127 centimeter of freshies! Winter is starting!

By meteomorris on 19 November 2015 · 4

It will be on like Donkey Kong! There will be a lot of snow coming down this weekend. This is the dump of November and it will form the base for the rest for the season in a lot of regions in the Alps.

  • The first dump of November is a good one and will bring more than one meter of snow to the northwest of the Alps.
  • There will be less snowfall in Austria, but enough for a powder turn.
  • It won't snow in large parts of the Southern Alps (sorry guys).
  • My advice: go for a tour or head to the glaciers in France, Austria and Switzerland.
  • There might be some snow in the forecast for the southern Alps next week.

In the old days I would have jumped in my car not to miss a single flake. But after some injuries from the past that occured during the pre-season, I nowadays wait until the snow cover is a bit thicker. But if you're stoked and just can't wait: check out my tips for your (first) powder turns.

French northern Alps and Switzerland will get hammered

A strong north to northwestern current finally brings cold air to the northwestern Alps on Friday. The snowline fluctuates around 2,000 meters at first, but during Friday (evening) it will drop to 700 meters and even lower.

Orange arrow = cold air from the north
Orange arrow = cold air from the north

Due to the northwestern and later to the north rotating current, it will mainly be the northern French Alps and the northern Swiss alpine ridge that will get a lot of snow. The snowfall will expand into Austria later. With the French Northern Alps I mean the Isère, Savoie, the Haute Savoie and in this case western Wallis. The snow line will be around 2000m on Friday, but will drop deep into the valleys on Saturday. This means that the 127 centimeters of snow that's visible on our snow maps is only falling on the peaks. But if you zoom in and go to resort page of Chamonix or Paradiski, then you will see that you can expect around 35-50 centimeters of snow between 1700 and 2100 meters.

French northern Alps
French northern Alps

The same applies for the northern Swiss alpine ridge. They'll get warm air first and the temperatures will drop rapidly later. The advantage is that the cold air arrives earlier, so expect more snow to fall deep into the valleys. It's shown nicely on the resort page of Engelberg.

northern Swiss alpine ridge
northern Swiss alpine ridge

Dropping temperatures in Engelberg
Dropping temperatures in Engelberg

Resorts such as Chamonix and Engelberg will get a lot of snow, but this is not the time to ride full throttle. Remember that there are a lot of sharks and the lifts aren't open in a lot of resorts. Make sure to read my tips on where to go!

Less snow for Austria on the maps

There's less snow on the maps for Austria, but the snow will be much colder. Because of this you can still expect around 15-35 centimeters. Positive exception is the Voralberg. I expect that they'll get more snow than the maps are showing.

The Austrian Alps
The Austrian Alps

You can expect 30-50 and locally even 70 cm at 2000 meters altitude. Even at 1200-1500 meters altitude you can expect 15-40 cm. Just like in France there's no need to venture into the high alpine (except on the slopes of the glaciers). Read below where you should go!

No precipitation in the southern Alps

A strong current from the north means a Föhn storm in the south (which is a cold but mainly dry wind from the north). With the exception of the Dolomites and the Alpi di Giulia it won't snow in the southern Alps. You can only expect some snow in the southeast (the more east, the more snow). It won't snow in areas like the Piedmont or Aosta.

My tips and warnings for the weekend

It continues to snow throughout the weekend and many resorts are still closed, so you don't have that many options. You should take some hazards into account:

  • There's no base at all in large parts of the Alps and in the places where is still some snow to be found this forms the perfect bed surface for an avalanche. If fresh snow falls on such an old and bad layer this causes immediate danger.
  • The snow cover is not thick enough to cover the rocks, so you run the risk of wrecking your gear (or worse: yourself).
  • The snow comes down with a lot of wind, which results in wind-drifted snow (higer risk on slab avalanches).
  • When you leave the marked slopes on the glacier, there are still many crevasses that are not always visible.

If you want to ride powder as safe as possible you should stay on the marked slopes of the glaciers this weekend, or go out for a tour on an alpine meadow that's not too steep. Wait till Sunday when there's less wind, or even better, go out on Monday when the sun comes out. Some tips for the glaciers:

  1. Tignes: is open with lots of snow this weekend. The sun will come out on Monday.
  2. Zermatt: less snowfall and lots of wind
  3. Pitztaler gletsjer: less snowfall, but colder
  4. Sölden: less snowfall, but colder, with strong wind
  5. Stubaier gletsjer: less snowfall, but colder, with strong wind

Tignes is your best option, although it is questionable whether the lifts will open during the storm on Friday. Sunday and Monday will be better when the sun comes out. But you can also go for a tour. Especially in the French Northern Alps, northern Switzerland and in Vorarlberg, it could be a great idea to go to an alpine meadow and make your first turns on Sunday, but especially on Monday. No rocks, no old snow cover and no crevasses. Earn your turns!

A chance of snow in the southern Alps next week

The weather maps differ from day to day. Still, the chances are that we will see fresh snow on the maps next week. Especially the continuous appearing Genoa-low provides perspective for snow in the Southern Alps. That would be nice, because they really need it there!

I follow the snowfall in a live blog tomorrow and Saturday. If you are in the Alps, Jura or the Black Forest, please share your reports! For those Sunday or Monday who will go out this weekend: have fun! If you have any questions, want tips etc. Do not hesitate and post your question in the comments!

Stay stoked, Morris


  • floneu
    floneu op 19 November 2015 · 17:48
    Hey Arjen,
    thanks you for the much work you put into this on a daily basis - highly appreciated! Tought about hitting Soelden or Obergurgl - Hochgurgl (they are pre-opening with reduced ticket prices this weekend) on Saturday and then, depending on the snowfall head west to Vorarlberg for touring on Sunday. Any recommendations where to find the best alpine meadows and powder there?
    Thank you very much,
  • Muehlbach
    Muehlbach op 20 November 2015 · 09:18
    What about Brandnertal Flo? Looks good to me!
    "Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads." - - - "There is no skiing without apres-ski. Fairly futile exercise if not followed by getting hammered in a bar."
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 20 November 2015 · 21:57
    @Muehlbach great idea. Saturday will be stormy. Especially at Gurgl.
    Sunday will be great for touring. You can also ride up towards Faschina and start from the pass.
    May the powder be with you.
  • floneu
    floneu op 23 November 2015 · 11:02
    Retrospec: Soelden was fun on Sat, only for a few hours though given the fact that it was -15, stormy and snowing. Sunday we decided to stay in the Oetztal and went to Gurgl, scored some freshies (next to the slope) and got some sun. Generally, the base is really thin and thus wasn't possible to go touring after all. Hope it's changing during the week. Thanks for your gelp guys!


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