PA #17: from west to south

By meteomorris on 13 February 2014 · 0

Through the PowderQuest App

Phase 1 of PowderAlert #17 lies behind us. The snow came down as expected, but was preceded by a warm front with (too) much wind. This is a quote from a forecast of a couple of days ago:

The incoming warm front will cause a strong southern Föhn on Thursday, that will weaken and disappear as soon as the cold front comes in on Thursday. The northwestern regions of the Alps will see lots of cold freshies when the sun comes up on Friday morning. Friday morning will be one of these mornings you don't want to miss when you're in the Mont Blanc region. Waistdeep cold freshies. In the other regions in the northwestern Alps you'll get some face shots as well.

Friday morning is a great morning to ride powder. Around 40-70 centimeters came down locally and there was practically no wind between the trees. But…the wind was pretty strong above the treeline and you'll find drift snow on every exposition. The snow in the trees however is pretty good.

But I already said a couple of days ago: Don't wait too long. The wind will get stronger on Friday and a new front from the southwest will come in. This will result in snow (and rain below 1800 meters) in the western Alps. This precipitation will expand into the southern Alps central in the night from Friday to Saturday.

It will be a quicky and the top lifts will be closed because of heavy winds before you know it. It's time to move to the southern Alps in the night from Friday to Saturday.

Friday afternoon till Saturday = southern Stau
Friday afternoon till Saturday = southern Stau

The Föhnchart says it all. You'll have to deal with a strong and warm wind in the (French) northern Alps when there's a southern current, so you want to be in the southern Alps for colder temperatures and some freshies. Keep in mind that the cold front from Thursday to Friday caused heavy northern winds in the higher alpine in the southern Alps. If you want to ride some powder you should head into the larch trees and some freshies will help of course. If you want some freshies you should go to a resort between Airola in Ticino and Sulden am Ortler. You can expect around 10-30 centimeters in the stau regions of the main alpine ridge. The southern Alps central are the place to be. Not really deep, but enough to get a fix and it's always better than a southern Föhn that's hitting the northern Alps, with warm temperatures and heavy winds. It's much colder in the southern Alps.

Storm Ulla is bringing a southern Föhn
Storm Ulla is bringing a southern Föhn

The southern Föhn will be gone on Saturday afternoon and it's time to check out the west again. A cold front is heading for the Alps, coming in from the northwest and it will start snowing again in the night from Saturday to Sunday in the west (the French Alps). The snowfall will expand into the rest of the Alps later. The western and northern Alps have to deal with colder air on Sunday. It will be much warmer in the southern Alps.

I expect the most snow in the western Alps and the southern Alps from Saturday night till Monday morning. The reason is that the warm, humid air will battle with the cold air from the northwest above those regions. The wind will drop and the snow line will be around 900 meters in the west, 600 meters in the north and 1200 meters in the south. It will snow everywhere. I personally think that the forests in the western and southern Alps will be the place to be on Sunday.

It will be a weekend where you have to use the tunnels to escape the Föhn. You can think of these combinations:

  • Gotthardtunnel: Friday Andermatt, Saturday Airolo, Sunday Airolo

  • Frejustunnel: Friday Savoie, Saturday Piemonte, Sunday Savoie

  • Mt. Blanctunnel: Friday Chamonix, Saturday Aosta, Sunday Chamonix

You'll find more combinations yourself with some creativity. You can use mountain passes and car/train combinations. If you can't travel, you'll have to deal with shitty weather, stormy winds, high temperatures and snowfall. Four seasons in one weekend…

Tunnels will be the gate to snow or Föhn this weekend
Tunnels will be the gate to snow or Föhn this weekend

Long term

And after the weekend? The front that's moving into the Alps on Sunday will stick around for a while in the southern Alps easton Monday and it will snow over there. But it's pretty warm and the snow line is pretty high. Too high. It will snow above 1400-1600 meters on Sunday and the resorts in the far east even have a snow line that's around 2000 meters. It will drop below 1000 meters not earlier than the night from Sunday to Monday, so Monday might be good there.

The jet stream will be west and north of the Alps after that. The heavy winds will be gone. And so are the big front. There's some snow ahead of us though, but it's too early to announce the next PowderAlert. Especially because it's too warm for the time of the year. You'll have to search for powder after Monday!

Stay stoked



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