Snow and Avalanche Report: Week 48-2004

Despite last week’s snowfall over the Northern Alps snow conditions still remain poor with little skiable snow below 2,500 meters. Three ski resorts, Avoriaz, Pra-Loup and Orres have put back their openings and Val d’Isère will open thanks to snow-making. Some fresh snow is expected towards the end of the weekend. The situation in the Pyrénées is much better although off-piste conditions range from hard to crusty.


Despite last Friday’s moderate snowfalls of around 15cm there has, if anything, been a degradation in snow conditions in the Alps over the week. Since Saturday the area has seen clear, sunny and warming weather with the O Isotherm rising to 3,400 meters at one stage. The automatic monitoring station at la Plagne – Bellecôte shows a total snow depth of 48cm at 3000 meters altitude. There was around 15cm of fresh snow last Friday but with positive temperatures around 5cm has melted. The Ecrins – la Grave station showed 8cm of fresh snow giving a total depth of just over 70 cm at 2940 meters. The new snow was accompanied by winds gusting to over 80km/h so accumulations could be quite significant on sheltered lee-slopes. With the very discontinuous snow pack and the return to cold night time temperatures skiers should still take care.

The mountains certainly look more wintry with snow down to the valleys on northern faces but this very thin cover extends to around 2,500 meters and is unskiable. Last weekend a few people managed to take advantage of the fresh snowfall and artificial snow in resorts to get in some ski touring altitude but the few recent outings have been on north facing glaciated terrain and found no skiable snow below 2,400 meters. Conditions only become reasonable at some 3000 meters where snow depths are between 15-50cm.

Where there is snow spring conditions can be found to very high altitudes on southern slopes with a freeze-crust softening during the course of the day. The north to north-west winds, blowing to 40km/h, will have hardened the snow at higher altitudes.

The temperatures will cool over the weekend and a weather front should cross France over the course of Monday travelling from the north-west bringing some fresh snowfall, particularly to the Savoie and Haute-Savoie down to between 800 to 1500 meters. This snow will be accompanied by light, southerly winds. This fresh snow will initially be poorly bonded to the existing layers. Mid-week will see more sunny weather with a further, deeper weather front expected on Thursday.

Tignes and Val Thorens are already have parts of their high altitude domains open. They are joined by Val d’Isère which will open four pistes this weekend and by les Deux Alpes which is opening the glacier between 3,200 and 3,600 meters. The Grand Motte cable car at Tignes should be back in service on the 3rd of December following the recent incident.

Southern]]Southern Alps[/url]

There has been no real change since our last report. Snow is expected in the Briançon (Serre Chevalier) area from Sunday afternoon with a further front crossing the area next Thursday.

Montgènevre will open four lifts covering 20% of the ski area this weekend thanks to snow-making.


The cold, clear weather has stabilized the snow pack. Snow cover is average for the season with snow on the ground from 2000 meters. Some light snow showers area expected from Saturday to Monday with more light snow from Wednesday.


The snow-pack has largely stabilized since the recent heavy snowfall. Except in very sheltered areas the snow has a freeze-crust to 2,500 meters and has been hardened by wind higher up. It is possible to ski from around 1400 meters on northern slopes except towards the east of the mountain range. Spring snow conditions have been reported on southern slopes which are well exposed to the sun. Light snowfall accompanied by south-west winds is expected over the course of Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning.

Ax, les Angles, Formiguères and Pas de la Casa are already opening. They will be joined by the rest of the Grand Valira domain in Andorra, Piau-Engaly, Luz-Ardiden and Peyragudes. However le Tourmalet will remain closed following the death of an employee in a snow mobile accident.

Météo France issues avalanche bulletins for France.

Posted by davidof on Friday, 26 November, 2004 at 12:44 PM

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