This winter just keeps on giving!
Off-piste snow report: 22 – 28 March for Savoie & Northern French Alps
Someone suggested we should start publishing reports about spring, spring snow and melt-freeze cycles this week. Normally we would be writing about this in March. However this year is different. We cannot see much sign of spring in the weather forecast. Winter continues. So this report is about winter snow in March.
Off-piste snow depths remain the deepest for over 40 years! With continuing cold temperatures, we’re still finding incredible cold, dry light powder snow conditions. Despite the fact that it’s now officially spring, we’re enjoying every minute of this wonderful extended winter with its fantastic skiing!
In high altitude Val d’Isere (resort level 1850 m) and other places of similar altitudes, we’ve not yet witnessed any spring skiing conditions, and don’t expect to for at least the next week or so. Maybe at lower altitudes in other places, or on sunny S facing slopes, spring skiing conditions could just be starting, but we’re still very much in the grips of winter in the Northern French Alps!
As we approach the end of the ski season, the snowpack will become more and more predictable with melting and refreezing of the snowpack, but we’re not quite there yet. This year, the relatively stable snowpack is due to vast quantities of snow which have helped prevent the development of a serious persistent weak layer during the colder months. The deep snowpack and big snowfall events have prevented the development of the type of persistent dangerous weak layer that we had over the last few years in most of the N. French Alps. In previous years this weak layer was a problem not only in the winter months, but also it became a problem in the springtime. This is not the case this year.
At the moment, off-piste conditions and risks change from day to day, but the conditions are generally stable with some isolated areas or ‘localised’ instability. Info on specific risks to look out can be found in the daily avalanche bulletin for your area. How to protect yourself from these risks – so you can enjoy the off-piste, is outlined in the ‘Tip of the Week’ below.
As off-piste skiers, we currently need to beware especially of the colder N facing slopes above 2500 m, where recently fallen snow is still very light and unbonded. There is also windslab to be found here, resting on top of the unconsolidated snow in places. Of course, these slopes are where the best quality off-piste snow can be found.
As always at this time of year, off-piste routes that are easily accessed by the ski-lifts are more stable than the less-skied ones. Places, where we need to use skins, tend to be less skied. That’s due to the stabilising effect of skier compaction. However, the easily-accessed, well-compacted areas get very quickly tracked out and so aren’t so much fun to ski (unless you like funky chopped up powder!).
When the sun does come out in March, it is very strong and has an impact on South Facing slopes. They get crusty quite quickly. With a few sunny days ahead, we will also continue to see some natural slides of humidified snow especially due to rapid warming on slopes subject to incoming radiation from the sun. There have been a lot of these in the last week, some of them down to ground level. We’ll also probably see the odd glide crack avalanche releasing – though not many of these. These are unpredictable but not triggered by people. Just make sure you don’t hang around under them!
It looks as if it’ll be cloudy from Sunday onwards. We recommend venturing out, even when it looks uninspiring. We’ve been delighted by great conditions this week, even when the forecast was all gloom and doom!
Detailed weather forecast for 22nd – 28th March
Sunny and around 0C till Sunday, when the weather turns back to winter again. Then the weather will stay cold and cloudy with occasional sunny breaks and occaisonal snow in the weather. This looks set to continue for another 10 days at least. Maximum daytime temperatures of 0C to +4C. So below freezing higher up. Winter is staying with us.
Thursday 22nd: After a good overnight refreeze, we’ll see a beautiful sunny day, with just some very thin high cloud. Cold NE wind at altitude, 20 to 70 km/hr at 2500 m. 0°C at 400 m, -10° C at 3300 m. From mid-afternoon, cloud will start building up in high mountain areas. Areas like the Tarentaise and Beaufortain (e.g. Trois Vallées, Arêches) could receive a few fresh snowflakes.
Friday 23rd: Another sunny day at higher altitudes, with a sea of cloud hanging around at 2000 m. Gusts of NE wind, 40 to 60 km/hr. 0°C at 1200 m.
Saturday 24th: Continuing sunny weather in the mountains, with just some veiled high cloud. 0°C at 1500 m. Cumulus clouds will start building in the afternoon, and we could see some light snow falling overnight.
Sunday 25th & Monday 26th: Unsettled weather, with a lot of cloud. This could bring small amounts of fresh snowfall to altitudes above 1000 m. Temperatures slightly below seasonal norms.
Tuesday 27th & Wednesday 28th: A mixture of dry spells and snow showers in the mountains.
The snow conditions are really good off-piste at the moment. You can have fun and be safe by applying basic risk reduction measures:
- Apply the basic risk reduction measures that you can find in our HAT off-piste checklist to be safe off-piste.
- Use this in combination with our Essentials Talk that you can watch on-line.
Ride Hard, Ride Safe and have a great week everyone!