It is snowing again on the south side of the Alps. This time in the Piedmont and therefore the western part of the Alps. But the images of the intense snowfall in Südtirol, Osttirol, the Dolomites and Wallis have now spread all over the world. Images of avalanches, closed roads, falling trees and a sometimes huge amounts of snow guarantee lots of digital eyeballs.
But all that fresh snow has also caused an unprecedented hunger for powder. It may only be November 22nd, but I have rarely had so many questions so early in the season where to go this weekend. It itches, that's clear. But many areas are still closed and much more important: this weekend won't be the easiest weekend.
A complex system with multiple low-pressure areas ensures a strong southern wind in the Alps. A lot of moisture is pressed against the Alps from the south and not only that. This weekend we'll see:
The next 72 hours it will snow heavily in the Italian Piedmont, with the snowfall locally also covering the main alpine ridge. Below the forecast for the next three days.
The center of gravity is from Friday evening up to and including Saturday evening. Then it snows heavily around the Monte Rosa and the Gran Paradiso. Don't be surprised if there is 150 cm+ coming down in these regions above 2000 meters in the next 72 hours. I even believe that two meters of around the Monte Rosa and Simplon is not unthinkable. Note: I think our model is a little on the optimistic side this time, because it 1. calculates too much snow and 2. assumes that the snow will move further than the main alpine ridge.
Anway, 1,5 meter or 2,5 meter in 72 hours. It's a lot of snow. It's enough for the Piedmont and Haute Valais to issue some warnings.
For the next 72 hours in the western Alps, and in particular in the Piedmont and Aosta, take into account a great deal of snow, closed roads, falling trees, flooding and power outages. Mountain passes to and from the Piedmont will be closed.
Such colored snow maps quickly create a stoked mood, but please, hold your horses. First of all, there is so much snow that the few areas that are open in the region will soon close the lifts, but also because of the temperature. The next 72 hours it will become milder. The cold air that was previously transported to the Alps with a northern current will come to a stop and very mild air will find its way to the Alps on Saturday and Sunday.
This warming is first tempered on the southern side of the Alps. As a result of orographic cooling due to the intensity of the precipitation and the cold air still present in the valleys, it will snow deep into the valles on Friday and Saturday morning.
But if the intensity of the precipitation is satisfactory and the temperature in the free atmosphere rises far above freezing level, the snow line will naturally rise. The result is wet heavy snow or even rain that falls lower on the mountain, resulting in (substantial) wet snow avalanches and snow that's impossible to ride in.
The snow line that is still low on Friday rises towards 1200-1700 meters on Saturday and will hit 2000 meters on Sunday. You will then find dry snow above 2200 meters. Because the visibility is lousy the entire weekend, a tour in the high alpine is not really possible.
At the same time there is a heavy Föhn on the north side. Especially in the main alpine ridge and just north of it, gusts of wind up to 170 km/h are possible, with the main focal point being the main alpine ridge and northern alpine ridge in Switzerland. The few areas that are open will find it difficult to keep the lifts open, but this will also become an issue in the glacier areas in the Austrian main alpine ridge.
At the same time it becomes quite mild on the north side of the Alps. As usual with a Föhn, the falling air warms up quickly. This can be seen by the temperature at 850 hpa in the free atmosphere that rises towards the +12 at 1500 meters. But also in the valleys you shouldn't be surprised if it becomes +21 degrees on Saturday in Chur in Switzerland and +15 in Innsbruck.
In addition, it can get quite sunny on the north side of the Alps. The dynamics that were in the upper air last week are very different than now and clouds that come over the main alpine ridge dissolve completely when descending, so that the sun can get out. Saturday and Sunday will almost feel like late summer.
It will be difficult. Certainly Saturday will be an impossible day in many places. Maybe you are lucky and it is still possible to do ride some snow mid-mountain in Andermatt or Zermatt, but that will be a huge gamble. The same applies to the lifts in the Austrian glacier regions.
Your best chances are on Sunday where you have to take a lot of wind-drifted snow into account in and north of the main alpine ridge and still poor visibility and more and more rain south of it.
The current turns to the west from Monday and this means snow and rain for the French Alps and the west of Switzerland certainly until the end of next week. The snow line fluctuates continuously with peaks around 2200 meters and lows around 1300 meters. Especially in the high alpine of the French Alps you can expect a nice layer of snow. If we then look at the weekend of the 30th November, there is a chance of a northern Stau. Very far away, very uncertain, but it would be the first of this season.
It is as if King Winter has been waiting for us. For the last two years, Arjen and I, along with a team of designers, editors and not to mention all our friends in the Alps, have worked endlessly on the ultimate freeride guide book: wePowder Guide the Alps. The last two months in particular were intense, working on that last bits. The presses will be running soon and the aim is to ensure that if you order now you'll receive your guide before Christmas. You can read all about our new book here. The guide is available in a limited edition and only the guides from the pre-order (€ 40,00 instead of € 45,00) are exclusively numbered. Order it now and make sure that you don't miss out!
Stay stoked, Morris