Sun in the West, storm winds and snow in the East

By meteomorris on 3 January 2020 · 13

May the powder be with you in 2020! A new year has started with new opportunities. Take your time and don't powder panic too much. It is only the beginning of January and the feeride season will last for a good four months in which you will certainly score some deep powder. If that doesn't work now, then probably later in the season. The chance to score epic conditions in the Alps in the coming week is low. High pressure is continuously nearby and only allows occasional snow clouds to move in. Like for example coming weekend when snow and wind are on the program for the north of Austria. Especially east of Innsbruck, this will bring some snow and a lot of wind. In this article:

  • Next weekend snow (and a lot of wind) for the northeast
  • This weekend: touring in the west, some powder in the east
  • Coming period high pressure dominant

Next weekend snow (and a lot of wind) for the northeast

Between an immense high-pressure area above the Atlantic Ocean, that has been and will providing excellent surf for days on the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal, and on the other side a storm depression over Scandinavia, a strong northern current is set in motion. Between Friday and Sunday this may result in 5-20, and very locally 30 cm fresh snow on the northern side of the Alps.

The sweetspot of the precipitation is located somewhere around the Dachstein and the Totes Gebirge on the border between Salzburg, Styria and Upper and Lower Austria. The northeast of the Alps in short. At the same time, these snow falls are accompanied by very strong winds above the tree line with speeds that can reach 100 km/h during gusts. Since the fresh snow will fall on an old snow layer of December the 29th and the snowfall is accompanied by strong winds, the avalanche danger will go up above tree line.

With conditions like there tree runs are normally the answer. But in this part of Austria there is less snow below the tree line than usual for the time of year, which means that the possibilities are limited. Nevertheless, on the border between Salzburg, Steiermark and Ober- and Niederösterreich it will be possible to ride some fresh powder, but it is not enough for PA#7. The mix of wind, windslabs and little snow between the trees makes me keep my money in my pocket for better times. But who really wants to go should definitely go.

An alternative to the storm conditions in the East is ski touring and split boarding in the western Alps. Under the influence of high pressure it sunny overthere and the wind is relatively mild. Whoever is willing to go on a tour will certainly find some untracked powder.

This weekend: touring in the west, some powder in the east

Who wants to ride powder this weekend has two choices:

  • sun and tours in the western Alps
  • wind and fresh snow between the trees in the northeast, think of areas such as Tauplitz, Planneralm, Fieberbrunn and Zauchensee.

Upcoming 7-10 days: high pressure dominant

The high pressure area that will ensure good weather in the western Alps this weekend will remain in the vicinity of the Alps for the next 7 to 10 days. This makes it extremely difficult for storm depressions to move into the Alps. The jet stream that is responsible for most of the snow in the Alps is guided around the Alps with a large arc. Take a look at this animation.

Tuesday/Wednesday the jet stream finds its way to the Alps again with some snow for the north side, but otherwise it is the high pressure that is in charge. For snow we have to look at other parts of the world. With high pressure in the Alps we often see snow in Scandinavia, Georgia and the northwest of North America. This is no different in the coming week with a lot of snow on the program for the west of Canada and the northwest of the US.

Ride hard, but ride smart this weekend! The season is still long.

Stay stoked, Morris


  • Phlo
    Phlo op 3 January 2020 · 09:22
    that jetstream animation says it all......sad but the moment at least
  • mtench
    mtench op 3 January 2020 · 13:28
    On the plus side, whilst hanging out in the western Alps at the moment, I am going to Georgia at the end of January, so finally I can be happy at the current snow conditions here...
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 3 January 2020 · 15:42

    The Arctic Oscillation (polar vortex) shows very positive figures until at least the 16th, the NAO is postive/neutral as well. For anyone that’s interested it’s a very general way of knowing if the jet-stream heads towards central Europe or not, here’s the link to follow the indexes...

    Generally neutral or negative indexes readings favour turbulent weather over the Alps.

