PA#7: The chase is ON!

By meteomorris on 2 February 2017 · 8

The Alps can get ready for some serious snowfall the next couple of days. When you look at the snow maps you might get the feeling thet pretty much every resort is a safe bet this weekend, but it isn't that simple. The first fronts are focused on the south and southwest of the Alps. The second series of fronts from the west will only arrive on Sunday and it will really start snowing in the northwest of the Alps in the night from Sunday to Monday. If you make a decision only based on the weather maps you could miss the eye of the storm. I'll give you some PowderAdvice today. Believe me, there nothing as annoying as to drive home when the storm arrives. In this forecast:

  • Fresh snow, but high temperatures in the north
  • In between storms
  • Episode #1: Snow for the south and southwest of the Alps
  • Episode #2: Snow for the west and northwest of the Alps

Fresh snow, but high temperatures in the north

The resorts north of the main alpine ridge got a lot of fresh snow since Tuesday. Especially the triangle between Engelberg in the west, the Arlberg tunnel in the east and Livigno in the south got a lot of snow (30-50 cm, locally up to 60 cm of fresh snow). Unfortunately, the temperatures were rising yesterday and a lot of wet snow avalanche were spotted. It only stayed cold in the southern valleys deep in the main alpine ridge and the snow wasn't that much influenced by the rising temperatures.

Lots of fresh snow
Lots of fresh snow

Temperature above zero
Temperature above zero

The combination of new snow, rising temperatures and the problems in the current snow cover resulted in a rising avalanche danger. The situation becomes more critical today, thanks to the rising temperatures: 'The fresh snow of the last few days is lying on top of a weakly bonded old snowpack. As a consequence of the southwesterly wind extensive snow drift accumulations will form. This applies in particular at elevated altitudes. The fresh snow drift accumulations are prone to triggering. On north facing slopes individual natural avalanches are to be expected. Single winter sport participants can release avalanches easily. These can penetrate deep layers and reach dangerously large size.' (source: SLF).

CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger
CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger

Keep asking yourself the next questions:

  • Do you have the right kwowledge?
  • Do you (and the other riders in your group) have the gear (avalanche beacon, shovel and probe)?
  • Have you read the local avalanche forecast?
  • Do you know which parts of the mountain you have to avoid that particular day to minimize the risk?

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In between storms

You can really notice that we're in between two storms today. There's a strong Föhn on the north side of the main alpine ridge since yesterday afternoon, causing the temperatures to rise to +4 to +6 degrees at 2000 meters with lots of sunshine. But you can see the temperature drop in the French southern Alps and on the south side of the main alpine ridge and more clouds are coming in. All indications that there's a front coming in from the south to southwest.

Episode #1: Snow for the south and southwest of the Alps

The flow is coming from the southwest the next two days. It's snowing already lightly south of the Gotthard, but an active front will arrive tonight and it will snow heavily in parts of the French southern Alps (especially around Isola 2000 and south of the Ecrins) and south of line Monterosa - Gotthard - Piz Buin from Thursday to Friday. They will get 20-40 cm, locally even 50 cm of fresh snow around 2000 meters between Thursday evening and Saturday morning. The Dolomites will also get a lot of snow, but because there's not much (or even no) natural snow east of the Ortler, that's not really an option this weekend.

The snow line in the southern Alps will fluctuate between 1400 and 1800 meters, but will drop rapidly to 800 to 1300 meters. A new (and weaker) front will come in in the night to Saturday bringing more snow. There's a PowderAlert for Friday and Saturday for:

I expect the most snow south of the Gotthard until Saturday morning, because the front will stick around longer over there on Friday and because the front that will pass in the night from Friday to Saturday is coming more from the west. You can see that on the Föhnchart below. There's a Föhn wind coming from the south today, it will be pretty much gone on Friday and will come back again (although not that strong) on Saturday. If you look carefully you can see that you don't have to expect any significant snowfall on the north side of the main alpine ridge till Sunday/Monday.


Episode #1: Where to go?

Your best bet will be the resorts in the French southern Alps or the resorts south of the Gotthard-Piz Buin on Friday and Saturday. The choice you make could be primarily motivated by the travel distance, because you can find great snow in both regions.

When you also want to add Sunday to your trip, I would go to a resort south of the French Ecrins, La Thuile or Courmayeur, because they'll get some more fresh snow in the night from Saturday to Sunday. My PowderAdvice for Friday/Saturday:

French southern Alps (Click on the resorts to book accommodation)
Reasonable to good base between the trees.

