Off-Piste Snow and Weather Report 24 – 31 Jan 2019


For Savoie and Northern French Alps

Variable weather ahead with a little fresh snowfall

Expecting light snow on Sunday and more significant new snow on Wednesday. In the meantime there will be cold temperatures and some sun, some cloud and some light snowfall. But not much wind.

Signs are the weather is a lot more unstable after 2nd Feb – we will see.

There are some lovely cold soft snow conditions around though, particularly on high N facing slopes. Over the last few dry, sunny days we’ve been walking to find any off-piste snow that’s not been tracked out. It’s noticeable how many people have touring equipment nowadays, with the same idea in mind!

Off-Piste Snow & Weather Report 24 - 31 Jan 2019
Lovely cold snow conditions. Wayne Watson photo

Until we receive any substantial amount (30 to 40 cm) of fresh snowfall or snow accumulated by the wind, the snowpack will remain stable to ski on. The avalanche risk is currently around 1 to 2 on the European scale of 5. See our descriptions of what all the avalanche danger ratings mean.

With recent bitterly cold temperatures, the snowpack is becoming more and more unconsolidated with every passing day. But a snowpack can be both unconsolidated and stable at the same time. We think it will stay stable until there is a load of new snow on top.

So for now, this soft snow is great to ski on, with a nice sugary texture and minimal avalanche risk. But when, and if, we receive significant amounts of snow landing on top of it and loading it up, we can expect it will get very unstable indeed.

The biggest risk to off-piste skiers at the moment is currently more from sliding than from avalanches. Some exposed slopes are very wind-hardened. Particularly on warmer S facing slopes, the surface can be quite crusted and hard due to melting and refreezing. We’ve certainly been gritting our teeth on some icy morning traverses on our way to the better snow on the more sheltered N faces!

The forecast shows possible snowfall on Sunday or at the beginning of next week but how much we actually get is yet to be seen. Just 5 cm or so would be a great help and it will still be very stable. This would be very welcome.

Off-piste weather forecast for 24 to 31 January

THURSDAY NIGHT 24
Starry night in the mountains, colder. A few snowflakes.
Lowest temperatures (valley bottom): -10 ° C to 1000 m, -20 ° C to 2000 and 3000 m. For the day and the night:
less than 3 cm of snow, even locally more.

FRIDAY 25
Sunny, colder in the afternoon. The early morning cloud remains below 2000-2200 m and is more numerous below 1200 m dissipate over the course of the morning. Some passages of fine high clouds from the end of the morning, sometimes numerous and a little dense.

Clear starry night. Sunny early in the morning.

The wind from North to NNE rises during the day in very high mountains, becoming stormy at 4000 m, then becomes less strong at night, still generating gusts in the wind of the high ridges and passes.
Isotherm 0 ° C: 600 m in day, then 1100 m at the end of night.
Isotherm -10 ° C rising to 3000 m during the day, then 3900 m at the end of the night.

SATURDAY 26
Mountain conditions improve with the return of clearings during the day. The cold in the morning fades with significant warming in the afternoon (isotherm 0 at 900 and 2500 meters). The NE wind remains on the ridges (gusts 30 to 60 km / h) after a strong gust of wind at night.

Expect a disturbance in the weather in the night from the north (to be confirmed).

SUNDAY 27 AND MONDAY 28 JANUARY
The weather remains variable with sunny spells and some showers.

TUESDAY 29 AND WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY
The weather is mostly cloudy. Scattered snow is expected


THURSDAY 31 AND FRIDAY 1 FEBRUARY
Passage of disturbances bringing snow in mountain alternating with clearings.

Tip of the week

Observe the quality of the snow you find at different aspects and altitudes. This will help you predict which slopes offer good snow for skiing and which will be difficult.

With the cold temperatures and a snowpack which is not very thick, a persistent weak layer is forming, which we’ll need to watch out for for the rest of the season.