PA #21: Critical avalanche situation!

By meteomorris on 1 April 2015 · 0

Arosa this morning
Arosa this morning

There were gusts of wind up to nearly 200 kmh measured on Tuesday and the end of the rollercoaster is not yet in sight. Large parts of the northern Alps saw the snow cover grow significantly above 2400 meters on Monday, with an average of 50-90 cm. A tropical Tuesday followed. The freezing level rose towards the 2800 meters in the west and 1900 meters in the east. Hurricane-like winds made the picture complete and the Alps went from a wintry Monday into a subtropical hurricane. That the snow cover got very wet up to high altitude and that huge amounts of snow are being transported isn't really a surprise. And then... then came Wednesday... A change of weather.

  • 50-100 cm of fresh snow on Monday

  • Hurricane winds and very warm on Tuesday

  • Soaking wet snow up to high altitude

  • Change of weather on Wednesday

  • Another 100 cm coming up

  • Winter is back again

  • Up to (and including) Friday stormy winds in the mountains

  • Easter weekend is cold and deep

  • But also very dangerous

Temperature Adelboden
Temperature Adelboden

A tough and icy northern Stau

The temperature went down in less than 18 hours. It was almost 12 degrees in Adelboden yesterday, at this time the temperature is dropping and dropping and right now it's already 1,2 degrees below zero. And the temperature isn't only dropping in the valleys. The temperature dropped with the arrival of the cold front in the high alpine as well. Nearly +5 yesterday afternoon, now -8 at 2100 meters in Engelberg.

Temperature Engelberg
Temperature Engelberg

And with the arrival of the cold front the snow came back as well. There already was around 20-40 cm of freshies in the northern Alps last night and the end is nowhere in sight. Until well into the Easter weekend it will be a coming and going of snow showers.

130 cm of freshies since Sunday evening
130 cm of freshies since Sunday evening

It's storm Niklas that brings back the winter in the Alps. By taking a strategic stop east of the Baltic Sea it triggered a huge 'slide' allowing frigid polar air to descend towards the Alps. Today the temperature drops all the way to minus 15 degrees at 3000 meters and the latter runs for the Easter weekend see the temperatures go down even further. Adieu winter, welcome spring? Forget it. Because ECMWF and GFS agree with each other at the moment and even the 'plume-ensemble' doesn't see spring return before the weekend of April 11th. No, Easter will offer much more winter than the whole of Christmas this season. The snow conditions during the Easter week will be much better than at Christmas. Are late northern winters really better?

Northern Stau galore
Northern Stau galore

At least six days of snow in the forecast

Our 4 day snow cards can not even handle it, because there's still snow in the forecast after Saturday. And you expect another 50-100 cm of freshies until Saturday. That snowfall will be up to (and including) Friday still be accompanied with stormy winds in the mountains which will create a critical avalanche situation First, we have to deal with a wet snow cover, that was influences by a strong wind. After that ice-cold snow and wind isolated the wet snow cover or fell on top of icy slopes where the wind had huge influence. In short: be very careful in the high alpine.

Snow forecast the next four days
Snow forecast the next four days

But in the meanwhile, the current snow cover between the trees is too thin or too soggy in many places to speak of decent tree runs. Fortunately, the wind in the mountains is so powerful and the sight so lousy that any sane human thinks twice before he goes into the backcountry. It will be a matter of patience the coming days.

So hold your horses for now. Because of the precarious situation in the Alps I do not want to make a call too early with my advice. The picture is more complete on Friday and in the morning I'll tell you exactly where to go. Especially since the snow line will rise again (but only temporarily) on Friday and Saturday, but will drop deep into the valleys right after. In short:

  • Wax up

  • Hold your horses

  • Don't even think of riding in the higher alpine

  • Knowledge is the key to safe powder

  • Austria and the east of Switzerland will be the jackpot destinations. It will be colder over there and treeruns will be possible.

  • More details on Friday morning

Stay stoked



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