Anyone who wants to chase powder in the Alps this January 2020 must have a strong heart and a lot of patience. After an almost endless dry spell a storm finally pops on the radar and even then your patience is tested to the maximum. For the fifth day in a row, the models come with an adjustment to their calculations and again the sweet spots with the most forecasted precipitation has moved to another part of the Alps. In this article:
In large parts of the European mountains it is too mild and certainly the lower and middle range mountains suffer from a huge lack of snow. We have been dealing with a mild southwestern airflow for weeks. Since the low-pressure areas currently circle mianly around the North Pole, high-pressure areas hold their grip on central Europe. [December was way too mild](https://www.meteoschweiz.admin.ch/home/aktuell/meteoschweiz-blog.subpage.html/de/data/blogs/2019/12/klima-monat-dezember.html ) in the Alps and January is on course to be also way too mild. Today is no different with temperatures that are locally 10 degrees above the long-term average. (source)
And for those who think that this 'heat wave' is only affecting Europe is wrong. The entire Northern Hemisphere is today 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than normal. (source).
With such mild temperatures, snow cannons in the lower mountain ranges of Europe are not able to produce artificial snow. In Gerardmer in the Vosges, the piste bullies are waiting for better times.
If we did'n had the snowy SNOWvember month in the Alps, the situation might have been dramatic. The current situation is strongly reminiscent of the start of winter 2015. A strong Polar Vortex then also dominated the weather in central Europe, which came to an end after almost 2 months. So the storm that managed to slip through the band of high pressure this weekend may be small in size but the snow she brings is more than welcome and who knows it may be the prelude to a colder or at least cooler period for the Alps.
Below is a brief summary of yesterday. If you scroll directly down, you can read what has changed compared to yesterday.
THE TEXT BELOW THE LINE IS A COPY OF YESTERDAY's - JUMP DOWN TO THE NEXT STRIP FOR THE (GOOD) NEWS
It is clear that a storm is tracking towards the Alps. But the details vary continuously. It is not without reason that I am reluctant to launch a powder alert and wait until all details are clear and that has three reasons:
very high risk of storm slabs (= avalanches)
Which doesn't mean that you can ride powder this weekend and the days after. But choosing your destination too fast can result in dust on crust. Which would be a shame.
The jet stream is the engine behind the snow this weekend, but it staggers above the Alps and loses its power there. That makes it difficult for me and for the models. The most logical forecast would be a front that goes into the Alps on Friday from the west. First of all, the current is southwest, which immediately turns to northwest when the cold sector is moving in. Most snow then in the northwest of the Alps. At the same time, a Genoa storm will be created south of the Alps. Which means that the upper air flow will turn from southwest to northwest to northeast to east. This Genua storm in particular makes it incredibly complex. We are now at least 96 hours before this event will take place and therefore it is wise to hold your horses Yes, it is going to snow in the Alps and yes there are significant amounts of snow in the air. But where exactly how much? I'll come back on this later. For the time being, I assume 20-40 cm in the northwest and north, with possibly significant higher accumulations in the western and southern Piedmont.
Then there is this second problem. In the best case there will be 20-40 cm of fresh snow and maybe even more in the Piedmont. But the storm for the Piedmont is expected to arrive Sunday-Monday and that is just too late for many because Monday will be the start of another working week. Then move to the north and northwest? The quantities and exact locations are not yet certain and in this case the what I call: cold on old snow plays a major role. The cold snow that will fall on Saturday will fall on an old, often hard and wind battered snow layer. In such a case you need at least 25 to 40 cm of fresh snow to make sure that you track your lines without hitting the old snow layer. So only the sweetspots that will get the biggest accumulations will get enough fresh snow to make it deep enough.
Conclusion: it can still go either way. That a storm will follow, that it will be colder and that snow will follow, can now be said with certainty. But where you want to be when the upcoming storm is far from saying. In short, hold your horses. And again when the snow starts falling, a warning is in place:
Fresh snow is on its and this will surely cause a lot of powder pabic. But fresh snow on an old snow layer also guarantees problems. In case of new snow, take a rapidly rising avalanche danger into account. Especially storm slabs will be a problem. To prepare yourself already, it might be a good idea to refresh your knowledge with our Mountain Academy.
BELOW THE NEWS BEGINS ...
So far a copy of yesterday. What has changed?
This event might take place in the pre-Alps of the Northern Alps Central and the pre-Alps of the Northern Alps East in terms of your wePowder Guide.
A further update tomorrow. But it seems that you have to be in the pre-Alps of the northern Alps east on Sunday-Monday.
Last but not least, I want to ask you to read and where possible support Erik Bulckens' dream. Erik Bulckens is a cinematographer, documentary maker and powder fanatic. Thanks to wePowder, he has been scoring powder for years. His dream is to make a movie documentary about the people behind wePowder. For that, Erik needs your help. You can read all about it here: read here. Do you help Erik make his dream come true? Thank you very much for your help!