PowderAlert #7 brought huge amounts of snow, and they locally even got up to 180 centimeters of freshies in the Swiss kanton of Ticino. That’s not a record, because they started measuring this snowfall on Monday, but it’s hands down the biggest dump we’ve seen so far this winter. A quick overview of the mountain ranges in the Alps that got the most snow.
The area just south of the Gotthard and the Simplonpass hit the jackpot during this storm. Superstorm Dirk brought them sureal amounts of snow: südliches Simplongebiet und zentraler Alpensüdhang: 100 bis 150 cm, im Tessin lokal bis 180 cm. You don’t even have to understand German to know that’s a lot. A lot of resorts had to close their lifts and some villages have been cut-off from the outside temporarily. And luckily for the rest of Switzerland, Dirk was strong enough to bring them some freshies as well and add some new snow to the existing cover. 'übriger Alpenhauptkamm von Zermatt bis ins Berninagebiet: 70 bis 100 cm, Mittelbünden, übriges Oberengadin: 50 bis 70 cm, übrige Gebiete: 20 bis 50 cm.'
127 cm of freshies in the skiresort of Airolo in just 24 hours.
They got around 50 to 130 centimeters in the Italian Piemonte. Most of the snow came down in the Monte Rosa area, where the avalanche danger temporarily rose up to five (on a scale of five).
It snowed heavily as well in Passo Tonale in Trentino
And the south of Tirol. The southern parts of the Otztal got around 25 to 75 centimeters of freshies.
South and in the main alpine ridge you can find a snowcover that’s up to 1.5 to 3 times as big as normal for the time of the year. The snowcover didn’t even reach the normal average north of the main alpine ridge. Storm Dirk was there mostly for the southern Alps and the northern Alps had to wait long for some freshies. The riders in the Salzburgerland and Steiermark had to wait till yesterday afternoon until they say their flakes falling down.
In the meantime in the digital world, the 100+ cm reports came flooding in on the PowderQuest app. We won’t forget superstorm Dirk. You’ll find more reports and the download buttons for iPhone and Android (hey it’s free, isn’t that a good thing after the expensive Christmas days) here, so you don’t miss out on any PowderAlert.
On average, I was pretty correct with my forecast. I expected around 50-90 centimeters, with locally 120 centimeters. That was pretty much the case. No one saw the 180 centimeters in Ticino and the Simplon coming. The snowline was forecasted correct as well. The only problem was the air at high altitude that simply was too warm. The air temperature was around or below zero degrees in a lot of places and the orographic cooling caused it to snow deep into the southern valleys. The bad news (for the short term): the temperatures will rise rapidly today.
Warma air and lots of snow = good news
The heavy snowfall, the humidity and the mild temperatures might be pretty good news on the long term. We had (and still have) to deal with a relative thin snowcover, that consist of mostly corn snow, in most regions in the Alps. The storm covered these layer of sugar with a lot of freshies. The humidity will also force the hoar-like snowcrystals to bind a bit better with the new snow. This might happen at least in the areas where they had over 70 centimeters of pretty heavy snow in the last 24 hours. In the areas that didn’t get that much snow, the problem is still there. We’ll keep a close eye on the avalanche bulletings, the snow profiles and other reports. But finally this likes some good news for the snowcover for the long term. A lot of problems below the treeline are less than before. We’ll see what the snowcover will be like above the treeline today. The sun will come out and I expect that many riders will be tempted to ride steep couloirs and bowls next to the slopes. Despite all the warnings. Don’t ride that kind of terrain. You’d better wait until the snowcover is settled a bit more. The corn snow and drift snow caused by the storm hasn’t bonded yet with the new snow.
A southern winter
You can say that the southern regions of the Alps pretty much own this winter so far. Really cold temperatures are just not around and the fronts from the southwest are the masters of the dancefloor till now. The temporary cold temperatures are kicked out again by a Föhn wind and the snowfall from the southwest. PowderAlert #8 and probably PowderAlert #9 as well will follow this pattern. PowderAlert #8 will kick in this year, PowderAlert #9 is hitting the Alps right after New Years Eve.
PowderAlert #8 will come in three phases, just like PowderAlert #7.
Föhn and an incoming front
Snow from the southwest for the southern Alps
But….it’s not as intense as PowderAlert #7.
1. Föhn and an incoming front
Storm Erik is not as strong as his predecessor. No Föhn with 160 km/h winds, no 150 centimeters of freshies and you can’t where shorts in Innsbruck anymore, because the temperatures won’t hit the 15 degrees there. But there will be a Föhn again in the northern Alps and the temperature in the southern Alps will drop. It will be cold in the valleys just south of the main alpine ridge and especially the ‘inneralpine’ valleys that are perpendicular to the wind direction. So Haut-Valais, Splügen etc. will be pretty cold. The Föhn starts heating and you can follow its progress on the weather station of Adelboden. The temperature hit the +10.2 degrees on Christmas Day over there. The freezing level in the northern Alps will be around 2100 meters and around 1700 meters in the southern Alps.
2. Snow from the southwest for the western and southern Alps
The front will hit the Alps on Saturday. The most snow will fall (again) in the Stau regions of the Ecrins (like the French southern Alps and the Isère), the Mont Blanc, the Mont Viso, the Stau regions of the Swiss main alpine ridge and the Stau regions of the Ortler. It won’t be a 150 centimeters, but you still can expect around 30-70 centimeters. The direction of the front is a little bit more westsouthwest compared to PowderAlert #7.
The first snow will be expected around noon in the western Alps on Saturday. The first flakes will come down south of the Gotthard and around the Ortler at the end of the afternoon. The snowline will drop to 900-1300 meters, the freezing level will be aorund 1600 meters. There will still be a Föhn and mild temperatures (freezing level around 2300 meters in the Föhn valleys) in the northern Alps. The southern Föhn will lose its power in the night from Saturday to Sunday.
3. Snow in de rest of the Alps
The snowfall will expand in the night from Saturday to Sunday. A northern ‘sling’ will cause it to snow in the Vorarlberg and the Arlberg region. The weather will clear on Sunday, and here and there some flurries. It will be sunny with a freezing level around 1500 meters on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The nights will be clear and that might result in some radiation of the snow. The first signs of PowderAlert #9 will be visible on Tuesday.
But please, be warned:
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.