Posted on: 2015-12-17 21:42:00 by davidof

17th December 2015 Snow Conditions

Meteo France says that winters like the current one happen "every ten years or so" then goes on to observe "only they are getting much more frequent". After last year's disastrous start to the season, it was only really skiable around my way after the second snow falls of mid January, one could have hoped for better.

In the Northern Alps things aren't quite as bad as 2014, at least at mid altitudes. The autumn was very dry and warm but the snowfall in the second half of November hasn't suffered from a foehn and has survived better into December. It is possible to use ski runs to reach natural snow higher up. Today I was in the Chartreuse. There is around 30cm of snow on North sector slopes. This has a thick crust with angular grains beneath. If the current situation of clear nights continues the crust could get transformed into angular grains which are a potential weak layer when covered with fresh snow. The crust seems to be due to high level rain. Further up, for example in the high mountains of the Savoie and Vanoise, the top 20 to 30cm of the snowpack is comprised of these crystals so the situation could be a lot more critical with fresh snow or an episode of strong wind that forms slabs. There is, however, no significant snow forecast this side of Christmas.

The Southern Alps are a bit of a disaster. 80% less snowfall than average although some ski areas have managed to make snow to cover some of the lower slopes. The Pyrenees had two major storm cycles in the second half of November although it rained quite high. Conditions are almost normal above 1800m although the snow quality isn't always good with hard, icy conditions in places.