April 2006

Weather > Snow Avalanche Conditions > April 2006

30th April 2006

Thursday and Friday were spent in Val Thorens at the SnowHeads End of Season Bash. A meeting of Internaute based skiers. Conditions were pretty unsettled and warm with slopes turning pretty slushy in the afternoon. However all changed over Saturday night with a very good refreeze and the zero isotherm dropping down to 1000 meters overnight. This caught a few people by surprise and there were two fatalities in the Belledonne range close to Grenoble as skiers slid in the icy conditions. We ski toured the Grands Moulins to the north of the Belledonne range. Skiable snow started around 1500 meters on this sheltered west facing slope. We decided to tackle the north-east couloir, although this gets the sun very eary in the morning it still wasn't in perfect condtion at 10h40. Temperatures are expected to warm up a bit tomorrow but timing and route choice are important at this time of year.

26th April 2006

After an excellent Saturday, we found some powder above 2500 meters and a good refreeze things have warmed up. The going was soft below 2000 meters on Sunday and Monday but at least the weather was good with clear nights. We now seem to have entered into an unstable period in the Alps. Today it was raining to 2500 meters although there is a chance of some fresh snow at lower altitudes. The avalanche risk increases during the course of the day with the rise in temperatures. In general touring conditions are not wonderful except at altitude even if the snow depth remain correct for the time of year. Above 3000m, where there has been some fresh snow, watch out for some new slabs formed under the action of the south-west then north wind. There should be some improvement in the conditions during the weekend.

20th April 2006

Ski touring conditions are absolutely perfect at the moment with a good overnight refreeze down to around 1500 meters. Yesterday morning the zero isotherm was around 1900-2000 meters however with the clear skies the snow loses a lot of heat and will freeze 400-500 meters lower down. With the strong spring sunshine you want to be off east facing slopes by 11am and snow conditions will be pretty soft on all slope aspects below 2000 meters in the afternoon. Time to plan routes with care.

There is very little avalanche activity in the morning with the risk of wet snow slides in the afternoon. In high mountain areas which are not subject to a freeze-thaw cycle it is effectively still winter with some very localized risk of snow slabs. Skiable snow can be found around 1300 meters on shaded slopes rising to nearer 2000 meters on very sunny aspects.

It is particuarly impressive to see all the snow slabs that have come down over the last few weeks. A real reminder of the very unstable conditions we had this winter.

17th April 2006

A weather front over the weekend brought 5-10cm of fresh snow above 2000 meters in the Northern Alps. The overnight refreeze had been pretty good giving spring skiing conditions. Despite the Moderate risk announced in the bulletin we heard of at least one skier getting caught by a slab at the end of last week so prudence is required especially on steeper couloirs above 2500 meters where there has been slightly more snowfall.

12th April 2006

There was fresh snow down to around 500 meters in the Northern Alps and Massif Central yesterday. This has not done too much for lower altitudes where the ground is already warm and the snow soon melted but it is now possible to ski down to 1200-1300 meters. The fresh snow was accompanied by some very strong winds from the north to north-east. This meant that there was quite a bit of fresh snow on south sector slopes. We found around 50cm of fresh on the south-east slopes we were on today. This is beginning to bond to a fairly stable base however could overload some slopes with hidden weak layers. We found some slabby snow close to cols and ridges with a small whumpf in one place. Our group used good spacing on these sections with care about terrain traps and trigger points such as convex slopes.

The strong winds also made snow conditions very variable with a mixture of heavy powder on all but north facing slopes, ice and snow pillows. Tomorrow looks like being perfect spring skiing weather with a good refreeze although higher (>2000 meters) north facing slopes will have the best conditions. Of course these are the same slopes that have the highest avalanche risk... you pays your money and you makes your choice. We don't think the snow will transform that well on southern aspects with the risk of crust especially at lower altitudes.

9th April 2006

Friday and Saturday were glorius days of spring skiing weather in the Alps. On Friday we were exploring more of L-Alpe-D-Huez massive off-piste area (more later). There was an excellent overnight refreeze which only began to soften around midday on south-facing slopes. There was still some powder to be found but you had to go higher up and into less skied areas. On Saturday we did an 1800 meter tour in the Belledonne range. Again lots of fresh powder up high on north facing slopes and corn snow on south facing aspects. There are a lot of traces of this winters unstable conditions with some very large slabs that were triggered during the March heatwave. The slopes are now a lot more stable but there is little skiable snow below 1400 meters. Today we were in the Maurienne resort of le Corbier, not the pretty of places with its large tower blocks. The skiing was fine in the morning but getting soft in the afternoon in the 12C temperatures at 1500m. There were a few snow flurries higher up.

The current weather front will bring snow down to 800-1000 meters over the course of Monday in the west of the Alps although it will remain warmer to the east with snow/rain level nearer 1500 meters until the evening. Around 20-30cm of fresh snow is expected. The snow will be accompanied by a strong wind from the south which will swing around to the north-west to north overnight and will create some new slabs with the greatest risk on any shaded slopes where there is an unstable base. These snow slabs could be triggered by the passage of a single skier or snowboarder. Watch out for snow purges during the course of the day on any steep slope or couloir.

6th April 2006

After some unstable weather mid-week we now look set for 2 or 3 days of glorius spring skiing weather and conditions. There was a good refreeze last night and snow to around 800 meters in the Northern Alps although most of this has melted below 1200 meters. Snow conditions in the two Savoies are very good, especially at altitude with glaciated routes now well covered. There has been around 25cm of fresh snow above 2200 meters in the last couple of days. Watch out for sluffing during the course of the day and some slabs at altitude. Conditions are not so good in the Isère at lower altitudes which has suffered badly from the heatwave in the second half of March. The best skiing in the Oisans. Conditions remain above average in the Southern Alps but again beware that it is still winter at altitude with the risk of slabs.

Corsica has had a very good season and despite the very warm recent weather it is still possible to tour in the mountains – a crossing of the Alta Strada is still an option with snow below 1500 meters on north facing slopes. Take care in the afternoon with sluffing and some residual slabs close to ridgelines.

2nd April 2006

After a disasterous couple of weeks of high temperatures and torrential rain conditions are slowly improving in the Northern Alps. Both Friday and Saturday night saw reasonable overnight refreezes on the mountains. Yesterday the crust was about 10cm thick but with a rotten layer underneath. All quite skiable as long as you didn't wait around for the Sun to warm things up. There was fresh snow above 1800-1900 meters with around 30cm of fresh snow at altitude with a strong westerly wind above 2000m. Watch out for fresh slabs formed on the lee side of cols and ridges and for snow purges (we saw one) on any slope catching the sun.

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