Alps snow holding up despite record temperatures

Meteo France is reporting that snow cover is good in the Alps and Corsica, but only above 1500 meters. However the Pyrenees is suffering from a second year of poor snow with cover only starting from 1300 to 1500 meters on north faces and 1800 meters on southern slopes.

point du midi

Snow depths are above average in the Southern Alps following heavy falls in the first half of January. The Northern Alps have seen regular snowfall over the winter. The recent warm and sunny weather has been tempered by clear, cold nights which have helped preserve the snow pack. There is currently little snow at 1000 meters, just some flattish forest trails are practical but the situation improves from 1200 meters with 150cm at 2000m on shallow slopes. Higher up snow cover is irregular due to the effects of strong southern winds. There is “spring skiing” on southern slopes and still some powder to be found on shaded northern aspects.

January has seen temperatures +2.3 °C above average for the whole of France. The sixth warmest January since the start of the 20th Century and just 0.3 °C less than last year. The start of the month was cold but it has been consistently warm since the 4th January. However this follows a six month cold period. Records were broken on the 28th of January, +8.6°C at 1970 meters at la Plagne and a whopping +25°C at 700m in the Alps Maritimes. The start of February saw 50-80 cm of new snow in the Hautes-Alpes to the Haute-Savoie with 20-40cm in other areas. This also increased avalanche activity.

Corsica currently has around 20 to 30cm of snow at 1500 m but it is only above 1800 meters where the snow cover is around 120cm. The snow in the Pyrenees has suffered from mild weather and warm southern winds. The western end of the chain has the best cover. At the Lacs d’Ardiden at 2450m there is just 77cm of snow compared to the decenial average of 170cm. The situation is not great in the Massif Central where good cover only starts at 1500 meters. Heavy rain on the 5th February badly affected snow in the Vosges with good snow cover only from 1200m. The situation is better in the Jura with snow from 1000 m.

The French environment ministry has asked people to conserve water. Rainfall has been less than average over much of France since September. 25% less than normal with 50% less in the Pyrenees and Southern Alps. The warm winter has brought Max the migrating stork back from his winter holidays in Southern Spain.

Further Information

Max heads for the slopes

Posted by davidof on Wednesday, 13 February, 2008 at 03:01 PM

Anyone know if the snow is holding in the Valais area of Switzerland.  Headed there in 2 weeks and then plan on skiing in La Grave for a few days?

Posted by Mongo's Last Dance on  Sunday, 17 February, 2008  at 09:33 PM

The situation is more critical in the Vosges. The mountains had a good Christmas but there is very little skiable snow with only la Bresse - Hohneck remaining open for the French February winter holiday period. Ski resorts in the range are unsure whether to invest in snow canons as winters are getting more random. The current warm temperatures would probably mean that they would go unused for much of the time. The area is a European pioneer of artificial snowmaking - the first six snow canons were installed at Champ du Feu in 1963 although they were probably not needed in that very harsh winter.

Regarding la Grave. Reports from people skiing this weekend say that the main routes were tracked out but still offered pleasant “piste like” skiing.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 21 February, 2008  at 04:19 PM
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