PA#3: HIGH avalanche danger in the west

By meteomorris on 13 December 2019 · 14

After a sunny Thursday follows a snowy and windy Friday. Massive accumulations are expected in the French Alps and western Switzerland. The result is that the avalanche hazard goes up to HIGH. On Saturday, milder air flows from the west into the Alps, followed by a week in which southern winds dominate. In this article:

  • Thursday was a powder day
  • A lot of snow on Friday and Saturday
  • HIGH avalanche hazard in the west
  • Rapidly warmer from Saturday to Sunday

Thursday was a powder day

Until Thursday morning, 10-30 centimeters of powder fell in the northwestern Alps. The sun came through with cool temperatures. A great day to ride some powder. Because the lifts are not yet running everywhere, getting up the groomed slopes on a split board or a set of touring skis was easy with a lovely descent in powder as a reward. Arno earned his turns at le Grand Massif.

A lot of snow on Friday and Saturday

But that beautiful Thursday quickly came to an end. A complex system full of active storms is moving towards the Alps. As a result this sends first of all very cold and as of Saturday morning mild air into the Alps. Both the cold and warm fronts push a lot, and I mean a lot of snow to the northwest. With a snowline dropping on Friday towards valley level and going up rapidly towards 1400 or even 1800 meters in the west on Saturday the conditions will be critical. Especially on Saturday.

In detail, it looks something like this:

  • Friday: a cold front enters the Alps from the northwest. This results in very intense snowfall. Up to and including Friday evening, about 30-70 cm is expected in the French Northern Alps, the west and northwest of the French Hautes Alpes and the west of Switzerland. Locally this can even be 100 cm or more. But when you travel further east, the amounts will rapidly decrease. Except of the Alpe Adria where 10-30 cm of fresh snows is expected on the border of Italy, Slovenia and Carinthia.

Sneeuwval tot en met vrijdagavond
Sneeuwval tot en met vrijdagavond

Rapidly falling temperatures, huge amounts of snow that and strong wind above the tree line causes the avalanche danger to rise quickly. The best powder is to be found in those areas where there are 1. trees and 2. there is enough base between the trees. Friday is a treerun day in the western Alps and it could be very deep.

  • Saturday marks the transition to milder weather. It will be a strange day with bizarre differences in the Alps. From the southwest mild air moves into the western Alps. In the night to Saturday, this already leads to an increase in air temperature in the French Alps. The snow line then starts to rise towards the 1500 and later even 1800 meters. At the same time, the north side of the Alps is still in colder air. With a north-westerly current, a cold front touches the northern side of the Alps so that in particular the east of Switzerland and the north of Austria will still see colder temperatures during the very early hours of the morning, but there too the snow line eventually rises

HIGH avalanche danger in the west

The milder weather moving in will have consequences for the stability of the snow cover. Lots of fresh snow on Friday, lots of wind and rising temperatures. That will caise produce avalanches. Be aware that the avalanche hazard in large parts of the western Alps will go up to HIGH on Friday and Saturday. Therefore, read your local avalanche message carefully and adjust your plans accordingly.

PA#3 where to go?

Storm, sometimes sun, lots of snow and rising temperatures at the end. Visibility and avalanche danger are serious issues, but you can still score som really nice powder in the coming days:

  • Saturday: lots of snow and rising temperatures from the west, a difficult day. Best conditions probably in the Alpe Adria
  • Sunday: it gets milder quickly, but humidity drops. Best conditions well above the tree line everywhere in the areas from Alpe d'Huez towards the Arlberg. In short, the entire northwest.

A white Christmas for the Northern Alps?

Next week will be pretty mild in the Northern Alps. The upper airflow turns south with a strong föhn as a result for the Northern Alps. On the north side it is mild with temperatures that can go up towards +10 degrees celcius at 1500 meters. Just right after they had a dusting og snow. It might be clear that this will have consequences for the snowpack at lower elevations. The satelilte image below shows that the Alps are already pretty white, but that the lower regions of Tyrol, the Salzburgerland and Styria in particular are still in need of some extra snow.

But with a week with a strong southern Föhn in the forecast means that this snow cover becomes even thinner. Until December 21st no model calculates snow for this part of the Alps. Only just before Christmas there might be some snow in the forecast. No, the coming week is all about the Southern Alps.

PA # 4 for the southern Alps?

Föhn in the North often means snow for the South. The strong Southern airflow ensures that clouds will be pushed on the south side of the Alps. Therefor during the upcoming week it will snow regularly over 1500-2000 meters. Especially the areas south of the Gotthard and in the Piedmont are going to see a lot of snow.

The book has landed

The ultimate freeride guide has just been rleased: wePowder The Alps . More than 120+ destinations , 408 pages thick and almost 2 kilos heavy. In recent days, a huge team has helped us (thanks to everyone who helped us!) to pack the books and prepare the shipments. The first books have already been delivered and more and more people will receive their book in the coming days.

The pre-order phase has come to an end but the book can still be ordered and I can assure you that the book is worth every penny/euro etc. More info about this book can be found here, you can order directly here.

