Over the last few years, skiers and snowboarders across Europe have had a somewhat turbulent relationship with the winter season. Traditionally reliable patterns of snowfall have shifted, turned unpredictable, leaving many winter sports enthusiasts wondering if good snowfall years are a thing of the past.
While climate change has undoubtedly had an effect on the snow patterns in Europe, there are other factors too. And snow fans might be keen to hear what the winter snow fall predictions for Europe might be in 2023/24.
One thing that is partly to blame for this variability is the weather phenomenon known as La Niña, which tends to translate into warmer winters and less snow for Europe’s mountain ranges. In fact the impact of La Niña has been felt in Europe, with some of the patchiest snowfall in recent years. Some ski resorts in France and the other traditional snow sports destinations even had to bring in snow and close lifts during the 2022/23 winter season.
But this year is different. With the advent of an El Niño phase, could winter 2023/2024 could hold some snowy surprises for European ski resorts?
BREAKING NEWS: Read our February 2024 winter season update
Will There Be Much Snowfall in Europe This Year?
Thanks to shifting patterns in the Pacific Ocean, this year is an El Niño year — and that could be good news for European snow enthusiasts. And so far, things have been looking good throughout Europe since the winter has started.
In fact, there have been record snowfalls in November in some places in the Alps. So whats going on, and will it last?
The Impact of El Niño
El Niño, the ‘warm phase’ of what’s known as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is usually linked with colder winters and increased snowfall in Europe through the influence it has on the jet stream and Atlantic storm track. Whilst it can’t completely negate the warming trend experienced globally due to climate change, El Niño often leads towards a colder and snowier winter for many parts of the continent.
So far, the early season snowfall has started really well, as we’re about to find out. But whats the long term outlook for European snow?
Snow in the Alps: 2023/2024 Predictions
Professor Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the UK’s Met Office says, “El Niño years tend to be mild, with a wet and westerly start to winter and a colder, drier end to winter across most of northern Europe.”
So far, this has played out as expected. November and December have seen wet and stormy weather across western Europe, which has resulted in significant snowfall across the Alps.
The image below is from Meribel Facebook page, and shows early season skiing and snow conditions in late November 2023.
December 2023 has also seen consistent snowfall and several resorts, including those lower lying ski areas, opening early. And the forecast into New Year 2024 also looks good on the mid range forecast. Resorts such as Verbier, Ischgl and Tignes are forecast to see regular snowfall well into January 2024, with some heavy fresh dumps of snow occurring between Christmas and New Year 2024.
In factm the Swiss Alps, French Alps, and the Italian Alps are enjoying significantly more snowfall than in recent years, thanks to the climatic influence of El Niño. And with a potential for greater snow depths and extended snowfall periods, winter sports enthusiasts are looking forward to potentially enjoy one of the best seasons in years.
If you managed to get to the mountains in 2019/20, before the impact of COVID, you might remember that this was a good snow year. This was the turning point in the La Niña/El Niño weather patterns, and while 2020/21 also saw good snowfall, the 2022 and 2023 winter seasons have definitely suffered.
Pyrenees: A White Winter on the Horizon?
Moving west, the snowfall situation in the Pyrenees also looks encouraging. Given the current El Niño situation, the prospects of better snow conditions in areas like Andorra are heightened. So, for those who prefer the Pyrenees to the Alps, the 2023/2024 winter season is looking excellent.
Grandvalira in Andorra opened on the 5th December, and snowfall has been consistently excellent for a few weeks, meaning most of the mountain across Andorra is open. This looks set to continue as we move towards the Christmas and New Year season.
If you’re thinking of a last minute trip to the Pyrenees, make sure to check the local forecast and the lift openings. Despite good weather, some of the resorts do often open later in the season, so avoid disappointment by checking first.
Of course, while El Niño tends to tip the odds towards a snowier winter, it shouldn’t be taken as a guarantee, especially in the Pyrenees. Heavier snowfall is likely throughout the season, but not certain.
The Pyrenees can be subject to more turbulent maritime weather, meaning potential for a warm snap or less snow for a prolonged period. The best bet is to check the forecast when you’re booking, or grab a last minute package when there has been fresh snow.
Snow Sure Resorts
While the snowfall has been great so far in 2023, you might be looking at your ski holiday in Europe later into the new year and the 2024 winter season. As such, you might be wondering if the snow will hold up, and where you can head for snow sure terrain.
As it stands, in mid December 2023, it looks like there will be several bouts of fresh and heavy snow between Christmas 2023 and New Year 2024.
High altitude resorts can all be counted on for good snow coverage, often seeing deep snow into the spring. These are popular ski areas such as:
- Val Thorens and Les Trois Vallees
- Tignes and the Espace Killy area
- Verbier and The 4 Vallees
- Les Deux Alpes
- Alpe d’Huez
If you’re planning an early season ski break, or possibly a Christmas ski break, these higher altitude resorts are all a safe bet. But you can (as of December 2023) pretty much take your pick and have a great time right now.
If you’re eyeing up a break later in the season, keep an eye on the weather and check out the last minute ski packages.
Broader European Snow Forecast
Across the wider European landscape — from Spain’s Sierra Nevada to Scandinavia’s vast array of ski resorts — the story is looking similar. The 2023/2024 season is currently brining very consistent snowfall creating perfect conditions for winter sports throughout the season.
Basically, the conditions for the European winter 2023/2024 are showing a very snow-filled season for skiers and snowboarders. It looks positively thrilling for the Alps, excellent for the Pyrenees, and equally optimistic for the other regions including Eastern Europe.
However, as we continue to understand the complex interplay of climate change and weather patterns such as El Niño or La Niña, one thing remains clear: winter sports enthusiasts need to remain adaptable and responsive to these changing conditions.
UPDATE: December 2023
November and December 2023 have seen some of the best snow fall across Europe in years, with stormy conditions slightly dampening the excitement. But that being said, there is a ton of fresh powder out there across the European ski resorts from the Pyrenees, across the Alps and into Eastern Europe.
Images from across Europe show deep powder snow, and the long range forecast is currently showing consistent snow up until new year 2024.
Check out some of these images from around Europe during the past few weeks… (all images taken from resort Facebook pages)
In short, it’s looking like a great season to get on the mountains, with plenty of fresh snow out there, and the forecast suggesting more of the same.
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