Warm weather hits Austria's ski season as slopes left without snow

Hayley Maguire
Hayley Maguire - [email protected]
Warm weather hits Austria's ski season as slopes left without snow
Snow cannons are seen producing snow on a slope in the skiing region Kitzbuehler Alpen, Hollersbach, Austrian province of Salzburg, on November 27, 2022. - (Photo by KERSTIN JOENSSON / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Kiyoko METZLER

With little snow, warm(ish) temperatures and lots of accidents, Austria’s ski season has got off to a shaky start. Is the 2023 Alpine season already in doubt?


When most people think of the Austrian Alps in winter, images of snow covered mountains and bustling ski resorts spring to mind. 

But this year, things are looking a little different because although towns and villages in the Alps are benefitting from an influx of tourists, one key element is missing – snow.

After a warm start to 2023 (for Austria, anyway), many ski resorts are currently only in operation due to pistes made from fake snow. The mountains are mostly green with a little snow on the top and white lines running down them.


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This means the slopes are icy, narrow and busy, with many local residents putting skiing on hold until the main holiday period is over.

So what does this mean for the winter season in Austria? And is there any more snow forecast?

The Local took a closer look at the reports to find out.

Limited snow and dangerous conditions

This winter season is the first ‘normal’ ski season since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, so many tourists are returning to the Austrian Alps (and skiing) after a long break.

Combine this with icy conditions and narrow slopes and the result is a high number of serious accidents and even deaths. 

On New Year’s Day a 28-year-old Dutch woman died on the Hintertux Glacier and two more people were injured in accidents shortly after. This followed the deaths of two 17-year-old German citizens on Wednesday December 28 at the Steinplatte-Waidring ski area in the district of Kitzbühel

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A report by Der Standard says 13 people have died in Austria’s ski areas since November, with 11 deaths in Tyrol. This is the highest number recorded in recent years with piste-edge accidents causing most fatalities.

Speaking about the number of accidents, Johanna Trauner-Karner from the Board of Trustees for Road Safety told ORF Styria that many accidents are being caused by excessive speed. 

Trauner-Karner said: “As a skier, unlike in a car, you don't have a crumple zone. If you crash into an obstacle without braking, then an impact at 70 km/h corresponds to a fall from the fifth floor of a building. 

“At such speeds, a helmet doesn't help anymore. Hitting rocks is very dangerous, especially when there is little snow.”

Due to the high number of fatal accidents and dangerous conditions, there are calls for the slopes to be closed but this has been rejected by the Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety (ÖKAS) on the grounds of “personal responsibility”.

This is a view shared by Viktor Horvath, head of the Tyrolean Alpine Police, who said: “Everyone who skis down the slope decides to do it himself.”

But Stefan Hochstaffl, President of the Austrian Mountain Rescue Service, has appealed to skiers to use common sense and try to avoid skiing too fast.

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Is there any snow forecast?

Late November and early December saw cold weather sweep across Austria. However, by Christmas – and the start of the ski season – the temperature had warmed up, rain had arrived and most of the snow had melted.

New Year’s Eve then saw the highest temperature ever recorded on December 31st in Austria after the mercury hit 18.4 degrees in Neudorf in Burgenland just two hours before midnight, reports ORF.

In the Alps, the weather wasn’t quite as warm, although a weather station on the Rax mountain range on the border between Styria and Lower Austria recorded a high of 12.6 degrees on New Year’s Day. January is usually the coldest month in the mountains with an average temperature of a few degrees below zero on the Rax.

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Then on Monday January 2nd, a new record was also set in Bludenz, Vorarlberg, with a high of 18.9 degrees. This was caused by southern Föhn conditions which brought warm air to some parts of the Alps.

For those still waiting to hit the slopes, the big question now is when the next snowfall will arrive. 

From Tuesday January 3, the temperature in the mountains will start to drop and light snowfall is forecast above 1,700 metres. But for the lower lying regions of Austria, there is no snow in sight.

The long range forecast for the winter season from the ​​Central Institution for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) is not much better either with a 40 percent chance of above average temperatures in February. 


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