18 November 2019 from Danielle in Live from the slopes

Austria has been inundated with snow over the past few days, especially in southern and eastern Tyrol. The snow is welcomed by skiers and snowboarders but has caused chaos in the mountains. Wet and heavy, the snow has many ski resorts on avalanche alert and has even caused avalanches in some villages. Our colleagues Yvonne and Miranda are currently "stuck" in Obergurgl thanks to closed roads in the Ötztal. Here's our full snowed-in report, live from Gurgl!

Extreme precipitation

Carinthia, East Tyrol in Austria and South Tyrol in Italy have received crazy amounts of precipitation over the last few days, with some places receiving around twice the average monthly precipitation for November in just 48 hours. This means that, for example, Obervellach got 160mm (November average: 94mm), Lienz got 125mm (November average: 91mm) and Sillian got 110mm (November average: 86mm) (Source: ZAMG). Precipitation was mostly in the form of rain and wet snow and caused a whack of problems, including a rash of road closures and a power outage that left 24 000 households without electricity.

traffic report austria
Current traffic report for Austria: note the amount of closed roads (Source: ÖMTC)

Lifts closed due to high avalanche danger

Between the copious amounts of heavy, wet snow and the strong winds, many ski resorts have been forced to close their lifts due to the avalanche risk. This morning saw 90 closed roads in Austria - you can check the current traffic report here. Despite the precautions, several accidents have already happened, with a bus in the Stubai Valley being caught in an avalanche and another avalanche in South Tyrol running straight through a village. If you're in Austria or planning a trip to Austria this week, remember to be responsible and follow all the safety precautions and warnings.

Last Thursday: perfect ski day in Gurgl

Right now, Miranda and Yvonne are in Gurgl making some last-minute preparations for the Snowplaza Ski Opening that starts this Thursday. They arrived on Wednesday and report that judging by the snow cover, you would think it's mid-January already! Almost the whole ski resort was open last Thursday and they were able to get some skiing in on the beautiful fresh snow. The sun even came out to celebrate the first tracks of ski season! By the afternoon it was already turning to storm weather and it only got worse from there.

perfect ski day
Is there a better way to ring in the ski season?

Gurgl: snowed-in since Sunday

By Friday morning thick snowflakes were pouring from the sky, and this continued all day. Within the ski area, only a few lifts and pistes were able to remain open. Saturday also had highly limited skiing due to the avalanche risk, although much to the surprise of our colleagues, plenty of skiers and snowboarders still took to skiing off-piste despite the avalanche warnings (don't do it!!!). When they opened the curtains yesterday morning, Yvonne and Miranda couldn't believe how much snow had fallen. They had planned to drive to Pitztal on Sunday, but the road was closed and they were unable to leave. They were officially snowed-in.

No way out

It soon became apparent that there was no way out. Their hotel is a kilometre out from the village centre and the road between Obergurgl-Hochgurgl and their hotel was closed due to avalanche risk. Since some ski lifts were open in the morning, a few hotel guests had headed to the slopes before the roads closed and were unable to get back to the hotel. Miranda and Yvonne dedicated the morning to digging out the car, which had been deeply snowed in, so they could leave as soon as the road would open. This job took around 2 hours and took care of their arm exercises for the week! They spent the rest of the day in the hotel lobby - a nice excuse to just kick back and relax. Despite the chaos outside, they felt completely safe as long as they followed the advice of the authorities.

snowed-in car
Clearing the snow off the car - not an easy job!

Staying an extra night

The hotel kept them up-to-date, but throughout the day nobody knew when the roads would be able to open again. It eventually became clear that they would have to prolong their stay at the hotel - a little bit disappointing, since they had already booked and paid for their stay at the hotel they were supposed to go to that night. That's when it comes in handy to have travel insurance! After a restful sleep, they woke up ready to face the day today. There are perks to being snowed in and "forced" to stay on holiday, but it's nicer if the lifts are open and you can at least ski!

blue piste snow
Friday afternoon: I think we were on the blue piste...
snowy trees
Beautiful snowy trees
snow-covered skis
Right, now where did I leave my skis...
snowed-in cars
Where did the car go?

Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!