PowderAlert #4 made sure that 2014 didn't become a lost year for the Northern Alps, although they'll look back with mixed feelings themselves. Because the conditions weren't that good from January to April and only one dump in October broke the dry spell that lasted from September to December. The mountains were green most of the time and not white... Only the last week of 2014 the mountains were blessed with lots of snow. It continuously snowed in the northern Alps since December the 25th and even though there wasn't a base, PowderAlert #4 resulted in shots like below.
PowderAlert # 4 brought between 50 and 200 centimeters of fresh snow and thus the foundation for the rest of winter 2015 is there. There's even more snow in the valleys in the Northern Alps than in the Southern Alps, where the valleys are mostly still green.
The amounts of snow in the Alps begin to look like 'a normal winter', especially the snow above 2,000 meters is pretty good. However, the wind of the past two weeks left its mark. The wind blew the snow away from lots of ridges or transformed it into some kind of concrete. Especially near couloirs and ridges you'll therefore have to be careful. Because in the vicinity of the bare blown spots you can often find the dangerous drift snow. On the last day of 2014, an avalanche claimed a victim in Tyrol. Avalanches already killed nine people this winter (3 in Switzerland, 3 in France, 2 in Austria and 1 in Italy). On New Years Day skiers and snowboarders caused several avalanches which fortunately didn't result in casualties.
Main problems at the moment are fresh drift snow due to the wind the last few days and also weak layers deeper in the snowcover. Although the drift snow was able to bond the last 48 hours because of the beautiful weather, this kind of snow will be a problem again during PowderAlert #5.
The snowcover is still unstable
With the recent snowfall, the strong winds and the old sugar snowlayers, the avalanche situation isn't that good. This will get even worse when the temperatures will go up. Watch out the next couple of days. We warned you before for a very unstable snowcover. The weight of a single skier or boarder is sufficient to break the snowcover and trigger an avalanche. Going off-piste thus requires a lot of knowledge the next couple of days. Even more than in a 'normal' situation. If you don't have that knowledge, or when you don't trust your own decisions, please hire a ski and mountain guide, or stay on the slopes! If you go off piste, always carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe with you. In addition, make sure you know your local avalanche bulletin and adapt your plans to it. Think three times before you follow other tracks and do not ride a line because others are already riding it. The situation at the moment is really dangerous! Winter is still young. What you can't ride today, you'll probably can later in the season. Be patient!
Short term: PowderAlert #5
It has become warmer in the Alps. In Adelboden, at 1320 meters altitude, the temperature already rose above zero and that happens today in the rest of the Alps. On the approach of a front, the wind turned to the southwest and became much warmer. In the night from Friday to Saturday a weak cold front passes through the north side of the Alps. This will result in some freshies above 1800 meters on Saturday morning, but it's storm Alexander that will put the northern Alps on fire on Saturday!
During the passage of the warm front the snow line is still around 1,900 meters in the west and 1,400 meters in the east, but in the night to Sunday it will fall rapidly towards the 1000 meters in the west and 600 meters in the east. Oh yeah, and because the front is coming from the northwest, it are the Northern Alps, including the French Northern Alps that will get the snow. The Southern Alps will remain dry and there will be a strong wind.
But in the left corner of the map to can see the high pressure area Vincent and this will rapidly push Alexander to the east. The eastern part of the northern Alps will therefor get the most snow. It will be dry on Monday already in the western Alps and the temperature will rise rapidly, but it will snow much longer in the eastern Alps and the temperatures will remain low. For the most freshies you'll have to go east the next couple of days. And they have a base over there as well since PowderAlert #4.
From Tuesday to Thursday, the weather is nice in the entire Alps. It's a little too warm for this time of the year, making sure that the snow on the southern slopes won't be that good anymore. On the other faces the snow will be fresh and dry. You'll definitely find some powder when you search and make some plans.
Long term, new snow for the north?
According to the latest calculations, the northern Alps (and western Alps) may count on fresh snow again from Friday. But there is still much uncertainty. The high pressure area Vincent is lurking and his position ultimately will determine what will happen.
Where to go?
The entire northern Alps are in a much better condition, but for the best snow you head towards Austria. Or better yet, the east of Austria. There is as much snow over there and there is much more to come. And the temperatures will stay low.
A short update and more details tomorrow.