Conditions at the moment are similar to the start of the 2005 / 2006 season which saw a record 57 avalanche deaths in France. A thin snow-pack with very strong temperature gradients. On all slope aspects except south the snow pack is composed of a weak faceted layer. Fresh snow is expected at altitude on Thursday with the snowline dropping to 1100 m during the course of Friday. A new storm cycle is anticipated at the beginning of next week.
Avalanche expert Alain Duclos cautions "we've not seen these kind of conditions for a number of years across the Savoies and Hautes-Alpes. The warm temperatures at altitude are unable to refreeze the snow on shaded slopes and this is coupled with a strong temperature gradient. Anything that falls on top of this layer will be particularly unstable." Other guides have warned that instabilities could persist in north facing bowls until the spring. Chamonix based guide Andy Perkins says "it's going to be avalanche carnage when the next snowfall arrives" and Henry Schniewind, a Val d'Isere based avalanche and ski instructor has said "Normally time strengthens the snow pack, this is NOT the case today, each day has made the snowpack less consolidated, the current sugary snow is a very very weak layer... it will be very dangerous".
http://http://www.data-avalanche.org/ - Alain Duclos' website
http://www.andypmountainguide.com/ - Andy Perkin's website