“Ridiculous”, that is how Météo France have described the snow conditions in the Alps for mid-November. Despite a covering of 5-10cm of snow above 2000 meters it is one of the poorest starts to the season for some time. Even Val Thorens, at 2300 meters, the highest resort in Europe, has delayed its opening until the 26th of November at the earliest. Normally one can expect Val Tho to open the first weekend of the month.
Cold enough for snow canons at Val Cenis
The weather is not without other negative consequences. Warm autumn ground, a thin snow-pack and zero isotherm around 1,000 meters creates a strong temperature gradient in the snow. This transforms snow crystals into facets and depth hoar. Weak layers that can have consequences well into the season; long after ski resorts have opened and inviting fields of powder glisten invitingly on a sunny winter’s day. Avalanche experts have already noticed these weak layers at altitude on north sector slopes and in couloirs both in the Alps and Pyrénées. Yesterday’s accident near the col d’Agnel which killed a ski moutaineer reminds us that even early season zero risk does not exist in the mountains.
All this leads into some new features on PisteHors.com. We will not be covering the snow and avalanche conditions on a weekly basis this season. Instead we have a single snow and avalanche page giving a history of what has happened so far as well as some comments on current conditions. These are derived from personal observations, including snow pits and those of friends and colleagues as well as pertinent detail from the Météo France avalanche bulletins. What is really neat is that also possible for PisteHors.com members to edit this page to include their own personal observations.
We also have installed a weather station which gives current conditions in Gresivaudan valley in the foothills of the Chartreuse mountains. The software is experimental but we hope to give zero isotherm, freeze/thaw levels, precipitation and prevailing wind conditions over 24 hour and 72 hour time frames.
Zero Isotherm in Meters, last 24 hours