Looking back at winter 2016-2017: a dry winter that ended cold and white

By meteomorris on 21 August 2017 · 1

The winter of 2016-2017 was too dry, too warm and pretty sunny. Nevertheless, King Winter brought us 17 PowderAlerts. Winter made a comeback in April, but that was too little too late for most of us. Either we didn't have time or money anymore, or we're already preparing for summer. Anyway, winter 16-17 wasn't an easy one, because, as in many parts of the northern hemisphere, it often was too warm in the Alps.

Too warm worldwide during winter 16-17
Too warm worldwide during winter 16-17

But the fact that we had to deal with high temperatures wasn't the only problem. There wasn't that much precipitation either. Huge high pressure areas kept storms at distance and as a result it was sunny in large parts of November, December, January, February and March. Winter 16-17 was one of the driest and sunniest winters in large parts of the Alps in the last 30 years.

Way too dry in France
Way too dry in France

In addition, the presence of high pressure caused a special effect. At high pressure we are dealing with falling air, with cold air that's even heavier dropping even further. As a result it was too warm on the peaks (1 to 1.5 or even 2 degrees on average), but only a little bit warmer in the valleys (0.3 to 1 degree). January started promising. It was cold, even that cold that it became the coldest January in Austria in the last 30 years, but December and March were far too warm.

January was cold
January was cold

Winter 16/17was dry, sunny and the temperatures were too high. And that continued during spring. March was exceptionally warm and April also began to be too warm and then, when most lifts were closing, King Winter returned. The temperature dropped the last two weeks of April and in the beginning of May and it snowed deep into the valleys.

It was cold by the end of April
It was cold by the end of April

Winter 2016-2017 was a tough one. Timing, flexibility and patience were key to find powder, with the very weak snow cover also asking us to be even more aware. You'll find a summary per month below with links to the 17 PowderAlerts from last winter.


November began hopeful, after the snowfall in October. There was a nice base and when a new storm followed at the beginning of November, PowderAlert #1 was issued. The conditions were good. It was cold and the perspective was good. Unfortunately, a high pressure area settled above the Alps and it didn't snow in November anymore.


After six weeks without any precipitation, the situation changed. Just before Christmas we could ride deep powder in Piedmont, but it didn't snow in the rest of the Alps. The pressure distribution started to change by the end of the year and it wasn't till then when the first significant snow came down in the east.


The storm cycles finally started in Januray (after another month without much snowfall). No less than three PowderAlerts in no more than ten days time finally gave us the feeling that winter was here to stay. January hasn't been that cold in Austria for thirty years. But the weather started changing again after mid-January and the temperatures started rising.


February was pretty mild again and there wasn't that much precipitation. Warm air cam in quickly after some cold periods with snowfall. If you wanted to ride powder you had to act fast, although the snow was still pretty good on north faces a bit longer. The biggest problem still was the weak layer deeper in the snow cover, which caused some nasty avalanches.


March brought us five PowderAlerts and if you didn't look into the data you'd think it was a good month. Mweeh, not really. March was pretty warmand the temperatures started rising right after the dump (or even during the dump). Periods with low and high temperatures followed up quickly, the wind was often very strong, the snow cover was unstable and the avalanche danger was pretty high.


April probably was the best month of winter 16-17. A northern stau kicking in mid-April and that one won't be forgotten soon. The temperatures dropped, lots of snow came down and it remained pretty cold for the time of the year.


I could have issued another PowderAlert in May. The conditions were pretty amazing, but almost all the lifts were closed already. I started my own personal project and started building the Morris 157, which will be launched this fall.

Morris 157
Morris 157

I'm looking forward to winter 17/18. Hope to see you again here on wePowder or somewhere in the Alps. Let's hope for a good one!

Stay stoked, Morris


  • AxelK
    AxelK op 24 August 2017 · 11:28
    Extrapolating the precipitation patterns of July/August we could be set for a monster winter 😉 Finger crossed.


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