PA #9: A tiny PowderAlert for the northern Alps


By meteomorris on 22 February 2017 · 0

It's a real tragedy when you're on holiday in the northern Alps right now. It was raining in the valleys yesterday and the freezing level was between 1900 and 2200 meters. But we're not there yet, becasue it's mild as well today and it will be even warmer on Thursday. It truly is four seasons in one week in the northern Alps. If you want some sunshine, blue skies and snow you're better off in the French or Italian Alps. But if you like fresh snow the redemption will come at the end of the week. A new storm will arrive in the northern Alps in the night to Friday. The temperature will drop and the snow will fall deep into the valleys. Friday and Saturday will be powder days (with some limitations). In this forecast:

  • After rain comes sunshine and mild temperatures
  • A storm coming in on Friday
  • PowderAdvice for Friday and Saturday
  • Mild temperatures again for the northern Alps after the weekend
  • Long term: snow for the south side of the Alps

After rain comes sunshine and mild temperatures

It was raining cats and dogs in the northern Alps yesterday. Between 20-45 mm of water came down in the valleys and it only snowed above 2000 to 2200 meters. Between 5-20, but locally up to 30 cm of fresh snow came down above 2500 meters. The snow is dry above 2400-2600 meters, but is really affected by the wind. You have to be aware of wet snow avalanched below 2200 meters today. You can find lots of wind-drifted snow above that altitude and you should really think about the risk of slab avalanches.

The temperatures remain high today. It will be a wet day, thanks to the fact that the air in the northern Alps is still humid and the sun is coming out every now and then. All the moisture will be gone by Thursday, but the temperature will rise even further. A freezing level around 2500 meters is pretty realistic tomorrow.

Lots of water in Austria
Lots of water in Austria

And in Switzerland
And in Switzerland

The conditions will improve a bit in the night from Wednesday to Thursday. The clear night allows the snowcover to loose some of its moisture and this will improve the quality of the snow. You'll find the best conditions on north faces above 2400 meters. But please be aware of the wind-drifted snow and the risk of slab avalanches.

Storm Thomas
Storm Thomas

A storm coming in on Friday

Storm Rolf, that pretty much fucked up the snow conditions in the Alps, is not visible on the maps anymore. Storm Thomas is approaching the northern Alps, and Thomas is different. It will bring low temperatures and snowfall deep into the valleys. It will start snowing heavily on the north side of the main alpine ridge (including the French northern Alps) when the cold front arrives in the night to Friday. I expect the most snow to come down from Chamonix to Vorarlberg, but the Hohe Tauern can also expect some snowfall.

This Friday storm will bring between 5-20 cm, but locally even up to 50 cm of fresh snow. The snowline will rapidly drop from 1800 meters to 1000 meters in the west and 600 meters in the east of the Alps. The temperature will rise again after the passage of the front on Saturday, thanks to the wind turning to the southwest.

PowderAdvice for Friday and Saturday

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. My PowderAdvice would be the resorts in the Swiss northern alpine ridge (Engelberg, Sörenberg, Gstaad en Stoos), the resorts west of the Arlberg in Austria (Lech, Zürs etc, even though the snowpack is pretty wet right now) and in a lesser degree the most northern resorts of the French northern Alps (Portes du Soleil, Flaine).

Mild temperatures again for the northern Alps after the weekend

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, especially north of the main alpine ridge. The chances of snow in the western and southern Alps are increasing for the beginning of next week.

Long term: snow for the south side of the Alps

Next week will start with a current from the southwest. A pretty big storm will send fronts from the southwest to the Alps. They'll eventually reach their destination. This will result in snowfall for the south side of the Alps, but the latest calculations also show some snowfall in the western Alps and maybe even some snowfall in the northern Alps. Next week will start with sunshine, but the chances of snow will increase during the week.

Stay stoked. Morris.


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