The northern Alps are in the midst of a wild week of weather. Monday, wind gusts reaching well in excess of 100mph across exposed parts of the Alps. The day started very mild, with rain to 2300m in the north-western Alps before colder air brought the snowline down to around 1300m at night. Tuesday, the wind remained strong, and there was widespread snow fall. Heavy in places like Tignes and Val Thorens.
Wednesday will see some residual showers or flurries across the eastern Austrian Alps, otherwise most other regions will be drier with some sunshine here and there.
Thursday will then see the next storm approach the Alps from the north-west, bringing further snow but also some low level rain for the northern French, Swiss and western Austrian Alps later in the day. Once again the snow will eventually settle down to 1000m, with 10-20cm the norm.
Of course, this is good news for piste-skiers in France, Switzerland and Austria in the run-up to February half-term, which kicks off on Saturday. Off-piste, however, conditions are going to be very variable, thanks to the spells of rain that preceded the current dump, as well as the sometimes storm-force winds that are scouring exposed slopes.
Expect the avalanche risk to be considerable for a time, too. Local avalanche-warning services are reporting layers of poorly-bonded wind-packed snow in the back-country.
The outlook, by the way, is for a big change on Friday. It’s expected that skies will clear, winds drop, and temperatures jump. That sounds lovely, but with the daytime freezing point at 2800m, it does also mean that the fresh snow will start to melt on lower slopes, and then refreeze overnight.
As for snow conditions in the Alps, they generally remain good at altitude, where the wind has not made skiing impossible in places over the last day or two.
However, thanks to the relentlessly mild weather, the situation has become more complicated lower down. This is particularly true below about 1200m in the north-western Alps (e.g. Morzine) where there is little natural snow right now, which is unusual for the middle of February.