Off piste snow report and weather – 9 February


Nice off-piste conditions but caution required with a considerable avalanche risk.

In this off piste snow report, snow depths are much improved. Drier weather and better visibility are on their way.

Off-Piste Snow Report 9 February

Off Piste Snow Depths (Haute Tarentaise) by Meteo France

Off-piste snow report 9 February

It’s been an incredible week for off-piste enthusiasts with so much light deep fresh snow! Flat light conditions should improve over the next few days as the cloud cover gradually thins out. Snow depths are much improved in all resorts of the N French Alps. They’re now about normal for this time of season.

In wind-sheltered areas at high altitude, there’s still some wonderful light cold winter powder snow to be found, especially on high N exposures. In more exposed spots at high altitude the snow is very windblown, with areas of windslab. Below 1500 m, the snowpack is often humidified, thick and heavy.

We’re due to receive another sprinkling of fresh snow, which will land upon 40 to 60 cm of recent snow which is slowly packing down. The weather will then turn drier. Recent snowpack tests have revealed a layer of cohesionless ‘sugar snow’  buried 50-60 cm down in the snowpack. This constitutes an extremely weak layer under all that fresh snow, that we need to look out for.

We could see some natural avalanches of heavy, humidified snow (possibly even full-depth avalanches). The risk of skier-triggered avalanches increases at higher altitude where the wind has been blowing, causing windslab snow to develop. Above 2200 m, there is plenty of that loose ‘sugar snow’ on slopes facing just about every direction. The weight of a skier passing by could be enough to trigger a slab avalanche sliding over this weak layer.

Things have been pretty stable over the last few days, and we’ve heard of very few avalanche accidents. This could well be due to poor visibility, which may have deterred many people from venturing off-piste. Let’s hope it stays that way when the sky clears over the weekend onwards. With better visibility from Saturday, more of us will probably be tempted onto the more dangerous steeper, higher slopes.

Detailed snow and weather forecast: 9 to 15 February

Thursday 9: Very cloudy with more light snow (less than 3cm) in the afternoon. In areas near the French/Italian border there will be more persistent light snowfall (5 to 7cm) down to 600 m altitude. Gusts of E wind (Foehn), 40 to 60 km/hr on mountain tops. 0° C at around 600 to 800 m. -10° C at 3000 m. Wind at 2500 m: E – SE, 20-50 km/hr. At 4000 m: SE-S 20 – 50 km/hr.

Friday 10: Remaining cloudy. Possibly a little more snow in the morning near the French/Italian border. Dry elsewhere. Wind turning SW. 0° C at 1300 m.

Saturday 11: A largely sunny day with passing high cloud.  SW wind with occasional gusts 50 km/hr. Some Foehn and Lombard wind near the French/Italian border. 0° C at  1400 m.

Sunday 12: Dry and cloudy with a few bright spells.

Monday 13: Brightening up as the day goes on. Temperatures still climbing a bit.

Tuesday 14: Dry with plenty of high cloud.

Wednesday 15: Sunny, dry and mild for the time of season. Rising to 10° C at 1000 m as the day goes on.

Tip of the week

  • Look out for slopes where there has been recent avalanche activity, and avoid similar slopes of a similar direction.
  • Play close attention to the official avalanche bulletins from Meteo France. They will give you a clue as to where the worst instability is in your area. Go to www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches, entering the mountain area of your choice.

Ride Hard, Ride Safe Everybody!