No significant snowfall in the Alps till the end of January


By meteomorris on 22 January 2017 · 3

The weather is in a crisis. A couple of high pressure areas west, north and east of the Alps keep the storms at a distance. The jetstream is redirected north and south of the Alps and as a result any form of precipitation is kept at a distance. Even the storm that makes an attempt from the Mediterranean Sea to reach the Piedmont won't hit it that hard (some snow will come down, but way less as forecasted first). It is the first time in history I have to withdraw a PowderAlert. My apologies! In this forecast:

  • High pressure is dominant
  • Some snowfall in the southern Piedmont
  • No significant snowfall till the end of January
  • We need more snow because of the critical avalanche situation
  • What are the alternatives in Europe?

High pressure is dominant
High pressure is dominant

High pressure is dominant

A look at the jetstream maps, but also a comparison of the most important models and even the spaghetti plots offers not much perspective. We don't have to expect snowfall in the Alps next week, the days will be sunny, the nights will be clear and cold and we'll read more about air pollution in some alpine valleys the next couple of days. The cold air is heavy and drops into the valleys during the nights. It can't escape the valleys during the day because of the warmer air up high. Polluted air is therefore trapped in the valleys and we'll notice that the coming week. We don't have to expect the next storm cycle until the end of this month. So the polluted air will stick around for a while.

The storms are not even close to the Alps
The storms are not even close to the Alps

Some snowfall in the southern Piedmont

Although the weather models were very positive last week, the high pressure area over Europe does not allow the Mediterranean storm to reach the Alps. Unlike the calculations of Friday (and the last couple of Alps) you can see the powerful isobaric lines just south of the Alps. This makes them miss a large part of the Piedmont (see the blue line on the map above).

The little moisture that reaches the Piedmont is coming in with a relatively weak current from the northeast and will hit the most southern part of the Piedmont (green arrow on the map above).

Some fresh snow in the southern Piedmont
Some fresh snow in the southern Piedmont

Light snowfall in Limone Piemonte
Light snowfall in Limone Piemonte

Although it's snowing in the southern Piedmont right now, it is only a fraction of the amount that was calculated previously. The Genoa Low has once again shown that it is even more erratic than politics. The most important meteorological reason is the lack of a powerful jet stream which indicates the direction of the Mediterranean storm. The storm simply doesn't succees to reach the Alps on its own, which is rare. In a 'normal' situation the storm keeps on moving, but she simply doesn't do anything. And by not doing anything it's losing its power.

No significant snowfall till the end of January

We don't have to expect any significant snowfall until late January. There's some movement in the models by the end of the month, but we'll have to wait and see if the jetstream will find its way to the Alps again. According to the weather models this will happen somewhere between the 1st and 5th of February. That's a long period without precipitation.

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We need more snow because of the critical avalanche situation

Several deadly avalanches have been reported over the past 10 days, and practically all of them can be related to a problem deeper in the snow cover. A layer deep in the snowpack is unstable and forms a weak layer. This weak layer appears to be the starting point of lots of avalanches the last couple of days.

Because the snow cover in still relatively thin in lots of places, the weight of a single skier or snowboarder can already be enough to disturb the balance in the snow cover and trigger an avalanche. We'll have to wait till the next dump before this old layer will be even deeper in the snow cover and won't form that much of a thread anymore. So you'd better ride very defensive or below 1900 meters.

TIP: check the avalanche forecast on the resort pages on wePowder or lawinen.org

What are the alternatives in Europe?

You can still find some powder below 1700 to 1900 meters in the northern Alps and you can ride some pow in the most southern resorts in the Piedmont on Monday. But we've seen better days. We'll just have to wait until a new storm cycle comes in. What are the alternatives? Large parts of Scandinavia just had a period of relatively warm weather and it's hard to find powder there as well.

The eastern Pyrenees are getting some fresh snow right now (it's been snowing there for a couple of days already). The ski resorts in the east of the Pyrenees don't offer the most exciting lines on the planet, but hey, you can ride pretty good snow over there right now.

It snowed heavily in central Italy last week, but the combination of earthquakes and avalanches caused dramatic catastrophes. In addition, the temperature will rise the next 24 hours. Same story for Corsica and Sardinia. Lots of fresh snow over there as well (even in the next 36 hours), but the snow line is rising. If you're planning to go there, get the right information in advance.

An outsider is Greece. It is cold and will get a lot of fresh snow next week. All ski resorts are open and the conditions there are pretty good.

Stay stoked. Morris

Comments


  • Chamscot
    Advanced
    Chamscot op 23 January 2017 · 10:30
    Wow, this is one of the saddest snow reports I have ever read on this site between a mixture of minimal snow and disasters as a result. As always though thanks for the updates and keep up the good work. I guess we will all just need to hold off on any back country exploits for now.
  • tch
    tch op 23 January 2017 · 11:48
    Just a comment on Greece, if you are crazy enough to go there avoid the resorts close to Athens during the weekend, huge queues have been reported as most of the stations are not prepared for this amount of snow. If you really need pow find some cheap ticket for Thessaloníki and go north to Vasilitsa, Pisoderi or maybe Kaimaktsalan.
  • marcopolo
    Advanced
    marcopolo op 23 January 2017 · 16:20
    Still powder to be found in Caucuses, currently in Gudauri in Georgia. Even though the last big snowfall was in December, if you hike you can find some very light quality powder. The very cold temperature has kept the snow quality, especially on the north faces. The forecast may also give some hope for some new powder on the pretty good base that exist here.
    marcopolo

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