Between 80 to 120 cm of fresh snow came down above 1700-2000 meters in the Swiss northern alpine ridge, the east of Switzerland, Vorarlberg, the west of Tyrol, the main alpine ridge in Austria and the northern Alps of the Salzburgerland and Styria the last couple of days. The precipitation came down as rain below 1500 meters, and it was a mixture between wet snow and rain between 1500 and 1900 meters. A cold front came in last night and caused the snow line to drop. Because of the large amounts of fresh snow, the shifting temperatures and the fact that the wind came from every direction th last couple of days, the avalanche danger level has gone up to HIGH (that's 4 on a scale of 5). Yes, you can ride powder above 1900 meters in the northern Alps the next 72 hours, but please, ride with care. In this forecast:
- Lots of fresh snow
- Saturday will be a powder day
- Off-piste is very dangerous at the moment, even with basic knowledge
- Long term: high pressure takes over
Lots of fresh snow
Between 20-60 cm of fresh snow came down, but between 80 to 120 cm of fresh snow came down above 1700-2000 meters in the Swiss northern alpine ridge, the east of Switzerland, Vorarlberg, the west of Tyrol, the main alpine ridge in Austria and the northern Alps of the Salzburgerland and Styria the last three days. That resulted in the images below:
But it rained in the valleys. The precipitation came down as rain below 1500 meters and it was a mixture of rain and wet snow between 1500 and 1900 meters.
Cold air arrived in the night from Thursday to Friday. That resulted in snowfall deep into the valleys in the resorts east of Innsbruck on Friday. The sun came out in west. The cold(er) air has arrived, but you don't have to expect any precipiation in the west of the Alps. The eastern Alps got another 5-15 cm today.
Saturday will be a powder day in the northern Alps
The sun will come out this weekend. The air temperature in the western and southern Alps will be pretty mild. It will stay colder in Austria. The cold air will stick around a bit longer and the high pressure area will only manage to push it away on Sunday afternoon.
The avalanche danger is already HIGH in most regions in the northern Alps. It will also go up in France, where the temperatures will rise. The avalanche danger is CONSIDERABLE (3 on a scale of 5), but will go up to HIGH (4 on a scale of 5) below 2500 meters. It's quite a unique situation. The probability of large spontaneous wet, and by the rising temperature forced dry avalanches is pretty realistic. Pay attention!!
It's mild in the west and south of the Alps, but it will remain colder for at least a while in Austria. But where should you go? Saturday and Sunday will be pretty sunny and above 2000 meters in the west (Engelberg) and 1200 meters in the east (Tauplitz) you can find plenty of good snow in the northern Alps. I'd pick a resort with enough options above 2000 meters in the west (like Engelberg and Andermatt), above 1700 meters around the Arlberg and in Graubünden (like Davos-Klosters and Sankt Anton), above 1700 in central Austria (like Sölden, parts of the Zillertal and the glacier resorts) and above 1400 meters in the east (like Kaprun, Sportgastine and Obertauern). Plenty of options!
Off-piste is very dangerous at the moment, even with basic knowledge
There is a lot of snow coming down in the northern Alps. The combination of wind, high temperatures and an old snowpack which had to suffer a Föhn storm for at least a week results in a critical situation in the northern Alps. The avalanche danger has gone up to HIGH (that's 4 on a scale of 5) in lots of resorts. That means: unfavorable conditions, you need to have a lot of experience to make the right decisions. So if don't have a lot of experience, you'd better stay on the marked slopes. And this is not the time to overestimate yourself. It's not only in the northern Alps where the avalanche situation is critical. You really have to pay attention in the rest of the Alps as well. The temperature was rising after last week's snowfall and the snowpack has to deal with some changes. We often see a rise in avalanche activities when the temperature rises.
Are you planning to ride off-piste? Keep asking yourself the next questions:
- Do you have the right knowledge?
- Do you (and the other riders in your group) have the gear (avalanche beacon, shovel and probe)?
- Have you read the local avalanche forecast?
- Do you know which parts of the mountain you have to avoid that particular day to minimize the risk?
If one of the answers is 'no', stay on the slopes!
Knowledge is key
It's been a complete disaster in the Alps last week, where avalanches claimed the lives of 11 skiers and snowboarders. Lots of people are still riding alone or without the right gear (avalanche beacon, shovel, probe). These are indications that those riders are short of knowledge. And knowledge is key. With applying the right knowlegde you can reduce the risk to the level of driving a car for one hour. If you don't have the right knowledge, than you're basically playing a game of Russian Roulette.
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Long term: high pressure takes over
According to the latest calculations high pressure takes over the weather. That means cold nights and bright, but also mild days. I suspect that (because of the mild temperatures) can see the first spring avalanche cycle next week. The tension in the snowpack will increase because of the drought and the high temperatures during the day and I expect an exciting week for everyone who wants to go touring. The avalanche danger will probably go down after the weekend, but that doesn't mean that it's completely safe. Avalanche danger rating 3 is more dangerous than you think. Read this article why.
Enjoy the snow the next couple of days and ride with care!
Stay stoked. Morris