Great conditions in the northern Alps, first real snow for the southwest


Par meteomorris sur 21 janvier 2019 · 0

After a northern Stau of more than two weeks, the snow machine in the northern Alps has been switched off (for now). Not that this immediately ends PowderAlert #9 for the northern Alps. There is still more than enough powder of excellent quality to find. At the same time, a Genoa low appeared on the maps with snow for the southern Piedmont. A PowderAlert for the south? Keep on reading!

  • Genoa low on the maps
  • Snow cover thin and old in the southern Piedmont
  • Meanwhile it's ON in the northern Alps
  • The paradox of a lot of snow and a low avalanche danger
  • Avalanche situation France and west Switzerland still critical!
  • Where to go?

Genoa low on the maps

They are having a hard time on the south side of the Alps. Okay, when you like to ski or board on the slopes you can't complain, but if you like to ride powder than you're probably a bit jealous of Snowmagaddon in the northern Alps. Marco Bassot and friends packed their gear and drove towards Austria. In exchange for a lot of powder and stoke. You can of course wait until King Winter comes your way, but you can also just follow the powder. And from experience I know that this guarantees more powder. Beautiful images of Marco and friends:

But finally a Genoa low on the maps. A mix of cold air and moisture is pushed into the Po plane with a powerful eastern current. The result is a small snow bomb that is expected to detonate between Wednesday and Thursday. See below our snow map and the corresponding pressure map. For more details check our detailed forecast cards.

Do not immediately pack your gear and drive that way. A Genoa layer is rather dynamic in character. We are still more than 48 hours before the dump starts and the calculations can still be watered down. But more important is the fact that the current 'snow cover' dates from December 20 and older.

Snow cover thin and old in the southern Piedmont

Remember Snowvember? A huge pack of snow came dowen on the south side of the Alps, but mostly above 2000 meters. Unfortunately, most ski resorts in the southern Piedmont are not much higher than 2000 meters. The snow cover is now much thinner for the time of the year. And especially much thinner than last season.

The snow cover is thin, almost non-existent on southern faces and at the most 20-50 cm thick on northern faces. Without artificial snow machines a lot of slopes wouldn't even open.

Limone Piemonte
Limone Piemonte

Mondole ski
Mondole ski

In addition, the snow is old. There has been no significant snow in 4 weeks. There has been a strong wind from the north from time to time and bright nights and sunny days have done their job. In short, there is an ideal sliding layer when fresh snow falls on top of it. The southern Alps are dealing with early season conditions (thin snow cover, rocks etc.) in combination with an old snow cover where the fresh snow will have a very hard time to bond with. There will certainly be some freeride possible in the southern Piedmont from Friday, but ride very conservatively (as in not too steep).

Old snow in Argentera
Old snow in Argentera

Meanwhile it's ON in the northern Alps

There is a lot of snow in the northern Alps. The conditions in Austria (Carinthia and Osttirol excluded) and the east of Switzerland are epic. There are tree runs that are normally impossible to ride and higher up on the mountain it looks like Alaska. Check out the photo of Eva Walkner below: Alaska-like spines in the Salzburgerland.

The sun dominates in Austria and the east of Switzerland the rest of the week. It remains cold and the snow is of an excellent quality. Occasionally some clouds pour in and there are sometimes some flakes coming down, but it won't be much. It therefore stays ON for the whole week in the northern Alps. If you can choose between riding in the northern Alps or the southern Piedmont then I would definitely choose the northern Alps. The southern Piedmont actually needs a dump after this dump. Besides sun, a great base and low temperatures, the avalanche danger is very low in the northern Alps.

The paradox of a lot of snow and a low avalanche danger

I was pretty annoyed by the main stream media the last couple of weeks. Of course you had to be careful at the time of the immense snowfall, roads were closed and ski areas closed, but I call that inconvenience. On average, the risk for freeriders wasn't higher than the risk for 'normal' people. Whoever followed our advice and kept riding between the trees had a good time. Only the Sunday and Monday were critical (which we had already mentioned on wePowder).

But the seed is planted and on the social channels I see all kinds of comments from laymen that off-piste skiing or boarding is simply too dangerous. In itself perfect, because it keeps them on the slopes, but the story of the media is not true. I already expressed the expectation that the avalanche danger in Austria would drop quickly when the precipitation would stop on January 7th:

The advantage of such a large amount of snow is that it eventually becomes easier for the snow to settle. Once the snow mass has been consolidated, it could provide a very stable base layer for the rest of the season. (source)

Now we can conclude that that is actually happening. The avalanche danger is particularly low for the time of the year in Austria (Carinthia and Ost Tirol excluded) and eastern Switzerland. It's unprecedented. A super thick snow cover with a very low avalanche danger. This gives you the possibility to ride steep lines in this part of the Alps. If you like steep, this is the time to ride steep lines with guides who know the way. Lines are possible that have not been in this condition for 20 years.

But please note: no knowledge, don't go out by yourself. A low avalanche danger does not mean that nothing can happen at all. Off-piste is all about risk management. Either minimizing the risk in exchange for maximum stoke. Or as a friendly guide always says: 'a good freerider is an old freerider'.

Avalanche situation France and west Switzerland still critical!

The avalanche situation is still critical in France and the west of Switzerland. All the slopes are open, all lifts are running and the sun is shining. Exactly the moment when many people go off-piste. And that includes people without gear, without the knowledge, without an idea. Please don't go out alone, hire a guide if you want to ride off-piste!

It remained dry longer in the northwest of the Alps. It snowed heavily over there only last weekend. This snow came down on an old crystallized layer. The old and the new snow attach very hard and from the northwest there are still reports of avalanches that are triggered on the old snow layer. The number of fatalities is still limited, but as the dump is longer behind us, there will be a tendency to go steeper. Then take this old snow problem into account.

TIP: check out this article about the old snow problem in Switzerland and France

Where to go in the short term?

Monday and Tuesday are great days in the north of the Alps. There is room for the sun, it is cold and there's plenty of powder in the in the family areas. The can ride the best powder between the trees (but also above the tree line) in the coming days in:

If you continue to the west, you should definitely consider the old snow problem. Here you can not go that steep, but there is certainly untracked powder to be found in smaller family areas and for those who are willing to hike. It then concerns:

You could ride some powder (but with a lot of restrictions) from Thursday and Friday in:

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Stay stoked Morris


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