It snowed quite hard and the wind was pretty strong during PowderAlert #11 in Tirol, Salzburgerland and the Steiermark. There was about 30-80 cm and locally even 100+ cm of fresh snow that was moved all over the mountain by the wind. In combination with still very cold temperatures in the east, this created a very tense situation regarding the stability of the snow cover. In (large) parts of Tyrol, Salzburg and Steiermark, there is a BIG avalanche danger (4 on a scale of 5) above the tree line at the moment. Luckily, the high pressure area Gabriela is around and it will quiet and sunny in the Alps.
Lots of freshies in the east (up to 100 cm)
Combined with low temperatures and lots of wind
HIGH avalanche danger (locally) in the north and east of Austria
Sunny and warm days till Friday
A southwestern till western current coming up
Precipitation right after and warm/cold/warm/cold
Snow for the west and south, with some precipitation for the northern Alps
The reports are showing it. It is deep in the east and still pretty good in the Piedmont. Even in other parts of the Alps you can still find some good powder.
Warmer and sunny
But the warmer air is lurking. The high Gabriela nestles above the Alps which opens the door for warmer air and sunny days. The jet stream is pushed to the north and east, and so the Alps will be in the warmer air. You can notice this especially on the southern faces. The air temperature during the day at 2000 meters will be around zero degrees or upwards, but the air is dry and therefore only there where the sun radiates directly (read: the faces with a southerly component) will the snow suffer. The other parts of the mountain will still be pretty good. Especially in the trees, where you can finally find a decent snow cover and the avalanche danger is not as high as in the higher alpine. You can find great powder there. But will it stay like that?
PowderWatch: southwestern current = PA#12?
Gabriele loses her grip on the Alps from Friday and a southwesterly current will come in. Although GFS now mainly hints at snow in the west, a southwesterly current will normally bring snow between Monte Rosa and the Ortler (and possibly even more to the east) and the French Southern Alps. During cold fronts it will also bring snow in the rest of the French Alps, western Switzerland, the Jura, the Black Forest and Voralberg. This is called the infamous snow sandwich. First southwest, then northwest. But we'll let the weather models fight a little bit more. For now this means a PowderWatch for:
Western Alps North (from Saturday evening till Tuesday)
Western Alps Central (from Saturday evening till Tuesday)
Western Alps South (from Saturday till Tuesday)
Southern Alps Central (from Saturday till Tuesday)
These kind of currents bring alternately higher and lower snow lines, wind from the south and the north (as in southern and northern Föhn) and snow for large parts of the Alps. More details the next couple of days and more about where to go, but it seems that large parts of the Alps are going to get their share of snow. If the details are in, there will be a PowderAlert #12.
It will be busy on the roads
The holidays will start on February 14th in the south of the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany (including Bavaria and Saarland), northern Austria, in parts of Italy, Norway and Sweden and coming weekend tout Paris has vacation. In addition, the holiday weeks in England, Switzerland and the south and east of France are already in full swing. In short: it will be really busy on the roads to and from the ski areas.
It will get busy, to and from and within the Alps and therefore we'll have to wait where they are going to fall exactly. Skip next Saturday. But I expect that it is ON again from Sunday. More about that the next couple of days.
Please watch out!
Lots of people on the mountain results in powder stress and this means being on faces where you don't really want to be. How tempting the terrain above the tree line looks like, it's still pretty dangerous (and in forests with steep faces above) there. The snow cover is very unstable. Both deep in the snow cover as on the top layers you can find unstable layers. In addition, the transitions from a thick to a thin snow cover and vice versa are best to avoid.
Avalanche danger still critical
So do not forget (with all the stoke) that the snow cover is still built up quite poor in many parts of the Alps. This winter, there were already 69 fatalities due to avalanches! Therefore choose tree runs with not too steep faces above you. By doing that you eliminate a large part of the problems and risks. If you're heading to the Alps the coming days, be alert. Check your local daily avalanche bulletin, make sure you have the right gear with you and that you have the right knowledge. No knowledge? Are you not sure? Say no to off piste and wait for conditions to improve. If in doubt, do not go out!