Current trail conditions in the Alps

Last update: January 4, 2023 | 1330hrs CET

The 2022-season was a long, arid hiking season, in which the warmth has persisted over a very long period of time. It’s only now, at the mid of November, that most hikes in the upper Alps become unhikeable. The snow limit has set below 2000m and will, with some brief exceptions, stay there or lower until April. Let’s hope for a very precipitation-rich winter half year, so that the mountains and glaciers are in a better condition next year!

At the moment, it’s perfectly feasible to plan shorter hikes below 2000m, due to the severe lack of snow in the Alps at the moment.

1. French Alps (NW)Freeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
2. French Alps (SW)Freeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
3. Wallis & Valle d'AostaFreeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
4. Berner Oberland & Wallis NorthFreeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
5. Switzerland EastFreeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
6. Austria WestFreeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
7. Italy (Sud-Tirol)Freeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed
8. Ticino & Italy (north central)Freeze-thaw conditons, snow is likelyClosedClosed

Trail conditions: the how & when

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.

Map of  the division of the area's for the trail conditions in the Alps.
The area’s – adapted from Openstreetmap

How do we assess the trail conditions?

The below trail conditions are relatively simple: for 3 different elevation level, we provide a “trail condition”.
This is not a weather forecast, but the expected snow cover in that area. After all, the snow cover can be substantial in the early season or under extreme conditions. It’s mainly this snow cover that defines whether you can complete hikes at a given elevation – without special gear.

We have chosen for 3 different elevations:

< 2000 meter: below 2000 meter, the snow cover generally breaks down quickly. However, in early season it can still be substantial.
The second level is between 2000 and 2800 meter. This is a broad range and should cover most of the higher Alp cols and crossings – but also balcony tracks such as in the Val Ferret from Courmayeur to Rifugio Elena (all above 2000m).
The last level is >2800 meter. Not many trails take you above 2800 meter, but with the retreat of glaciers it is becoming much more common.

A few things to consider:
1. It’s a broad overview. Some areas might have a snow cover due to local conditions (shades) or winter avalanches.
2. It’s not a weather forecast.
3. Although the trail might be clear, it doesn’t mean that the refuges and cabins are open. Check this before you go, or pack a tent and sleeping gear.

Do not hesitate to provide feedback or input.

Bear in mind the difference between north & south facing slopes when assesing trails on the map.

South-facing slopes in general are more foregiving when it comes to snow cover:

Webcam picture from Grande Rochette, above La Plagne in France, facing “Roc des Verdons”, at approx. 2540m asl, May 30 2022

Laat een reactie achter