An active storm is passing the north side of the main alpine ridge this weekend. The cold front that comes with it will gently touch the Alps on Saturday, but won't manage to bring the coldest air to the Alps. The freezing level will drop deep into the valleys in the night from Friday to Saturday, but the freezing level will rise again to 2000 meters (or higher) in the night from Saturday to Sunday. The jet stream is too far north, winter won't kick in and the Alps will have to deal with air that's too warm. You can only expect significant amounts of snow above 2000 meters. You expect a mix of wet snow, snow or rain below that altitude. In this forecast:
When you look at the map above tou can see that it's still sunny in the Alps on Friday morning. Clouds are approaching from the northwest though. It will start snowing in the evening and the snow line will drop to 1200 meters (locally even to 1000 meters) on the north side of the main alpine ridge in the night from Friday to Saturday.
It will snow heavily on the north side of the main alpine ridge on Saturday. You can expect some heavy wind and around 40-70 mm of precipitation between Friday evening and Sunday morning. This precipitation will come down as dry snow above 2000 meters, as a mixture of wet and dry snow between 1400 and 2000 meters and mostly like rain below 1400 meters. Saturday will be wet and stormy and lots of snow in the high alpine. The sun will come out from the west on Sunday and Sunday afternoon could be pretty good. But at the same time, the temperature will rise again thanks to the current from the south. Our snow maps are showing less snow than you would expect from 40-70 mm of water, but that's because it's already corrected for the effect of the wind and the fact that this snow will fall a bit warmer (and more compact).
The northern Alps can expect a stormy weekend, but the sun will still dominate the weather in the western and southern Alps. You can expect some snow in the northern French Alps, but the sun is still out there in the south. You can expect some heavy winds from time to time.
Wind, lots of clouds, rain and snow. Not the perfect conditions for a powder day. I'd skip this weekend. Some lifts will stay closed and the visibility is poor on Saturday. The sun will come out on Sunday afternoon and Monday will be pretty good as well, but only above 2200 meters. If you want to ride powder on Sunday afternoon, forget about the resorts with not much options above 2000 meters.
In short: Powder on the slopes at high altitude on Saturday (if the lifts are open), powder and some sun above 2200 meters on Sunday afternoon and Monday will be a powder day above 2000 meters. But I definitely want to warn you. You have to keep two things in mind. There's still a chance of dry snow avalanches between 2000 and 2800 meters, especially in the resorts in the main alpine ridge (thanks to that old weak layer of snow that's still present). The transitions from a thin to a thick snow cover (and vice versa), but also the pressure on the snow cover from a single skier, snowboarder or a group of them could trigger an avalanche. Be very critical in your decision making the next couple of days!
Are you planning to ride off-piste? Keep asking yourself the next questions:
If one of the answers is 'no', stay on the slopes!
With applying the right knowlegde you can reduce the risk to the level of driving a car for one hour. If you don't have the right knowledge, than you're basically playing a game of Russian Roulette.
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The current will turn to the south from Monday. The northern Alps can expect a Föhn from the south, but the southern Alps can expect snow above 1400-1700 meters. The first snowfall is scheduled for Monday to Wednesday and possibly the northern Alps will benefit as well later. The temperatures are pretty high, so again: snowfall above 2000 meters.
The models disagree about the intensity. GFS (the American model) calculates a much more intense pattern than ECMWF (the European model) right now. Everything depends on a storm depression that will hit the Bay of Biscay (or not) early next week. The path of this storm varies run by run, but it is decisive for the Alps. I hope to give you more details on Sunday.
If you'd call the mid-term problematic, then the long term is even more terrible. Nevertheless, there are two scenarios. Both models expect a storm depression above Spain in the middle of next week. According to GFS this storm will attract cold polar air which will move to the Alps from the southwest. The European model however expect the storm to stick around above Spain and will simply stay there. Lots of uncertainty for the long term... More on Sunday!
Stay stoked. Morris