A long period without snowfall...


Von meteomorris an 14 Februar 2019 · 0

There was a some snow coming down in the northwest and north of the Alps last Sunday and Monday, but now spring is coming. It may only be mid-February, but the weather suggests otherwise. A high pressure area with the name Dorit has chosen a position above the Alps and has the intention to stick around for a while.

Storm depressions are now being led around the Alps with a large curve and the next 7 days are dominated by sun, sun, sun and sun. It is almost peak season in the Alps and the combination of lots of sun and the crowds will change the quality of the slopes and the off-piste. Powder close to the lifts and slopes will become scarcer and scarcer in the coming days. Only in the smaller, lesser-known family areas, there is still something to be found. The fact that it also gets warmer and that the sun is shining all day long does not help either. On slopes where the sun is hitting the snow directly, the snow will start to transform in the coming days. A hike towards a south facing slope will no longer guarantee powder in the coming week and can even become dangerous with the ever increasing risk of wet snow avalanches and certainly also 'glide snow' avalanches. So what to do?

In this forecast:

  • Tips for riding powder in the coming (sunny) week
  • How long do we have to wait for some precipitation?

Tips for riding powder in the coming (sunny) week

Put an ice cream on a dry day in the sun and it melts quickly, put an ice in the shadow and it takes much longer. Put that same ice cream on a layer of snow in the shade and you will see that it takes even longer before the it melts. This also applies in the mountains. In fact, put an ice cream on a snowy shadow slope in the middle of the winter and you will see that the ice cream does not melt. Even if the temperature in the free atmosphere is clearly in the plus and people are relaxing in the sun.

It works like this. The snow cover itself is not directly susceptible to changes in the air temperature due to the insulating capacities of the snow cover. For warming the snow cover, the following three elements are the most powerful:

  • Direct radiation of the sun
  • Relatively warm air and clouds. This is because the clouds conduct the warmer, humid air into the snow cover
  • Rain

The sun is lower in the winter. The result is that it only directly affects the southern slopes and the steeper western and eastern slopes. On the other slopes, the sun is at most gently touching the snow cover and as a result the warm air can not penetrate the snow cover. As a result, the temperature of the snow cover on more shady slopes, but also those slopes where the sun does not directly hit, remains considerably lower. Often even well below zero. Especially when the nights are clear and the moisture can radiate considerably. Days on which you can see nice amounts of surface hoar on the snow cover on the shadow slopes.

Surface hoar
Surface hoar

Warm but sunny days do not mean that this is the end of the fresh powder snow. You just have to work a bit more for it. It is only mid February and the sun is still relatively low. This means that on slopes with an N, O or NW component you can still ride powder for a while. Especially when there are also trees on these kind of faces, then the sun does not hit the snow cover at all.

But how do you know if a ski area has enough N, O or NW slopes? You can check that out yourself with a compass, but you can also take a look at the exposition maps when you are a wePowder Pro. Below you can see the map of the Tannheimertal as an example

The red colors on the map indicate the Northern and Northeastern slopes and if they are a bit steep, the snow stays good, light and fresh.

As wePowder Pro you get access to exposition, freeride routes, slope angle maps and the 14-day forecast per resorts (we've got all the resorts in the Alps covered). You never have to miss a dump anymore. When you are wePowder Pro you also have access to 1000+ inspirational freeride routes in the most beautiful freeride areas of the Alps. Sign up as wePowder Pro today. It works great for your karma as well and you'll support the development of the wePowder platform! Thanks!

If you want to ride powder in the coming days, then you should search for:

  1. ski areas with plenyty of northern slopes where the powder remains cold enough;
  2. and look for family areas with lots of trees and little obvious terrain, that scares beginning freeriders.
  3. and delete the usual suspects and areas with a lot of easy access terrain.

With these tips you will certainly find some fresh powder.

How long do we have to wait for some precipitation?

That is the question. Most models now assume a dry period that will last for at least 7 to 10 days. It is only from the 22nd of February onwards that some movement could occur according to the current calculations. But there are even models that say it will stay dry until the end of February. But that's so far into the future, that's you shouldn't take that serious right now.

It's better to look for positive points. The map of the European model of 6 days is such a positive point. There is an eastern current forming south of the Alps. A scenario that mixes cold air from the east and moist air from the Mediterranean. Something we also saw last year at the end of February with very cold air from the east and cold snow for the Piedmont.

Anyway, all still very far away. Certainly no snow until the middle of next week. Therefore, use my tips to still score powder. Put your skins under your splitboard or skis and hike to that top just a bit further away for some good snow.

As wePowder Pro you get access to the 14-day snow and weather maps and the 14-day forecast per resorts (we've got all the resorts in the Alps covered). You never have to miss a dump anymore. When you are wePowder Pro you also have access to 1000+ inspirational freeride routes in the most beautiful freeride areas of the Alps. Sign up as wePowder Pro today. It works great for your karma as well and you'll support the development of the wePowder platform! Thanks!

Stay stoked, Morris


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