Off-Piste Snow and Weather 1st – 6 March 2019


For Savoie and Northern French Alps

‘Winter’ returns with snowfall & cooler temps.

The last 3 weeks have been very warm, dry and sunny. Many wet snow avalanches have occurred in the last week in the very warm temperatures. But we are expecting cold temperatures and considerable new snow every day next week from Monday. The whole of March looks like it will be colder with regular snowfall and some sunny breaks in between.

We’ve recently been enjoying all sorts of off-piste skiing conditions, from difficult crusty snow and hard windblown snow to nice ‘chalky’ grippy stuff, some cold ‘winter’ powder, and even smooth spring snow conditions on the sunnier slopes where the snow has started to transform.

Off Piste Snow & Weather
Not quite like this next week. Wayne Watson photo

However, this is all going to change with some stormy unsettled weather ahead. Looks like we may be receiving anything between 5 to 10 cm fresh snow above 1400 m on Friday, and possibly a lot more around Tuesday. We believe it’s going to get cooler too, at least down to seasonal norms. It won’t be like those bitterly cold temperatures of January. The situation isn’t clear, and we’ll be checking the forecasts every day for validation.

Fresh snow is always a good thing in terms of skiing quality, and we’re very excited for the days to come. However, once there has been 20 to 25cm of new snow, we need to be careful while the snow is falling and for the next 24 to 48 hours after the snow has fallen. We’ll be keeping a careful eye on the weather forecast and avalanche bulletins as and when any fresh snow falls. Things will become very unstable indeed if we receive 25cm + of new snow Be careful during the snowfall and for the next 24 to 48 hours after it. The more snow that falls, the bigger the size of the potential avalanche. In Henry’s words “the bigger the size of a slab avalanche, the badder it is”!

The cold temperatures will refreeze and stabilise the base of the snowpack and we can expect the new snow to become stable quite quickly. Recently the snowpack has become a lot more stable due to lack of fresh snow, daytime melting and overnight re-freezing (particularly at lower altitudes and on sun-exposed slopes), skier compaction and a bridge of compacted snow covering the old weak layer. That said, high shaded North facing slopes (above 2500 m or so) could revert to being unstable with any fresh snowfall, not having been stabilised by the same melting and subsequent refreezing as the warmer slopes.

Off-piste weather forecast for 28 Feb – 9 March

A cold depression is coming down from Ireland on the NE of the country by Frday morning, bringing us a little bad weather next night and tomorrow.
A small wave of cold air reaches Alps Saturday mid-day, bringing us more bad weather

THURSDAY 28
Widely sunny, a little less soft in the afternoon.
The late very high clouds are more numerous between late morning and mid-afternoon.
Some cloudy banks around 2000-2500 m arrive before dark.

Highest Temperatures (Slope South): 20 ° C in plain, 16 ° C to 1000 m, 9 ° C to 2000 m, 4 ° C to 3000 m.

THURSDAY NIGHT 28 TO FRIDAY 1
From the beginning of the night, a sea of ​​clouds below 2000-2500 m, coming from the Jura, spreads all over Savoy, rising locally up to 3000 m. Then it thickens a little, and gives small scattered showers after midnight.

Lowest temperatures (at the bottom of the valley): 3 ° C in plain, 0 ° C to 1000 m, -6 ° C to 2000 m, -13 ° C to 3000 m.

FRIDAY 1st
Little sun, definitely cooler.
A few clouds in the early morning. Then the cloud cover thickens further.
The small showers scattered in the early morning become gradually more generalized; they intensify a little on Beaufortain in the afternoon, then fade at the end of the day.

Partially starred night. The showers disappear at the beginning of the night, and the night sky gradually clears. After midnight, the very high clouds become larger and denser.

The snowflakes are lowering a little, around 1000 m, Above 1800 m, we often expect less than 5 cm in Haute Maurienne, more locally elsewhere, and up to 20 cm near Mont Blanc.

The strong wind from NW to WNW in very high mountains, still stormy in the morning above 3500 m, becomes less a little strong in the afternoon, runs at NNW to NW in the evening, and weakens more clearly at night.
0 ° C: 1300-1500 m during the day, 1500 then 1800 m at night.
-10 ° C: 3000 m during the day, 4200 then 3900 at night.

SATURDAY 2
A few cloudy residues in the morning then the sun, alternating with strong passages of high clouds covering summits. The wind from North to Northwest is slightly weaker (60 km / h from 3000/3500 m). The temperatures go up again with 0 / -2 then 9/11 degrees towards 1000 m and -4 / -7 then 2/4 degrees towards 2000 m (isotherm 0 degree towards 1800/2000 m).

SUNDAY 3 and MONDAY 4
Sunday, regime from West to Northwest (50 to 60 km / h in the mountains) with sun and clouds of altitude that share the sky. Temperatures rise one or two degrees (isotherm 0 degree to 2400 m).
Monday, bad weather, rather active, in strong wind from West to South-west. The snow from 1600 to 1200 m even 800 m at night.

TUESDAY 5 and WEDNESDAY 6
Passages of bad weather will follow one another in a current of West (South-West to North-West). Snow every day and sometimes a lot with the snow that makes the yo-yo between 800 and 1500 m. Temperatures are decreasing but are in season with 3 then 10/12 degrees in plain and 0 / -2 then 7/9 degrees to 1000 m.

THURSDAY 7 and FRIDAY 8
More bad conditions with wind on the massifs, widespread snow and a very fluctuating snow limit. Temperatures drop a little and go below average.

Tip of the week

Check the avalanche bulletins for snowpack reports as and when we get any fresh snowfall. In particular look for mentions of the stability of the snowpack and any weaknesses observed.

If we receive any fresh snowfall of more than 20 to 30 cm (possibly around Tuesday next week), proceed cautiously and start off on slopes of 30° steepness or less unless you really know what you’re doing. Remember: the bigger the avalanche, the more vicious it is!