Snow ski lift
Amid fears that Europe's major ski resorts were going to face an unusually dry season, snow has started to fall on the Alps. REUTERS

Winter has arrived at Europe's major ski resorts, one month behind schedule.

Snow began to fall in abundance on Monday across the European Alps, with the French Alps catching the first of it.

More snow is expected to spread eastwards on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing up to 30 inches (75 cm) to most resorts in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Many ski resorts and skiers had feared an usually dry season, with nine out of the 12 French Alps still showing no signs of decent snow fall in the past week.

Nervous tour operators who have been frantically discounting holidays will now start restoring their prices as snow finally delivers for the winter months.

The warmer temperatures have seen far fewer runs operating and meant that snow-making machines were not able to work properly and improve the conditions.

Following the driest and warmest autumn since 1864, the first proper winter storm arrived restoring confidence for holiday makers with their hearts set on a winter escape.

When skiers arrived at resorts such as Courchevel last weekend, they would've been lucky to find a strip of man-made snow surrounded by brown pastures and exposed mountain peaks.

Val d'Isère and Tignes in France, as well as Ischgl in Austria and Zermatt in Switzerland had managed to open on schedule with about 20 per cent of ski runs open, while others have had to delay their opening days.

Unfortunately, temperatures are predicted to rise again later in the week and any precipitation on Friday in the Alps could fall as rain below 6,500 ft (2,000 m).

Typically, artificial snow covers resorts around mid-November however, snow-makers can only operate at temperatures below 3 degrees Celsius.

This creates a secure base before nature delivers real snow. But with the ground retaining its warmth, it will now take more time to establish a firm base.

A well-established base is required to cope with a mass volume of skiers, particularly over holiday seasons, otherwise the snow cover quickly erodes.

By comparison, North America has experienced a much better start to the winter season with snow falling since October.

About 400,000 Britons travel to France to ski every year, with 250,000 opting for Austria and 150,000 to Italy. Each year about 75,000 go to Switzerland but it has endured its driest autumn on record.