Last week was marked by calm, fine weather with some strong winds, gusting to 80km/h, at atlitude on Wednesday. These were from the south-east and strongest in the Ecrins and Southern Alps. The zero isotherm was above 3500 meters on Wednesday and Thursday. The resort of les Saises in the Haute-Savoie saw daytime highs of +10C.
Snow conditions have deteriorated since last weekend. It is still possible to find some skiable snow from 1500 m on sheltered, north sector slopes but with little base below 2000m. On south facing slopes you need to go higher, 2200-2500 meters to find spring like snow conditions.
Snow cover improves rapidly above 2000 m to be close to average at 2500 m where accumulations of over 1 meter can be found in sheltered bowls.
The mild weather has helped stabilize the snowpack in mid-mountain altitudes. There is a good refrozen base from 1800 to 2500 meters. Higher up there are some localized slabs which could be triggered by a single skier and the base is less cohesive due to the colder condtions. The highest risk is currently in the Hautes-Alpes and this is where ski touring conditions are best. Crevasses on glaciers remain open or poorly bridged, care is advised.
Snow Report for the 22nd December 2006
Powder can be found on sheltered northern slopes but has a refreeze crust. On southern slopes there is a sun crust which melts during the day. Take care on steeper sunny aspects as snow purges or even full depth slides are possible in the afternoon.
There has been around 10cm of fresh snow over Saturday in the Alps and Western Pyrenees. The outlook through to the 26 December is for stable sunny weather. In summary, a poor start to the season but with much more stable conditions compared to last year.