Weather and snow conditions in the Northern French Alps have been, and will continue to be, severe until Friday morning. The extreme weather means no skiing in many Alps ski resorts. Further snow is due at the weekend, mostly in the southern Alps, but it will also spill over the border regions to reach some more northerly ski resorts, such as Val d’Isère, Les Arcs and La Plagne. The southern ski resorts like Zermatt, Saas Fee and Sestriere will get a full blast with somewhere in between 2.5 and 3.5 meter of fresh snow -maybe 4m at high altitude- by Monday!
Over the last couple of days most of the Alps have seen a lot of snow and a lot of wind, thanks to winter storm Eleanor. Some areas have also seen a lot of rain. It continued to snow all last night across much of the French Alps, most of Switzerland, western Austria and parts of north-west Italy. By the end of Thursday, above 2500 m we could see 30 to 60 cm of fresh snow, for example, in the Maurienne & Haute Maurienne area (Bonneval, Val Cenis), and up to a meter or more in other more Northerly areas of Savoie and Haute Savoie! Of course, all this fresh snow will be extremely wind affected. In some places, 48 hour snowfall totals above 2300m are likely to be in the region of 1.5m in places.
The massive snow fall is already causing a lot of problems in the Alps, especially in the west. Many roads have been closed by avalanches and land slide and the avalanche danger is at the maximum level 5 for extremely high on a scale of 5. Residents of the swiss village La Fouly were evacuated because of the avalanche risk. Val Thorens is cut off from Les Menuires. The roads to Arc 1950 and Arc 2000 are closed. The lifts in the ski area of Tignes and Avoriaz are closed all day as well. There were severe restrictions at the Arlberg, in Ischgl, Pitztal, Sölden and Hoch- / Obergurgl. Many lifts on the Stubai Glacier have abandoned the fight against the wind and closed.
The worst of today’s (Thursday) weather will be in the Haute-Savoie, Savoie and Isère departments in the northern French Alps. However, the situation is also serious across larger parts of Switzerland -especially the western Valais-, parts of western Austria and the far north-west of Italy.
Ski areas will start to re-open Friday morning following the passage of storm Eleanor. Friday will be a relatively calm day, with only light snow fall in the morning. In the afternoon the sky will brighten. It will be a great day for powder skiing at higher elevation. Please be very careful and stay on the marked slopes.
Saturday night, th snowfall will become more intense, particularly in the East of the Savoie region. Here we could see another 60 cm of snow above 1800 m overnight. Strong SW to S wind at high altitude during the day, becoming even stronger and more SE overnight. Foehn and Lombard wind near the French/Italian border.
The avalanche danger this week will be directly related to a) the overall total accumulations of snow b) the even more large amounts of snow added by the wind in many places and c) the rise and fall of the rain/snow limit altitude. Not only will the avalanche danger rating be ‘Extreme 5’ to ‘High 4’ over the next few days, but off-piste snow conditions will also be lethal. With temperatures above seasonal norms, accompanied by rain below altitudes of 2200/1800 m, the snowpack at these lower altitudes has become very heavy, deeply humid and difficult to ski.
Looking a bit further ahead, the weather will calm down a bit tomorrow before the snow returns again over the weekend. This time it will mostly affect the southern Alps, but with Val d’Isère and Tignes likely to also be in the firing line again due to the Retour d’Est, with bad weather spilling over the border from Italy.
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