  • Skeeze
    Skeeze op 3 January 2020 · 18:05
    Thank you for the update, Morris. Do you or anyone else have an opinion of whether Fieberbrunn or Obertauern will be better? It seems Obertauern has a better base but Fieberbrunn has better terrain (the question being whether there is sufficient coverage to make use of that terrain).
  • gdkp
    gdkp op 3 January 2020 · 21:12
    Don't say the 'Z' word... ;P
  • rich_a_potter
    rich_a_potter op 4 January 2020 · 11:33
    hi @Thomasweller I'm interested in this polar vortex stuff - is it currently causing the high pressure then and the mild windy weather here in the uk? I guess from what you've put we wont see cold stormy weather for the alps until mid - late Jan ? Also with all the warmer air which in theory holds more moisture - where is that moisture going ? Sorry for all the questions lol !
  • 8611
    8611 op 4 January 2020 · 13:04
    Thank you for the update, Morris. Do you or anyone else have an opinion of whether Fieberbrunn or Obertauern will be better? It seems Obertauern has a better base but Fieberbrunn has better terrain (the question being whether there is sufficient coverage to make use of that terrain). Skeeze op 3 Jan 2020 18:05

    I'm in fieberbrunn now, cover is ok but not great, everything looks white. No one skiing off piste and guides say they haven't done much off piste this year. I haven't been in the trees yet. Piste depths 70 cm / 30cm. Definitively needs more powder. I think the 20 - 30 cm in forecast would make a difference but probably needs more again and that much might not fall or might get blown away. It is snowing very lightly all day, picking up now. You will most likely hit today's heavy base tomorrow. But I suspect it is the same in other places. As morris says conditions are marginal but maybe we will get lucky.
  • thomasweller
    thomasweller op 4 January 2020 · 16:57
    So, I’m just a ‘hobby’ meteorologist and Morris is definitely better prepared to answer this than I am. That said, I’ve been organizing trips for Canadians to the Alps for some time now and taken up studying weather patterns just cuz, well, it’s kinda cool! You’d be surprised still at how little is known and how little different climate agencies ‘speak’ with each other, there seems to be a lot of protectionism with info (let alone still climate-change naysayers out there 🙄).

    So, ocean temperatures and their locations are mostly responsible for the different pressure zones.
    Their is too much detail to go into now because everything creates a constant chain-reaction but the NAO and AO are what most directly affects us in Europe (well, the NAO also the eastern N.America too) and the AO affects all the North latitudes around the globe.

    If it interests you, what you need to look at are the causes behind the states of these two climate influencers, ie, ocean temperatures, autumn snow cover, Artic-ice coverage, ‘El Niño/LaNiña’ etc...and once you get those data sets you combine them to your best ability, add your own ‘gut-feeling’ which does help going on past history, mix it all into the discombobulator and get your best estimate (around 20% accurate 🤣) outcome! Supercomputers are supposed to do this but still don’t have the gut-feeling part down and often there are big differences (although of late the European model ECMWF seems to be most accurate).

    Ok, I’m rambling...I’ve been pretty good in the last 8 years picking the holiday spots going on all this data because of course N.Americans need to book ahead. If it interests you I can send you links to the sources I go to, in the very least it’s fascinating stuff and there is new data always coming out. And since climate change is the most existential issue for humans right now, it might be good to know what’s driving it. Suffice to say, if we don’t do something soon, we are looking at a whole new planet by probably our grandkids time...T.
  • Muehlbach
    Muehlbach op 5 January 2020 · 01:40
    At least some snow for Brauneck then... had two very lucky weekends there in January 2018 and 2019... looking to head there again in two weeks!
    "Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads." - - - "There is no skiing without apres-ski. Fairly futile exercise if not followed by getting hammered in a bar."
  • 8611
    8611 op 5 January 2020 · 20:51
    No problems with the base in fieberbrunn or saalbach today, barely touched the bottom layer. Some wind crust in places. Very good conditions thank you again Morris for the suggestion.
  • rich_a_potter
    rich_a_potter op 6 January 2020 · 08:22
    @thomasweller wow thanks for the reply yes I'm interested (drive's my girlfriend nuts lol ) frustrating that climate agencies are not sharing data at this critical time with so many climate driven emergencies around the world .. I am very concerned about climate change ! The more info we can get out there the better 😃
  • gdkp
    gdkp op 6 January 2020 · 12:01
    Fieberbrunn was stellar yesterday. There are a few special zones that will be holding for a while to come.
  • 8611
    8611 op 6 January 2020 · 20:58
    Yes still soft today and lots of cold powder if you hike


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