Boom, there it is! The very first northwest Stau of winter 14-15 is in the making. Although we have already had some snow from that direction, but never as significant as it will be right now. But man, did we have to wait long for that dump or what? First the Southern Alps, then the Southern Alps again, then Norway and finally the northwest of the Alps.
A low pressure area still without a name (it will probably be called Hiltrud or Indira) is moving from the north of Scotland to the southeast. This opens the door to cold air from the north and with a northwest current ice cold air is send to the western Alps central, the western Alps north, the northern Alps west and the northern Alps central.
And this storm will not only bring snow to the northwestern parts of the Alps. It will even snow in the lower parts of The Netherlands (do they have higher parts anyway?), Belgium, Germany and France. Sad news for the people who are on holiday in the Alps right now, because not only they had not that much or even no snow, the trip home on Saturday will be an adventure with fresh snow on the roads. It will probably snow in the The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in the morning and this will expand into France and the southwest of Germany. Something to keep in mind when planning your trip to and from the Alps if you live in those countries.
Which path will the low pressure area follow?
The low pressure area that will arrive in The Netherlands and Belgium on Saturday morning will move south rapidly and will hit the northwest of the Alps on Saturday evening. It will be pushed over the Alps on Saturday night and will be brought back to live in the Adriatic Gulf and will bring huge amounts of snow to northern Greece, Albania and the Balkan countries.
Earlier this week, it looked like there was a chance that a solid low pressure area could form around the Gulf of Genua and start a classic retour d'est. Well, that's not the case anymore in the final calculations. A rapidly blossoming Azores High pressure area forces the storm depression to follow a path more east and it will quickly leave the Alps. Therefore no chance on a retour d'est and probably no snow for the southern Alps.The path of the low pressure area
Where is the snow going to fall?
Most snow will fall west of the red line above. This is where the front and the most moisture will be. The most snow will come down in the western Alps central, the western Alps north and the northern Alps west. Expect 50-100 cm of freshies. The wind will kick in the higher alpine, but the details about that will follow on Friday. Check out where the snow will fall on the image below.
Don't be fooled by all the purple and yellow colors in Tyrol and the Salzburgerland. That's snow that will come down on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It will be dry and even sunny on the 27th of December. It will start snowing in Tyrol again on Sunday afternoon and Monday and that snowfall is not shown on the map above. The area west of the Arlberg however, will get some freshies from this system from the northwest.
The reason that it will snow west of the Arlberg has to do the following. Between the Bielehohe, the Arlbergpass and the Nebelhorn is a line of peaks that mark the highest point. West of these peaks are clouds forced to rise and drop all their snow, while east of the peaks the fronts will drop and the snow intensity decreases. This is also the explanation of the secret of the Voralberg and the Kleinwalsertal. They pick up snow both from the north (just like the rest of Austria), but also from west.
How about the rest of the Alps? The French Southern Alps will have some snowfall in the northern parts, but the further south you'll go, the less snow will fall. Especially south of the Ecrins you don't have to expect much. The same applies to the Italian Piedmont. Little significant snowfall over there. Or the retour d'est should pop up again. The Southern Alps central will be dry and sunny. The fortunately have a base above 2000 meters, but the strong northwest Föhn will move a lot of snow. Same goes for the southern Alps east, but the most eastern part will have some snow. It's even possible that the rest of the Dolomites will have some snow as well, we'll see what happens on Saturday. Steiermark, the Salzburgerland and Tyrol will get some freshies on Sunday and Monday. You can expect around 10-20 centimeters.
Is there a base?
Earlier this week we warned you for the unstable snow cover. It is thin and the layers are poorly bounded. You'll have to pay great attention with this new snow coming in. The snow cover often is very unstable and can form a good sliding layer for the freshies that will fall the next couple of days.
In addition to that, in most places in the northwest of the Alps there's little or even no base below 2000 meters. 50-100 cm of snowfall falling on top of nothing means that you hit the rocks pretty soon. Opt for mountain meadows because the chance that you hit something here is as good as nil. A disadvantage of the lower parts of the mountain is that they'll normally get less snow. 70 centimeter on the mountain is often only 20-40 centimeters in the valley. So pay attention.It's still green in Meribel
A third risk is powder stress. This is the first dump for the northwest and you're not the only one hungry for first tracks. Especially during the holiday season. That means a real battle in the resort (but also in your head). You'll see people do things that you know are not smart, but that might also just to give you that little push to do stupid things. Be aware that the season is still long. What this week will be dangerous, will be much better later in the season. Have patience ... because a good freerider is an old freerider so the saying goes.
Why not? Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be sunny, but you'll have to search for some good accommodation. A place to stay right on the slopes will be hard to find, but with some searching, I found some good places pretty quick. I did some searches in Engelberg, A *** t, Chamonix and the Portes du Soleil and the Grand Massif. Start searching here and I'm sure you'll find something. Sometimes even at discounted prices.
The weather will calm down on Monday. It will be dry, sunny and the temperature will go up. More details tomorrow and merry Christmas!