Wall to wall sunshine will continue in the Alps! High-altitude resorts faring best
Snow coverage and quality is definitely best above 2300 m. If you know where to look, and are prepared to walk for it, there are some stunning off-piste conditions still to be found up high. However, it’s one of those times when, unless you really know what you’re doing, it may be well worth considering hiring a mountain guide with local knowledge on where to find the best snow.
Off-piste snow report
The high-altitude resorts like Val d’Isere and Tignes still have good snow coverage above 2300 m. Conditions are almost spring-like with crusted surface snow on sunny S’ish facing slopes, and on N’ish facing ones below 2500 m. On slopes above 2500 m, snow is often wind-affected and hardened, but there are still some lovely powder pitches in less exposed areas, if you know where to look. Anything within easy reach of the ski-lifts is now tracked out, so ski touring is the best way to find any fresh snow.
Lower down the mountain, off-piste snow coverage diminishes rapidly and it’s important to know what lies ahead if you’re heading off-piste – especially to ensure that your exit route is safe. See ‘Guide Mimi’s’ photo of a dangerous, icy exit from the Tour de Charvet, Val d’Isere, last week. Snow coverage could also run out, and you may find yourself having to walk a long way or having to scale rocks and boulders!
A few naturally occurring wet snow avalanches are still possible, particularly on sunnier slopes. On more shaded slopes the colder temperatures have helped to break up some of the windslab, making the risk of a skier-triggered slab avalanche a lot less likely. For now it’s all pretty stable, with the Avalanche Risk about a 2 on the European scale. That will be the case until we get fresh snowfall, when it will rise considerably.
With the cold clear nights we’re experiencing transformation of the deeper and surface layers of the snowpack with the formation of ‘sugar snow’ or ‘goblets’. This layer has no cohesion and will constitute a very weak layer to watch out for when the next snowfall occurs. For what all the danger ratings mean click here see www.henrysavalanchetalk.com
Keep an eye out on the bulletins for how this weak layer develops. However there is no new snow forecast for 2 weeks and, to be honest, it looks like it will be even longer than that. Right now we have sunshine, brilliant pistes and some off piste if you can walk and know where to look.
If you are coming skiing at Christmas and New Year, make sure there is plenty of skiing above 2000m and good snowmaking below that.
See also our live video snow report below:
Weather Forecast for the next few days
Thursday 8th December: Sunny and mild for the time of season. 0° C at 3200 m. Very settled conditions with virtually no wind.
Friday 9th: Sunny and milder, 0° C at 3600 m.
Saturday 10th to Wednesday 14th: More of the same: Settled mild sunny weather in mountain areas.
Make sure you know your exit route and that it is safe. It can be a bit scratchy at lower altitudes, and you may find yourself having to climb over boulders or having to contend with very icy snow, like in the photo.
Check out the daily French Snow and Avalanche bulletins from Meteo-France on www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches, entering the mountain area of your choice