PA #4: Lots of snow for France!


By meteomorris on 30 December 2015 · 1

The new year starts white in the western and northern Alps! Let's get this party started. A turbulent period begins and that might possibly persist for two weeks. It's a time that will bring lots of snow and multiple PowderAlerts to the western and northern Alps. The countdown to the end of 2015 and the beginning of The Big Change has started. Don't be surprised that between 100 and 275 centimeters of freshies came down in the western and northern Alps at the end of this period. The only drawback is the snow line that keeps on shifting. The southern Alps won't be part of the winning team, they won't get that much freshies. But you can ride some deep powder in the western and northern Alps from Monday. In this forecast:

  • The jetstream is moving south
  • The western and northern Alps are getting hammered
  • Four dumps coming up
  • PA#4 from Monday
  • Lots of snow = avalanche danger
  • What about the resorts in Italy?

The jetstream is moving south

The Big Change is coming after a long period without any precipitation. I already told you on December the 20 that the weather would change around New Year. Long story short: pretty much all the cold air got sucked to the North Pole, and as a result the jetstream moved north as well. The jetstream separates the cold air in the north from the warm air in the south and functions like a highway for storms to reach the Alps. If the jetstream is positioned north of the Alps, it's pretty warm in the Alps (thanks to the warm air from the south) and dry (no highway for the storms to reach the Alps). But fortunately the jetstream is moving south and is heading straight for the Alps.

The western and northern Alps are getting hammered

The jet stream (which you can follow here) is heading for the western Alps. It's still a bit of search the first couple of days, but France will get hammered from Friday. Storm depressions consist of a warm front followed by a cold front and this means that the snow will come from the southwest at first. The snowline will be quite high at first, but will drop when the cold front arrives from the northwest. Those cold fronts will also bring snow to the northern Alps. The French Alps and the northern Alps will get plenty of snow. You know what, the change from warm to cold gives the best snow. Some warm and heavy snow at first, finished by cold, fluffy powder. Love it!

Four dumps coming up!

I wrote about three dumps yesterday, but it's even getting better with four dumps! The good news is that the warm air is followed pretty fast by cold air. The snow line therefore stays at reasonable altitude and won't rise above 2000 meters. It all became even better. In short:

  • Dump 1 (December 31st - January 1st)
    3-10, locally 20 centimeters of freshies above 1800 meters. Especially in the French northern Alps, western Switzerland and northern Austria. In almost all cases too little for a powder day and thus primarily intended to get us used to the weather phenomenon called snow again. Details can be found here.
  • Dump 2 (January 2nd)
    With 25-50 cm above 1900 meters it starts to look like it. The first snow comes down in the southern French Alps on Friday, then the snowfall extends to the northern French Alps and the northern Alps. Sunday will be a powder day in the French northern Alps. Be careful, because the base is very thin off-piste. You'd better ride on the slopes on Sunday. Only the higher parts of Val Thorens and the Espace Killy offer a reasonable base. More details can be found here.
  • Dump 3 (January 3rd and 4th)
    The third dump looks a bit like the second dump with 15-40 cm of freshies. It will start snowing on Sunday snow and it won't stop until Monday afternoon. It will start in the French Alps again and will expand to the north (and even to the Ortler region in Italy) later. Monday could be a powder day, but it will probably snow all day as well. Because dump 4 is waiting to hit the Alps! More details can be found here.
  • Dump 4 (January 4th - January 6th)
    The details of this dump are still uncertain, but it looks promising. The French Alps and the north of the Alps might expect 30-80 cm, locally even more than one meter of freshies. Details will follow later this week, but it looks very good.

PA#4 from Monday

I'll give you all the details for PowderAlert #4 on Friday, but for those who really can not wait to book some accommodation, you could go to the resorts below. There is already a bit of a base and it's going to snow the next 120 hours. You can make your first powder turns on Sunday and it will only get better from Monday.

It will be on in the the other resorts in French northern Alps, the west and north of Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg from Monday/Tuesday. But because of some uncertainties, I would wait to book my accommodation.

Lots of snow = avalanche danger

Fresh snow on an old snow layer leads to an increase of the avalanche danger. Many avalanche services didn't have a lot to do the last couple of weeks, but will have plenty of work to do shortly. If there is more news I will share it with you. But keep the following in mind: in many places the snow either turned into some kind of sugar and forms the perfect weak layer. Just imagine what kind of risk increased when a lot of freshies fall on top. It's different for the resorts that don't even have a base. The sharks are still close to the surface, waiting to grab a piece out of your P-tex. Consider carefully what you do and where you don't want to ride and don't go full throttle.

What about the resorts in Italy?

It's all very limited. You don't have to go there next week to ride powder. The warm fronts will bring some snow, but the jet stream is too far north to bring significant amounts of snow to the Italian Alps. The trees in Italy are a no-go for now. You'll read it here the moment it changes.

Stay stoked, Morris

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