Wax on! This is going to be one hell of a ride. High winds, the temperature will drop 15-20 degrees, lots of snow and three days of crazy weather. But the reward will be waiting for you: the first powder turns of winter 14/15. No, it's not going to be epic and yes, there are several warnings. Check out this text from my previous forecasts: 'This is going to be the first dump for the northern Alps, there's no such thing as a base and even on the glaciers there isn't much snow. This front will pass rapidly, with lots of wind and a fast incoming high pressure area'. This is going to be an alert for the die-hards, the usual suspects and for those who don't suffer from the crisis in a financial way and still can head to the Alps after this PowderAlert to enjoy a long winter. Stoke in a nutshell that we all like to see.
And I concluded: 'If you need a fix, you'll have to be fast. I'll update you tomorrow with some tips where to go. But you don't have to leave earlier than Wednesday to enjoy the freshies.' So, send me some powder pics, share them on the PowderQuest app or here on the forum!
Allright, back to the weather. Former hurricane Gonzalo is sending cold arctic air down south. This is causing lots of wind (check out the isobaric lines at the Alps) and will result in lots of freshies. Let's have a look at the wind first.
Gusts up to 130 km/h and maybe more are to be expected on the highest peaks in the Alps. You can expect the lifts on the glaciers to be closed on Wednesday and Thursday. For Wednesday and Thursday there is a force 11 in the forecast. Especially in the main alpine ridge, to the south and the French Rhone Valley (where the mistral is blowing) the wind will kick in hard. More information with this link and the map below for Thursday, that says it all.
The biggest problem with such wind speeds is that the snow literally is like a a plaything of the wind and can fall anywhere. Based on the amount of precipitation to expect we can expect a lot of snow, but the wind and orography (the design of the terrain) will ultimately determine where most of the snow will fall, or better: where the snow will be transported to. And when force 11 is that is impossible to tell.
This is what we can tell about wind speeds and how they influence the snow:
* Gale (9-10 bft, 75-100 km / h) Walking against the wind is difficult and sometimes very difficult, and snow is moved to all faces of the mountain because of turbulence and swirls. (Top)lifts are closed. The wind is gusty and works on the nerves, it breaks branches from trees and creates drift snow everywhere. Mighty amounts of drift snow arise on the lee side of the mountain. Even at -5 degrees and colder, there is the danger of frostbite. Good clothing that protects against the wind is a requirement.
* Hurricane winds (> 11 bft,> 100km / h) Hurricane winds occur in the mountains during storms from west to northwest and are called Föhnstorms. Walking is severely hampered and the wind can smack you to the ground. Buildings suffer damage, complete trees burst, drift snow is found in all expositions and at all altitudes. Wind speeds up to 150 km / h are no exception.
But as I wrote yesterday: Anyway, a dump like this is great for the stoke and especially those first powder turns on the glaciers in Austria. Some glaciers have a valley run where you ride on grass and a few rocks. 30-50 centimeters of freshies is enough for those runs to give you a powder feeling. Especially because there usually is less wind in the valleys during a northern stau. But don't bring your new skis or snowboard on these days. Because you definitely will hit something. Stay on the marked slopes as well. When you leave the marked slopes on glaciers....well, you probably know the risks.
First snow today
A front is on its way to the Alps at the moment and this first front is focussing on the Swiss main alpine ridge and the Austrian region of Vorarlberg. Check it out at the map below. The snow line will drop to around 1200 meters in the west and 900 meters in the east during the evening.
Wednesday and Thursday: lots of snow
The front line is moving east after today. You can expect lots of snow east of Innsbruck. The snow line might even drop to 700 meters and huge amount of snow might come down in Austria. The sun will come out on Friday and after 60 hours of northern Stau we can finally tell what the results are. It will look pretty white!Aaah, red. Our favourite colour
Where to go?
Snow is scarce on all the glaciers at the moment and the heavy winds don't give them an advantage. But all other areas are still closed, so for the moment Hintertux, Kaprun, Kaunertal, Stubai and Sölden are the ones to watch. Which one you should choose? I would say: don't leave till Thursday(night) and I'll send you some updates during that day, so you can choose with more relevant information.