Sunny weather for a few days, followed by more snow from Tuesday onwards!

Off-piste snow report: 11 – 17 Jan for Savoie & Northern French Alps

Off Piste Snow & Weather: 11 - 17 Jan Savoie / N. French Alps

Bonneval Sur Arc.Photo from Meteo-Alpes FB page. If that’s what it’s like at road level, imagine how much snow fell higher up!

It’s been a incredible week in the N French Alps with insane amounts of snow falling in Savoie close to the Italian border! This was accompanied by gale force E winds, chaos on the roads, avalanche risks of up to 4 and even 5/5.  Areas were put on ‘lock-down’ by the authorities, when it was too dangerous to even leave your building.

A round up of photos from resorts who experienced a ‘retour d’Est’ phenomenon can be seen on Val d’Isère was one such resort, receiving 2 m of snow in 48 hours.

The snowpack has been stabilising rapidly, dropping from a 5/5 to  3/5 in 2 days. The reasons for this stabilising of the snowpack are that:

  • A lot of steep slopes have been purging themselves naturally (‘direct action avalanches’) of dangerously huge volumes of snow.
  • The recently above normal temperatures and rain up to 2300 m, helped to humidify the snowpack. Whilst this caused an initial instability, with the now colder temperatures (-4° C at 1800 m) the humidified snowpack has solidified/frozen together, becoming a lot more stable in and around these altitudes. Added to this is the fact that humid snow tends to bond well – think snowballs and snowmen. So the snowpack has solidified pretty well, even well above the past rain/snow limits.

Although the snowpack has been consolidating quickly, we still need to be very careful in some ‘localised’ areas. Henry and the HAT team will try to be more specific about where these areas are expected to be. Check out our updates on Henry’s Avalanche Talk Facebook page.

One thing we currently need to look out for, is areas of thick windslab that has especially formed on leeward W to NW facing slopes near ridges along the breezy French/Italian border. If you’re going off-piste in these areas, leave plenty of space between each other as you ski, go one at a time, use ‘islands of safety’ and be especially careful to avoid terrain traps below.

There are currently some awesome off-piste conditions, with great powder snow above 1800 m, which is very deep in places. Over the next few days with the colder temperatures and good visibility, the off-piste should remain good.

If we receive a significant amount of fresh snow on Tuesday/Wednesday, the avalanche risk will rise again. Check the danger ratings on the Meteo France avalanche risk bulletins for your area.

Detailed weather forecast for 11 – 17 Jan

OFF PISTE SNOW & WEATHER: 11 – 17 JAN SAVOIE / N. FRENCH ALPSThursday 11th: After a good overnight refreeze, off-piste conditions should be great today. There could be some high altitude cloud in the morning, which will clear up by the afternoon. 0° C at 1300 m and -10° C at 2800 m. Very light SW wind at 2500 m, 10 km/hr, turning NE, at 4000 m W wind turning NE, just 10 km/hr.

Friday 12th: Fantastic off-piste conditions! Bright, sunny and cold. Temperatures down to 0° C at 800 m. Light E to NE wind at altitude. Possibly some mist on mountain ridges along the French/Italian border.

Saturday 13th: Good, settled weather in the mountains. 0° C at 800 m first thing, rising to 1500 m as the day goes on. Light NW wind in the morning, and 30 to 40 km/hr gusts of Foehn/Lombard wind in the afternoon.

Sunday 14th & Monday 15th Jan: More cloudy. Sunday: Thick cloud, possibly bringing light rain/snow during the night. Monday: cloudy with bright spells. Maximum daytime temperature 3 ° C at 1000 m.

Tuesday 16th & Wednesday 17th: Unsettled weather coming in, and back to snowfall in the mountains! Tuesday: Cloudy with snow falling above 1500 m (rain lower down). Wednesday: Snow showers above 800 m altitude. Maximum temperatures: 3° C at 1000 m.

Tip of the week

Just because the avalanche danger rating is 3, that doesn’t mean that it is safe everywhere. There are pockets of instability here and there. Check out our updates and learn what the avalanche danger rating definitions mean on

Ride Hard, Ride Safe and have fun!