I was riding powder in Ischgl last weekend. It was PowderAlert #31. I realised how great this winter has been, but also that the end of lift-assisted freeriding for this season is near. The sun is getting stronger and stronger and is influencing basicly every slope, expect for north faces that are steeper than 42 degrees. The snow is transforming rapidly from light powder to spring snow.
The Alps are experiencing a high pressure area at the moment, which means sunny days and cold nights. The slopes are hard in the morning and soft in the afternoon and the only place where you can find some okay quality snow are steep northern faces. With some timing you can ride great spring snow. An active low pressure area is approaching the Alps, though it's moving slow. The low pressure area above Ireland will connect with a low pressure area that's above the Mediterranean. West of this connection of low pressure areas cold air will drop from the north towards the Pyrenees and the south of France. On the eastern side, pretty warm air will move from the Sahara desert towards the north.
As a result, the Alps will be stuck with cold air from the west and warm air from the east. But there's a high pressure area above the Atlantic Ocean and above eastern Europe and the low pressure area is having a hard time to get colder air to the Alps. The Alps are a ‘no weather region' from Friday to Wednesday as a result of this situation. A small shift in the direction can make a difference between cold air and snow or warmer air and wet snow or rain. The models are currently showing that the western Alps and the main alpine ridge between Italy and France will get some freshies. Think of resorts such as Tignes, Val Thorens, but resorts like Zermatt will get even more.
Resorts that are further east (everything in Austria and the eastern part of Switzerland) will have warm (and instable) weather.
The image above is showing that the models are going for a very gentle drop of temperatures. This image is called an ensemble or plume expectation. It basicly gives you an idea how (un)certain the expectations are. Every weather model is simplified and calculated over and over again with some minor changes. If the result is sensitive to these minor changes you can expect that the expectations are quite shifty. When the different outcomes are all basically the same, the forecast is pretty certain.
The plume above for the French western Alps (Tignes and Val Thorens) is showing the temperature drop. There also is a chance of precipitation. Powder? Yes, but let’s hope for it to fall during the night. The sun is so powerful that the snow will instantly become pretty wet during the day. But hey, it’s still snowing and the snowline will drop slowly.
The last update of the season will be posted here next week. Take care out there and if you find a resort that still get their lifts running (such as Tignes or Val Thorens): have fun!