After the dry powder at the end of 2014, the start of 2015 was much warmer. The freezing level climbed towards the 2000 meters or even higher yesterday and the day in the northern Alps ended with rain at great altitude. The famous birdhouse in the Bregenzerwald with a bucket of snow on its roof, turned into a birdhouse with a very wet roof because of the rain.
But winter is coming back. It is this warm this Saturday morning in the Alps, but there is a real 'wettersturz' coming to the Alps. How that works I already described in detail in my forecast yesterday. Read that right here. Today some more details and a forecast for the long termSnowfall the next four days
The map above shows it perfectly. Lots of snow in the Alps and this time especially in the higher alpine. An exception is the eastern part of Austria. In the Salzburgerland and Styria the snow falls a bit later in the so-called Northern Alps, and it will fall deep into the valleys.
Lots of wind and lots of snow
The first front that passes brings a lot of wind and initially the snow line fluctuates between 1500 and 2000 meters. The rain coming in from the west this afternoon makes you yearn for the dry snow of a few days back. Hang in tight, because in the night to Sunday the snow line drops towards the 1200 meters in the west and 700 meters in the east. And because it will snow the longest in the east, you can find the best conditions over there. Expect around 50-70 centimeters of freshies above 1200 meters around the Tauern and the stau areas around Fieberbrunn, Zauchensee and Tauplitz. In the rest of the Alps, you can expect about 20-60 centimeters of freshies above 1400 meters, with increasing amounts of snow at higher altitudes. Although the wind will be a deal breaker and lots of snow will be transportes. The situation, therefore, will in particular above the tree line be very critical in the next 72 hours and will remain critical in regard to the avalanche danger. Below the tree line the wind isn't that strong and the snow will settle much better after the rising temperatures of the past few days and the falling temperatures in the days to come. The biggest problems will be on bare slopes and above the tree line where the wind is strong and there are many weak layers (deeper) in the snow.
Although the air temperatures were pretty high, the snow cover is much colder at the moment. Yesterday we were startled by a huge avalanche on the Mölltaler Glacier. As many as 12 people were caught by an avalanche in the vicinity of lifts and slopes. Miraculously, everyone got out alive. That does not apply to 10 others. Since the start of winter the unstable snow cover has cost over 10 lives. The avalanche bulletin of Tirol describes the problem aptly for the Northern Alps.
Die schneearme Zeit vor Weihnachten samt Kältephasen hat leider ihre Spuren in der Schneedecke hinterlassen. Man findet inzwischen immer häufiger in allen Hangrichtungen kantige Kristalle, die von Krusten umgeben sind. Stabilitätstests zeigen häufig eine hohe Auslösebereitschaft, was sich auch in den zahlreichen Lawinenabgängen wiederspiegelte. Setzungsgeräuschen und Rissbildungen sind weitere klare Zeichen für den verbreitet ungünstigen Aufbau.
The period of little-to-no snowfall before Christmas, together with very low temperatures, has unfortunately left its marks on the snowpack, embedded inside of which are increasingly found layers of faceted crystals in all aspects, surrounded by hardened crusts. Stability tests often show a heightened proneness to trigger, which has been amply demonstrated by numerous avalanches. Settling sounds and shooting cracks are further indicators of unfavourable snow layering over widespread areas.
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!
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?
For the majority of Europe the holidays are over. Which means there aren't that much people in the backcountry on Monday and powder stress is as good as gone. There is also plenty of accommodation to be found. I just looked at availability in Zauchensee and the nearby and much cheaper Altenmarkt. There is plenty to be found. Search and I'm sure you'll find something in the northern Alps that suits you.
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 a lot of snow and there is much more on its way. In addition, the temperature will be much lower.
No update tomorrow, but we'll show you some nice images! See you on Monday!