PowderAlert #1: Wax up!

By meteomorris on 17 November 2014 · 0

Endless powder above the clouds...
Endless powder above the clouds...

After two weeks of intense snowfall in the Southern Alps and parts of Switzerland, there is finally a period of good weather coming. Meanwhile, more and more areas opened their lifts and temperatures remain on the cool side. Wax up! No more riding pow for only half a day and than conclude that the temperatures is too high, there are new clouds coming in, or that you have to wait too long for the lift because it's the only one open. You can really start riding powder, starting tomorrow!

More than five meter of freshies

Who would have thought that? Since the start of this lingering PowderAlert they had more than 5 meters of freshies above 2200 meters between the Monte Rosa and the Piz Bernina. To be more precise, in the region of Bedretto they had a whopping 625 centimeters of freshies in less than two weeks. Yes, you read that right, six hundred twenty-five centimeters. It is for a reason that the Gotthard region (of which the Bedretto region is part of) is known as one of the most snowy regions of the Alps. Damüls in Austria is claiming to be the snowiest village of the Alps, but that's just because there are no villages in the no man's land between Airolo and Andermatt.

What will the weather be like?

More snow from the south coming in until Tuesday morning. With the incoming colder air the snow line has dropped to 1200 meters and until Tuesday morning, another 10-30, locally even 40 centimeters of freshies are expected. The north side of the Alps will also have some light snowfall. Again, the most snow will come down in the south, so the 'powder counter' around the Gotthard ends at around 650 centimeters of freshies.

Southern stau visible from the Stubaier glacier
Southern stau visible from the Stubaier glacier

Snowfall till Tuesday
Snowfall till Tuesday

High pressure, sunshine and cold nights after Tuesday

The Alps will be under the influence of high pressure after Tuesday. After two weeks of turbulent weather it will be peaceful and quiet in the Alps. It will be sunny and the nights will be cold. Perfect weather for the first powder turns in the higher alpine, but unfortunately also ideal weather for the formation of frost. This could be a significant problem (from an avalanche perspective) with the dumps that are to come. It's something we'll keep our eye on the next couple of days. Should you encounter forst of hoar on or in the snow, please share that with us. For now: there'll be beautiful weather and fresh snow after Tuesday.

Current snow depths

I get more and more questions about current snow depths lately and marketing machines of many ski resorts are running at full speed. But for us freeriders it's not that important what can be found on the slopes, but how the conditions in the off-piste are like. I made below an overview by region of the snow line and the current snow depths including a valuation of the conditions compared with the time of year. Just click on a region name to get more information about resorts, location etc .. --- stands for very poor and +++ very well.

  • Northern Alps east: --- conditions. Winter is still far away. Föhn and rain here pretty much killed all the snow. Don't go to this region to ride powder right now. The mountains are green and only in Kaprun some hard snow can be found above 2500m.

  • Northern Alps central: -- to + conditions. The conditions on the glaciers of Sölden, Stubaital, Pitztal and Kaunertal are okay. Powder can be found and the conditions are good. Watch out for the first avalanches due to snowed in frost. In the other areas you can find up to 20-50 centimeters at 2400 meters altitude. It's still green below 2000 meters.

  • Northern Alps west: -/+ to ++ conditions. It's already winter above 1800 meters. Around the 2200 meter, the snow cover is usually between 30 and 60 centimeters thick and above 2500m over a meter. Best conditions are to be found in Andermatt. In other areas the snow is often too thin to cover the sharks.

  • Western Alps north: -- to +++ condities. In general, the conditions are not perfect in this region. An exception is the area around Zermatt, Saas Fee and the Simplon. It snowed a lot over here in recent weeks, and you can find a closed snow cover of around two meters above 2200 meters. In the other areas the snow cover is 10-40 centimeters, which isn't too much. So if you want to ride some powder, go towards the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Simplon. The lifts are open and the touring is pretty good.

  • Western Alps central: - to +/- conditions. The conditions improved because of yesterdays snowfall and you can find some good touring. The best conditions are found in the Haute Maurienne and the Isère. In the rest of the resorts the snow cover is pretty thin with around 20-50 centimeters. And that also applies to Val Thorens and Tignes where some lifts are running. But watch out when leave the marked slopes, because of the thin snow cover.

  • Western Alps south: +/- to ++ conditions. You can find 80-150 centimeters of snow on the northern slopes and 60-110 cm on south slopes above 2200 meters. The current snow line is around 1500-1800 meters, and the snow cover is pretty good above 2000 meters. Most snow in the Mercantour, Pelvoux and Dévoluy. No lifts are open in these regions, but if they were running, the skiing would be really good above 2200 meters.

  • Southern Alps west: +/- to + conditions. The current snow line now hovers around 1500 meters, but only above 2100 meters the riding is quite good. You can find 30-60 centimeters at 2200 meter and 70-140 centimeters at 2500 meter. There are no lifts open yet, but the touring is okay.

  • Southern Alps central: +++ conditions. It's already winter over here! Well at least above 2000 meters and locally even lower. Around 4 to 7 meters of snow came down the last weeks and you can find a closed snow cover of two meters at 2400 meters. There are already lifts open and touring is excellent. Here you will find the best conditions in the Alps at this moment.

  • Southern Alps east: - to ++ conditions. The more east you go, the greener it gets. More to the west in this regions you'll find pretty good conditions. There's a closed snow cover above 2100 meters and the touring can be good (with the necessary attention). Some lifts are already running and the powder is pretty good. The best conditions in this region can be found in Sulden and Val Senales.

Are there resorts open?

Yes, there are areas open and more areas will open their lifts in the coming days or weekend. And with the current circumstances powder can certainly be found.

Most important risks

Before you start packing, here are the main risks. You have to be very careful of crevasses when you ride on a glacier. The season has just started and the snow bridges (if any) are still thin. Furthermore, you should go high and 'going high' usually means rocks as substrate. Especially in the areas that don't have much snow you'll soon hit a rock (or two). Painful for yourself but also for your board / skis. Last and not least: avalanches. Frost/hoar is observed and the wind has blown hard the last few days. The weight of just one skier or snowboarder may already be sufficient to trigger an avalanche. Read the daily local avalanche bulletin and customize it to your plans.

Where to go

Well, there are lifts open, there is some fresh snow, it will be dry and sunny and we know where the conditions are as good as they get at the moment. So the question is: Where to go the next days?

Of course, there are other places where the lifts are open (like Laax, Davos etc ..), but I have above mentioned areas where the riding already is pretty good and I didn't mention areas where the snow cover outside the marked slopes is pretty thin.

What about the weekend of 22-23 november?

There will be a couple of resorts that will open their lifts for the first time of the season this weekend and that had a lot of snow, or which were closed during the week. These are additional tips for this weekend:

Plenty of areas with open lifts and powder. Who is going to ride some powder? The next few days we will keep an eye on what areas will open (unfortunately Monte Rosa won't open until November 29), I'll give you an update about the long term and we'll post some of the best shots from the Alps. #winterisheretostay

Stay stoked



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