PA #7: Where to go?


By meteomorris on 24 December 2013 · 0

If you have a look at webcams of the resorts in the southern Alps this afternoon, you'll notice that it is snowing big time. PowderAlert #7 has started officially and it will be an intense one. Storm Dirk, with a core pressure of 930 hPa, is somewhere above the British islands and it pushes snow with a southwestern current towards the southern Alps.

Storm Dirk
Storm Dirk

In the British, or even better, Scottish higlands, they're experiencing a blizzard that even William Wallace couldn't handle if he was a freerider. Some skiresorts in Scotland are closed and they have to deal with heavy winds up to 12 Beaufort. Way too dangerous to get out there. And we have to watch out in the Alps as well.

WARNING: The snowcover in the complete Alps is really unstable. The problem is caused by the base layer that's there since the autumn. A lot of avalanches came down after the most recent snowfall and this will probably the case with the next snowfall. If you're heading out, be alert. Check your daily avalanche bulletin, make sure you have the right gear and that you have the right knowledge. Not sure about your skills or knowledge? Don't go into the backcountry or hire a qualified mountain guide. Or just wait for the conditions to improve. It's a long season.

Retrospect

The differences have even got bigger in the Alps. The division of freshies in the southwestern and southern regions of the Alps and the dryspell in the other regions of the Alps is visible on the reports in the PowderQuest app. But the conditions will improve everywhere the next couple of days. Promised! As always, some places are (slightly) better than others. Some suggestions where to go the next couple of days.

Short term

There are three timeframes in which the snow will fall. You could already see them on the maps about five days before we launched PowderAlert #7. Right now, it's just a matter of finetuning and you'll succeed in your quest to ride powder. It gets even better when you're flexible enough(time-wise of course) to drive to different resorts. If not, stay still and let ULLR hit you. It depends where you are in the Alps when you will be covered by that white blanket. These are the three timeframes:

  • Today marks the transition to PowderAlert #7.

  • It will snow in the southwest and there will be a Föhn storm in the north. The precipitation will intensify on Wednesday in the southwestern and southern Alps.

  • There will be a heavy Föhn storm in the northern Alps, with rising temperatures as well. It will snow in the complete Alps on Thursday.

(Safety)tips

It you're going to ride some powpow the next couple of days in the southern Alps, hereby some tips. It will snow heavily, the visibility above the treeline will be bad and the wind will kick in during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. You can expect wind speeds of 11 Beaufort or even higher north of the main alpine ridge. You can see that on the map below. It's kind of a search, but the Alps are somewhere on that map. The grey areas will get wind speeds up to 100 km/h, and some weather stations are already talking about wind speeds between 130 and 160 km/h. And that's not just the perfect storm, but it also means a lot of fresh drift snow. And we all know what that means…Check the wind speeds in the valleys here and the wind speeds on the peaks here. Numbers will be highest on Wednesday morning.

Peak speeds of the wind (grey is over 100 km/h)
Peak speeds of the wind (grey is over 100 km/h)

The storm won't be that strong anymore on Wednesday afternoon, but that's just a shift from a southern Föhn storm to a northern Föhn storm. That means that the wind will kick in in the southern Alps and that will cause a lot of trouble because a lot of snow will be transported to slopes where it doesn't belong.

Föhn chart for the next couple of days
Föhn chart for the next couple of days

Another problem is the base layer, which is still weak and thin in a lot of places. Pick resorts with a lot of trees that already have a good base (most resorts in the southern Alps and the eastern parts of Austria) and stay below the treeline for the safest riding possible. No guarantees though. It will be really dangerous above the treeline the next couple of days. Wind speeds up to 160 km/h and almost one meter of freshies could be a more than deadly cocktail.

Snowfalls Tuesday
Snowfalls Tuesday

1. Snow for the south

Snow from the southwest today, but it's just the start of something big. Normally we're quite happy with 20-40 centimeters of freshies, but there's more to come. I expect the most snow in the French southern Alps, especially the Stau regions of the Ecrins, and the other regions in the southern Alps (the southern Alps west, the southern Alps central and the southern Alps east). You can expect the most snow in the resorts on or south of the line Monte Rosa-Gemsstock-Piz Bernina. The temperature will rise rapidly in the northern Alps and in some Austrian and Swiss valleys, the temperatures will reach 15 or maybe even 18 degrees. The best resorts will be the resorts in the west of the French southern Alps (such as Risoul-Vars), because they will be hit by the storm first.

Snowfalls on wednesday
Snowfalls on wednesday

2. Christmas Day: lots of snow in the south, a Föhn storm in the north****

The front will kick in on Wednesday. The differences will be huge. It will snow heavily in the French southern Alps and the other regions in the southern Alps with a snowline between 800 and 1400 meters. I expect around 50-90 centimeters, locally even 120 centimeters of freshies. It will start snowing in the other regions in the western Alps because of the incoming cold front and shortly after that the precipitation will hit the south of Wallis (Zinal, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Simplon), the Gotthard (Andermatt), Engadin (St. Moritz), Mittelbünden (Davos, Disentis) and the most southern resorts in Tirol (the southern parts of the Otztal, Kaunertal, etc). The best resorts will be the resorts with a lot of trees. Think little resorts in Haut-Valais around and south of the Simplon and small resorts like Airolo, Bosco Gurin and Aprica in Ticino and the Piemonte. And don't forget the larch trees in the French southern Alps.

There will still be a Föhn storm in the northern Alps and the temperatures will be way too high. The storm from the south will be quite heavy. Keep in mind that lifts in resorts in and north of the main alpine ridge can be closed because of heavy winds. The Föhn wind will drop on Wednesday afternoon and it will start snowing after that from the north.

Snowfalls on Thursday
Snowfalls on Thursday

3. Snow in the complete Alps on Thursday

The cold air and precipitation will strike the complete Alps on Boxing Day and thus it will snow in the Swiss and Austrian northern Alps. Not as intense as in the south, but I still expect around 25-50 centimeters of freshies. The northern Föhn storm will kick in in the south. Not as strong as his northern partner-in-crime, but strong enough to create a lot of drift snow. The avalanche danger in the complete Alps will be really interesting.

How much snow will come down? The snowmaps say it all!

Powderalert #7 totals
Powderalert #7 totals

Summary

  • Tuesday: snow in the French southern Alps

  • Wednesday: still snow in the south, it will start snowing in the other regions in France and the resorts just north of the main alpine ridge

  • Thursday: snow in the entire Alps

  • Friday: watch out! Lots of freshies and weak layers in the snowpack!

Long term

PowderAlert #8 is visible on the maps already. It will Föhn in the northern Alps (again) and it will start snowing from the southwest.

Stay stoked

Morris


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