Thursday was a great day in many places in the Alps and Friday will be a good day as well. Saturday will be mild with rain locally up to 2000 meters (or higher) and a lot of wind. Sunday will be mild and dry, but the wind will still be strong. Fortunately 2018 starts with snow, low temperatures and PowderAlerts #9, but it remains a turbulent week where timing is essential.
Sometimes photos say more than words. It was a great day in large parts of the southern Alps and the northwest of the Alps. It was ON in Les 3 Vallées.
And Les 3 Vallées wasn't the only ski area where it was on. The first week of Christmas holidays finally was great, after three years with not that much fresh snow at the start of the season. It was cold, the snow was deep and the quality was good. There were some problems in the high alpine where the wind transported a lot of snow and that resulted in wind slabs.
Friday is another powder day, but it's not a perfect one. The sun is shining everywhere in the morning, but mild air is coming in from the west after lunch. It will start to snow in the French Alps after noon. It is getting warmer rapidly and the temperature is rising from -14 to -4 to -2 at an altitude of 2000 meters. The snow line is still around 1000 meters in the west of the Alps, because there is still a lot of (heavier) cold air in the valleys. The precipitation also penetrates the western part of Switzerland by the end of the afternoon.
In the meantime, it's sunny in Austria and the southern Alps. The last snowfall is moving to the east. The temperature is slowly rising and the sunshine and the fresh snow that came down on Wednesday and Thursday result in a beautiful day. A point of attention is the avalanche danger that is MODERATE (3 on a scale of 5) in large parts of the Alps. Shifting temperatures, wind from different directions and a lot of snowfall resulted in a lot of wind slabs.
Forget about Saturday and Sunday. The temperatures rise, it will rain on Saturday in most of the valleys and there is a strong wind throughout the weekend.
A new warm front arrives in the Alps on Saturday. It's the red line on the map above. This front brings some very warm air into the Alps and the freezing level will rise to about 2200-2500 meters. At the same time, this front pushes humid air with rain and snow towards the Alps and the wind will be strong.
You can check it out on the images below. The complete Alps are dealing with the warm on air by the end of Saturday (image on the left), there is a lot of precipitation (second image), but because the snow line rises the snow that actually comes down as snow will be soaked by the rain below 1600 meters in the east and below 2200 meters in the west by the end of the day. It will remain cold in the valleys in the main alpine ridge (with their own micro climates) and the precipitation will come down as snow for a longer period of time. There is a strong wind on both Saturday and Sunday (third image) and that will result in a rising avalanche danger this weekend.
Let's take the mild conclusion of 2017 as the 'dark side' of king winter. Let's look at the mild weather this weekend as the 'dark side of King Winter', a small refraction to show us that nature does what it feels like. Fortunately the intention of King Winter for the first days of 2018 is good. There is already a cold front on its way to the Alps in the last hours of 2017. You can recognize it by the blue line on the map below.
This cold front is expected in the Alps by midnight and with a little luck we can drink champaign at twelve o'clock with snow flakes coming down. You can expect 48 hours of low temperatures and snowfall and this result in the first PowderAlert of 2019 on the 1st and 2nd of January. It's already the ninth PowderAlert this winter. The sweetspot of this front is currently being calculated in the northwest of the Alps (the northern French Alps, the west, north and east of Switzerland and the Austrian Vorarlberg). More details on Saturday/Sunday.
The weather will be turbulent after the 2nd of January, with shifting warm and cold fronts coming in. Timing becomes essential to be in the right place at the right time. In short: take advantage of today and start 2018 with powder.
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Stay stoked, Morris