A snowy beginning to this week for the N French Alps, up to 1m of new snow along the French Italian border in some places (less towards the interior of France). A real mix of unsettled snowy spells, interspersed with great sunny days this coming week.

High altitude areas in the E of the N French Alps, near the ridge bordering Italy, are benefiting from another ‘Retour d’Est’ phenomenon on Sunday, which could bring up to a metre of fresh snow at the mountain tops. The more E and SE parts of the region will receive the most snow. Haute Savoie areas (Portes du Soleil, La Clusaz, etc) won’t benefit as much although any new snow helps!

See my brief snow report video below

Avalanche Bulletin

For most areas in the N French Alps the current avalanche danger level is around a 3 out of 5 above 2000 m or so, and a 2 out of 5 below that altitude.

Many places that receive high snowfall on Sunday (e.g. high altitude areas near the Italian border on Sunday –  Val D’Isère, Bonneval, Val Cenis) will see the avalanche danger level going up to a 4… recent reports are hinting at a level 5 out of 5 in some areas like the Haute Maurienne district of Savoie.

Any instability in the snowpack will become a lot more critical with more snowfall i.e. it will increase proportionally with the accumulations. ‘More snow, more danger!’

The most risk to us off-piste and ski tourers will be during the clearing spells – when we can see all the great possibilities on the slopes! For that, the danger of storm-related natural and accidental avalanches (instability directly related to the recent snowfalls storms) will last 24 to 36 hours after the snowfalls. This storm avalanche danger will concern all aspects on S’ish facing slopes as the sun and higher temps first hit them, and N’ish facing slopes due to the persistent weak layer** that built up during the clear sky periods over the last 8 weeks or so.

After the instability directly related to the storm, the most unstable areas will be the N’ish facing slopes above 2200 m or so (the altitude where the rain/snow limit has been over the last week or so). The more rain-affected slopes below 2000/2200 m (due to higher temperatures) have become much more stable, as the snowpack has melted and refrozen (solidified).

As you’re pushing for steeper, deeper and untracked slopes, REMEMBER that most avalanche accidents are triggered by the victim, someone in their group or another group above and on N’ish facing slopes especially when there is a persistent weak layer deeper down – as we have now.

The vast majority of avalanche accidents involve cold, dry slab avalanches. They’re almost always triggered by the victim (or someone in their group) on N’ish facing slopes (in the Northern Hemisphere) during December, January and February.

UPDATE Monday March 4: continuing from above paragraph… for example North’ish facing slopes like this one below that was triggered with explosives this morning by the Piste Patrol in Fornet, Val d’Isère at approx 8.30 am. Released, most probably on a persistent weak layer(s) of facets, at approx 2500 m runout toe at approx 2000 m destroying a large part of forest on the way. This one was triggered by explosives, but there is no reason why a person cannot trigger similar types of slab avalanches – especially with more snow on the way (Photo thank you Brian Palmer).

** See my in depth talk on triggering.

Weather forecast : Mon 4th to Fri 8th March thanks to Météo Alpes 

Starting on Sunday and continuing to Monday morning, a fair amount of snow is on the way for many parts of the N French Alps, especially along the mountain border with Italy, and even light snow for some other high altitude places, like Val Thorens (see 6 day forecast from Snow-Forecast.com below…expect up to two or three the amounts snowfalls forecast the closer to the Italian border you go).

MON 4th: Following the snowstorms of Sunday bringing up to 15-20 cm total, cloud cover will break up as the day goes on. By late morning it should be bright and sunny. Light E wind, turning SW later. 0°C at 1200 m, and then at 2200 m at the warmest part of the day.

TUES 5th: Light snowfall down to about 1000 m. Between 5 to 15 cm of fresh snow expected at higher altitudes. Light to moderate SW wind turning NW. 0° C at 1300 m.

WED 6th: Cloudy morning, clearing up as the day goes on.

THURS 7th: Sunny in most parts.

FRI 8th: Sunny with temperatures above average for the time of season.

NEXT FEW DAYS: Cloudy with temperatures warmer than usual for the time of season.


6 day weather forecast for Val Thorens by Snow-Forecast.com

Tip of the Week

Sun Shadow Slope Orientation

Since I so often talk about N’ish facing slopes (the vast majority of avalanche accidents happen on the North’sh side of the mountain – cold, dry slab avalanches triggered by the victim), and due to popular demand, I am posting this TOP TIP on using shadows to identify slope aspects (below). Also when any fresh snowfall arrives (as is forecast for the end of this week), high N’ish facing slopes are where the danger/sensitivity to triggers will be most prevalent.


1. To help you keep things acceptably safe off-piste and ski touring, I’m currently working on a pre-recorded online ‘Essentials Talk’. Here’s a sneak- peek draft: a ‘staff talk version’ of the Essential Talk, featuring an accident Prevention Framework, which I’m making available free of charge for a couple of weeks on my YouTube channel.

If  you find it useful, please subscribe to this channel. There are lots of other cool vids in there too! Thanks again to Jérôme for the cover photo.

2. ‘Pocket Memory Aid Pack’ (for help applying the key safety points in the Essentials Talk Framework).
Education and training is not enough. So we need simplified ‘tools’ or aids to help you remember and apply the key safety points. It’s a small investment to help to keep you to understand and reduce risk and is a much appreciated contribution to our ‘Safety is Freedom’ cause!

Safety is Freedom!