A sunny start to the week with temperatures way above average for the time of season. Cloudier with very light snowfall from Wednesday.

 Snow depths above 1800/2000 m are very good for this time of season, and there’s some fantastic off-piste & ski touring to be had at these higher altitudes. See our main photo by Chris Souillac. There’s a reasonable base layer in the snowpack from about 1600 m but below 1400 m the snowpack is very thin (just a sprinkling of snow really).

Check out my live on-line talks on Tuesday and Thursday this week (19th & 21st December). They really help you to make sense of all the sort of things mentioned below, as well as the key points on how to make the best decisions to keep safe off-piste. More details at the bottom of this article!

There should still be some lovely powdery snow on shaded high slopes for at least another couple of days. It may sometimes be rather wind-compressed but is still very skiable. Any powder snow within easy reach of the lift system  is getting very tracked out now though. There are occasional icy patches, which can catch you out. 

Sunnier  slopes will see crusty snow first in the morning, followed by heavy wet snow on steep slopes below 2500/2800m. 

 With the wall to wall sunshine of the next few days, we’ll be turning to touring skis and skins to help us find the best snow.

Avalanche Bulletin

At the time of writing (Sunday morning) the avalanche danger level c/o Météo France is mainly around 3 out of 5 for most areas of the N French Alps. It’s very likely, however, that this will go down to a 2 out of 3 by Monday, and probably stay that way through to the end of the week.

With exceptionally high temperatures for the time of season from Sunday to Tuesday that will create some more wet snow avalanches.

There are also some impressive cornices around, which could break at some point.

Left: Avalanche danger level bulletin from Météo France, 16/12/23

 

The good news is that above average temperatures over the next few days, followed by a fall in temperatures from Wednesday are going to help settle the snowpack. Due to the melting and refreezing (and solidifying) of the snowpack.

For interest, we thought we’d show this video below by Sean of the Ski Club of Great Britain, taken a couple of days ago. It’s a great example of a natural storm slab avalanche release following several days of snow storms.

Storm slabs release during and just after snow storms. The instability is directly related to the storm. Hence they can also be called ‘direct action avalanches’ . This is a good example of a natural storm slab release in the Combe de Signal in Val d’Isère at the tail end of last week.

Storm snow instability generally subsides quickly, after a day or so after the storm (longer with lower temps e.g. consistently below -15/20°C).

While natural avalanches are involved in only a tiny percentage of accidents, they do pose a threat to us especially when we jump out onto, or around steep slopes on a clear day just after a snowstorm. That’s why it’s so important to be extra careful just after a nice powder dump and especially keep an eye on steep slopes above you. Or better yet, go for the ‘low hanging fruit’ in risk avoidance areas: where there are no steep slopes of 30 degree slope steepness (the steepness of a very steep red to black run steepness) or more above, around or below you, until the storm instability subsides.

Thanks again to Sean for the video.

Weather forecast  17th to 22nd December

SUNDAY 17th Dec: A sunny day in the mountains, with temperatures well above average for the time of season. 0°C at around 3000 m. Light  NE wind.

MONDAY 18th Dec: Remaining dry and sunny, and temperatures even higher than Sunday. 0° C at 3600 m.

TUESDAY 19th Dec: Another blue sky day, unseasonably warm. 0° C at around 3500 m and up to 12°C at 1000 M on S facing slopes. Light W wind.

WEDNESDAY 20th Dec: Clouding over as the day goes on. A few snowflakes could start falling above 1700/1800 m in the afternoon.

THURS & FRI 21st & 22nd Dec: Mixture of sunshine and a few scattered very light snow showers above 1700 m, but no great depths of fresh snow expected.

Looking at Meteo Blue’s 14 day forecast below though, we could be due for a fair bit of snow the following week!!

Tip of the Week

Check out my live on-line talks on Tuesday and Thursday this week (19th & 21st December).

They really help you to make sense of all the sort of things we’ve mentioned above, as well as the key points on how to make the best decisions to keep safe off-piste.

Tuesday 19th December.

18.00 GMT. Live Essentials on-line talk via Zoom

£19.50 including a HAT Safety Pack

Safety is freedom’ is the theme. With a view of helping people APPLY what they know, the session is built around an accident-reduction Framework. The goal is to help you making things acceptably safe. It’s been shown that off-piste and ski touring can be very safe, as safe as everyday activities like driving a car, IF you apply basic safety points. We go over these points as part of the Framework (you receive a memory aid card with the Framework on it). The vast majority of avalanche accidents are triggered by the victims, someone in the group (or someone above). Therefore, you have the biggest impact on making things ‘acceptably safe’.

It’s for off-piste and ski touring beginners to experts, even for pros as a client training tool. The In-depth talks are built on the Essentials Talk and the accident-reduction framework.

Thursday 21 December.

18.00 GMT. Live In-Depth on-line talk via Zoom

£19.50 including a HAT Safety Pack

This in-depth talk builds on the Essentials talk and goes in-depth into how avalanches are triggered (over 90% of avalanche accidents are triggered by the victims). The ideas is to help you further know the ‘beast’ in view of better knowing how to avoid getting caught up in its claws.

It is important that you have either attended an Essentials talk, or are planning to, before seeing the In-depth talk. This is a follow up talk to the accident reduction Framework theme of the Essentials talk. We will be only looking at a part of the Framework in this talk.

“Safety is freedom”