After the last few days of wild stormy weather, it looks like being a much calmer week ahead in the Northern French Alps, with a little fresh snowfall and then turning sunnier from mid-week.
Off-piste snow depths have now risen considerably at high altitudes (2400 m or so). However, it rained at altitudes below 2000/1800 m, making for some currently very heavy waterlogged snow below 2000 m or so. The snowpack at lower altitudes has really suffered after Saturday’s rain, and we’ve seen pictures of it being completely washed away, which is terrible news for some lower resorts.
Image above shows Meteo France off-piste snow depths for the Haute Tarentaise area of Savoie on 12th March
There’s currently (Mon 13th) a real mixture of off-piste conditions, with the best quality snow at high altitude (above 2500 m+) in areas sheltered from the wind. Here you may find some areas of cold powder snow, which will become heavier and denser if temperatures rise.
Watch out on these type of slopes where the best quality snow is though – these colder slopes are where there’s a persistent weak layer in the snowpack.
Some nice off-piste skiing despite flat light at times
Wayne Watson photo
Recent high NW wind has played a massive part in causing snow accumulations, windslab snow, and sometimes blowing the snow off the slopes altogether.
Below 2200 m the off-piste snow is becoming much heavier due to rain, milder temperatures and sunshine, thus trickier to ski. It’s not really possible to ski off-piste below 1500 m, with conditions pretty sketchy at those lower altitudes.
The avalanche danger rating came down very quickly from a ‘high’ 4/5 on Sunday (far left), the day of the wild snow & rain storms accompanied by high wind to a ‘considerable’ 3/5 on Monday.
Avalanche bulletin N Fr Alps Sunday 12h
Avalanche bulletin N Fr Alps Monday 13th
With the weather looking much calmer this coming week, we suspect the avalanche danger will remain somewhere between a 3/5 above 2200 m and a ‘moderate’ 2/5 below that altitude for most of the week (possibly going up to a 4 again if we get any significant amounts of fresh snow).
We’ve recently noticed a worrying series of incidents of people setting off avalanches on top of other people skiing below them. This generally seems to happen the first day of decent weather following a snowstorm, when people go into a ‘powder frenzy’. Fortunately, we haven’t heard of any fatalities, but people have been buried, and helicopter rescues have been required.
This type of incident is on the rise, which is very concerning indeed.
Weather forecast 13th to 18th March
After the wild stormy weather of the last few days, the coming week will start sunny and calm. There may be some light snowfall in the mountains on Tuesday, but nothing like as much as last week. Then it looks like clearing up again, with sunshine on Thursday and Friday.
MONDAY 13th March: Sunny with just a few high clouds. Very mild temperatures for the time of season: 0° C at 3200 m in the day. Weak to moderate SW wind. Cloud thickening as the afternoon goes on. Some overnight precipitation, with the rain/snow limit starting at around 2200 m, then down to 1600 m or so.
TUESDAY 14th March: Snow showers above 1300/1500 m and then down to 1100 m or so. Around 10-15 cm snow expected above 1800 m. 0° C at 1400 m. Moderate NW wind.
WEDNESDAY 15th March: A few residual sprinklings of snow above 1000 m in the morning (maybe up to 5 cm). Clearing up as the day goes on.
THURSDAY 16th & FRIDAY 17th March: Calm, sunny weather and mild for the time of season. Return of high clouds on Friday.
SATURDAY onwards: Cloudy with possible precipitation.
Below is Meteo Blue’s weather chart for Val d’Isere for the next fortnight.
Tip of the Week
When going off-piste, don’t just watch out for terrain traps below you, but also for people skiing below you. Triggering avalanches on top of others is occurring more and more frequently. Not only is it incredibly selfish, but it endangers other people’s lives, and can even result in a jail sentence if someone is hurt or killed.
“Safety is freedom”