PA#9: when and where to go?

PA#9: when and where to go?

It is currently unprecedentedly mild in the Alps with a zero-degree level that is now around 2650 meters. Monday remains unprecedentedly mild until cold air collapses into the Alps in the night to Tuesday. The rain suddenly changes to snow and the snow line drops quickly. Powder Alert#9 will be in effect as from Tuesday. In this article:

  • Unprecedentedly mild
  • HIGH risk of avalanches
  • Cold air not that far away
  • Tuesday: the cold smoke blower pow machine will be running again
  • Where to go?

Unprecedentedly mild

As announced, today and Monday are incredibly mild in the Alps. The zero degree level has already passed the 2500 meter limit and locally it is already raining up to 2400 meters. The hotspot of the precipitation lies today in the French Northern Alps and Switzerland. Monday will remain mild and it will rain for a long time. The hotspot then lies in Austria and eastern Switzerland. Below you may find the current temperatures of the wetaer stations in Switzerland. Only inneralpine the zero degree level remains at around 2300 meters, but the question is how long this will last.

HIGH risk of avalanches

Rain, high humidity and high temperatures destabilize the snow cover and increase the risk of avalanches rapidly. In large parts of the northwestern Alps, the avalanche risk has already risen to HIGH and it will remain so for the next few hours. Not really the moment to venture into the backcountry. In a nutshell why it is so incredibly dangerous at the moment:

Cold air not far away

With all the rain It is almost impossible to imagine, but the cold air is not that far away from the Alps. At this moment the Alps lie in warm air that is pressed into the Alps with a southwestern current (the red arrows).

But further to the west is a very active cold front that is pushed to the south with a north-westerly current (the blue arrows). The Alps are still in warm air until Monday, but the world gets a completely different picture on Tuesday night.

Tuesday: the cold smoke blower pow machine will be running again

The difference between the mild air now and the cold air on Tuesday is around 15 to 20 degrees celcius. This will turn rain into snow on Tuesday. In the night from Monday to Tuesday, the cold smoke blower pow machine is switched on again and it will start to snow intensely. Powder is in the air!

On the border between the warm and cold air there is a lot of moisture. At first this is pushed north of the Alps on Monday and is then pushed against the Alps with a cold northern current. As a result the clouds on the northern side of the Alps will be trapped between the cold air moving in and the Alps. Which makes that every drop of moisture will squeezed out like a snowflake. The snow line that fluctuates between 2100 and 2400 meters on Monday will drop to around 400 meters on Tuesday and Wednesday. Winter ain’t over yet.

Between Monday evening and Wednesday evening, an average of 25-60 cm of snow will fall, but locally up to a meter is possible. The combination of ice-cold air and lots of moisture will surprise you! The snow cover will be immense, especially in the higher alpine, because it might be raining now lower down, above 2400 meters it is snowing now.

Where to go?

Tuesday will be a powder day in the northwest. It is snowing intensely and therefore trees are needed for some visibility. In terms of the wePowder Guide the Alps you must be in the following regions:

  • Western Alps central
  • Western Alps north
  • Northern Alps west

Aim for runs with trees and already check the current snowcover via the webcams. A tip: southern slopes below 2000 meters have often become somewhat thin, the other slopes are still good.

On Wednesday the snowfall will expand further to the east. In the western Alps it then slowly clears up, in the east it starts to snow intensely.

In terms of the wePowder Guide the Alps you have to be in the regions below on Wednesday and you can already get something above the tree line:

  • Western Alps central
  • Western Alps north
  • western areas of the Northern Alps west

In terms of the wePowder Guide the Alps you have to search for treeruns in the regions below on Wednesday:

  • Eastern areas of the Northern Alps west
  • Northern Alps central
  • Northern Alps east

As of Thursday the sun returns with sublime powder conditions in the above regions. Blue sky, fresh snow and sunny. But as usual this winter, it immediately becomes milder again.

Don’t get fooled!

After the rain on Sunday and Monday, the cooling will stabilize the snow cover so that the chance of acute large avalanches will quickly decrease. Avalanche hazard 4 will therefore slowly disappear out of the avalanche bulletins. But don’t get fooled. New snow on a raincrust with wind will still cause problems. Prepare well, check your local avalanche bulletin and adjust your plans accordingly.

Your Powfinder, Morris.



AdamSteklAuthor2 February 2020 · 19:54

Hello Morris,
Thanks for forecast!
We plan a backcountry touring trip from Thursday to Monday next week. I was looking at three locations, Hut near Disentis/Andermatt in 2300 m or Tuxer Alps -Hut at 2000 m or Totes Gebirge with hut at 1500 m ( great larch trees but little base). What do you think will be the best out of these three options. Thanks for opinion.

lukaŠkvarčAuthor4 February 2020 · 11:20

Hey Morris!
What about wind? I was checking the forecasts, it seems really strong, this could affect snow quality… What do you think about Mallnitz as a skitouring base for friday - saturday? I don’t wanna drive too far, coming from Slovenia…

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