A calm sunny weekend and start to the week. More snow on the way to the Northern French Alps from Wednesday.
Over the past week, we’ve had a variety of weather conditions, with no two days the same. It’s rained, it’s snowed, the wind’s been howling or virtually non-existent, visibility’s varied between ‘flat-light’ and crystal-sharp, temperatures have been up and down….
We’ve had a couple of fantastic off-piste skiing days following fresh snowfall. On the whole, however, snow conditions have been mixed with high-altitude areas sheltered from the wind faring the best.
This week should end in sunshine and some great skiing following Wednesday’s snowfall. From Thursday sunny, settled weather will last into the first half of next week. Milder temperatures (0° C at 3200 m) are expected over the weekend, and the best snow quality will be at high altitude, particularly on the colder north-facing slopes.
More snowfall looks to be on the way from next Wednesday when temperatures will fall again… After a few dry days, we’ll be looking forward to this next snowfall freshening things up again.
There’s still a lot of rain-affected snow around, especially at altitudes around 2200 – 2400 m. This is hard, icy and very slick after refreezing, and to be avoided. When there’s only a thin layer of fresh snow (10 cm or so) we can feel a hard icy base underneath. In sheltered gullies, there are some lovely deep accumulations of snow. As long as temperatures remain cold, this will be lovely to ski. As temperatures rise over the weekend, however, the snow will get heavier and stickier, especially at lower altitudes.
Recent history of the snowpack
As mentioned last week, with deep humidification of the snowpack and its subsequent refreezing and consolidation, there has been a lot of stabilising of the snowpack up to 2700 m. However, there may still be a lingering instability in:
- Areas that have been wind-loaded (sheltered leeward slopes, where snow drifted in and accumulated, especially above 2700 m). Here there may be a remaining weak layer.
- Areas that haven’t been skied very much, and so less subjected to the stabilising effect of skier-compaction. (These are the sort of areas that you need to ski-tour to, using skins).
What is the current avalanche risk in the Northern French Alps/Savoie?
As we write, the avalanche risk is currently around 2/5.
Check out what the avalanche danger ratings mean.
For any specific points about snow stability, you need to check the daily avalanche bulletins, particularly when any fresh snow comes. At the moment they point to risks of triggering slabs of the recent surface snowfall in a very few places on NE, E and SE slopes especially high up and under cornices
Where is most at risk at the moment?
Steep slopes with terrain traps beneath them are always going to be particularly at risk. Also look out for slopes where snow has drifted in – these are the sort of areas where there is some of the nicest snow to ski at the moment.
How does the forecast look for the coming week?
Friday the 21st during the day and the following night:
The sun is shining all day. Only a few clouds develop at the end of the afternoon in the Bauges as well as in the Cluse de Chambéry and the foreland. But, they remain a minority. For the night: The sky is clear. The clouds present in the evening, in the Bauges as well as in the Cluse de Chambéry and the foreland dissipate quickly.
Weak, variable wind.
Minimum temperatures for the following night: around -3 to 0 degrees, and -5 degrees on the border massifs.
Maximum temperatures for the day: 3 degrees on the border massifs, 4 degrees in the Beaufortain. On the other regions between 10 and 12 degrees.
Saturday 22 and the following night:
The day is beautiful, the sun is widely present. For the night: The sky is starry.
Weak, variable wind.
Minimum temperatures for the following night: between 0 and 3 degrees, and -3 degrees on the border massifs.
Maximum temperatures for the day: around 9 degrees on the border massifs.
For the day of Sunday 23:
The day is sunny with at most a few very discreet clouds.
Variable wind, weak. With gusts up to 85 km / h, locally, in the afternoon and at the end of the day.
Maximum temperatures: around 10 degrees on the border massifs, 11 degrees in the Beaufortin. These temperatures are above the seasonal values, locally well above.
For Monday 24
In the Beaufortain, in Tarentaise and Vanoise, in the Bauges as well as in the plains and low valleys, increasingly cloudy skies, risk of rain and snow from Tuesday at midday until the start of night. Elsewhere, sun, then cloudy degradation in the second part of the night from Monday to Tuesday.
Variable wind, weak. With the risk of violent gusts.
Clouds start at midday until the start of the night, in Beaufortain, Tarentaise and Vanoise, in the Bauges as well as in the plains and low valleys, the snow-rain limit drops from 1000 to 600 meters.
Minimum temperatures: in the mountains around -2 to 1 degree. 4 degrees in the plains and low valleys.
Maximum temperatures: around 10 degrees on the border massifs, 11 degrees in the Beaufortin. These temperatures are above the values normally observed, in places very above.
For Wednesday 26
Risk of snow and showers. Weak, variable wind. With the risk of violent gusts. In the plains and low valleys until Thursday morning, the rain-snow limit is 400 to 800 meters;
morning until the start of the night, it drops from 1,200 to 800 meters.
Minimum temperatures: -4 degrees in the Bauges, -6 degrees in the border massifs, -6 degrees in the Beaufortain. On the other regions from 0 to 3 degrees.
Maximum temperatures: 4 degrees in the Bauges, 1 degree on the border massifs, 2 degrees in the Beaufortain. Elsewhere between 8 and 10 degrees.
For Friday 28
Risk of snow and showers.
Variable wind, weak. With the risk of violent gusts. In Beaufortain, on the border massifs as well as in the Bauges until midday Saturday, the rain-snow limit is established from 1100 to 1500 meters; from
Midday until early night, it drops from 1100 to 700 meters.
Minimum temperatures: increasing in Beaufortin as well as in the Bauges.
Maximum temperatures: increasing in Tarentaise and Vanoise, in Maurienne, on the border massifs as well as in the plains and low valleys.
Tip of the week
Even though things have stabilised a lot, make sure to always leave some margin for the unexpected to happen. Especially beware on those steep wind-loaded slopes, where the snow quality’s nice and where some of the best skiing will be. Think about the “How you go” section of the HAT risk framework. Terrain traps, islands of safety and one at a time.