PA#1: second wave of snow, where to go?

PA#1: second wave of snow, where to go?
Fantastic conditions in Avoriaz (
Fantastic conditions in Avoriaz (

The first wave of snow of PA#1 has fallen. What a dump in the Western Alps! In the French and Swiss stau areas, 50 to 80 centimetres of snow has fallen, and there’s a lot more to come. The Pyrenees are also in the middle of an extreme snowfall event. Please note that the avalanche danger is very high at the moment due to the large amounts of snow! In the French Alps locally avalanche danger 5!

Loads of snow

Do we still remember the map with the relative snow amounts in Switzerland from two weeks ago? In the meantime, at an altitude of 2500 metres, we have the opposite situation and there is an incredible amount of snow. There is much more (with the exception of the Inner Alpine regions and Ticino) than the average value of the 30-year reference period 1991-2020.

In Austria (with the exception of Vorarlberg), the amounts of snow from the past snowfall were significantly less with about 10 to 30 centimetres at the most, but today there will be some more snow here. The Southern Alps also received a nice layer, on a large scale 20 to 30 (locally 40) centimetres. Even down to the lowest valleys!

More than 60 centimetres freshly measured in Beaufortin (meteofrance)
More than 60 centimetres freshly measured in Beaufortin (meteofrance)

High avalanche danger!

Time for some live images, but before the stoke gets too high, I’d like to mention that this week’s snowfall has brought, in addition to large amounts of snow, a high avalanche risk! In large parts of France and Switzerland and the west of Austria we are now dealing with avalanche danger 4 higher up with risks of spontaneous avalanches and persistent Triebschnee & Altschnee problems. Inform yourself, check the avalanche reports and wait a bit before going higher up, especially since another wave of snow is already arriving tomorrow. Stay far away from steep terrain, because avalanches can be remotely triggered.

Live images

It is deep in La Clusaz, also note the wind marks in the snow (
Tons of snow in the village of Val Thorens (FB Val Thorens)
Engelberg Trübsee (
Braunwald (
Snow all the way down to Bozen in the Southern Alps (

Large snow amounts in the Pyrenees

As expected, the Pyrenees have also received a lot of snow. Yesterday, the tables on the terrace in the area of Cauterets were still free of snow, meanwhile there is about 40 centimetres of fresh snow. In the coming days, it’s going to get really crazy here. A stormy wind in combination with an incredible amount of precipitation awaits, but tonight a generous portion of mild air is brought in, which means that the snowline can also climb to 2000 metres. With amounts of 150 to 250 millimetres of precipitation for areas in the line of fire, this could lead to huge amounts of snow, but also possibly flooding in the lower-lying areas. After the weekend, the long winter period will come to an end and high pressure and milder weather will take over.

Another load of snow in Cauterets over night (
A completely snow-covered Col du Portalet (
Again snow from the west (, DWD)

Next front with snowfall approaches

In the Alps, it clears up from the west in the course of the day, but right behind it comes a new precipitation front. An elongated occlusion front of a depression over the North Sea will again bring snow from the west. In the course of tomorrow, the wind will turn to the northwest, which means that the stau regions in Switzerland and Vorarlberg will also benefit optimally from this precipitation. Of course, this is where most of the snow will fall. How much? Again, there might be half a meter of snow on a large scale. Especially in the northern French Alps, I don’t exclude some local outliers. The snow line will stay pretty low between the lowest valleys and about 800 meters.

The southern Alps will stay in the lee of the precipitation this time, but it will most likely stay cloudy all day tomorrow. While Austria still has to deal with snow showers on Saturday, it opens up in the Western and Southern Alps. The huge amounts of snow in combination with the breakthrough sun will be very tempting, but be careful! Tomorrow’s snowfall will also be accompanied by powerful winds higher up, with gusts of over 100 kilometres per hour. Triebschnee therefore remains a danger. On Sunday, some thin high clouds will pass over the Alps from west to east and the Northern Alps will also have to deal with receding clouds during the day, a signal that the warm front is approaching.

Upcoming snowfall
Upcoming snowfall

Where to go?

  • Western Alps: with the snowfall still to come, it is worth choosing the western lower areas. Don’t go too high up until the tricky avalanche danger has settled down. La Clusaz opens this weekend for example the three sectors Balme, Aiguille and Beauregard, as well as Le Grand Bornand, the different subareas of Le Grand Massif, Portes du Soleil (Avoriaz), Chamrousse and 7 Laux. Better stay on the slopes or at least in terrain well below 30 degrees and far away from steep terrain.

  • Switzerland: Quite tricky up here too, so look for it a bit lower down in for example Gstaad, Adelboden-Lenk or even further east. Further east you have less chance of sun during the weekend.

  • Carnic Alps/Karawanken: The fact that it snowed so much in the Western Alps does not mean that it is bad in the completely opposite site of the Alps. On the contrary, this region has also received quite a bit of snow recently. Ski resorts like Nassfeld open this weekend. On top of a substantial base, it has snowed another 30 to locally 40 centimetres. Especially on Saturday it will be also nice and sunny.

You will find many more tips in the wePowder Guide.

Nassfeld (
Increasing high-pressure influence over the Alps (, DWD)

Dryer and warmer afterwards?

A warm front will pass over the Alps on Sunday evening, bringing some snow with a rising snowline from Central Switzerland to the Eastern Alps. After the weekend, the jet stream will move to the north, which means that the Alps will enter a calmer phase and will not have to expect any large snow dumps. The weather will be dominated by a high-pressure area just west of the Alps. The Western Alps will have to deal with higher temperatures and will keep it dry. The Pyrenees, too, seem to be completely dry until the end of next week. Austria is already more on the eastern flank of the high-pressure area and may, for example, at the tilting of this high-pressure area still occasionally receive a northern flow with a portion of cold and some precipitation. More info tomorrow on developments after the weekend.

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rich_a_potterAuthor10 December 2021 · 10:22

Amazing pictures with brilliant info, please ignore my ignorance but could you explain what Triebschnee & Altschnee are, thank you!

rich_a_potterAuthor10 December 2021 · 10:22

Amazing pictures with brilliant info, please ignore my ignorance but could you explain what Triebschnee & Altschnee are, thank you!

HenriAuthor10 December 2021 · 11:27

@@rich_a_potter I’ll include the English translation from now on, sorry for that!
Triebschnee = wind slab
Altschnee = old snow

BezboyAuthor10 December 2021 · 14:21

cannot wait to get there in January!!

rich_a_potterAuthor11 December 2021 · 12:04

@@henri thank you ! I should do more on learning language :)

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