HIGH to EXTREME avalanche danger and rain up to high altitude!

By meteomorris on 4 January 2018 · 9

Intense precipitation, hurricane winds and a rapidly rising, dropping and rising snow line again are currently causing very dangerous conditions in the Alps. The avalanche danger in the west and north of the Alps has risen to HIGH (4 on a scale of 5) to EXTREME (5 on a scale of 5). An extreme situation that started with a warm front with lots of rain and wind. A cold front arrived with snow and more wind in the course of the Wednesday, but as announced the temperature will rise again on Thurday and it will rain up to an altitude of 2200 meters in the western Alps and up to 1700 meters in the eastern Alps later that day. After that, it remains mild in the Alps. An active storm depression is positing itself via Spain over the Mediterranean Sea and this results in a strong southern current for the Alps. This storm will cause a strong southern Föhn in the west and north of the Alps and snowfall on the south side of the main alpine ridge. In this forecast:

  • Extreme conditions in the Alps
  • It will be mild the next couple of days with rain up to high altitude
  • Stau (for the southern Alps) and Föhn in the course of the weekend

Extreme conditions in the Alps

The conditions in the Alps are brutal at the moment. Check out the live blog from yesterday that will be updated today. The Alps will have to deal with rain up to high altitude (far above 2000 meters) and hurricane winds. Wind speeds up to 200 km/h have been recorded yesterday. People are strongly advised to stay inside in resorts like Alpe d'Huez and Tignes today.


St. Francois Longchamp
St. Francois Longchamp

The wind also caused problems, like in Livigno, where a chair came down and in the French resort St. Francois Longchamp where the wind blew a part of the roof from an appartment.

Val Thorens
Val Thorens

Val Thorens looks like a fairytale this morning, but the avalanche danger is EXTREME (5 on a scale of 5) so riding off-piste is definetely a no-go. If they will open the lifts today anyway. The same goes for Chamonix, where the avalanche danger is also EXTREME today.

The jet stream is just a bit too far north of the Alps this week and a system of active storms is sent to the Alps. You can see the jet stream above and the system of storms below.

The western Alps are in the line of fire for a couple of days now. There is a lot of snow coming down above 2000 meters and a lot of rain below 2000 meters. These mild storms bring much more moisture towards the Alps (warm can contain more moisture) and immense amounts of snow are coming down in the western Alps. There was a hurricane wind on Wednesday and the day started pretty. Below you can find the data of two measurement points in Switzerland. Storm winds up to 160 km/h and a temperature of +3 at 2100 meters altitude on Wednesday morning.

The temperature dropped again and it snowed deeper into the valleys in the beginning of the night from Wednesday to Thursday. Unfortunately, more warmer air arrived in the Alps by Thursday morning.

It will be mild the next couple of days with rain up to high altitude

A very active warm front arrived in the Alps from the west on Thursday, causing the snow line to rise rapidly towards the 2200 meters in the western Alps in the course of the day. That means a lot of rain in the valleys and at the same time there is a strong (as in: really strong) wind in the high alpine. You can see the warm front as the red line on the map above. This warm front arrives in Austria in the course of Thursday and the snow line will rise there as well. It remains mild and a weak front gently touches the Alps on Friday. The wind is lying down and it's time to look at the results of 60 hours of storm, snow and rain.

Due to the extreme conditions, off-piste adventures are an NO GO the next couple of days. A lot of snow, a lot of wind and rising temperatures are three red flags. I expect that a lot of resorts in the high alpine (such as Val d'Isère and Val Thorens) won't even open (most of) their lifts today.

Stau (for the southern Alps) and Föhn in the course of the weekend

The last storm causes a branch to the south on Friday. This storm will position itself above the Mediterranean Sea, but it's really slow. This will allow a southern current with mild air to hit the Alps. You can expect a Föhn wind from the south this weekend and it remains just as mild in the northern Alps. To make things even worse, this Föhn will also transport a lot of snow and the conditions on the north and northwest side of the main alpine ridge will remain critical. The Po-valley however will be filled with clouds and it you can expect snowfall in the Italian Piedmont during the weekend. This will possibly result in PowderAlert #10.

Until that time: hang in there! I hope the weather will allow you to ride some lines on Friday, but I strongly advice you to stay on the groomers!!

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Stay stoked, Morris


  • tarekbayazid
    tarekbayazid op 4 January 2018 · 11:45
    Wow Morris, this is insane. Am in a Chamonix today and just stayed in bed. What are the chances Cervinia is okay tomorrow? Definitely won’t go adventuring off piste, but just looking for some good snow to ski at an altitude it hasn’t rained at. Thanks
  • Arjen
    Arjen op 4 January 2018 · 12:35
    @tarekbayazid Check out the live blog as well: http://wepowder.com/en/forum/topic/252508 Most of the high alpine resorts are closed today (due to the avalanche and weather conditions). Let's see what tomorrow brings!
    One day, they'll invent synthetic powder, ban all kinds of work and give you a free liftpass...
  • engyaw
    engyaw op 4 January 2018 · 14:41
    Cervinia is completely shut today. Loads of fresh snow and no rain.
  • mmp3
    mmp3 op 4 January 2018 · 14:55
    I already postponed coming out to French Alps this morning.... I've swapped flights to come out on Saturday evening... so 1st day would be Sunday 7th Jan.... Whatya thinks? I'm getting conflicting reports on next weeks forecasts.... I was aiming to ski Megeve areas for 2 days.... then over to Portes Du Soleil areas.....Or should I postpone to later next week or next weekend?? It seems like it's never stopped since I left Val Di'Sere on 16th December...and I was caught in a storm there for 4 days too....
  • Ehrnst
    Ehrnst op 4 January 2018 · 21:34
    Hi Morris
    Thanks for a great site.
    Could you please, if possible, say something about how this weather will affect the snow/snowlayers for the rest of the season. Is it ruined or wIll It stabelize and be Ok within a week +
    Thanks 😀
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 5 January 2018 · 08:50
    @Ehrnst at the moment conditions are tricky but these huge masses of snow will stabilize rather quick. I am a bit worried about the rain crust that may form below 2000 meters but we will see how it evolves. I am rather positive for the long term.

    @mmp3, drive to Sestriere on Sunday and you will ride powder until at least wednesday.
    May the powder be with you.
  • WilmaFred
    WilmaFred op 5 January 2018 · 13:45
    Hi Morris,

    Great review!

    We are coming to alps from the 10th-14th.

    We are debating between Alagna, Serre/LaGrave, Sestriere.

    Any recommendations will be appreciated.

  • mmp3
    mmp3 op 5 January 2018 · 22:12
    thanks Morris..... Sounds good.... I'm heading there... cheers... and enjoy Canada... My m8's just returned.... -30 brrrrrrrr...
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 6 January 2018 · 09:57
    @WilmaFred, both Alagna and Sestriere will be good!
    @mmp3 thanks!
    May the powder be with you.


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