This week winter arrived in all her glory! The overall ski conditions improved massively in the Alps and is pretty decent right now. Snow depth may have been better last December, but last season was truly exceptional and let's not forget that the three winters before were virtually snowless right up until New Year.
The snow storm at the beginning of this week brought a substantail base layer to the Northern Alps. At altitudes between 1200m and 1800m there was previously no snow, but now there is a fragile base layer. Further up the mountain, between about 1800m and 2000m, fresh snow has often landed on top of older snow which has been humidified by rain and snow melting. At altitudes above 2000m the fresh snow settled pretty good on the substantial base snow layers of recent snow fall. At some place like the Arlberg the recent snow accummulation at higher elevation was well over 100cm. One significant feature of the storm this weekend is how temperatures have dropped as the snow has fallen. The majority of the ski resorts open at the moment are able to provide descents well into the valley. Even in Austria where it was particularly cold with the daytime freezing point hoverering between 400-800m.
Megeve is opening today
Off-piste snow depths are now much improved. It’s hard to tell exactly how much fresh snow we received because the stormy West to North-West winds transported it all around the mountain, piling it up in places and scouring it off altogether in others.
Although the Southern Alps received less fresh snow this time it had relative better conditions before the storm. In the end the conditions between the northern and southern half does not differ very much at the moment.
In France, Switzerland and Austria, the mid to high-altitude resorts are now well-stocked for the coming festive holiday rush – even if the mid-range forecast is looking decidedly less snowy than it was.
A set of weather fronts will push into the western Alps on Saturday evening, delivering some more widespread snow to the Alps on Sunday, but not as much as last weekend. Precipitation is widespread in the morning, and persist at night, a little more intense in the afternoon and late at night.
We are not expecting huge amounts of snow on Sunday but 10-40cm (locally a bit more) is possible across the northern French and western Swiss Alps (e.g. Chamonix valley, Trois Vallees, Espace Killy, Alpe DHuez, Courmayeur). The eastern Swiss Alps, western Austrian Alps and extreme north-western Italian Alps may also see a moderate fall of snow but, on the whole, the further south and east you are, the less snow there will be. The rain/snow limit will start low but may rise to between 1200m and 1600m in places later in the day. It will snow to low levels, especially in the sheltered valleys where the colder air is more difficult to shift. In the open and exposed resorts of the western Alps though the rain/snow limit may rise to 1600m tomorrow morning. On Monday morning another weather front will bring further snow to higher elevations of the north-western Alps.
From Tuesday a high pressure system will ensure dry and very sunny alpine weather. Temperatures are also getting a bit milder. The next disruption could cause some precipitation on Thursday. Towards the weekend one again a high-pressure system will prevail.