Southern Alps (Click on the resorts to book accommodation)
Thin to reasonable base between the trees.

Episode #2: Snow for the west and northwest of the Alps

A new front arrives in the night to Saturday, or during Sunday. This front is more coming from the west. This warm front brings snow from the southwest at first, but the current will change to west to northwest. That's great news for the resorts in the French Alps and the resorts in the west and northwest of Switzerland. Even the Arlberg region will get some fresh snow by the end of the weekend. There is a PowderAlert for Sunday to Tuesday for:

The timing of this storm will determine if you can ride significant powder in the French Northern Alps and western Switzerland on Sunday. It's hard to estimate when this front will come in, but one thing is sure: the snow conditions on the slopes will improve on Sunday and with some luck we can ride between the trees. To take maximum advantage of this second episode, you should arrive in the regions above on Saturday or Sunday night and stick around until Tuesday. The weekend crowds are already gone and you can still ride powder.

The PowderChase will be:

Friday and Saturday

From Sunday

Don't forget to have fun!! You can book your accommodation here.

Long term

According to the latest calculations the jet stream will start to meander again and its exact position isn't known yet. If it will be northwest and heading for the Alps, then we can expect some more storms. But if the high pressure returns, well, then this stormcycle will die in all its beauty leaving the complete Alps with a blanket of fresh powder. Next update tomorrow!

Stay stoked. Morris


  • tarekbayazid
    tarekbayazid op 2 February 2017 · 14:05
    Morris, huge thanks as always for the update. I'm heading to Alagna tonight (skiing Friday-Monday) and triangulating all of the various forecasts is driving me insane. You don't mention that region specifically as being one of the better spots to hit during this Powder Alert, but some other websites are being a lot more generous (esp., saying it'll get that 2nd wave of storms as well.

    Alagna for sure has a better base than a lot of areas right now, so would take it even if snow totals from these systems are a bit lower than resorts east or west. However in your opinion should I really try to go elsewhere? I have a lot of logistics sunk into Alagna now, but if you think we'll really get better skiing around Courmayeur I can still try to hit it on Sunday or Monday.

  • Snowroller1971
    Snowroller1971 op 2 February 2017 · 14:49
    Morris, Great input and many thanks! But it´s a lot to choose from...😃

    We are going to the alps from saturday 4 to 11th of februari. We have been thinkin of Serre Chevalier, Alagna or maybe Zermatt earlier. With this forecast do you think we should reconsider? What about the windfactor and very low temperatures in som areas? We are open to go anywhere for the best powder. Last year we were in Courmayeur and had a superweek. We will likely stay at one area. Could Verbier be the winner later in the week?

    We are not expert skiers but very good and it would be fun to see a good resorts that aren´t to small with no people. Which resort or area would you choose for our week?

    All the best, thanks!
  • Jameshdb
    Jameshdb op 2 February 2017 · 16:37
    Thanks Morris for the great forecast, and wonderful news...I am off to La Grave for next week - my wild snow dances look to being answered. Thanks for the great website.
    Cheers. James
  • brunohhh
    brunohhh op 3 February 2017 · 00:34
    Is there any way to get email notifications when powder alerts are issued? I can't find it.
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 3 February 2017 · 10:40
    @Bronohhh, not yet. Will put it on our list!
    @Jamshdb enjoy la Grave!
    @Snowroller1971 with all the new snow coming in I would go to Courmayeur. But if you want less people than you should consider Switzerland: Gstaad and Jungfrau region. Check this vid of our roadtrip last year:

    With English subtitles

    @tarekbayazid they don't get that much. Where are you driving from? I would start in Monte Rosa and enjoy some freshies on Monday at Courmayeur
    May the powder be with you.
  • richd
    richd op 3 February 2017 · 13:08
    Chase !
    It's a crap shoot. One minute Ticino getting dump the next day it's but a flurry. Then Glarus is forecast to get a nice dump and now not. Planning a road trip as of Monday, as it stands now Gstaad really seems to check the boxes for tree ski and good snow fall . Thanks for the good tips Morris. Looking forward to your next post . Assume your as confused as the weather is😃)
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 3 February 2017 · 13:22
    @richd, next update will be on Sunday
    May the powder be with you.
  • richd
    richd op 4 February 2017 · 10:54
    Thanks . Still haven't pulled trigger on first stop destination. Looks like marecottes for 2 days followed by Cham/Courm. could be the ticket for the week starting Monday. Holding my breath for your Sunday report 😃
    Stay safe


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