It's cold in many parts of the Alps today. A last flake is coming down in the north of the Alps, but it's mainly the sun that dominates. A very active low pressure area named Brigitta dominates the weather in the Alps this week. Storms therefore are kept at a distance, the sun dominates during the day and although it is less cold in the upper atmosphere from Thursday, the nights will remain very cold in the valleys. In this forecast:
It's snowing on the north side of the Alps since the beginning of January. It all started in the northeast and north of Austria, but also in the rest of the northern Alps since last weekend. The north side of Switzerland and the French northern Alps also got their share. On average about 50-120 cm of fresh snow came down the last couple of days and the snow cover in large parts of the north side of the Alps is back to normal for the time of year.
Same story for the French northern Alps. You'll find the most snow in the resorts in the north of the French Alps, but the thickness of the snow cover decreases as you go south.
That in itself is quite logical. The fronts mostly came from the north to the northwest. It was really cold, and the precipitation fell deep into the valleys. Because it was so cold it was possible for the fronts to let the snow fall in the pre-Alps and that was exactly where the most snow came down.
The large amounts of fresh snow, heavy winds (especially above the tree line) and the weak (or lack of) base resulted in an unstable snow cover the last couple of days. In addition the snow cover is not that thick (although a lot of snow came down). Rocks and broken branches are often hidden just under the surface of the snow pack. You really have to make the right decisions when riding off-piste.
On top of that, you have to realize that there's a weak snow layer present in the current snow pack. That weak layer consists of the snow that came down in the end of November. It's hard to recognize this weak layer, because it's deep in the snow cover. The pressure of one single skier or snowboarder is enough to trigger an avalanche. You can read more about that here. If you check out the avalanche forecast of most of the resorts in the northern Alps you can see that they're warning for that weak layer as well with words like 'l'ancienne neige type sucre', 'störanfälligen Altschneedecke' or 'schwache Altschnee'.
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High pressure will dominate the weather in the Alps. An active high pressure area named Brigitta settles itself northwest of the Alps and is blocking every storm coming from the west to the north.
This puts an end to the storm cycle that brought snow to the north side of the Alps since early January. The current turns under the influence of a powerful high pressure area above Europe and a major storm depression over the Mediterranean sea. This will bring cold, but also dry air to Alps until Thursday.
Exceptions are the western and southern Piedmont where the cold current from the east picks up moisture from the Adriatic Sea and the Po Valley. It will bring about 5-20 cm low density snow (either very dry and light snow) to the Piedmont the next couple of days. Especially east of the Mont Viso and east of the Tende tunnel you can expect quite a bit of snow fall in the next 48 hours.
There's almost no snowfall visible on the maps, but you have to believe me that is will come down the next 48 hours. Unfortunately, this super-light snow falls on a reasonably hard base that formed at the end of December. You will definitely feel this hard base when riding that light powder.
You can expect much more snow in the mountains south of the Alps. The fact that it will snow in the Piedmont is an indication that the storm over the Mediterranean sea will cause some more mayham. The combination of cold air from the east and the humid air above the Mediterranean Sea will result in lots of snow particularly on the eastern side of the mountain ranges. You can expect lots of snow on the east side of the mountain ranges on Corsica and Sardinia and even more fresh snow on the eastern side of the Abruzzo (either the central Apennines) this week, but the northern and southern part of the Apennines will get plenty of snow as well.
Especially around the Abruzzo you can expect record snowfall. I expect east of the Gran Sasso 2 to 4 meters of fresh snow until Saturday. But also in the rest of the Apennines you can expect around 50-150 cm of fresh snow. The snow line is hovering between 400-800 meters. That's pretty low. There's also a good base already in the resorts. Keep an eye on these web cams the next couple of days and you will be amazed what happens.
Meanwhile, it is freezing cold in the Alps. The current form the east is bringing in really cold air from Russia. This cold air is heavy and will drop deep into the valleys the next couple of days. When the current turns to the southeast later this week it will warm the upper atmosphere, but the low sun prevents the cold air to disappear from the valleys. The nights in the valleys will be very cold, while it's more comfortable on the peaks.
Anyway, high pressure will rule the north of the Alps and a storm depression is dominating the Mediterranean. So don't expect lots of precipitation in the Alps. Only the Piedmont could see some fresh snow the next five days. Much more snow will come down in central and southern Italy. I expect some impressive images from those regions the next couple of days.
Stay stoked. Morris