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Will there be a white Christmas in Switzerland this year?

After lots of snow and sub-zero temperatures this December, many people are wondering if Switzerland will see a white Christmas. Here's what to expect.

Local residents walk in the snow in Geneva on December 9, 2022.
Local residents walk in the snow in Geneva on December 9, 2022. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

Swiss weather experts have been sharing their forecasts for the coming days in anticipation of the festive weekend – but it looks like milder weather is here to stay, at least for now. 

Roger Perret, meteorologist for MeteoNews, said on December 16th that a white Christmas was extremely unlikely in low altitude areas. 

There has to be at least one centimetre of snow at 7am on December 24th, 25th or 26th to make it a white Christmas.

Last week up to 10 centimetres of snow was recorded in Aargau. But according to MeteoNews, it is set to be around 12C in Aarau on December 24th.

“The weather is clearly throwing a spanner in the works of the hoped-for white Christmas,” said Perret.

“We expect very mild temperatures this week. It will rain up to over 1,500 metres, and on Friday it will only snow from well above 2,000 metres.”

‘Christmas thunderstorm’

So what will the weather be like? Expect lots of rain and wind. 

Forecaster Perret said that “Christmas thunderstorm” weather was set to hit the lowlands. 

“Christmas thunderstorm is the term used to describe the mild, wet period of weather with Atlantic air mass that always occurs around Christmas in Central Europe, and thus also in Switzerland.”

The Meteonews map below shows the weather on Christmas Eve.


Weather December 24th. Source: Meteonews

“Often a mild phase sets in before the holidays and then gives us a widespread green Christmas in the lowlands, even if – as this year – there was already a blanket of snow beforehand.”

Meteonews tweeted on Wednesday: “In the coming days, it will not only be mild, but also windy. On Friday, we expect wind peaks between 60 and 70 km/h in the lowlands, on the mountains there will be storm gusts, and in exposed locations hurricane gusts.”

Perret added that studies have shown that, especially since the 2000s, snowfall in the lowlands before and at Christmas has become much less frequent, which is likely due to global warming.

“Nevertheless, the variability of the climate still allows for the possibility of a white Christmas in the lowlands as an exception,” said Perret.

Here are some Christmas weather records in Switzerland:

Highest temperature recorded: Acquarossa/Comprovasco 19.6C (25.12. 2016)

Lowest temperature: La Brévine -37.8C (24.12. 2001)

Largest snowfall at altitudes below 600 m: Chur 57 cm (24.12. 1962)

Largest snowfall in the mountains: Säntis 475 cm (26. 12. 1981)

Largest amount of new snow in 24 hours at altitudes below 600 m: Chur 39 cm (24.12. 1923)

Largest amount of new snow in 24 hours in the mountains: San Bernardino 120 cm (25.12. 2013)

Largest total precipitation over Christmas: Brissago 256 litres (2013)

Maximum gusts below 600 m: Brienz 182 km/h (26.12. 1999, storm Lothar)

Maximum gusts in the mountains: Jungfraujoch 249 km/h (26.12. 1999, storm Lothar)

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Avalanches in Switzerland kill two

Avalanches in Switzerland have left two people dead, leading officials to warn on Saturday of the risks posed by particularly unstable snow cover. A further eight people have died in neighbouring Austria

Avalanches in Switzerland kill two

In Switzerland, two off-piste skiers were killed by an avalanche Saturday morning in the southeastern canton of Graubuenden, the cantonal police said.

A third member of the group was caught up in the flow of snow but managed to escape unharmed, local police said in a statement.

The two skiers who died were a 56-year-old woman and a 52-year-old man, said police.

The rescue operation there was hampered by poor visibility and bad weather conditions, police said.

In Austria, the body of a 59-year-old man buried while helping the snow removal effort in his tractor was recovered, police in Austria’s western Tyrol region said on Sunday.

Two skiers aged 29 and 33, including a guide, who were carried off-piste on Saturday morning, were found dead in Sankt Anton am Arlberg.

And a 62-year-old man, who had not returned after cross-country skiing around the summit of Hohe Aifner, was recovered by rescuers and could not be revived, a police spokesman told AFP.

The authorities declined to give information on the nationality of the four victims recovered Sunday.

These deaths are in addition to the three killed on Saturday who were visiting Austria’s Alpine regions.

“One winter sports enthusiast was killed in an avalanche in Kaltenbach on Saturday,” a police spokesman told AFP, without giving further details of the
accident in the small Alpine village.

Austrian news agency APA reported that the victim was a 17-year-old New Zealander who was skiing off-piste.

On Friday, a 32-year-old Chinese man, who was also said to be skiing away from the designated routes, died in an avalanche in the resort of Soelden.

A third victim was found dead Saturday after being reported missing the previous day. APA reported that the man, in his 50s, had died in the Kleinwalsertal valley on Austria’s border with Germany.
Over the past two days, intensive snowfall and wind have increased the avalanche danger.

The officials in Austria have warned winter sports enthusiasts to exercise caution.

Despite the alert level being set at four on a scale of five however, many holidaymakers have ventured off the marked slopes, authorities said.

The avalanche situation also led to numerous rescue operations on Saturday, which were themselves made more dangerous by the weather conditions.

With the February school holidays underway in Vienna, Austria’s resorts have filled up, after a poor start to the season because of the lack of snow at low and medium altitudes.

In recent years, in Austria, a leading winter sports destination, avalanches have killed around twenty people a year.