Shifting temperatures that end with a retour d'est?

By meteomorris on 2 January 2018 · 3

May the powder be with you in 2018! The conditions in the beginning of the season were amazing and we already had some great powder days! A storm with fresh snow passed almost every weekend and 2018 started good as well. It's not a surprise that we've already reached PowderAlert #9. We are spoiled by King Winter and today, January 2nd, will be no different. The conditions won't improve later this week. King Winter ends up in shifting temperatures and every storm ends (too) mild. The next couple of days require some flexibility if you want to ride powder. In this forecast:

  • PowderAlert #9
  • Wednesday starts mild, low temperatures and snowfall right after
  • Rising temperatures on Thurday
  • A retour d'est this weekend

PowderAlert #9

2018 starts great with a PowderAlert for the French Alps and the west of the northern Alps. Between 20-50 cm of fresh snow came down since New Year's Day. Today will be a powder day in the French Alps, just like yesterday.

Les 2 Alpes
Les 2 Alpes

The snow front has now left the French Alps and brings fresh snow with a snow line deep in the valleys to the north side of the main alpine ridge. Enjoy it quickly, because warm air will arrive in the Alps by the end of the day. It's the prelude to a new warm front.

Wednesday starts mild, low temperatures and snowfall right after

Wednesday starts mild. A weak warm front arrives in the west and north of the Alps in the night to Wednesday and the snow line at night will temporarily rise towards 1600-2200 meters in the west of the Alps and 900-1500 meters in the east of the Alps. The altitude of the snow line depends on the speed with which the warm front can force the cold air out of the valleys. Where the cold air can linger, it stays cooler and the snow line continues to stay a bit lower.

A new cold front arrives in the Alps after lunch, recognizable by the purple-blue line on the map above. The snow line is going to drop again. This cold front brings a lot of snow in the northern French Alps and the rest of the northern Alps. There'll be enough fresh snow in the afternoon to make some powder turns. It's the prelude to a great powdery Thursday, right?

Rising temperatures on Thurday

The cold snow of Wednesday is followed by a very active warm front (recognizable by the red line on the map above) in the western Alps in the night to Thursday. The snow line in the western Alps quickly rises to around 1900-2200 meters. It will only be a bit colder in the valleys of Wallis and Aosta with a snow line around 1500 meters. The question is if this will hold to the end of the day.

It will still snow deep into the valleys of Austria in the morning, but the warm front arrives in the west of Austria by noon and the snow line will start rising. It will be pretty warm everywhere by the end of the day and it will rain in the valleys. Friday will be sunny and mild, but there is enough fresh snow to ride powder above 1700-2300 meters.

It will go like this the next couple of days:

  • Tuesday: powder in the western Alps and northern Alps
  • Wednesday: the snow line is the big question mark. I expect the snow line to be the lowest in Wallis and Austria. They'll have a powder day all day. The conditions will be the best in the rest of the Alps after lunch.
  • Thursday: rain in the valleys in the western Alps (but snowfall at higher altitudes), a powder morning in the east, but rain in the afternoon.
  • Friday: A powder day above 2200 meters in the western and northern Alps.

A retour d'est this weekend

The storm above will determine the weather in the Alps from next weekend. It's too early for details, but you can expect snow in the northwest of Italy and Föhn in the west and north of the Alps.

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Stay stoked, Morris


  • DWF
    DWF op 2 January 2018 · 23:04
    Its pretty difficult to stay stocked when its pissing down at high altitude.
  • Chester_Tartsnatcher
    Chester_Tartsnatcher op 3 January 2018 · 05:48
    Here's to the snow mo-mentum of 2018!
  • tarekbayazid
    tarekbayazid op 3 January 2018 · 06:06
    Morris, happy new year! This forecast is making my head spin. I get back to chamonix tonight and will ride Thurs-Sun. Am willing to drive a bit and was thinking to hit Cervinia on Friday given its high altitude. You think that painful drive (nearly 2 hours) for a day trip is worth it, or is there a decent chance Courmayeur or Argentiere’s freezing line doesn’t spike up too high, and we get enough decent pow there? Thanks man!!


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