Off-Piste Snow and Weather Report 4th Jan 2019


For Savoie and the Northern French Alps

Cold and crispy but windy days ahead with lots of sunshine and some clouds

Don’t forget your suncream folks. We’re now under the influence of a huge high pressure weather system over the Northern French Alps with lots of sunshine and some clouds for the next few days, at least! The snow’s not far away, but it all seems to be happening in Austria! See Chris’s recent blog on current weather conditions.

Off Piste Snow & Weather Report
Off piste snow depths for Haute Tarentaise c:o Meteo France

When will it snow again?

Some say light snowfall Tuesday night, but we are not convinced about that yet. High pressure is still in charge and the forecast keeps changing. There have been some indications of the high pressure subsiding around 15th to 18th January to allow some snow to fall. But every weather model is saying something different and they change the prediction with every model run. So we cannot make a prediction as yet.

Current snow conditions

We’re now having to walk quite some distance to find nice off-piste snow. Anything near the ski-lifts has become totally tracked out.

We’ve sometimes surprised ourselves by how good conditions can still be on high sheltered North facing slopes above 2600 m though. At other times the off-piste snow has been very wind-blown, and hardened.

The avalanche risk is currently low in the Northern French Alps. In most areas it’s around 1 out of 5 on the European scale, in a few up to 2 above 2500 m. (See our descriptions of what all the avalanche danger ratings mean). Recent rain and warmer temperatures, which led to some initial instability, followed by refreezing, have led to this currently stable snowpack.

For ‘extreme skiers’, there are some small slabs in ultra-steep couloirs above 3000/3300 m that you could trigger. For the rest of us, the current avalanche risk is small indeed.

Off-Piste Snow and Weather Forecast
Skiing the dimpled snow. Waybe Watson photo

We’re really enjoying the lovely sunny weather and stable snowpack, while keeping in the back of our minds that with every passing day, whatever snow there is is becoming less consolidated. The ‘dimpled’ snow, broken up by the cold temperatures and clear nights (see Wayne’s photo), is where some of the nicest skiing is to be found at the moment. However, conditions will become a lot less stable when any fresh snowfall lands on top of this.

Until we get any more snowfall the current main risks to the off-piste skier are of:

  1. Sliding, or what Henry calls ‘going for a whipper’, especially on steep slopes, where the snow surface is very hard and smooth.
  2. Hitting rocks or other obstacles like fencing, which may be visible or hidden just beneath the snow surface.

Off-piste weather forecast for 4th to 11th Jan

Sunny and windy initially, especially on the ridges and summits. Then clouds move in, then the wind drops, temperatures moving up and down. But no snow this week. (Some weather models suggest a light snowfall on Tuesday night or Wednesday, but this may not happen)

Watch out for the wind moving the snow around, this will create pockets of better snow. The bulletin warns there may be a risk of unstable windslab forming but suggests this will be very high up above 2900m or in some steep couloirs

THURSDAY
Beautiful sunny day. Highest temperatures (on sunny South slopes): 1 ° C to 2000 m, -5 ° C to 3000 m. Lowest overnight temperatures: -14 ° C to 2000 m, -14 ° C to 3000 m.

For the day and the night: the strong wind of NE to NNE, turns more to the NE at night in very high mountain, and locally approaches the storm to 3600 m especially near Mont Blanc.

Heavy gusts descend downwind from the high ridges and passes (in the form of Foehn north of Haute Tarentaise); they diminish in the night, then resume locally at the end of the night.

Wind at 2500 m (mainly in the west): NE 30-80 km / h.
Wind at 4000 m: NNE at day 80 then 90 km / h, NE at night 90-100 km / h.

FRIDAY 4
Less sunny, less cool in the afternoon.
The passages of fine, very high clouds remain frequent, until the beginning of the night.

At the end of the night, some clouds overflow from Haute Savoie over a large part of Savoie, sparing perhaps the East or the SE of Savoy; they cling to the high mountains.
The strong NE wind from the turns north in the night and weakens a bit
Some gusts persist during the day in the wind of the high ridges and passes (especially in the form of Foehn north of the Haute Tarentaise,
Insulated 0 ° C: rising to 1700-2000 m.

SATURDAY 5
The conditions change with a probable sea of ​​clouds which goes up the slopes towards 1500 to 2000 meters. Higher up, a veil of altitude towards 6000-7000 meters crosses our massifs. Isotherm 0 is located around 800, 1300 and 1800 meters (frequent inversions). North winds are getting stronger (bursts at 50-70 km / h), often strong in the high mountains.

SUNDAY 6 AND MONDAY 7
In the Beaufortain, in the Bauges as well as in the low valleys, clouds tending to dissipate. On the other regions, overcast, tending to clear spells in the second part of the night from Sunday to Monday. The wind drops, variable.

TUESDAY 8 AND WEDNESDAY 9
Dry weather, often sunny. Wind variable, weak.

THURSDAY 10 AND FRIDAY 11
Predominantly cloudy. Weak, variable wind

Tip of the week

Do a snow dance! There is no sign of any snow for the next 2 weeks. This might change, but for the moment we’re not making any predictions of new snow

When we do get some snow, check the bulletin for details of any weak layers or not and this will tell us how stable the new snow will be.

In the meantime enjoy the sun.