I was up in the mountains yesterday. There is some snow on the Vanoise glaciers and someone over at SkiTour even managed to get in some vertical. 400 meters skiing for 1200 meters climbing sounds like a poor deal though.
Looking over to the Grandes-Rousses (l’alpe d’Huez) the glaciers are pretty much bare ice below 3000 meters and crevasses are not well bridged higher up.
At 2000 meters the air temperature was 10C at midday and shaded ground temperature +6.5C. The weather has turned warmer now although forecasts are for some snow from the middle of next week which may be just in time for the opening at Val Thorens.
Over the weekend temperatures finally dipped into negative territory above 1800 meters in the Northern Alps, 2200m in the Southern Alps and Pyrenees.
A weak weather system has brought about 5-10cm of snow above 2000 meters in the Northern Alps. Nothing skiable yet except on the glaciers. The ski resorts have also been running their snow canons although most of the snow they made melted over the week. A mass of warm air is moving over France with further light snow expected towards the end of the week.
It was the hottest 14th of November day on record in France today with warmer temperatures expected tomorrow and Thursday.
Val Thorens has delayed its opening due to lack of snow. The opening is scheduled for “the end of November”, they hope.
It has got quite a bit cooler over Friday night with some rain and snow in the Hautes-Alpes and Isere regions. The snow line was around 1900 meters with around 20cm at 2500 meters on the Belledonne mountains. 25 cm on the Glacier at les Deux Alpes. Fine, calm weather is expected over the next 3 days with some more snow at lower levels on Tuesday.
There has been an incredibly amount of wind over the last couple of days with speeds up to 80-100km hour. This has stripped any fresh snow from ridges and summits but one could expect some quite significant accumulations/slabs on northern aspects above 3000 meters. These will now be covered by the fresh snow. Care should be taken due to the risk of avalanche on any of the high summits of the Pyrenees or Alps, for example the Ecrins or Mont-Blanc.
We were up at the col du Lauteret today. The Hautes-Alpes, in the southern half of the French Alps received the bulk of the snow over Friday night, around 20cm at 2000 meters. There was a top up of around 10cm on Sunday night which also hit the rest of the Alps. Some further snow is expected in the Jura and Savoie on Wednesday from around 1000-1500 meters. Temperatures will be quite warm at the end of the week.
All this snow and wind makes us think of avalanches. We found the slopes we climbed (all low angled) cross loaded with powder snow. This was quite slabby in places and there could be some more significant snow slabs in place close to ridgelines and cols at altitude. Take care if you are heading into the mountains over the coming days, particuarly in the Isere and Southern Alps.
We did some temperature measurements. The ground temperature is now at zero where it will pretty much stay for the winter for mid-mountain altitudes. The surface of the snow was at -8C. Given the 20 to 40cm of snow cover this gives a temperature gradient. This gives a temperature gradient of between 40 to 20 degrees per meter which will lead to the formation of facetted crystals, a potential weak layer. We didn’t notice anything particuarly worrying yet and hopefully the current snow will soon be buried by a deeper layer.