PA#2 is ON! Up to 60 cm of fresh snow already!

By meteomorris on 20 December 2016 · 3

It's snowing heavily at the moment in the Piedmont and the resorts on the border of France and Switzerland. The snow line was at 100-300 meter yesterday, but it's slowly rising to 1000-1200 meters. It will keep on snowing today. There will be some heavy winds especially at the resorts on the border of France and Switzerland, but also around the highest peaks in the Piedmont and Aosta. The avalanche danger locally rose to HIGH (that's four on a scale of five), so you'll have to pay attention the next couple of days. That's such a difference with the resorts in the northern Alps in Switzerland, France and Austria. Practically no snow, artificial ribbons in a brown landscape and no freeride possibilities at all. Will they get some snow before 2016 ends?

In this forecast:

  • Lots of fresh snow
  • Dangerous conditions
  • Where to go?
  • What about the northern Alps?

Isola 2000 this morning
Isola 2000 this morning

Thick flakes coming down in Isola 2000
Thick flakes coming down in Isola 2000

Up to 60 cm of fresh snow already

You know that it's really dumping when the flakes are coming down and the signs tell you to use winter tires or snow chains. PowderAlert #2 is ON and we received great images from the Piedmont. The measuring stations already show 20-60 centimeters of snow and there's more to come!

38 cm of fresh snow in Pragelato
38 cm of fresh snow in Pragelato

53 cm of fresh snow at the Tende tunnel
53 cm of fresh snow at the Tende tunnel

Between 40-100 centimeters of snow (locally even more) will come down in the Piedmont when the clouds snowed empty tomorrow afternoon. The amounts of snow will be less closer to the border of France and Switzerland. That's also because the wind is pretty strong over there and it transports a lot of snow (dangerous slab avalanches are being formed). Check out the forecast from yesterday with all the regional differences.

Not that much wind in the Piedmont
Not that much wind in the Piedmont

Lots of wind on the Swiss side at Saas Fee
Lots of wind on the Swiss side at Saas Fee

Those regional differences can be the difference between a great powder day and a not so great powder day. I'm chasing storms for over 25 years now and I know these differences by heart. Keep it in mind when you choose your resort for the next couple of days.

Dangerous conditions

You could have read the text below in the forecast from Sunday:

We also published an article about the current avalanche risk today. Thanks to the snowfall in the Piedmont and the regions at the border of Switzerland and France the avalanche danger rose to CONSIDERABLE or HIGH (that's 3 or 4 on a scale of 5). It's still early in the season, there's no base below 1800-2000 meters and you still could easily hit a shark in most places getting yourself injured. Or even worse... It looks white right now, but keep in mind there wasn't any snow on Sunday.

There's a good base above the treeline, but thanks to the huge amounts of fresh snow, the wind, surface hoar and some weak layers in the snowpack there's a avalanche risk that's CONSIDERABLE or even HIGH. You'd better make the right decisions and bring the right gear.

If you want to ride some powder the next couple of days, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Take an avalanche course and keep on learning.
  • Always go out with an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe and know how to use them.
  • Read the avalanche forecast.
  • What are the risks specific to your resort that day?
  • Simply don't ride the parts of the mountain with increased danger levels.

If you don't have the knowlegde or the gear, it's always better to go out with a certified mountain guide!

Where to go?

You should go for the resorts that have a lot to offer above 1800 meters, that have a good base is and where the wind wasn't (or will be) that strong. That's tricky, because you don't have that many options. Also realize that the snow that came down is pretty cold (and dry). It's some kind of champagne powder and you will probably feel the hard top layer of the snowpack. So where should you go?

  • Via Lattea, Sestrière/Pragelato: The eastern parts of Sestrière normally has less wind.
  • Via Lattea, Sauze d'Oulx: you can find some trees up to 2300 meters on north faces. You'll find a base above 1900 meters and maybe you could ride between the trees.
  • Bardonecchia, Jafferau/Bardonecchia 2000: Great conditions above 2000 meters, but lots of wind. It's never really steep.
  • Bardonecchia, Melezet: You'll probably find great snow above Chesal.
  • Monte Rosa, Alagna/Gressoney: great base above 2000 meters.
  • Prali: no base below 1800 meters, use the groomed slope to get back to the valley.

The resort below opens on Friday the 23rd of December:

  • Champorcher: great base and lots of fresh snow.

When the wind won't be that strong anymore (after Wednesday), it usually takes one to three days before the wind-drifted snow connects with the old layer. It might take longer this time, because the top layer consists of surface hoar. Check out this article with all the links to the local avalanche forecasts. Those forecasts will tell us what will be possible in resorts like Valfréjus, Val Cenis, Abriès, Bonneval sur Arc, Montgenèvre and Isola 2000. Especially since the wind is much stronger compared to the resorts mentioned above.

What about the northern Alps?

We still have to wait for the big dumps before we can ride powder on the north side of the Alps. And those big dumps aren't visible on the maps right now. There's a little storm in the forecast right after Christmas, but unfortunately the jet stream is too far north and that means that the air temperature is too high. That Christmas storm should bring a cold front to the Alps and snow deep into the valleys, but those amounts of snow aren't visible on the maps yet. Don't shoot the messenger guys. Just jump in your car, drive to the Piedmont and make sure that you ride powder in 2016!

Stay stoked. Morris


  • Hummingbird
    Hummingbird op 21 December 2016 · 08:17
    Thank you very much for the updates, keep up the good work. Can't wait to see what January brings!
  • richd
    richd op 21 December 2016 · 10:45
    Hi Morris
    Taking 12 day road trip from Zurich on Friday . First stop Prali till 27th. Any good tips for places to head after ? Not too keen on big resorts and more of a free tourer . Thanks for all your great work.
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 22 December 2016 · 10:56
    @richd There are several resorts worthwhile a visit.

    * Pragelato ( east of Sestriere is great for free touring and not that far from Prali.
    * Crissolo ( is a small resort east of the Mont Viso
    * L'Argentera ( nice treeruns and good touring higher up
    * Oropa ( perfect for skitouring/freeriding
    * Usseglio (google for Pian Benot) lift don't go higher than 2000 meters, but there is some good touring to be found
    * Champorcher (
    * Pontechianale mostly south facing runs, but some good spring touring to be found

    When you go to France, you should check Abries in the Queyras.
    May the powder be with you.


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