First chair alarm Alps

By meteomorris on 17 December 2012 · 0

La Fouly (CH), Powfinder app
La Fouly (CH), Powfinder app

Powderalert #9 is still on, extra snow is coming, buth higher temperatures are coming in.

Avalanche situation

The avalanche situation is still pretty tense in the Alps. The combination of shifting temperatures, the mostly badly bonding layers of the snow cover, lots of freshies and lots of wind caused a lot of avalanches last weekend. Do not go off-piste without the knowledge, skills and the gear (beacon, shovel, probe). Check out our backcountry checklist and always read the latest avalanche bulletin.

Current conditions

There has been a lot of snow in the Alps from Friday. The freezing level rose to 1700-2000 meter on Saturday and there have been a lot of wet snow avalanches. The Alps received between 40-100 centimeter of freshies, where the French Alps and the western parts of Switzerland got the most snow. The snow is melting in the valleys right now. The snowcover above 1800 meter is at least equal to the average snowcover during this time of the year, but in most cases it’s two to three times as big.

Powderalert #9 will continue!

The temperature is dropping in the northwestern regions of the Alps. The current is moving to the west-northwest, causing colder air to move to the northern and northwestern regions of the Alps. The snowline is dropping to a 1000 meter or lower and the freezing level is around 1250 meters. The weather in the southern Alps is quite different, with lots of sun and a heavy northern wind.

I expect another 40-70 centimeter around the Mt. Blanc and the northern regions of the Alps and 15-45 centimeter in the other regions of the northern Alps till Wednesday. The core of the precipitation will be north of the line Chambery-Arlberg. The sun will come out on Tuesday (starting from the west) and Wednesday will be really sunny. First chair alarm on Tuesday and Wednesday!

Long Term, thaw?

Warmer air will try to invest the Alps from Thursday. It will be warmer from Thursday and the snow line is rising towards 1500-1800 meter. The snow line will drop again on Friday, but it’s quite uncertain what will happen from Saturday. The current weather maps are showing higher temperatures. If this will really happen, you can expect a southern föhn in the northern Alps, lots of wind and lots of precipitation (rain in the valleys, snow at higher altitude in the western Alps).

This scenario reminds me of December 2009. Exactly the same weather patterns and precipitation and wind caused a lot of avalanches during the holidays. But there’s also a positive side on the temporary rise of temperatures. There are a lot of weak layers in the snowcover and there’s a lot of triebschnee. The best scenario would be high temperatures with rain or wet snow at higher altitudes for a short period of time and colder temperatures and snow just after that. The old, weak layers in the snowpack can bond due to the wetsnow and the new snow basicly presses everything together. But you have to realize that this will lead to a very tense avalanche situation for a couple of days! We’ll keep an eye on that the next couple of days.

Powder advice

You still wanna ride powder without stress? You’d better be in the Alps on Tuesday and Wednesday. Lots of snow into the valleys. You don’t have to go out in the higher alpine and can play in the forest

Stay stoked!



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