After large amounts of fresh snowfall down to around 1300/1500 m on Sunday & Sunday night, off-piste snow depths will have improved hugely by Monday, particularly above around 2000 m, where up to 50 cm of fresh snow is expected.
Below 2000 m, off-piste conditions may remain rather patchy though, with natural snow depths not really enough to ski with confidence – and, if they are, the snow will be heavy and humid, with a risk of hitting rocks etc, if not going through to the ground itself, and possibly needing to walk some of the way.
Image above shows Meteo France off-piste snow depths for the Haute Tarentaise area of Savoie on 25th March
Thanks to the hard work of the piste team, the groomed runs remain in good condition, and there’s still plenty of good snow in the higher resorts like Val Thorens, Tignes, Val d’Isère, La Plagne, Avoriaz etc. Media horror stories of there being no snow shouldn’t be believed, except for at some of the low-lying smaller resorts.
Off-piste snow conditions will be very mixed this week. With very changeable weather ahead (snow, wind, rain, sun and fluctuating temperatures) every day will bring something different. On Monday & Tuesday, at high altitude, for example, there will be powder snow, with some humidified layers of snow underneath, areas of snow densified by the strong NW wind, snowdrifts, and some places where the snow has been blown off altogether.
Even when the weather looks dreary and unpromising at resort level, we urge you to get out on the mountain into safer avalanche terrain, and see what’s out there. You may be pleasantly surprised! Our featured photo from Wayne Watson (taken on Saturday) shows some fantastic tree skiing in flat light in powder snow that was rapidly changing as the day warmed up. The snow became noticeably heavier as the morning went on, particularly on the warmer lower slopes.
Wider skis (95 to 100 mm underfoot) certainly make it easier to cope with the variable snow conditions at the moment.
Like last week, the current avalanche danger remains a “considerable” 3 out of 5 on the colder N’ish facing slopes above 2200 m. These are the sort of slopes where a persistent weak layer(s) of unconsolidated ‘sugary’ snow developed, particularly during the cold clear nights. The instability is tenacious and will continue for weeks to come – thus the official term ‘persistent weak layer’.
There will also be natural avalanche activity this week, mainly heavy humidified snow avalanches (as one would expect at this time of year) along with natural purges of fresh snow on very steep slopes.
Weather forecast 27th March to 1st April
Below is Meteo Blue’s weather chart for Val d’Isere for the next fortnight.
MONDAY 27th March: After Sunday’s heavy snowfall, snow will continue to fall on Monday, dying out in the afternoon. Light NW wind. 0° C at 1000/1200 m.
TUESDAY 28th March: A cold, sunny morning, -6° to -9° C at 1000 m first thing, but warming up as the day goes on. Light NW wind.
WEDNESDAY 29th March: Dry and sunny with thin high cloud.
THURSDAY 30th & FRIDAY 31st: Precipitation (snow/rain limit at mid-mountain level)
SATURDAY 1st April onwards: Weather remaining unsettled.
Meteoblue’s 14 day forecast for Val d’Isère
Tip of the Week
When it snows at this time of year, and with the relatively high temperatures forecast, it’s best to try and get first tracks in the morning before the snow gets too heavy. Keep it simple and safe(r)by going for areas of slope angles less than 30 degrees.
All steep slopes will be unstable most of this week due to the significant snowfalls forecast, but the following factors will amplify the danger:
- The persistent weak layer on North’ish facing slopes
- Higher temps hitting fresh snow on the South’ish facing slopes.
We will soon have more stable and predictable melt-freeze cycles along with the great smooth spring snow that goes with them. I’ll be posting a guide to great off- piste spring snow skiing next week. Save the steeps for then!
“Safety is freedom”