Lots of snow and big differences in the snow line


By meteomorris on 6 January 2016 · 22

Our snow maps are showing red colors and there are some black spots appearing on the maps again. It's an indication that we're about to get another periode with lots of snowfall. But the big question over the next 72 hours is: what will the snow line do? But first a warning. Yesterday was the first bluebird day after a period of intense snowfall. Avalanches claimed the lives of two skiers and several people were injured. If you are you going off-piste go for the parts of the mountain that are less dangerous. You need to have the right knowledge for that. If you don't have the right knowledge, hire a mountain guide! In this forecast:

  • Short term: Wat will the snow line do?
  • Colder after the weekend, southern Stau and northern Stau!
  • Powder advice for the next couple of days

New front visible in the distance
New front visible in the distance

Short term: Wat will the snow line do?

Today will start sunny and it's pretty cold, but a new front is coming in from the west. It will start snowing in the northwest of the Alps during the afternoon. You can expect 3-15 cm of freshies till Thursday morning and because it's still pretty cold, the snow line will be at very low altitude. Things will be different on Thursday. A warm front is approaching the Alps from the west.

Warm front coming in
Warm front coming in

Because there still is a lot of cold air in the valleys, the snow line will stay at low altitude at first. This cold air doesn't go away that fast from narrow valleys. Cold air is heavier, while warm air is lighter. But prolonged rain will probably turn the air a bit warmer. It is this game that will be played in the Alps the next couple of days. The temperatures will rise from Thursday and the freezing level in the free atmosphere will rise to 1900-2250 meters. The good thing is that the Alps aren't situated in the free atmosphere, which will result in a snow line at lower altitude. In addition, the snow line is always around 200-350 meters lower than the freezing level, in this case that's around 1500-2100 meters. Fortunately, the relief in the Alps makes sure that the rise of the temperature in the Alps won't be as strong as in the free atmosphere.

  1. The heavy cold air that has been around in the valleys for a while, will stick around if the valleys are quite narrow. It will be really hard for the warm air to replace that cold air, simply because warm air is lighter.
  2. The wind is stronger on the peaks than in the valleys. Now wind is a troublesome phenomenon in the mountains, but expect that valleys that are narrow and are situated perpendicular to the current are not that troubled by the wind as the delivery guy for higher temperatures. (For example: in the Haute Maurienne they never really experience such problems, because it's a narrow and enclosed valley, while Adelboden in Switzerland is extremely vulnerable for wind from the southwest, because it's an open and wide valley).
  3. During intense precipitation we sometimes experience something called 'orographic cooling'. If clouds are forced to rise faster, they cool down faster, resulting in more snowfall and all of this causes a stronger dropping of the temperatures than in a same situation without mountains.

A dropping snowline, narrow valleys and high mountains will ensure that the snow line locally will be at much lower altitude than expected. This will especially happen when you go deeper into the Alps. But even then, the situation can differ from valley to valley. Don't only look at the data of our snow maps or weather models. It's a fact that it's really hard for weather models to forecast the snow line for every valley. I've been travelling the Alps for over 15 years and I've seen a lot of micro climates, so you'll just have to believe me. This is what you can expect with the snow line on Thursday and Friday:

  • French Alps: pre-Alps 1700-2100 meter, narrow valleys in the heart of the Alps 1000-1600 meters, open valleys in the heart of the Alps 1400-1950 meter
  • Switzerland: pre-Alps 1300-1800 meter, narrow valleys in the heart of the Alps 800-1400 meters, open valleys in the heart of the Alps 1100-1700 meter
  • West of Austria: pre-Alps 1300-1900 meter, narrow valleys in the heart of the Alps 900-1400 meter

Colder after the weekend, southern Stau and northern Stau!

Saturday will start dry and pretty warm everywhere, but in the course of Saturday the wind turns to the southwest and we can get ready for the first southern Stau this winter, resulting in snow for the southern Alps! Because this basically is the first snow that will fall this winter, it doesn't pay to travel to the southern Alps directly this weekend. The precipitation will cross the main alpine ridge on Sunday and it will start to snow in the northwest again. We can expect more storms to hit the Alps from Monday and the temperatures will drop. The exact path is still not quite sure, but it looks like that the French Alps will get hit first, immediately followed by the southern Alps. The current turns from southwest to northwest and later possibly even to north. The signals for the first northern Stau of 2016 are therefore still going strong. In short: after some days with higher temperatures, it will get colder again. A lot of snow will come down above 1800-2000 meters and it will fall deep into the valleys later. A large part of the Alps will be white again!

