areas the decent snow was mostly higher up.

For quasi-local snowboarders like myself, spending the early part of the season on on rock-hard pistes isn’t fantastically much fun, but it’s good technique training and a warm-up for the proper snow later in the season. If you’re traveling from far away for your only ski or snowboard trip of the year, though, you might be well advised to plan your trip to Austria later in the season, or go to Italy or France (or Scotland, this year) instead.

related entries: Snowboarding

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