Posted on: 2019-01-10 08:43:25 by davidof

French snow conditions, 10th January 2019

Inspite of the recent snowfall (around 10-30cm of windblown fresh snow in the Northern French Alps, Vosges and Jura) snow-depths remain  below average. The fresh snow and wind will lead to a considerable risk of skier triggered avalanches in some sectors.

It has not snowed since before Christmas and high altitude rain considerably reduced the good early season snowfall.  However the anticyclonic conditions preserved the remaining snow except on steep, south facing aspects. It is possible to ski from 1200 meters in the Alps on sheltered slopes. In other mountain ranges the snow levels are poor, to very poor in the Pyrenees and Corsica. The fresh snow is falling on hard or icy slopes, care will be required until it is properly bonded.

Northern Alps

The snowline is 1100 m in the Haute-Savoie, 1200 m in Savoie and between 1300 and 1500 m in the Isère on shaded slopes. Add around 300 m higher on sunny aspects. The interior ranges of the Savoie and Haute-Savoie have the best snow cover.  Conditions are above average from 2000 meters altitude, slightly above average over 2500 m where there is more than 100cm of snow.

Southern Alps

The Southern Alps have good snow conditions. There is snow cover from 1200 meters on shaded slopes in the ranges around Briancon, 1500 m. further south, depths are consistent with early January.


There is very little snow below 2000 meters with a deficit at all altitudes for the time of year.


Despite a good early start to the season snow cover is now very poor at all altitudes. Ski resorts are only operating thanks to snow making – the conditions are cold and dry. Natural snow cover starts around 1900 m on north sector slopes. Off piste conditions are poor with only around 30-50cm snow depth at the highest altitudes. Although poor starts to the season are common (2016, 2017 for example) the lack of snow at altitude is exceptional and as bad as the very poor winter of 1996.

Vosges, Jura and Massif Central

Recent weather systems have brought up to 20cm of fresh snow to the Jura, Vosges and Massif Central. Some of the cross country ski areas have been able to open more runs with the new falls.

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