It's snowing in the northern Alps!

By meteomorris on 17 February 2017 · 0

It's been snowing locally in the northern Alps for a couple of hours and the snowfall will expand this morning. A weak cold front crosses the Alps today and will bring 5-20 cm, locally 30 cm of fresh snow. You can expect the most snow in Vorarlberg, but also around Engelberg and around the Dachstein. There won't be that much snow coming down in the French northern Alps and there won't be any precipitation in the rest of the Alps. The snow line is around 1500 meters in the French northern Alps and the west of Switzerland right now, but is at 1000 meters in Austria. The snow line will drop to 1000 meters in the west as well later today and it will drop deep into the valleys in the east. It's still snowing lightly in the east on Saturday morning, but the sun will be shining by then in the rest of the Alps. You can expect bluebird conditions till the middle of next week. Clouds will try to reach the Alps later this week. You could expect some precipitation, but it's not much. A real storm might kick in at the end of next week. In this forecast:

  • It's snowing in the northern Alps
  • Next week will start mild and sunny, but expect some clouds for the northern Alps later that week
  • PowderAvice
  • A real storm kicking in at the end of next week?
  • Discount on Mountain Academy

It's snowing in the northern Alps

It's been snowing in parts of the northern Alps since Friday. This precipitation will extend the next few hours and I expect 5-20 cm of fresh snow until Saturday morning. The most snow will come down west of the Arlberg. You can expect 15-30 cm of fresh snow over here, so you can definitely ride some powder there on Saturday and Sunday.

Fresh snow in southern Germany
Fresh snow in southern Germany

Precipitation on the radar
Precipitation on the radar

There will be some light snowfall in the east of the Alps on Saturday morning. High pressure will control the weather again after Saturday.

Next week will start mild and sunny, but expect some clouds for the northern Alps later that week

A strong high pressure system will push Friday's cold front to the east and that means some room for the sun to return. The temperatures will be quite low on Saturday morning, but will start rising from the west during the day. Sunday and Monday will be mild and sunny, although the north side of the Alps could see some clouds from Monday.

High pressure ruling the Alps again
High pressure ruling the Alps again

Storms will try to make their way to the Alps later in the week, but the big question is if they'll manage to do that.


Alright, so you're in the Alps next week (maybe with your family). Where can you still find some fresh powder? You can definitely can still ride some powder with the right knowledge. Think of shady forests where the sun hardly ever comes. The moisture can radiate here especially during clear nights. Please note: the snow cover in the trees is not thick enough all over the Alps. You'll find the best conditions in the Italian Piedmont, northeastern Italy, the southernmost areas of Switzerland and the forests of the southern French Alps right now.

The conditions are fine to go for a tour below 2000 meters. Above that altitude you have to think about that weak old layer deeper in the snowpack. The wind also transported lots of snow the last couple of days. Ride conservative lines (not steeper than 35 degrees and preferably less steep). Make sure there aren't any steep faces above you and keep in mind that the snow cover might get more unstable during the day due to the sun.

TIP: check out this article about the critical avalanche situation in the Alps

If you don't have you no knowledge about snow, avalanches, the steepness of slopes, etc... just stay on the slopes. This is an explicit call to anyone who doesn't have the right knowledge and experience to stay on the slopes. If you doubt whether you know anything about it, start with Chapter 1 of Mountain Academy. The first chapter ends with a test.

A real storm kicking in at the end of next week?

There will be a real battle of the models scheduled for the middle and end of next week. The jetstream will turn to the west (and will probably end up too far north) and mild air will reach the Alps. But that might change in the middle of next week. It's still a question what will happen though.

A cold front coming in from Tuesday?
A cold front coming in from Tuesday?

Right now, there are constantly shifting scenarios on the weather maps that could be summarized like this:

  1. Clouds will try to reach the Alps from the northwest. This will result in a current from the northwest bringing snow to the northern Alps and possibly a 'retour d'est' in the slipstream.
  2. The front that tries to reach the Alps in the middle of next week won't succeed, the current will turn to the southwest and it will start snowing on the south side of the Alps from Thursday. That snowfall will extend to the northern Alps later that week. This would mean that the Alps get stuck in a snow sandwich.

Great scenarios, but the chance that it will actually happen is not higher than 50%. There's much more possible. More about that on Sunday!

Are you going to the Alps next week? Please, keep asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have the right knowledge?
  • 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?

Discount on Mountain Academy

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