PA#8: up to 40 cm of freshies!

By meteomorris on 15 February 2016 · 2

It remains 'winter' in the eastern part of the Alps (everything east of the line Innsbruck-Brenner-Lake Garda) for a couple of days. It snows from time to time and the snowline can be found deep in the valleys. You can find a decent base in the trees in a lot of regions in the Alps and with the fresh snow that will come down the next couple of days it will be a good week in the northern and eastern Alps. You might even ride some freshies above the treeline from time to time this week. The sun will come out in the western Alps and will show its face in the eastern Alps as well later this week. Plenty of reasons to launch PowderAlert #8! The northwest of the Alps will also get some freshies (around 5-20 cm). It won't be super deep, but the riding will be good. Please take care when you're riding in the (high) alpine. The avalanche danger above the treeline is still critital and this won't improve when the temperature will rise by the end of the week. In this forecast:

  • Heavy snow or crust in the western Alps
  • Adria-low will bring snow to the east
  • Shifting weather, but still cold
  • Mild weekend, but more snow and colder after the weekend
  • Warning: extremely dangerous above the treeline
  • PowderAdvice: ride trees or go east

Heavy snow or crust in the western Alps

There was quite a battle going on between warm and cold air in the western Alps on Sunday. This resulted in a greenhouse effect in some valleys in the Western Alps. Warm air was trapped due to high clouds and in combination with the sun the snowpack rapidly got warmer and warmer. Because of the absence of clouds last night the top layer of the snow is now frozen and that makes the riding difficult below roughly 1600-2100 meter. But this is not the case everywhere. In some valleys the snowpack has remained cold and you can find excellent powder between the trees. So it's a matter of searching in the western Alps, where the sun is coming out right now. The visibility is good above the treeline and it's tempting to ride bowls and lines, but please be aware that the avalanche danger is still critical in lots of places!

Adria-low Vriginie
Adria-low Vriginie

Adria-low will bring snow to the east

Hey, that didn't happen before this winter. For the first time there is an Adria-low on the maps. This is a low pressure area with its core over the Adriatic Sea. This low pressure area provides a south to south-easterly current on the south side of the Alps, while there could come a northeasterly current into being just north of the Alps. And that leads, in particular on the border of Austria, Italy and Slovenia to lots of freshies. The snow line is at pretty high altitude at first, but will drop to around 500-900 meters between today and Wednesday. I expect between 10-30 cm of freshies, locally above 1200-1400 meters even 50 cm. A lot of snow will come down in the eastern Alps till Wednesday. It will also snow in the Salzburgerland and Styria from time to time and even the northstau resorts on the border of Austria and Germany will get some snow the next couple of days.

Snowfall till Wednesday
Snowfall till Wednesday

Shifting weather, but still cold

Because the jet stream will move around the Alps this week, it is a relatively quiet week. You can occasionally see some low pressure areas near the Alps, but they'll go mainly around the Alps with a large bow. Nevertheless you can expect some cold snow on Thursday and Friday, but whether that will be in the northwest or the southeast is still hard to tell.

Jetstream north of the Alps again
Jetstream north of the Alps again

Mild weekend, but more snow and colder after the weekend

What happens after this weekend is already clear. The jet stream will settle itself north of the Alps again and the Alps will have to deal with warm air. Check out the map of the jetstream above and the temperature at 1350 meters altitude below. Green is below zero, yellow and orange above zero.

Warmer from the west
Warmer from the west

The warm air will push the low pressure area north and as a resilt the Alps will have to deal with warm air from Sunday. Although our snow maps show much precipitation for Saturday, I'm not so sure. But if the arrival of the heat will be accompanied by heavy rainfall or not, it is clear that it will be too warm. Fortunately, the temperaturs will drop later and we can expect more snowfall. The cold temperatures should return somewhere between the 22nd and 24th of February.

Warning: extremely dangerous above the treeline

The avalanche danger remains tricky. Especially since you can find that nasty old snow layer above 2200 meters in a lot of places in the Alps. It can be found pretty deep in the snowpack, but the recent wind transported so much snow that it might become a problem again. Check out this massive avalanche for example. Wind also causes the dangerous wind-eroded snow and the shifting temperatures cause tensions in the snow cover. Unfortunately, the danger is hard to see with the naked eye. No matter how big the stoke is, decision methods and systematic filtering of the risks are the only ways to take calculated decisions. Always check the local avalanche forecast and adapt your plans to it. Avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are a MUST. If you don't have any knowledge, start working on it or go out with a mountain guide.

PowderAdvice: ride trees or go east

You can make two decisions this PowderAlert. A lot of snow came down in the west the last couple of days, but the higher temperatures on Sunday killed the treeruns in lots of places. The avalanche danger is quite high above the tree line, so you'll have to search for valleys where it remained cold and it snowed heavily for the better treeruns. It will also snow heavily on the border of Austria, Italy and Slovenia. But they had to deal with high temperatures as well and it might be some dust on crust. Fluffy powder on a hard layer of snow. Start searching and make the right decisions. My advice:

You can also go out for a tour above the treeline (think of the avalanche danger!!!) in:

Next update on Wednesday!

Stay stoked, Morris!!


  • DWF
    DWF op 15 February 2016 · 23:40
    All the no effort lines where skied yesterday and today in Serre Chevalier but with a mountain guide and some effort you can ride amazing cold powder in Serre Chevalier and even better with skins. Today we skied 3 big runs from about 2600m all the way to the valley flor. The last 150 meters are not so "hot" but the rest was epic. Wind slabs can be an issue at high altitude and open bowls.

    Some of the big lines in La Grave where skied yesterday and today but its tricky with the amount of snow or lack of enough of the stuff... I still think 05 has plenty to offer for Tuesday and Wednesday. But if you don't know the area or have sufficient avalanche knowledge, hire a mountain guide.
  • Arjen
    Arjen op 16 February 2016 · 10:40
    Thanks for the update @DWF!
    One day, they'll invent synthetic powder, ban all kinds of work and give you a free liftpass...


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