PA#9: Saturday will be a powder day in the northern Alps


By meteomorris on 21 February 2017 · 0

It is mild, it's raining up to 1500 meters (or even higher) and the visibility is poor. Today isn't the best day of the season in the northern Alps. Dry snow is falling above 2000 meters and that's where the temperature finally is below zero. To make matters worse the temperatures will rise even further on Wednesday. Fortunately, there's a storm coming in on Thursday that will (temporarily) bring winter back to the Alps. Friday and Saturday will be powder days, but the next couple of days won't be that good. In this forecast:

  • Autumn in the Alps
  • Winter will temporarily return on Friday
  • Friday and Saturday will be powder days
  • Long term: snow for the northern or southern Alps? Or will high pressure take over again?

Storm Rolf and his warm front
Storm Rolf and his warm front

Autumn in the Alps

There's a strong wind, it's raining, it is mild and the visibility is lousy. Rolf Storm clearly isn't the best storm of the winter. There is some precipitation, but the snow line is at very high altitude. It's easy to recognize the warm front (red line) on the map that hits the Alps today. Although our snow maps forecast 10-25 cm of fresh snow, but the snow line is at high altitude and we also have to deal with a strong wind. The result is rain in the valleys and a temperature and a temperature that locally is above zero degrees at 2000 meters.

Rain in Vorarlberg
Rain in Vorarlberg

Sad images from the Zillertal
Sad images from the Zillertal

Above zero at 2100 meter
Above zero at 2100 meter

There is 10-25 cm of fresh snow coming down above 2000 meters and the sun will shine on Wednesday. A powder day? Well, it's going to be tricky. There is a strong wind and the temperature will rise on Wednesday/ You can find good powder especially on north faces only above 2200-2500 meters. Keep in mind that there is still a weak old layer in the snowpack, which can form the base for an avalanche. Especially the transition from a thick to thin snow cover and vice versa comes with a great risk. This weak layer is getting harder to trigger, but is still a risk that you should be aware of.

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Friday's storm
Friday's storm

Winter will temporarily return on Friday

A new storm will arrive in the night from Thursday to Friday. The current will turn to the south west on Thursday and the first front will reach the Alps later that day. This front will first bring some snow in the western and southern Alps. , The Alps will be trapped in some kind of a snow sandwich when the cold front arrives in the night to Friday. You can expect some heavy snowfall at the north side of the main alpine ridge (including the French northern Alps), but also in the resorts in the south of Switzerland, the Dolomites, northeastern Italy and northwestern Slovenia.

This storm willl bring 5-20 cm of snow, but locally even up to 50 cm of fresh snow. The snowline rapidly drops from 1800 meters at the start to 1,000 meters in the west and 600 meters in the east of the Alps. The first snow will come down in the south and west of the Alps on Thursday, but the snowfall will intensify in large parts of the northern Alps on Friday and it will keep snowing on Saturday. The temperature will rise again due to the wind turning to the southwest after the passage of the front. It's not clear right now if that will happen on Saturday or on Sunday. More details about that later this week.

Friday and Saturday will be powder days

Lots of fresh snow and (temporarily) low temperatures will make sure that Friday and Saturday will be powder days. Especially Saturday can be a good day (if you're around). Lots of tourists will drive back home, and a new batch is arriving. It will be busy on the roads on Saturday. If you want to ride powder, you'd better arrive on Friday (or even Thursday) and you drive home again on Sunday when the temperature is rising again.

Long term????
Long term????

Long term: snow for the northern or southern Alps? Or will high pressure take over again?

High pressure will take over the weather again from Sunday and it will be mild in the Alps again. Thanks to the current from the south the temperatures will rise rapidly. It will be interesting to see what will happen from the beginning of next week. Can we expect a storm that will bring snowfall to the southern Alps and later to the northern Alps? Or will the current remain south and will it only snow a bit in the southern Alps, with sunny days in the north of the Alps? The big question is... can we expect some snow next week? Or will high pressure keep dominating the weather? More about that later this week!

Stay stoked. Morris


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