PA #12: Snow for the southern Alps (but not everywhere)

By meteomorris on 25 January 2018 · 2

A new storm is on its way to the Alps, and this time its sweetspot will be on the south side of the main alpine ridge. It will start to snow on Thursday afternoon and you can expect about 20-50 cm of fresh snow above 1500 meters on Sunday morning. PowderAlert #12 is ON from Friday. The sun will come out on Sunday and the temperatures will rise. And there's more: PowderAlert #13 is coming up from the middle of next week. There's a big chance that this will be a northers Stau. In this forecast:

  • It's mild in the Alps
  • The avalanche danger decreases, but it's still critical outside the slopes
  • PowderAlert #12: a new storm from Thursday/Friday
  • Mild temperatures from Sunday
  • PowderAlert #13 from the middle of next week?

It's mild in the Alps

It was very mild in the Alps on Wednesday afternoon. Warm air is pushed into the Alps with a current from the southwest and the temperature at 2000 meters rises to about 5 to 10 degrees above zero in many places. Although the air temperature is high, the snow cover on the north faces can't really be bothered. The air is dry and the heat can not penetrate the snow cover. To melt snow you either need rain, direct radiation from the sun or high humidity in order to let the heat penetrate the snow cover. You will find the current temperature at the Titlisboden in Engelberg below. This part of the slope is situated on the north and the sun can not shine on it directly. The air temperature is 8 degrees above zero, the temperature of the snow cover is still -1.9 degrees. The snow on the northern faces is still good.

On the other hand, you see the temperature of the snow cover on sunny slopes rising. That will also be the case today as well. The southern current will get stronger and you can expect a southern Föhn on the north side of the main alpine ridge with rising temperaturs. The temperature will drop due to orographic cooling on the south side of the Alps. At the same time, clouds will flow into the Po-valley. The air becomes more humid during the course of the day as a result of the incoming higher clouds on the north side of the main alpine ridge. You can still find powder on north faces and in the trees, but...

The avalanche danger decreases, but it's still critical outside the slopes

The avalanche danger was HIGH and even EXTREME in the northern French Alps, Switzerland and the west of Austria on Monday. It's a pretty unique situation. When the avalanche danger is EXTREME there is an immediate threat. We've written an arcticle about this winter and the avalanche winter of 1999. The avalanche danger was still HIGH in large parts of the Alps on Tuesday, but dropped to CONSIDERATE (3 on a scale of 3) on Wednesday. The snow cover settled rapidly due to its own weight, but the situation remains critical, so please ride with care! There's still plenty of fresh snow to be found above 1900 meters in the west and 1500 meters in the east of the Alps. Hereby some advice to reduce the risks:

  • prepare yourself, make sure you have the right knowledge and use that knowledge
  • read your local avalanche forecast and adjust your plans to it
  • always ride with avalanche beacon, shovel and probe
  • ride with powder friends
  • pay attention to the rising temperatures the next couple of days

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PowderAlert #12: a new storm from Thursday/Friday

A new storm comes in on Thursday. Check out what it will be like below:

  1. Cold air tries to move south (blue arrow) on Thursday, and at the same time warm air tries to move north (red arrow). This warm air results in a Föhn from the south on the north side of the main alpine ridge with mild temperatures. At the same time, the first clouds are moving into the Po-valley on Thursday morning.
  2. A new depression develops near the dividing line of hot and cold air. Cold air is trying to fight its way down south in the west, but the current turns to the south and clouds are being pushed to the south side of the main alpine ridge. The storm makes its appearance and it starts to snow south of the main alpine ridge. The first snow will fall south of the Gotthard and the Monte Rosa on Thursday afternoon with a snow line around 800-1200 meters. The precipitation expands in the night to Friday.
  3. A Genoa depression arises with a cold front that pushes itself against the Jura and the Vercors in France and later will hit the pre-Alps in the French Isère. You don't have to expect much snow in the French northern Alps though (around 5-15 cm of fresh snow). The Jura and the Vercors will locally get more snow. The front will expand to the south side of the Ecrins and the Alpes Maretimes later. You can expect some heavy snowfall locally, but other parts won't get that much. Expect 5-15 cm and locally 35 cm of fresh snow.

I expect the most snow on the south side of the main alpine ridge and the western southern Alps. It will start to snow there on Thursday afternoon and the snowfall will expand in the night to Friday. You can expect snowfall from Madesimo via Airolo and from the Simplon Pass towards Alagna. The precipitation moves to the western and especially southern Piedmont on Friday.

You can expect a lot of snow in the regions below on Sunday morning. Just click on the regions to see where you should go:

  • The north of Ticino
  • The north and south of the Piedmont
  • The far east and southeast of the Aosta
  • The east and southeast of Wallis

You could also go for the French Isère (Vercors and the west of the pre-Alps).

Plenty of indications to ride powder on Friday, especially Saturday, but also Sunday. Do not completely rely on the colors of our snow maps, because in reality the differences at local level are always much bigger. Especially with a dump like this. Consider carefully from which direction the snow is coming and remember that every valley that is further away from the direction of the snow always gets less snow. Use the images of the webcams, but especially data from the weather stations of which you can find the links on the ski areas on wepowder. For example on the page of Monte Rosa where you will find a list of links to the local weather stations.

Mild temperatures from Sunday

It will quickly become milder in the Alps from Sunday. The last snow will come down in the southern and western Piedmont on Sunday morning, but the sun will come out over there as well after noon. The sun will shine in the rest of the Alps as well. It will keep on shining until next Tuesday. It may be mild, but the air is very dry and the nights clear and cold. There is still powder to be found on the north faces and other slopes that lie in the shadow.

PowderAlert #13 from the middle of next week?

If PowderAlert #12 doesn't fit your schedule, then PowderAlert #13 might be an option. There is a good chance that the current will turn northwest to north in the middle of next week. 30cm + on the existing base is then sufficient for a new PowderAlert. More about that later. First enjoy PowderAlert #12. Time to pick up an espresso in the Piemonte and ride through some larch forests.

wePowder Pro members: thanks for your support!!

We have introduced wePowder Pro this winter. You'll get extra weather and terrain data for € 25,08 per year (you can not even buy a day pass for that amount in many places). This allows us to further expand our service and we have found a way to express your support to us. Many of the readers of wePowder have done that already and the whole wePowder team and myself are grateful for that. This allows us to keep on developing to make our service even better. Thank you very much!

Are you not a wePowder Pro yet, but do you regularly read the weather forecast or use the services on wePowder? With an upgrade to wePowder Pro you support us, you can express your gratitude and you'll ride more powder. And it works great for your karma as well. Thanks! Oh, and you'll get a free 7-day trial when you register yourself on wePowder. No strings attached!

Stay stoked, Morris


  • Ehrnst
    Ehrnst op 25 January 2018 · 11:11
    Hi Morris
    Thank you for Great service 👏😀👍
    Flying to Munich saturday morning, stay untill wednesday. have A car. Can drive 5-6 hours.
    Could Andermatt, airoli be Ok for powder?

    Thanks 😀
    Br Ehrnst
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 25 January 2018 · 11:58
    @Ehrnst, there will be an update on Friday which may be helpfull for you.
    May the powder be with you.


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