Stay stoked Morris


  • Dovydas
    Dovydas op 13 December 2019 · 12:15
    Hey Morris, thanks again for great insights. Just wondering if it's still too early to book a hotel for 19-24 of December trip? What would be a safe choice? And I mean not only a lot of powder, but a safe riding as well - good base in tree lines, etc. We fly to Milan and are free to drive anywhere so far.
    Never miss a powder day!
  • caluchko
    caluchko op 13 December 2019 · 13:05
    For tomorrow (Saturday), Chamonix or Verber a better choice? Or somewhere else withing 1.5 hrs of Geneva?
  • meteomorris
    meteomorris op 13 December 2019 · 13:11
    @caluchko Courmayeur could be better.
    @Dovydas Southern side has the best potential at the moment. But I would wait a few days with booking.
    May the powder be with you.
  • funrise2000
    funrise2000 op 13 December 2019 · 13:22
    Never fly for skiing! No bad conscience?
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 13 December 2019 · 21:34

    Sauze d’Oulx...40+cm, best Friday the 13th EVER! Thanks to superb local guide Marco Eydallin for such an incredible day in the trees!! So underrated this resort!
  • Christoph Krake
    Christoph Krake op 14 December 2019 · 00:09
    What kind of community is this? Waiting for snow while blowing tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and spreading pfcs all over the mountains!?

    It's incredibly ridiculous... guys like you make me lose hope in my own species 😞

    You leave nothing but chaos when leaving this planet!
  • numi67
    numi67 op 14 December 2019 · 10:43
    I understand your environmental concerns about the freeride community, but from my experience, freeriders in general are very environmental conscious these days and trying their best to reduce their carbon emissions as well as fluorocarbons releases, as many manufactures of outer wear are reducing the use pfcs in their clothing, as it is also strictly regulated by the EU. For instance a swedish manufacturers line of clothing is 88 % fluorocarbon free.

    Being in outdoors and witnessing in forehand changes in glaciers, snowpacks in general and overall temperature changes in the Alps regions, helps you understand the impact our modern lifestyle in general is leading us to. At the same time, it is an eyeopener and message for all of us to do our share in protecting our planet. That's why organization like Protect Our Winters are getting more support from individual riders as well as industries manufacturers.

    There is lots to do and I believe free ride community as well as any outdoor activity community is getting more and more environmental in their actions. For it's in our own interest to protect the winters, otherwise our community will no longer be active.
    *message edited by numi67 op 14 Dec 2019 11:21
  • Jesper.arnwald
    Jesper.arnwald op 14 December 2019 · 12:43
    Hi Morris!
    I love your reports they are amazing! How often do you update?
  • elecas
    elecas op 14 December 2019 · 23:43
    What kind of community is this? Waiting for snow while blowing tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and spreading pfcs all over the mountains!?

    It's incredibly ridiculous... guys like you make me lose hope in my own species 😞

    You leave nothing but chaos when leaving this planet!Christoph Krake op 14 Dec 2019 00:09

    Never fly for skiing! No bad conscience?
    funrise2000 op 13 Dec 2019 13:22

    I honestly think that you are right about the environment problem but that's absolutely not the way to fix the things. If you pretend to change the world insulting and accusing people, you won't get anything at all but being ignored.
    To influence people you need to convince them, not insult them... And anything that you said there will convince anybody.

    Anyway if you are interested in talking about ideas and possibilities about skiing and environment I made a post to discuss RESPECTFULLY about that. Maybe you can inspire someone to change its habits.
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 15 December 2019 · 02:33
    Ooops, I hit ‘send’ a couple of times too much!
    *message edited by thomasweller op 15 Dec 2019 02:37 (100% bewerkt)
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 15 December 2019 · 02:33
    There is a time when getting in someone’s face is not necessarily a bad thing, to shake up their way of thinking, to snap them into being more conscious so I can appreciate what @funrise2000 and @Christoph Krake are trying to do here and I can take a shot and not get bothered cuz I can see the bigger picture.


    This site is for similar minded people united for the love of the mountains through freeriding, folks already allies in the climate change fight. I’d say given the choice that 99% of us would choose the smallest carbon footprint possible whenever the choice is given. But I can’t take the train from Málaga every time I travel to the Alps, it’s just not feasible, (we do, however, when traveling to the Pyranees case in point).

    I could go on but I agree EXACTLY like @elecas has said and done. New forum open to discuss the topic in a proper manner to engage you and NOT to turn you away but props to the other two, they forced the conversation, now...time to be grown-up about it, you got our attention.

    And now, back to our regular program...
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 15 December 2019 · 02:33

    *message edited by thomasweller op 15 Dec 2019 02:36 (100% bewerkt)
  • rich_a_potter
    rich_a_potter op 16 December 2019 · 10:18
    @elecas well said. no-one got anywhere shouting abuse at people. We need to grow up and we need to work hard to fight climate change but accusing people who like to enjoy the mountains is a ridiculous strategy. We must try harder though and unite to fix the problem.
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 16 December 2019 · 20:07
    Loving the guide guys, excellent work! So love the detailed info on the weather systems, you can be proud of your accomplishment. I know all of us have been waiting a long time
    for a book like this! 🤙


You need to be logged in to post a comment in this topic. Login or create an account.

Upgrade to wepowder Pro

  • Extended 14 day forecast
  • Slope angle and exposition terrain layers
  • Inspirational freeride routes
wePowder Pro