A cold first half to the week ahead, with a little fresh snowfall. Some lovely powder snow conditions in the N French Alps and surrounding areas – especially above 2000 m or so!

Snow depths above 1800 m or so are great : above average for the time of season. Recent fresh snowfalls have really freshened up the snow surface, making for some excellent off-piste skiing conditions. Especially with the very cold temperatures (without strong wind) of the first half of this week, there should be some lovely cold powder snow to find.

Beware of some lingering instability from a buried weak layer in the snowpack though (particularly on the colder N facing slopes above 2000 m).

 

Avalanche Bulletin

The current avalanche danger rating is around  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, while slopes below 2000 m are becoming more stable, due to melting and refreezing.

Recent snowpack instability has mainly been confined to new snow events. In the last few days there have been quite a few accidentally triggered slab avalanches on steep leeward slopes (slopes where the wind has blown to : in other words, the slopes with the best snow)!  

This instability is most acute within the 24 to 36 hours right after the snowfalls (and wind transport/loading events). 

Avalanche danger ratings for the N French Alps on Mon 8 Jan by Meteo France. 

The challenge is that slopes easily accessed from the lifts get skied out very quickly on the first clear day after a snowfall, so as the day goes on skiers start pushing out onto untracked slopes, and taking more risk to reach the best powder snow.

So, in summary, the biggest problem has been accidental triggers of storm related instability.

 

See this ‘storm slabs’ or ‘direct action avalanches’ video taken a couple of weeks ago.

Weather forecast : Mon 8th to Sat 13th Jan

MON 8th: Very cold for the time of season, cloudy and mainly dry day in the mountains. Mountain areas near Grenoble (e.g. Alpe d’Huez) and close to the Italian border (e.g. Val d’Isère) could see some more very light snowfall (3 to 5 cm).  0°C at 400 m. Light SE wind.

TUES 9th:  A mainly cloudy day with occasional bright spells. Light SE wind. 0°C at 1100 m.

WED 10th: Sunny until mid-afternoon, when cloud cover will build up. Light to moderate E-SE wind. 0°C at 1400 m.

THIRS 11th: A cloudy day with sunny spells.

FRI 12th & SAT 13th: Calm and sunny.  Less cold, especially in the afternoon.

FOLLOWING FEW DAYS: Calm and sunny with temperatures normal for the time of season.

Tip of the Week

There’s been some great skiing on relatively steep slopes after snowstorms this past week. But to be acceptably safe, you really need to be careful and have experience being careful! 

In order to keep things ultra-safe, ski in and around areas with slopes that are less steep than 30 degrees for the first day after the snowstorm. Then go steeper.

If everything gets skied out that first day after the snowfall, then get your touring skis out!

Enjoy some fantastic skiing everyone!

Safety is Freedom!