The Big Change for the southwestern Alps has arrived. A lot of snow will come down in the Italian Piedmont. It took a long time before the weather maps agreed, but there's no stopping right now. Just before the Christmas holidays will start we can get ready for riding powder in the northwest of Italy. And the northern Alps (Austria, Switzerland, northern French Alps)? Sorry, you don't have to expect any significant snowfall soon. Another storm will try to hit the other regions in the Alps, but I'm afraid that this scenario is subject to a lot of changes the next couple of days. In this forecast:
I announced the Big Change almost a week ago. A low pressure area is being formed over Spain, while at the same time a high pressure system is present over eastern Europe is. A current from the eastsoutheast if fired up between those two systems. Check out the map below.
In such a situation cold air initially flows from the continent into the Italian Po Valley. There's lots of humidity in that region and the current will pick up extra moisture in the Adriatic Sea. This combination of cold air and moisture will hit the mountains at the border of Italy and France and the mountains at the border of Italy and Switzerland (the Italian Piedmont). Jackpot.
The weather maps found it pretty hard to handle this scenario. An active jet stream is missing and it was hard for the models to generate the correct precipitation maps. The direction of the current was correct, but it was hard to add the moisture in the Po-Valley and the Adriatic Sea to the calculations. Thanks to 25 years of experience I just knew there was no other outcome possible. And the result is visible on the weather maps: the Italian Piedmont it is. Wax up!
It will start snowing on Monday. First in the southern Piedmont, but later in the western Piedmont and in the border areas with France as well. The snowline will be around 100-400 meters. The snowfall will extent to the north on Tuesday and it will start snowing heavily in the eastern regions of the French southern Alps and the most eastern regions of the Savoie. The snowline will rise towards 800-1200 meters. The last snow will come down on Wednesday and the snowline will end up around 1300-1600 meters. You can find dry snow above 1800 meters.
I know that some of you are focused on our lists with centimeters, so please have a look at the top 10 resorts with snowfall at 2000 meters altitude as well. You can see that Monte Rosa isn't in the lead in that list, but the resorts in the southern and western Piedmont simply get more snow at that altitude.
Please be aware of the fact that the most snow in the Monte Rosa ski area will come down in the most eastern valley (the valley of Alagna). If you check out the details you will see that there won't be that much snow falling in the western valley (Champoluc). Same story for the Via Lattea. You can expect most of the snow to fall east of Sestrière. There will be more snow at Sestrière Borgata compared to Cesane for example. Just have a look at our detailed snow maps of the Via Lattea.
The last snow in the Piedmont and the French resorts at the French-Italian border came down at the end of November. The old layer is smooth and hard thanks to the wind, or you can find a thick layer of surface hoar on top of the snow cover. You can expect the snow that will come down on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday to slide down easily. Because there is no real base between the trees, you'll find the best powder above the tree line and you will have to be aware of the avalanche danger. More updates about that the next couple of days.
There is a good base in the east of the southern French Alps, but also in the Italian Piedmont since November. The snow line was higher on the Swiss-Italian border (Saas Fee, Zermatt) and those resorts always get less snow with a current from the southeast (compared with a current from the south or southwest). My advice is to go for the Piedmont. You can get there from France using the Fréjus Tunnel or the Col du Montgenèvre.
More details tomorrow. Arrive at your destination from Wednesday morning. The sun will come out and most of the snow already came down. It's no use to be there during the most intense phase of the dump on Tuesday. The visibility will be poor and there's no base between the trees. Just wait till Wednesday morning.
Don't shoot the messenger. A cosmetic layer of snow will come down in Austria this afternoon, but that's it. It will look on the webcams and a lot of resorts will use it to reassure their guests, but don't even think about possibilities of riding off-piste. And it won't change anytime soon. A small breach is visible on the maps right after Christmas, but don't get too excited, because it seems to be temporary right now...
Let's hope that the models will change their minds and will bring a huge storm to the northern Alps right after Christmas. But it's nothing more than hope at the moment. Let's hope the BIg Change for the northern Alps will arrive soon! If you want to ride powder in 2016, you have to jump in your car and drive to the Piedmont. Powder guaranteed. And if that sounds like an adventure, don't hesitate and drop your questions in the comments. There's no such thing as a powder roadtrip! More details tomorrow!
Stay stoked. Morris