Meteo France has published its latest analysis of the winter snow conditions however you don't need a weather man to know that things have been somewhat challenging this winter: avalanche risk at altitude and poor snow lower down. Maybe we've just been spoiled by two good winters
November and December promised much with snow and cold but since the end of December warm weather with rain at altitude have predominated. Each time we seem to be getting a base at 1000m it gets blitz by a foehn or rain and we are back to square one. For the low mountain areas of the Chartreuse, Vercors and Bauges there are, realistically, only 6 weeks left to this season with many routes still barely skiable. With the avalanche stuck at considerable in the high mountain ranges there has been a lot of competition for lines. If you are not flexible when you can ski: during the week, before or after work, even at night with a head lamp, you can miss the powder.
In the Belledonne, where we've been doing some touring, things are not too bad above 1500 meters. A snowpit we dug last weekend showed 120cm of snow depth at 1750 meters. However a number of episodes of foehn (a warm southerly wind) have left ridges and the entrances to couloirs bare of snow. South facing slopes are particularly thin with 30-50% less depth than normal. The snowpack in forests is also poor, hiding tree stumps and rocks, you really have to select routes where the lower sections are on open slopes or tracks.
Things in the Southern Alps look somewhat better, the region has been battered by storms blown in from the Mediterranean. In the Mercantour and Haut-Var/Haut-Verdon the depths above 2000 meters are close to 50 year records but again south facing slopes lack cover. Corsica has suffered with the warm weather, with poor cover below 1800 meters but excellent above 2000 meters but as usual the wind has meant very irregular cover.
The Pyrenees had excellent early season cover and it looked like being a repeat of last year with roads cut in the mountains by avalanches. Things are close to normal now but despite high altitude rain at the end of January cover is still good above 1500 meters except in the east of the range.
The ski resorts of the Jura and Vosges have had trouble operating this winter with some touring routes requiring portage, at least to the tree line. Recent snowfall has improved conditions across the range. Conditions are better in the Massif Central which has seen good touring conditions above 1000/1200 meters and ski resorts operating more or less normally.