PowderAlert #16: Northern Stau!

By meteomorris on 20 April 2016 · 1

Winter is not over yet! Now is the time to wax your skis or board for the last time this winter. Winter is coming back with a bang! A large north to northwesterly current is in the making and will bring lots of snow. Fortunately, the lifts are still open and there aren't many riders left in the resorts. It is not crowded and the powder that will come down will be of exceptional quality. Dry and cold. This is perhaps one of the best PowderAlerts this winter. Anyway, if you are traveling to the Alps the next couple of days and you want to support wePowder and this forecast, book your accommodation using this link. We receive a small percentage of every booking made through this link and this helps us a lot to improve wePowder and advice you even better. Thanks in advance! In this forecast:

  • The current turns to the north
  • Temperature will drop on Saturday
  • Lots of snow deep into the valleys
  • What about the wind?
  • Plenty of open resorts
  • PowderAdvice

Northern current in the making
Northern current in the making

The current turns to the north

High pressure area Norbert and storm Stefanie are busy creating one of the best northern Staus of the season. An intense northern current that we haven't seen much this winter is getting started thanks to all the pressure differences. Very cold polair is going south and is heading towards the Alps.

Cold air will reach the Alps on Saturday
Cold air will reach the Alps on Saturday

Temperature will drop on Saturday

According to the latest calculations the temperature in the Alps will drop on Saturday. But it's already snowing in the Alps before the really cold air arrives. First at high altitude, but the snow line drops rapidly. These type of storms creates the best snow conditions. The warmer air brings snow with a higher density and less air (which is great for a soft and somewhat compact base), but after the inflow of cold air the snow is looser and lighter because less water is needed to form the crystals. The cold fluffy powder comes down on top of the soft layer and than it's time to have some fun! Looking at the evolution of the temperature this weekend we will see a swift drop. Check out this weather chart from Engelberg.

Temperature drops rapidly
Temperature drops rapidly

You can also see that when you have a look at a more difficult chart. You can see the temperature at 1.400 meters (the upper bundle of lines) and the expected rainfall (lower bundle of lines) in the chart below. You can clearly see the drop in temperatures, but we also see that it already starts to snow when the temperature starts to drop. Perfect for freeriders!

Meteogram northwest of the Alps
Meteogram northwest of the Alps

Kijken we naar de temperatuur op maandag (zie onderstaand kaartje) dan zien we een nog verdere daling. Het is dan gewoon koud in de dalen en het is meer dan realistisch dat de sneeuwgrens in het noorden en noordwesten van de Alpen dan richting de 600 meter daalt.

If we have a look at the temperature on Monday (check out the chart below), we'll see a further decline. It is just cold in the valleys and it is more realistic that the snow line in the north and northwest of the Alps drops towards 600 meters.

Very cold on Monday
Very cold on Monday

Lots of snow deep into the valleys

A snow line that drops towards 600 meters, cold snow on top of warmer snow, a persistent current from the north and plenty of moisture. This is a northern Stau. The map below shows how all the snow from the northwest (almost 1000 kilometers wide) is approaching the northwest and north of the Alps. Lots of moisture that arrives with mild temperatures, but the temperature will drop rapidly. Add the effect of the Alps to this and a kind of traffic jam of clouds forms on the north side of the Alps and they can't do anything other than dropping their snow. BOOM!

Northern Stau
Northern Stau

I expect around 40-100 cm of fresh snow above 1900 meters between Saturday and Tuesday. The amounts of snow coming down during Sunday and Monday will also be significant below 1900 meters. Even more than 100 cm of snow might come down locally.

What about the wind?

With such quantities of fresh snow wind can quickly become an issue. For now, I am assuming that the wind will have the least influence in those resorts north and west of the Swiss northern alpine ridge and the main alpine ridge, but it will have a lot of influence just south of the main alpine ridge. You can notice that especially when the cold front comes in. I'll give you an update about the wind on Friday.

Plenty of open resorts

The lifts are still open in a lot of resorts. Which ones? Check out the list below (keep in mind that not all the lifts in the resorts are open).


  • St. Anton am Arlberg (closes after the 24th of April)
  • Ischgl
  • Hintertux
  • Kaprun
  • Sölden
  • Stubaier gletsjer
  • Kaunertaler gletsjer
  • Pitztaler gletsjer
  • Mölltaler gletsjer


  • Samnaun
  • Corvatsch en Diavolezza (St. Moritz)
  • Les Diablerets
  • Engelberg
  • Andermatt (closes after the 24th of April)
  • Verbier (closes after the 24th of April)


  • Bonneval sur Arc
  • La Clusaz
  • Les 2 Alpes
  • Espace Killy
  • Val Thorens


The resorts in the northern French Alps, the resorts in the west and northwest of Switzerland, the higher regions in Vorarlberg and the glaciers in Austria are good options this weekend. Especially the resorts that aren't situated in the main alpine ridge, but just north of west of it will be really good. Expect clouds and snowfall during the weekend and some more sunshine after the weekend.

Think of resorts like La Grave, Espace Killy, Val Thorens, Andermatt, Engelberg, Verbier, Sankt Anton am Arlberg and Sölden where the conditions will be good. More details will be published on Friday. This just might the last lift-assisted powder of the season! Thanks for booking your accommodation with this link!

Stay stoked, Morris


  • mariocarlos
    mariocarlos op 21 April 2016 · 13:28
    Last LIFT ASSISTED powder for the season! Absolutely right Morris!!


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