Posted on: 2024-01-25 10:08:40 by davidof

Whiplash weather brings feast and famine to ski areas

A weather whiplash is a series of rapid swings between extremes of weather. Cold and snowy one day, spring like weather with rain at altitude the next. Some climatologists believe that they are linked to climate change, affecting the polar vortex that brings winter temperatures to middle latitudes.

This winter has seen a series of whiplashes that have brought both feast and famine. Above 2000 meters and the abundant precipitation has given fantastic snow conditions, over 3 meters snow depth at 3000 meters altitude. Lower down it is a different story with a sawtooth temperatures, foehn winds and warm rain decimating pistes.


In the Pyrenees resorts are closing one after another. The western Pyrenees was already suffering from a snow drought with precipitation similar to August and an anticyclone doesn’t give any hope of new snow before the end of January. Hautacam is operating in “no snow mode” with both nordic and alpine areas shut. The resort lies between 1500 and 1813 meters altitude. Guzet neige has just a few pistes open.


Meteo France forecasting temperatures up to 25°C in the Pyrenees and 16°C at 1500 meters and a zero isotherm around 3800 meters altitude. It will stay above 3000 meters into February. Records may be broken. Things will get worse, before they get better.

Combe St Pierre, French Jura

In the Jura the situation is just as bad. A start to winter with yoyoing temperatures. Snow cover one day, gone the next. Skiers have had to be vigilant and take advantage of conditions. The long distance Transjurassienne cross country ski race is threatened once again by the lack of snow. Last week fresh snow gave some hope which has been crushed by a brutal winter heat wave. The event was already canceled in 2020 and 2021 and shortened in 2023. “I’ve never seen anything like it” says Pierre-Albert Vandel, head of the Trans'organisation. “We’re more than worried for this year, with the current snow cover there is no possibility to run the race and there is no snow on the horizon”. The Jura already had a very poor 2023 season with winter lasting just 5 weeks from the second half of January. It is a similar situation in the Massif Central, Vosges and mid-mountain altitudes in the Alps.