PA#6: up to 100 cm of fresh snow followed by a 'retour d'est'

By meteomorris on 12 January 2017 · 4

It's dumping in the northwest of the Alps right now. The storms Caius and Egon are bringing lots and lots of snow to the northwest and north of the Alps the next 72 hours. Thursday was still mild, but winter is back on Friday! This snowfall directly results in an increased avalanche danger. This could locally be HIGH (4 on a scale of 5). Therefore, pick your next weekend destination with care. In this forecast:

  • Make the right choices
  • Storm and snowfall the next couple of days
  • PowderAdvice for the weekend
  • After the weekend: retour d'est

Make the right choices

Riding powder is about making choices. The right information will help you with that. Ask yourself what you are looking for and I'm sure you'll find it. When choosing a resorts to ride powder for a few days I always ask myself the following questions:

  • Is there already a base? And what it's like?
  • What does the avalanche forecast looks like?
  • How much snow will come down? What about the wind and the temperature?
  • Is there a lot of powder panic in the resort?

With these questions you can also start looking for a resorts that suits you and that does not always have to be a resort that gets the most snow. But it helps if you read what I write. If I for example write that Thursday is warm and PowderAlert #6 is only valid from the weekend, there's no point to complain that it rained in the Kleinwalsertal yesterday. There was no PowderAlert for the Kleinwalsertal yesterday. In fact, there was no powder advice at all for Thursday. Exactly because of the mild temperatures.

There's also no PowderAlert for the French Northern Alps and western Switzerland this weekend. You can probably ride some powder over there, but I won't pick that regions for three reasons. First, the avalanche danger will be HIGH in the northern French Alps and western Switzerland. Secondly, there is almost no base below 2000 meters and the base above 2000 meters forms the perfect sliding layer for avalanches. Thirdly, the powder panic will be extremely high this weekend. Therefore, no PowderAlert for that region. Let this dump do its job and head for the northwest of the Alps after the second dump (that's still to come). And if you want to ride powder in the northwest of the Alps, you're best bet probably will be alpine meadows.

Storms above Europe
Storms above Europe

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Storm and snowfall the next couple of days

A series of fronts will hit the the northwest and north of the Alps until Sunday. The snow line will drop deep into the valleys, you can expect 50 to 100 cm of fresh snow around 2000 meters and you can expect some heavy winds.

Friday: It started to snow in the northwest of the Alps in the night to Friday. The snow line will drop to 1000 meters or even lower. You can expect 30-60 cm of fresh snow in the northern French Alps and western Switzerland by the end of the day.

Saturday: the center of gravity of the storm has shifted from the west to the north of Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg. The snow line has now dropped deep into the valleys. It is still snowing from time to time in the French northern Alps and the western part of Switzerland, but the focus has clearly shifted towards the north of Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg.

Sunday: It keeps on snowing (a little bit) in northern Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg, but also in the French northern Alps. It's basically the first significant snow to come down in the west of Switzerland and the French northern Alps that will form a base. It will stop snowing in the north during the day and there's a chance that the snowfall will move to the south side of the Alps. The temperatures are dropping.

PowderAdvice for the weekend

It's finally snowing, but keep in mind that:

  1. There's no base below 2000 meters in western Switzerland and the French Northern Alps
  2. There's an old and very weak snow layer above 2000-2500 meters in western Switzerland and the French Northern Alps
  3. The weather will be unstable this weekend with poor visibility once in a while

With conditions like that, you'd better choose resorts that already have a base and where you can already ride powder without getting into trouble. I'm talking about the resorts in Switzerland that are situated east of Engelberg, Vorarlberg and the northwest of Tirol (and of course the Kleinwalsertal). Those regions won't get as much snow as the French Alps, but at least there's a base.

You can ride powder during PowderAlert #6 in:

After the weekend: retour d'est

The current will turn to the east after the weekend. The Po Valley will fill with cold and humid air, so there is a chance that the next PowderAlert (#7) will be for the Italian Piedmont from the beginning of next week. It is too early for details, but the fact that there's a great base in that region, and that there's snow in the forecast, provides perspective.

Stay stoked. Morris


  • Fluc
    Fluc op 13 January 2017 · 09:05
    @meteomorris, if i am interpreting your advises right, Hoch-Ybrig could be a good choice for central Switzerland on sunday. But i have a bit worry, that the snow can be too wet, cause the resort is only about 1.900m.
    What would you think?
    Flumserberg would be an alternative too, but i think the Powderstress could be very high there on sunday.
    *Ride hard, stay easy*
  • kcirbuk
    kcirbuk op 13 January 2017 · 16:07
    How is the base layer in the Pyrenees? Anyone knows?
  • Powdernick
    Powdernick op 14 January 2017 · 13:54
    @meteomorris I see we have a bit of a high sitting over the alps for the next week and a bunch of small but intense lows in the Atlantic, but I can't see to much past the 21st. Just that it's going to be cold. What's your long range looking like for Switzerland?
    Ski ya later.
  • tch
    tch op 16 January 2017 · 15:53
    @kcirbuk. Avalanche level in andorra is 5/5 with 1m of new snow so I think the base is not so so stable.


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