The past few days I was on a road trip through the Southern Alps. While the trip was initially planned for the southern French Alps and the western Italian Piedmont the final destination was the Italian region of Lombardy. Powder (searching) is a choice and that worked out well again. We had great snow at the Kick Off in Obergurgl one week ago and the snow was even better last weekend. We stayed in Passo del Tonale, Bormio and Santa Catarina and skied and rode line after line in the powder. Especially the huge amount of snow in Passo del Tonale was a nice surprise. With snow depths of 40 cm at 1850 meters, 140 cm at 2200 meters and more than 200 centimeters at 3,000 meters, it's winter over there for weeks already and offered us the chance to ride some nice lines in the high alpine. Thanks to Martijn Schell and the rest of the Powderguides team for the great days!
Even when we drove back home it was striking how much snow there is in Livigno and the slopes into the village were in perfect condition. That is quite different in the north of the Alps. Once in the Engadin everything turned green and it got even worse when we drove further north. Although they had some snow last weekend, but it wasn't enough to call it winter. When we passed the Fernpass in Austria on Sunday night it was freezing a little bit with a couple of centimeters alongside the road. The warm temperatures of today don't really help as you can understand.
Very unstable snow cover
The first days we could still ride all the steep lines, the last day (Sunday) it became clear how quickly conditions can change. In less than 24 hours the strong northern Föhn blew huge amounts of drift snow on top of a layer of sugar snow without cohesion. In no time there were cracks in the snowcover. This is the signal to ride less steep terrain and navigate carefully. In the areas north of the main alpine ridge, the situation may be even worse. The thin snow cover has turned into sugar snow in many places and the next load of fresh snow is going to be very dangerous. The snow is unstable and you'll have to be careful.
Freshies with Christmas
Even though it kind of subtropical today in the Alps and the meadows are already green again, there's cold air coming in with snow for the northern Alps. In the night to Christmas Day it starts snowing in the north, where the snow line will drop deep into the valleys. A real northern Stau in the form of a cold front hits the northern Alps and will bring the much needed snow. You can expect 10-30, locally even 35-40 centimeters of freshies. Especially in the eastern Swiss northern alpine ridge and the Arlberg I expect the most snow. These are precisely the places where they already have some snow and with some extra freshies the conditions will improve.
How about PowderAlert #4?
According to the latest calculations a new low pressure area north of the British Isles arises on Friday. On this approach, the wind in the Alps then turns south again and there will a Föhn storm shortly on the northern side of the Alps. It is therefore warmer and a strong wind will kick in.
Because the models still play with the exact path of this low pressure area there's still room for speculation. At this time the western Alps and the southern Alps have the best chances for freshies and that's a trend that we've seen a few days in the runs. It now appears that the low pressure area pulls through France to the Mediterranean and will show itself as a Genua-low on Monday, December 29th. It is too early for details, but it's something that I'll keep an eye on the next couple of days.
Because snow in the south means snow for those areas where they already have a good base. In addition snow from the south will bring some snow to the north as well. Cold, somewhat moist air which is pressed into the slipstream at the northern Alps and therefore provides some freshies. Starting this weekend, the weather may have some nice surprises in store and PowderAlert #4 might be around the corner. Finally some freshies for the ailing Northern Alps. Because the Christmas snow is coming to the north, that's for sure.
How about Norway?
Due to the lack of fresh snow in the Alps a lot of wePowder members drove up to Norway. The west has huge amounts of snow and although Sunday wasn't that good when a warm front passed, now it's snowing there again like a madman. But does it still pay to go in that direction? The days are getting shorter and the moments of daylight getting smaller. But the conditions are awesome. Below some shots of Guy and Vinnie.
Let's get to conclusions for Norway. The weather maps say the following ... Until Friday some flakes from the west. It has become colder, the wind is strong and there will be some flakes in the west. Norway also has to deal with the aforementioned low pressure area on Saturday, that will move from the British Isles through France towards the Mediterranean. Because this low pressure area is south of Norway, the snow won't come down from the west, but from the south. This means that the areas south and east of the highest mountains will get the most snow. Freshies for Hemsedal! What happens after Saturday is still uncertain.