PowderAlert #3 and PowderAlert #4 brought us stunning photos, video, webcamshots and faceshots. But what is the current situation in the Alps at the moment? Is the start of this winter 13/14 as good as we think it is, or are there risks below the surface? With more and more resorts opening this weekend it’s the right time to inform you about the currents risks in the Alps. You’ll find more information about the current snow depths per region and the risks in this article.
We’ve divided the Alps in three main regions and nine subregions since the start of wePowder in 2008. This division enables me to forecast as accurately as possible. The weather doesn’t really care about borders between countries and regions, but is does care about natural borders, such as the main alpine ridge.
Snow depths per region
The snow depths in the different regions normally differ a lot this time of the year, but this winter is quite different and the snowcover is quite the same everywhere (except for some anomalies). Jack Frost has divided his white Alps equally over the Alps. Please note: we’re talking about Mother Nature’s product, the real white fluffy stuff. Not artificial frozen water from snow cannons.
The northern Alps
This large region stretches from Lausanne in the west to Vienna in the east and we’ve divided i tinto three subregions. The northern Alps need snow coming in from the north and the three subregions give us maximal flexibility in forecasting.
1. The northern Alps east The Steiermark, Salzburgerland and the eastern part of Tirol. Snow arrives here with a northern Stau and the results were visible last weekend. PowderAlert #4 brought lots of freshies and since you mainly ride on alpine meadows it’s already great riding. You’ll find around 60-100 centimeters on 1500 meters. You can find one meter or even more above 2000 meters.
The most important danger at the moment is snow drift. The wind kicked in the last couple of days and especially above the treeline a lot of snow has been moved and that could be a perfect layer for an avalanche to start on.
2. The northern Alps central Tirol, southern Bavaria, Vorarlberg and the east of Switzerland. Lots of alpine meadows and around 40-70 centimeters on 1700 meters. The glaciers are in perfect condition for this time of the year, harvesting snow since October. The most important danger at the moment is snow drift. The wind kicked in the last couple of days and especially above the treeline a lot of snow has been moved and that could be a perfect layer for an avalanche to start on.
3. The northern Alps west The Waadtländer Alpen, Graubünden, Engelberg and around and the northern Gotthard. You can find around 50-100 centimeter of freshies around Engelberg and the Gotthard, but you’ll find less snow around the Lake of Geneva of towards Graubünden. So you better of visiting Andermatt of Engelberg. But the situation seems to improve with more snow to come at the end of the week, though it’s still a question if Graubünden will profit. The most important danger is snow drift in the resorts that already got hammered. The snowcover is still thin in the other resorts and the sharks are pretty close.
4. The western Alps north. The Haute Savoie and Wallis had a good start. Lots of snow in the higher alpine, but also on lower parts of the mountain it snowed a lot. You can find around 50-90 centimeters on 2000 meters. The wind kicked in the last couple of days, causing snow drift to be the biggest risk.
5. The western Alps central The Savoie and the Isère had a really good start. You can ride powder in Tignes for a while already and it’s getting better every week. It didn’t rain a single time in the higher alpine in November and you can already find around 150-300 centimeters. This sentence in the avalanche report just says it all: 'Au dessus de 3000 mètres, il n'a jamais plu, les hauteurs de neige sont records pour la période (150 à 300cm), les hauts sommets ressemblent à l'Himalaya...'. But there’s also plenty of snow on the lower parts of the mountain. Check the footage of TimV from last week.
6. The western Alps south. The Hautes Alps, the Alps de Haute Provence and the Alps Maritimes. The differences are big in these regions. In the eastern parts of the Queyras and the Alpes Maritimes is plenty of snow to be found, but the other parts just has to deal with a lousy 20 to 40 centimeters. The warning for a thin snowcover and the risks of rocks in the avalanche report says it all: 'L'enneigement est proche des normales saisonnières. Il faut toutefois monter au-dessus de 2400/2700m selon l'orientation en dehors des alpages pour trouver une couche de neige suffisamment épaisse et ne pas toucher les cailloux en skiant.'
7. The southern Alps west The Italian Piemonte and the eastern parts of the French Queyras had an awesome start of the season. It was completely dry and green in the beginning of November, but you can find between 70-100 centimeters on 2000 meter. The meadows go pretty high up, so there isn’t much risk of hitting a shark in this region. The wind wasn’t as strong as in other regions, and the safest places on the mountain is between the larch trees. Check out this footage of mountain guide Martijn Schell from the Queyras.
8. The southern Alps central The northern Piemonte, Aosta, Ticino and the Engadin had a decent start with around 80-100 centimeters on 2000 meter. The biggest problem the next couple of days is going to be snow drift above 1800 meters and Gleitschneelawines below that altitude.
9. The southern Alps east Carinthia, Ost-Tirol, the Dolomites, Süd-Tirol and Trentino suffered intense snowfall since last Thursday. The avalanche danger even got up to 4 on a scale of 5 in Carinthia. As a result of this big dump you can find around 100 centimeters of freshies on 1800 meters and that’s even more higher up.
The only black horse is Süd-Tirol and expecially its resorts that are close to the main alpine ridge. The snowfall just didn’t reach that far. You can find around 30-60 centimeters on 2000 meter. The biggest problem the next couple of days is going to be snow drift above 1800 meters and Gleitschneelawines below that altitude.
Three important risks
There are three risks highly present in the Alps the next couple of days: snow drift, Gleitschnee avalanches and a thin snowcover in the French southern Alps, Graübunden, the Waadtländer Alps and Süd-Tirol. Please go out with a mountain guide if you don't know how to handle those risks.
A new forecast will be published today and a more extensive one on Wednesday with the first indication of the where-to-go resorts for this weekend!