The festive season starts with a sunny few days in the mountains, with temperatures above average for the time of year. The best off-piste snow conditions can be found above 2000 m or so. Becoming more unsettled from Thursday and into next week.
Following some stormy days of snowfall and wind, things are now starting to settle down nicely for the festive period. Temperatures will be above average for at least the next few days as a high pressure weather system comes in, bringing plenty of sunshine. It’ll be great to ski with good visibility after a few very flat light/whiteout days!
Snow coverage above 1800 m or so is very good for the time of season. The wind has played a big part in moving the snow around the mountain, scouring it off altogether in places and densifying the snow in places, making it difficult to ski. Sheltered gullies are currently one of the best places to find any soft snow, blown in by the wind.
We’ve seen many clues of snow instability over the last few days. Our featured image, showing a naturally releasing slab avalanche, was taken after a particularly windy spell on Saturday 23rd – we observed plenty of similar releases on similar slope aspects. Clear cold nights have (and will continue to) create a temporary weak layer in the snowpack.
The high temperature cycle up to high altitudes over the next few days should help to stabilise the snowpack though, as the snow melts and then refreezes (and solidifies).
The current avalanche danger level is between 2 and 3 out of 5 on the European scale. The colder more N’ish facing slopes above 2000 m are more likely to show an avalanche danger level of 3, with the warmer lower slopes more stable due to melting and refreezing. The danger level will most probably go down to 2 in most places before going up again end of week with the new snow forecast.
There’s a temporary weak layer in the snowpack which has formed particularly during the few clear nights before the snowfalls, especially on the cold high N’ish facing slopes. With densely packed windslab snow lying on top of this weak layer, this has led to some snowpack instability. Temporary weak layers will start to devolope again during the next few clear nights before the snow comes again at the end of the week. This will accentuate storm slab activity during and just after the next snowfalls.
Avalanche danger ratings for the N French Alps on Sunday 24 Dec by Meteo France.
Most of the avalanche activity we’ve witnessed has happened on very steep, 35°+ leeward slopes, where there are large accumulations of windblown snow.
Weather forecast : Sun 24h to Fri 29th Dec
SUN 24th: A beautiful sunny day in the mountains. Temperatures above normal for the time of season with 0°C at around 2900 m at the warmest time of day. Light NW wind.
MON 25th: For Christmas day, it’s going to be another beautiful sunny and unseasonably warm day in the mountains: 0°C up to around 3400 m. Light N wind.
TUES 26th: Another bluebird day, with temperatures above normal. 0°C at around 3100 m at the warmest time of day. Light winds turning S.
WED 27h: Continuing sunny and calm in the mountains.
THIRS 28th and FRI 29th: Slight change in the weather, with some cloudy spells. Possible sparse precipitation.
SAT 30th onwards: Looking more unsettled….
Meteo Blue’s 14 day forecast for Val d’Isère 23/12/23
Tip of the Week
1. If you want to get an idea of where the windloading has been happening (causing potential avalanche instability), work back from the facts and visual evidence of recent avalanche activity.
2. For recent avalanche activity, also take a good look at the avalanche bulletins. They will talk about what clues to look out for, especially if any recent avalanche accidents have taken place.