Lovely spring-snow skiing conditions. Possible fresh snow at the weekend, then back to spring next week!
Off-piste snow report: 30 March – 5 April, Savoie & Northern French Alps
Lucky Val d’Isère and Tignes (close to the French/Italian border) benefited from a ‘Retour d’Est’ last week. This brought plenty of fresh snow across from the east/south-east, a privilege sadly not extended to many other resorts in Savoie and the N French Alps. In most other resorts, off-piste snow depths are below normal for this time of season.
Even though snow depths are not always so great, there is some excellent quality spring snow skiing to be found, if you choose your timings and slope directions right. Good melt-freeze cycles are now coming into place. The trick is to get onto a slope when the snow surface is smooth and solid with only 2 or 3 cm of soft melted snow on top.
- Start with east facing slopes first thing (9 to 10 am). These have been in direct sunlight for only an hour or so (the sun rises in the east, so these slopes receive its rays first).
- When the snow surface begins to get too soft and mushy, get off those slopes or you’ll start breaking through. This is dangerous for your knees, and the slope may become unstable due to all the melting. Avalanches can be a problem on these sunny slopes.
- Next move to south facing slopes, followed by west facing slopes (following the trajectory of the sun).
- Do this right and get some of the best skiing of the season!
Aside from overnight temperatures not being cold enough for the snow to refreeze, the only thing that gets in the way of great spring skiing are the nasty ruts in the snow that some skiers leave behind. This happens either because they ski spring snow slopes before the melt-freeze layer has formed, i.e. too soon after a snowfall, or because they ski slopes too late in the day which are already too slushy.
See our previous blog for more about spring snow skiing and melt-freeze cycles.
We’ve still been finding a few pitches of cold winter powder snow on high shaded north facing slopes near the French/Italian border. These will become a lot more scarce over the next few days.
The snowpack is now pretty stabilised with melt-freeze cycles taking place. The top 15 to 20 cm of the snowpack are well humidified, particularly on the sunny E to S to W facing slopes. There’s been a lot less natural avalanche activity in recent days, with a lot of the steeper slopes already having purged.
The avalanche risk is currently relatively low, but could rise at the weekend if we get much wind and fresh snow/precipitation. Check out the daily avalanche bulletins from Meteo-France before you go off-piste.
Detailed weather forecast for 30 March to 5 April
Thursday 30: Like a summer’s day in the mountains with temperatures bordering on +15°C at 2000 meters, 0°C at 3100 m. Sunshine all day long. Virtually no wind.
Friday 31: Continuing very sunny, with SW winds and a few gusts of Foehn (40 km/hr). A bank of cloud will build up on the Italian side of the border in the afternoon. 0°C at 3200 m. Some thin high cloud may develop in the night along with a few possible snowflakes in areas near the French/Italian border.
Saturday 1: S wind, with gusts of Foehn (50 to 70 km/hr). We could see some very light snowfall (less than 10cm) down to 2200 m in areas near the French/Italian border. More showers in the afternoon and evening. 0°C at 2700, then dropping to 2400 m. There will more snow at 1800 m on the Italian side of the border, and in areas of the Maurienne like Valmeinier.
Sunday 2: A few possible showers, but brightening up as the day goes on..
Monday 3: Clouds clearing up as the day goes on, becoming sunny later. Temperatures on the rise.
Tuesday 4 & Wednesday 5: More settled weather with sunshine and a bit of cloud. Temperatures rising again to above average for the time of season.
Learn how to get your timings right when skiing spring snow. See this blog post henrysavalanchetalk.com/ski-smooth-tips-spring-skiing-off-piste Get it right, and you’ll find some lovely skiing conditions. You can even apply this to on-piste skiing!
See the Henry’s Avalanche Talk Facebook page – we have lots of great info and updates on events that can help you to have more fun off-piste! See facebook.com/HenrysAvalancheTalk and our on-line talks, which give insight on how to be safe.