PowderAlert #6: the details

By meteomorris on 18 December 2013 · 4

Typical west south west stau
Typical west south west stau

Sad news. The first avalanche victim of winter 13/14 is there. Three skiers out of a group of four were caught by an avalanche in Lech yesterday. Their guide (that was caught as well) managed to ski out of the avalanche. The other two skiers pulled their airbag, but were completely covered by the avalanche. An 51-year old man was found quickly thanks to his avalanche beacon, but help for his 16-year old son come to late…The authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident. The avalanche danger was one on a scale of five, the lowest avi-danger possible. Our thoughts are with the family.

If you’re going to the Alps the next couple of days: be alert. It has been dry for a long time in a lot of places. The snowcover in the Alps is not really strong, especially on north facing slopes, a lot of peaks and ridges had to deal with strong winds and a socalled ‘harschdeckel’ is present in a lot of places. This might be potential weak layers when the next snow will fall. Always check the daily avalanche bulletin, make sure you’ve got the right gear and that you have the knowledge. No knowledge? Not sure? Don’t go out-of-bounds and wait a little bit longer. The season is only just beginning.

PowderAlert #6

I’ve told you yesterday about the three things that will happen:

  1. A western current with snow from the west northwest.

  2. The second front with lots of snow in the French Alps and the resorts in the main alpine ridge between Italy and Switzerland.

  3. Rising temperatures en high pressure

We’ll tell you everything about the details for PowderAlert #6, such as temperature, wind and the snowline. We’ll also focus on specific regions, the long term and some news for Scandinavia and the Pyrenees.

1. The west current with snow from the west northwest

The first snow is expected on Thursday morning, coming in from the northwest. The snowline will drop initially to 1200 meters. The most snow will fall in the northwest of the Western Alps North and in the west of the Western Alps Central. If you head deeper into those regions, there will be less snow. The inneralpine regions of Wallis and the Savoie (such as Les Trois Vallées, l’Espace Killy and Les Quatre Vallées) will have to deal with less snow. The other resorts will get around 5-20 centimeters till the end of the afternoon.

2. The second front

This front is much more interesting. More intense and there’s much more humidity. The cold front will overtake the warm front and this leads to a classic southwest stau. The stauregions of the Ecrins, the Mt. Blanc, the Monte Rosa and the Piz Bernina will get hammered at first (the inneralpine areas of the Savoie and Wallis will get less snow). Snow will fall southwest of these mountain ranges. The snowline will drop to 800-1000 meter, and you can expect around 25-45 centimeters of freshies in the real stau regions till Friday night.

Southwest stau
Southwest stau

The front will travel south later on and the resorts that normally get snow in a southern Stau will get hammered. Especially the Alpes Maretimes, with resorts such as Isola 2000 and Valberg will get a lot of freshies. The snowline will be between 1000 and 1500 meters and you can expect around 40-70 centimeters. But keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a base, as Powdernick pointed out in the comments yesterday.

Southern stau
Southern stau

3. High pressure

High pressure is coming in on Saturday. The sun will come out and the temperatures will rise. The freezing level will rise to 2100 meters in the northern Alps and 1700 meters in the southern Alps on Saturday.

Powder advice

This is quite hard. The snowcover is still pretty thin on must places, especially in the French southern Alps (for example the Ecrins). Resorts like Vars and Risoul, parts of the Queyras and the southern Piemonte have a decent base. The riding might be pretty good when they get some freshies. The northern Piemonte (the Monte Rosa region) has a solid base as well. If the front is strong enough to reach the other resorts in the Piemonte, it will be good riding there as well. More details tomorrow.

Long term

I was writing about a superstorm yesterday. A huge low pressure area is visible on the maps for next weak. Both the models of ECMWF and GFS are expecting fireworks from the west. The weekend will be dry, but the 24th of December will be the start of a western current that will bring fronts to the Alps. This will be the start of PowderAlert #7. And that storm is still visible on the maps. But what will be the exact position of the Jetstream (which marks the division of warm air from the south and cold air from the north)?

With a lot of action from the west, the French Alps normally get a lot of snow, but the so-called ‘snowline yoyo’ might pop up as well. This is a rising snowline when a warm front comes in and a dropping snowline when a cold front comes in. Warm fronts will bring snow in the southern Alps and Föhn in the northern Alps. This is exactly the opposite with cold fronts. This scenario is good for the higher alpine resorts, but pretty bad news for the resorts at a lower altitude (especially the ones in Austria). Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Choose an high alpine resort in France or the southwest of Switzerland.

The Pyrenees and Scandinavia

I’ve also checked the maps for the Pyrenees and Scandinavia (by special request). It will start snowing in Scandinavia as well the next couple of days. It will be cold at first and the temperatures will rise in the weekend (temporarily). The story for the Pyrenees is quite simple: snow from the west and later from the west-northwest. The snowline will be around 1000 and 1500 meters. You should choose a higher alpine destination. Especially the western parts will get the most snow.

The Pyrenees

It’s harder for Scandinavia. The snowline will drop on Friday, but will rise again in the weekend.


More details again tomorrow

Stay stoked



  • LukasVizenetz
    LukasVizenetz op 18 December 2013 · 15:09
    I also saw this biiiiig storm coming, and in my opinion it will hit Austria after Christmas.... Dou you think that too, Morris? And Where do you think, will it hit Austria and Switzerland. Tirol or the Steiermark or what? 😃 @Meteomorris
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 18 December 2013 · 15:37
    @LukasVizenetz, That's way to far in the future to make a faorcast. But I hope you are right 😉
    May the powder be with you.
  • jazzman
    jazzman op 18 December 2013 · 16:10
    Thanks for your advices, keep it up!!
    It´s snow or never!!
  • telemikey
    telemikey op 19 December 2013 · 10:34
    In another post (http://wepowder.com/weblog/4824/PowderAlert-%236-Go-west...!) I asked Morris if recrystalisation/ metamorphosis of snow is a problem at the moment.

    Arjen commented on the Arlberg region seeing snow transformation there.
    And for France? Well, check: http://www.valdinet.com/events/news/warnings-coming-in-for-avalanches-... for an idea...

    At last snow seems to be on the horizon again. Yey!


    Be safe out there everyone, this might get ugly really fast!
    White room,Pillow lines,I rule


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