PowderAlert #11: Where to go?

By meteomorris on 18 January 2018 · 0

Already one meter of snow locally came down in the northwest and north of the Alps since Monday and there is still a lot of snow on the radar the next 72 hours. It will be temporarily warmer on Thursday, but it will be cold on Friday and Saturday. Another warm front arrives in the Alps on Sunday and the temperatures will rise on Monday. The combination of a lot of wind, a lot of fresh snow and changing temperatures has resulted in an avalanche danger that's HIGH (4 on a scale of 5) in almost the complete Alps. In this forecast:

  • Temporarily warmer on Thursday, much colder during the weekend
  • Another 30-100 cm of snow in the forecast
  • HIGH avalanche danger
  • Where to go?
  • Long term: milder and rising snow line

Temporarily warmer on Thursday, much colder during the weekend

Super storm Evi is determining the weather in Europe since Monday night. A sister of Evi with the name Frederieke freed herself and set course for the Alps. It is Frederieke who will bring strong winds and lots of snow to the Alps. The next couple of days will look like this:

  • The temperatures will rise on Thursday and you can expect a lot of wind and a rising snow line. These high temperatures are the result of a warm front that will reach the western Alps this morning, which will result in a current that'll turn to the southwest and will bring warm air to the Alps. You can check that out on the maps below. The red arrow represents the incoming higher temperatures. The blue arrow represents the cold air that is expected in the night to Friday.

The higher temperatures on Thursday will temporarily result in a rising snow line and this means that the moist air won't improve the tree runs. So it's far from perfect. The wind is coming from the southwest and is still pretty strong. The temperatures will start rising in the western Alps and this results in a freezing level around 1500-1800 meters (and a snow line around 1500 meters). The warm air will reach the eastern Alps after lunch and the snow line will rise over there to 1200 - 1500. Simply because the warm air arrives a bit later you can still ride powder there longer.

  • It gets colder again on Friday morning. A cold front flows into the Alps, the wind turns to the northwest and it keeps on snowing. The center of gravity will move from the northern French Alps through Switzerland to Austria.
  • There will be another active front coming in on Saturday with heavy snowfall in the northwest of the Alps
  • A warm front will kick in on Sunday. It will reach the French Alps during the morning. The snow line can be found deep in the valleys at first, but will rise during the day to around 1500 meters or even higher. The warm front will move slowly but surely to the east, so you can still ride great powder in Switzerland and Austria.

Another 30-100 cm of snow in the forecast

It has been snowing in the northwest and north of the Alps since Monday night and about 30-50, locally even 100 cm of fresh snow already came down. Up to (and including) Saturday you can expect 100-150, locally even 200 cm of fresh snow in the northern French Alps, the west of Switzerland and Vorarlberg. In the rest of the northern Alps this will be about 30-70, locally 100 cm.

HIGH avalanche danger

Lots of fresh snow, fluctuating temperatures and a lot of wind. That is a cocktail that guarantees a rapidly rising avalanche danger. Add that a considerable layer of surface hoar has developed in many places in the Alps the last few days and all conditions for a very tricky situation are there. The avalanche danger is pretty critical, so take it easy! I still have some additions to make a choice where to go:

  • Choose resorts with lots of tree runs. There is sometimes less wind in the forests lower on the mountain.
  • Stay away from those parts of the mountain where larger, open and steep faces are located, because they are now extremely dangerous
  • Listen to snow patrol and read the avalanche forecast!

Where and when to go?

Thursday will be a difficult day due to the incoming higher temperatures. There is also a lot of wind. It stays pretty cold in the valleys in the main alpine ridge, the east of Switzerland and Austria and I expect the temperature in closed alpine valleys to remain below zero. Cold air is heavier than warm air and you can't make it disappear within a day, especially when the wind can not reach it. In closed valleys, Thursday just might be a good day in those valleys.

Ride powder below the tree line. It will be quite dangerous above the tree line. Stay away from the faces that are too steep and pick a face that's not that steep with trees. You'll find plenty of them in the northwest. The wind will calm down on Saturday and Sunday and it's still snowing. There's a 'tree run alert' for the northwest of the Alps this weekend. Think about tree runs in the northern French Alps, the west and north of Switzerland and Vorarlberg.

Where would I go? Check out some tips per region/country below:

  • France (French northern Alps): Friday and Saturday will be good. The snow will start to become heavier on Sunday. Tips are the forests in La Giettaz, Les Karrelis, Val Cenis, Les 7 Laux, Les Arcs, Val d'Isère, Meribel, Les Houches, Les Grands Montets
  • Italy (Aosta): You should go to Courmayeur or La Thuile on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Switzerland: Champex, Ovronnaz, Nendaz, Vercorin, Bellwald, Zweisimmen, Hasliberg, Haldigrat, Flumserberg, Tschiertschen, Klosters.
  • Austria: Sonnenkopf, Kleinwalsertal, Tannheimertal, Diedamskopf, Axamer Lizum, Fieberbrunn, Zauchensee.

Long term: milder and rising snow line

Do you still don't know if you should go or not? I would go. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be great days. The temperature will rise after that and the snow line will rise again. A warm front will reach the Alps on Sunday and the temperature will rise in the complete Alps on Monday. It's expected that it will remain mild in the Alps until the middle of next week and this will also result in higher temperatures in the resorts in the main alpine ridge.

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Stay stoked, Morris


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