Powder advice for the next couple of days

You'll find the best conditions this weekend in resorts above 1800 meters in:

The conditions will also be quite good in resorts above 1700 meters around:

Stay stoked, Morris

Comments


  • thomasweller
    Tourist
    thomasweller op 6 January 2016 · 19:51
    For weather junkies like me, an awesome report!
    Many thanks!
    T.
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 6 January 2016 · 20:59
    We need some help! Does anybody has some special tipps for resorts in wallis, switzerland which are good for tree runs for this weekends? Snow is very good there, but the Avalanche danger above the the treeline is to high.
    Big thanks for any help 😃
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • Storpotatisen
    Advanced
    Storpotatisen op 7 January 2016 · 06:42
    @fluc123 Evolene, Ovronnaz, Vicheres and Bruson has some great tree-skiing. Happy hunting!
    ~~Storpotatisen~~
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 7 January 2016 · 11:16
    @Storpotatisen: Thanks for the Infos! We'll give one of them a try i think 😉
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 7 January 2016 · 11:34
    @Storpotatisen: Damn! I've seen that all these resorts are effected by the rising snowlevel off 2000m for the next days 😞 It,s a pity, they looked really good for me.

    So now i ask @meteomorris, any ideas i think lauchernalp/lötschental will be better with temperatures but don't know any good treeride spots/resorts there
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • Storpotatisen
    Advanced
    Storpotatisen op 7 January 2016 · 12:01
    @Fluc123 Have only been to lauchernalp/lötschental once, and skied in the open areas that time. However, from what I could see from the tram, the treeskiing looked a bit...challenging. Quite steep with lots of cliffs, but this is only what I saw from the tram, so there might be some good treeskiing further away.
    ~~Storpotatisen~~
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 7 January 2016 · 12:27
    @Storpotatisen Thanks again! I think we will observe the conditions and give them a try
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 7 January 2016 · 14:42
    @Fluc123 wetter conditions are worsening for the weekend. Clouds, precipitation and mild. You have to go deep into the Alps to find visibility and treeruns. Hopefully I have a clear vision how the micro climates are doing this evening. From where are you traveling to the Alps and how much hour are willing to travel?
    May the powder be with you.
  • Dude
    Advanced
    Dude op 7 January 2016 · 15:08
    Hey @Meteomorris,

    we thought aboout visiting a Glacier in Austria. What do you think about the Stubai Glacier? Is there anychance for some Powderturns on Saturday/Sunday?
    Thanks in Advance
    The Dude abides.
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 7 January 2016 · 22:42
    @meteomorris: thanks for your answer. We live in Switzerland 20 km away from Basel /Bale. But we are willing to drive 2 hours or more to have a good day on sunday.
    Beginning of the week we wanted to start a tour highalpine in lötschental, but this is almost impossible now because of the dangers... so we decided to ride some trees.

    We are not sure if we should make it to wallis, graubünden or give the bedretto valley (Tessin) a change. The weather is really unpredictable, so we have a biiig "?????" Where were to go.
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 7 January 2016 · 22:42
    Help us please 😉
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • Storpotatisen
    Advanced
    Storpotatisen op 8 January 2016 · 08:07
    @Fluc123 Ok, how about Saas-Almagell then, it seems as if it will be a bit colder there. Maybe @meteomorris could confirm?
    A first look at the place and the trees seems to be placed somewhat tight, but there sure is good treeskiing to be found. This video is from two years ago when we visited the place during a dump.

    ~~Storpotatisen~~
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 8 January 2016 · 09:03
    @Storpotatisen is right @Fluc123. Around Saas Fee, Zermatt and Courmayeur it stayed cooler. Although it looks like warmer air managed to get to Courmayeur last night. Above 1700 meters conditions are still okay though. In Zermatt temperatures stayed all day below zero.
    May the powder be with you.
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 8 January 2016 · 09:07
    @Dude weather will be pretty bad this weekend and there was and will be a lot of wind.
    How much are you willing to drive?
    May the powder be with you.
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 8 January 2016 · 13:18
    @meteomorris thanks for your help and your tipps. I think Saas Fee will make it 😉
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • Dude
    Advanced
    Dude op 8 January 2016 · 13:28
    @Meteomorris

    We don't want to drive further than 150km i think. Sounds like it will be sketchy in Tyrol to score some powder this weekend?
    The Dude abides.
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 8 January 2016 · 14:08
    @Dude, yes will be difficult. Conditions (mild, wind) are sketchy and in most places the base is thin. For sure you will make some powderturns on piste this weekend, but these are far from epic.
    May the powder be with you.
  • Dude
    Advanced
    Dude op 8 January 2016 · 16:55
    At least some Turns 😃
    thanks for your advice
    The Dude abides.
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 8 January 2016 · 20:33
    @meteomorris, because of your latest article we will give "hungerberg" a chance! we've never heard about this resort... seems to be a secret spot. i will report, if it was a desaster or a top tip
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 8 January 2016 · 20:38
    @Fluc123 the resort is closed. Lifts have been shut down already for a few years. So you have to walk.
    May the powder be with you.
  • Fluc
    Advanced
    Fluc op 8 January 2016 · 21:40
    @meteomorris yeah we know, hike & ride 😉
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • meteomorris
    Tourist
    meteomorris op 8 January 2016 · 22:45
    @Fluc123 I just heard it is also wet overthere. It's a though weekend
    May the powder be with you.

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