Mild weather and Spring Skiing!
Off-piste snow report: 6 – 12 April for Savoie & Northern French Alps
For most resorts of Savoie and the N French Alps, off-piste snow depths are poor for this time of season. The best snow can be be found in high-altitude resorts, with Val d’Isere and Tignes, near the Italian border, doing much better than most.
It’s amazing how quickly any recent snow has settled down and humidified on sunny E to S to W facing slopes, especially below 2200 m. The snow remains colder on N facing slopes shaded from the sun. Elsewhere, spring snow conditions prevail. If you work with your timings and slope directions, you can get the best of spring skiing, on and off piste, and avoid a very icy ski first thing in the morning, or a very slushy one later on. See our previous blog on spring skiing and melt-freeze cycles: henrysavalanchetalk.com/ski-smooth-tips-spring-skiing-off-piste.
We continue to find a variety of off-piste conditions. There are occasional patches of lovely cold ‘winter’ powder on high sheltered N’ish facing slopes. These may still be light and fluffy, but can also be stiffened and densified by the wind (and more educational to ski). Elsewhere, the snow surface has become humidified in the daytime melt and refrozen overnight, so may have a crust, and will be very icy first thing in the morning. If you follow the direction of the sun around the mountain to ski the smoothest snow, you can avoid the early morning ice and late morning slush, to find the most pleasant, safest snow to ski for the time of day.
Areas easily accessed from the lift system are getting tracked out incredibly quickly. We’ve witnessed some terrible slope etiquette this week, with people showing total disregard for avalanche safety and for others during a ‘powder frenzy’ on Monday. This was a beautiful ‘bluebird day’, following snowfall and flat light the day before. There were impressive amounts of fresh snow around above Le Fornet area of Val d’Isère.
There was a lot of wind-loaded snow above the traverse towards the slope in the photo, which is much steeper than it looks. Using safe skiing practices, the first group approached the slope cautiously. They exposed one skier at a time to any danger on the access traverse, leaving large distances between each other as they skied down and keeping an eye out for each other’s safety.
The people behind (to the right of the photo) approached rapidly and loudly, effectively dive bombing the lower group. They seemed unaware of any possible danger to themselves or to the safety of others on the slope below them.
Unfortunately, we see this sort of selfish, dangerous behaviour all the time, especially whenever there’s a ‘powder frenzy’. An avalanche was reportedly triggered in this area about an hour later. Luckily no one was hurt.
Current reported natural avalanche activity is fairly low. On warm sunny days ahead we may expect to see a few natural avalanches of heavy humidified snow. It is also possible that skiers passing by could trigger a slab avalanche, particularly on those high windy NE and NW facing slopes near the French/Italian border where snow has recently accumulated. If you are skiing in these sort of areas, as we were in the above photos, keep a good distance between each other and make sure you keep an eye on each other as you ski down. The current avalanche risk is around a 2 on the European scale of 5, and will probably continue to be similar for the next few days. Check out the daily avalanche bulletins from Meteo-France before you go off-piste.
Detailed weather forecast for 6 – 12 April
Thursday 6: Largely sunny with some high cloud. Possibly a few isolated snowflakes in the morning near the French/Italian border (Bonneval, Pissaillas glacier above Le Fornet). N to NE wind at very high altitude with some strong gusts, especially on the Vanoise glaciers and near the border. Warming up as the day goes on: 0° at 3000 m in the afternoon.
Friday 7: Sunny with just a few clouds. Very warm in the afternoon, especially on S facing slopes and at low altitude. A few drops of rain or snowflakes possible in the afternoon. Rain/snow limit: 2700 m. NE to N wind at high altitude, turning SE to E to SW. Light Foehn-Lombard breeze near the French/Italian border. 0° C at 3000 m.
Saturday 8: Another largely sunny day. A few light afternoon showers, especially in Maurienne and Haute Maurienne (Valmeiner, Bonneval, possibly the Pissaillas glacier). Less than 5 cm of snow above 2600 m. Light SW to W, with Foehn-Lombard near the French/Italian border, then NW to N wind at high altitude. 0° C at 3000 m.
Sunday 9: Some cloud in the afternoon bringing a few showers. Temperatures remaining the same.
Monday 10: A sunny morning, clouding over in the afternoon. Showers in the late afternoon/evening. Slightly cooler.
Tuesday 11 & Wednesday 12: Mixture of sunshine and cloud. Scattered showers and strong NW to WNW wind at high altitude. Light snowfall down to 1500 m.
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!
If it snows ski the fresh snow on N facing slopes first, so as not to destroy the spring snow on S facing slopes by skiing it too soon in the day.
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 give insight on how to be safe.