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Four seasons in one weekend in Alpe d'Huez

A real mixed bag of weather

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Rob Wood | Alpe d'Huez Reporter | Published: 13 Mar 2019

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Four seasons in one weekend in Alpe d'Huez

The weather can’t seem to make its mind up at the moment – one minute it feels like spring has sprung and the next we are plunged back into deepest winter with gusty winds, mini-blizzards and even a bit of rain.

The past few days have seen the tail end of the stormy weather front that has hit the UK (Storm Gareth) bring a very unsettled weather pattern to the region. Strong winds over the weekend led to the closure of some of the higher lifts but, hopefully, the strongest of the winds have now passed and further lift disruption should be minimal.

After several cloudy days, it seemed inevitable that we would get some fresh snow. Precipitation started falling mid-afternoon on Monday, initially as rain but, thankfully, it quickly turned into snow, and it carried on snowing lightly into the early evening. Around 4cm fell in total, nothing massive but a welcome little top-up nonetheless. There is more snow in the forecast, we may well see a further 15cm on Wednesday and, hopefully, around 25cm on Thursday into Friday – fingers crossed!

Tuesday saw lovely sunshine and, with a dusting of fresh snow, it was definitely the best day for a week or so. The visiting hordes attending Tomorrowland Winter were certainly treated to the best that Alpe d’Huez has to offer. By the weekend, the weather looks like settling down a bit with winds dropping down to around 10kmph (variable in direction) and more sunshine in the forecast as spring tries to take back control. That said, we may well see a bit more snow on Monday/Tuesday next week which should provide a nice little top-up to the pistes. The general outlook through until the end of March looks far more settled than the past couple of weeks have been.

The pistes remain in lovely, corded conditions – the drop in temperatures from a couple of weeks ago is helping to keep things pretty good all through the day. Thanks to the recent little top-up, on-piste snow cover still stands impressively for mid-March at:

  • Alpe d’Huez (1850m): 130cm
  • Pic Blanc (3300m): 205cm
  • Auris Station (1650m): 40cm
  • Auris Signal (2176m): 130cm
  • Villard Reculas (1500m): 60cm
  • Vaujany (1250m): 90cm
  • Oz Station (1350m): 110cm
  • Montfrais (1650m): 150cm
  • Dome des Rousses (2800m): 200cm

There remains some great variety across the whole ski area at the moment with 98 pistes currently open, being served by 63 lifts. With March generally being a quieter month, lift queues should also be nice a short for the next few weeks. Of these 98 pistes, 30 are green, 30 blue, 25 red and 13 are black; geographically, there are 10 in Oz-en-Oisans, 15 in Vaujany, 14 in Auris-en-Oisans, seven in Villard Reculas and 42 in Alpe d’Huez itself, plenty of variety across the whole of the ski area.

The runs over towards Vaujany often provide some better visibility in times of blustery snow while the famous black run Sarenne remains in good condition for its entire 16km length. The super-steep Tunnel black run remains uber-mogully and is not for the faint-hearted; currently marked as “reservé tres bon skieurs” or "reserved for very good skiers", this is a warning should be heeded.

Meanwhile, off-piste depths still stand at:

  • 3000m: north - 260cm, south - 180cm
  • 2500m: north - 210cm, south - 140cm
  • 2000m: north - 110cm, south - 90cm
  • 1500m, north - 80cm, south - 20cm

Off-piste conditions could really do with some fresh snow, so fingers crossed the forecast is right for the next few days. Avalanche risk still stands at 3/5 across the whole of the Grand Domaine ski area as it has done for the last couple of weeks, with the exception of the lower pistes in Montfrais where it stands at 2/5. If the forecast snow does indeed materialise, the risk may well rise initially as the pisteurs make the area safe. As is always the case, take care up on the hill and if you have any queries seek the advice of the nearest SATA Ski liftie (in black and orange outfits) or ESF ski instructor (bright red outfits) as these guys will be only too pleased to lend you some advice.

All 39km of Nordic cross-country ski trails remain open, as well as 28km of walking trails. Like the pistes, they remain in good condition and, with an improving weather forecast, these walking trails are a great way to see the area from a different aspect. This is especially true as the days continue to lengthen – today's sunrise was 06:54 and, with sunset at 18:37, we had over 11.5 hours of daylight.

Away from resort, the “gilet jaune” protests are now into their 18th week and they still show no signs of letting up here in France. Peaceful protests are becoming part of weekly life on the outskirts of Grenoble and in Vizille (on the way up to resort) and are continuing to cause a few delays, especially on Saturday mornings (transfer day) – nothing to worry about, just be aware of the delays they may pose.

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