Storm Ciara: hurricane force winds and (loads of) snow

Storm Ciara: hurricane force winds and (loads of) snow

Europe is dominated by storm Ciara. For large parts of northwestern and central Europe, weather warnings have been in effect since Sunday, and in many cases these are valid until Tuesday. Especially today and Tuesday the Alps will feek the forces of Ciara. In the north-western Alps wind gusts up to 200 km / h are expected above tree line. A lot of precipitation will fall locally. On Monday mostly in the form of rain below 1900-2400 meters, in the night to Tuesday and the Tuesday itself increasingly in the form of snow deeper into the valleys.

Because of the wind a lot of areas are (partly) locked today (Monday) and that will be no different on Tuesday. From Wednesday the wind will decrease somewhat and there is good powder to be found under the tree line in parts of the northwestern Alps. In this article:

  • Powder Alert #9 delivered
  • Snow pack thinner than normal
  • Monday rain, snow on Tuesday
  • Be aware: rain crust + wind + lots of snow = lots of storm slabs

Powder Alert #9 delivered

PowderAlert # 9 was really tasty. Okay, it was sometimes a search for slopes that were not blown bare, but I saw a lot of nice images passing by. Benjamin Engelmann sent me the following picture with the announcement that he is looking forward to #10.

Snow pack thinner than normal

Despite the snow in recent weeks, the Alps have a bad snow year. In large parts of the Alps, the snow pack is thinner than the long-term average and the storms of the past period have left their mark in the higher alpine.

November brought a lot of snow to the main alpine ridge and south of it. The higher alpine in particular saw a thick layer being built. But it was also mild. December was variable with wonderful snow just before Christmas and then rain again to higher elevations just a few days later. Early January we saw some snow n the far east, but after that it was mostly way too mild and even worse very, very dry. Also February is too mild for now, but luckily there is snow (and rain). The biggest problem is the jet stream that has been located almost continuously this winter north of the Alps, as a result of which cold polar air has never been able to reach out the Alps for a long time. After a flash cold, mild air immediately followed. This week is no different.

Monday rain, snow on Tuesday

The Alps are dealing with storm Ciara or Sabine, as this storm is called in the German-speaking world. It is a heavy storm that causes enormous wind speeds. In Switzerland a warning is given for gusts of wind up to 200 km / h. In addition, it is (here we go again) too mild. With a snow line that is initially around 1900-2500 meters there will (again) a rain crust be formed in the snow cover. It will take us into the night to Tuesday before colder air does reach the Alps. Luckily Tuesday morning it will snow deeper into the valleys.

Temperature at 1500 m. on Monday
Temperature at 1500 m. on Monday

Tuesday the cold air and sniw are back again. The cold air manages to squeeze a lot of snow out of the moist air so that on Tuesday a 15-30, locally 50 cm fresh snow can fall. The hot spot of precipitation seems to be the east of Switzerland and the west of Austria. This is where I do expect the biggest accumulations.

Snowforecast Tuesday
Snowforecast Tuesday

Be aware: rain crust + wind + lots of snow = lots of storm slabs

The rain of Monday will create a rain crust in the snow pack. At the same time, a wind with hurricane force will beat up the snow pack in the higher alpine. Last but not least there is significant snow in the forecast for Tuesday. Certainly the wind will cause considerable accumulations locally. Above the tree line it will therefore be very tricky. Especially when the sun comes through on Wednesday and you will be drawn quickly to the open lines.

Advice: treeruns on Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday and Thursday the sun might come through from time to time. But you will find the best snow in the trees. The wind has been less powerful here and the snow is therefore of a better quality. In the somewhat denser forests, the avalanche hazard will also be less marked. Either on Wednesday and Thursday you are best off with tree runs.

Where to go?

On Tuesday it gets colder and then most snow falls in the east of Switzerland and the west of Austria. It is this whit triangle where you will find the best and safest conditions among the trees. In the other areas you can also find tree runs, but less snow falls here so that you will feel the hard bottom layer more often. Above the tree line it immediately becomes a lot more critical. Check your local avalanche bulletin and adjust your plans accordingly.

Snow again on Thursday evening and Friday

Thursday will start milder and a new front is expected at the end of the day. The snow line will first be around 1500 meters and will drop towards 700-1000 meters during the course of Friday.

Snowforecast Thursday
Snowforecast Thursday
Snowforecast Friday
Snowforecast Friday

After the snowfall on Friday, the weekend will be way milder again. Like in really really mild under the influence of a strong southern air flow.

It seems that the pattern of rain-snow-one or two days a bit colder-and than rapidly warmer weather continues. At least this week.

Best days to ride powder are:

  • Wednesday: treeruns
  • Thursday: treeruns
  • Friday: treeruns
  • Saturday and Sunday: watch out for rapid warming up in the higher alpine

A new update will follow later this week. If you have any questions, ask them here or via my insta or facebook pages.

Your Powfinder, Morris



QuelleAuthor10 February 2020 · 23:12

Hey Morris,

thank you for the new update. We are probably gonna beheading towards the Arlberg area on Friday. However, I’m not quite acquainted with the tree skiing opportunities there. Can you or somebody else give advice on which resorts to choose for good treeruns?

Thanks a lot and best regards

mseymour74Author11 February 2020 · 15:10

Check out Piste to Powder guides in St. Anton. Do daily mixed-group guiding and have always been excellent in my 3-4 times skiing with them. Very cool set of guides, happy to both guide and coach too.

twpayneAuthor11 February 2020 · 15:33

Storm Ciara seems to have stripped Switzerland of much of its snow above the treeline. This is Engelberg Jochpass (2200m) for example:

Webcams from Verbier to Davos show similar scenes.

bamaAuthor11 February 2020 · 16:06
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