A quick glance at the calendar tells you what the blackbirds are already singing in the morning: it’s the height of spring time and summer is approaching. This in turn tells many people that the vacation season is nearing – and that hiking is increasingly possible. In this blog post, we’ll highligh a new service, specifically for the mountain ranges in the Alps.
Based upon satellite imagery, social media and webcams, we’ll provide trail conditions in the main Alpine area’s.
These will be relatively gross to start with and focused on the retreat of the annual snow cover at different altitudes and exposure (direction) to the sun – and not local conditions for now.
For this purpose, the Alps have been “cut” in 8 different zones. This is a choice, to keep it manageable to update regularly. The regions are not chosen arbitrarily, although you could argue that some parts are missing.
In general, the hiking season starts in the mountains from Mid-June to Mid-September. This is mainly based upon the opening dates of the huts. High mountain trails might still be covered in a considerable snowpack, some mountain passes can be dangerous to pass whilst others are completely open. Similarly, the trails might stay clear of snow until the end of October and allow for great autumn-hikes.
Trail conditions: the regions
Region 1: SW- Alps
The southwest-area is the area which stretches roughly from the north side of the Ecrins-area to Barcelonnette. Around Barcelonnette, there are still some substantial high mountains with large snow cover early in the year. Further south, the weather is getting substantially warmer due to its unique circumstances such as proximity to the Meditteranean and lower altitude. Snow cover in that area is not something to take in consideration after April.
Region 2: West-Alps, Vanoise & Mont Blanc
This is the roughest part of the French Alps, with potentially very large snow cover early in the season. There is a strong difference between the (much lower) western part of this area and the higher grounds in the east. Multiple 4000+ meter mountains are in this area.
Region 3: Valais & Aosta
The Valais/Wallis area in the south of Switzerland and the Aosta valley (Italy), with an overflow into Piedmont slightly further to the south is the 3rd region. A relative large area, which is probably the first one to split into 2 areas.
Region 4: the Berner Oberland
A notorious area for bad weather, very susceptible for the Nordstau. Less stable in its weather than the Wallis-area. More precipitation, however also lower valley floors. This opens up a lot of mountain trails earlier. As comparison: Grindelwald is located at roughly 900 meters, whereas Saas Grund (Wallis, region 3) is at 1500 meters.
Region 5: The high Valleys of central Switzerland
The valley floors reach as high as 1900 meters, making this area very snow certain in winter. But therefore also early in the hiking season, as it tends to be colder at greater elevation. Winter snow takes longer to melt as a result – and the Nordstau in some winters cause more snow to accumulate in the first place.
This makes the trail conditions in this area considerably different.
Region 6: Austrian Alps
The areas of Tirol and Vorarlberg are the most renowned area’s for winter and summer. Beautiful mountains, very good access and generally good service make this area very “hikeable”. The Austrian alps are considerably colder (in winter) than the western Alps. The summers are great, but the “risk” of cold air outbreaks from the continent is in the spring time bigger than in the West.
Region 7: Sud-Tirol
The Italian area of Sud-Tirol is sunnier, drier and warmer than the north side. The season might open up weeks earlier than in Austria or Switzerland. In this particular winter, most hikes were even doable in the winter time with no specific equipment due to drought.
Region 8: Ticino (Tessin) and Northern Italy
The canton of Ticino is the warmest area of Switzerland by a long stretch. It’s also notorious for summer storms and autumn-floods. Ticino averages close to 2,000mm of precipitation per year, more than twice as much as London or Amsterdam. In the city of Lugano, all months from April to November deliver more than 100mm.
However: the wettest area’s of Ticino (Pizzo Campo Tencia) gets 3000mm. Whilst being one of the sunniest areas too: in other words, the downpours can be incredibly strong.
As such, it’s a different world and deserves its own trail condition overview.
When does it go live?
We are striving to get this service “live” by May 13, to finetune and test towards the summer season.
Based upon the tests and the user input from the Beta-testers of the App, we’ll integrate the functionality by the end of the summer in the Cocuzzolo App.