Snow Report - 08-01-2018


Risk: Very High

Daily Update


It's snowmageddon here in Val d'Isere with a massive retour d'Est having dumped 60cm of snow here in resort over the last 24 hours. There's even more up top on the slopes and it's not going to slow down today. Winds will be strong with Foehn and Lombarde gusts of up to 100km/h. Maximum temperatures for the day are 4° at 2000m and -4° at 3000m.

The retour d'Est will die off in the wee hours of the morning after having dropped another 80 or so cm.

Tomorrow is set to be cloudy with some “light” snow, another10 to 20cm is expected.

The road to the Laisinant/Fornet has been closed since 4am. The red bus line is doing a u-turn at the Richardes. The road to the Chatelard is also closed to both vehicles and pedestrians. The Daille, and Cret roads are closed to all circulation. UCPA won't be far behind. The yellow bus is going as far as the Joseray. The blue bus is stopping at the holiday club.

The pisteurs are doing avalanche blasting this morning so don't be tempted to go for a tour.

You need either chains or a 4x4 with snow tyres to come in to or leave resort.

The ESF is presenting a free off-piste safety and avalanche prevention seminar tonight at 6pm in the children's garden on the snowfront.



Ski Report :

Snow Depth: 60cm fresh snow in town. 1 metre on Solaise.

Fornet: Closed

Pisaillas Glacier: Closed

Solaise: The snowfront and the TC10 bubble will open.

Bellevarde: The Funival will open.

The links to Tignes are closed.

Please respect pistes which are marked closed as they are closed for good reason. Likewise, touring up pistes right after a snowfall is a good way to get a slide dropped on your head by the Pisteurs as they blast to keep the rest of us safe. The avalanche risk is 5 out of 5, if you decide to head off piste you need to exercise extreme caution.



Henry's Avalanche Talk

Weather and snow conditions in the N French Alps have been, and will continue to be, extreme over the next few days. High winds are expected, along with a lot more snow or rain and temperatures above normal for the time of season.

The avalanche danger this week will be directly related to a) the overall total accumulations of snow b) the even more large amounts of snow added by the wind in many places and c) the rise and fall of the rain/snow limit altitude. Any wet snow/slush avalanches occurring will be directly connected to rising and falling temperatures, dependent on at what altitude the rain/snow limit is (and thus what altitude you are!).

Plenty of windslab and snow accumulations are forming, particularly on leeward facing slopes away from the prevailing W’ish winds above 2500 m. Heavy snowfall expected on Wednesday evening, accompanied by extremely strong winds, will lead to a very unstable situation on Thursday 4th January with an avalanche danger rating of a 5 above 2500 in most of the Northern French Alps (at least Savoie and Haute Savoie). See what the avalanche danger ratings mean on

The weak layers of cohesionless ‘sugar snow’ on cold, high N facing slopes shaded from the sun are still there, way beneath any fresh snow/windslab that are forming on top of them – this weak layer has very little impact now in the overall stability (or lack thereof) of the snowpack. The avalanche danger now is related to the snowfall intensity and significant accumulations as well as the temperature increases related to the recent snowfalls (often referred to as ‘direct action avalanches’). At the time of this writing, 08:15 on Thursday 4 Jan, we’ve had close to a metre of snowfall over the last 24 hours at 2500 metres and are expecting another metre or more over the next 24hrs in most of the N. French Alps. Major access roads to ski areas have closed due to the anticipated avalanche danger e.g. the road from Bourg Saint Maurice to Tignes and Val d’Isère in Savoie.

We will be getting lots of naturally occurring wet snow avalanches each time the rain/snow limit rises. We saw many of these occurring on Wednesday (yesterday), some down to road level. And we will see a lot more of this over the next few days into the weekend. One such wet snow avalanche, with debris up to 6 m deep, came across the road between Val d’Isère and Le Fornet. Fortunately, nobody was on the road at the time, but a probe search had to be undertaken by the piste patrol service, just in case.

The net effect of all this rain and higher than normal temperatures will be a very good bonding and stabilising of the snowpack in these altitudes where the snow is/has been ‘humidified’  once the temperatures go down to seasonal norms but that is not the case at the time of this writing! ..stabilizing in these areas/altitudes below 2500 m, will start to take place starting on Saturday/Sunday.

Not only will the avalanche danger rating be ‘Extreme 5’ to ‘High 4’ over the next few days, but off-piste snow conditions will also be lethal. With temperatures above seasonal norms, accompanied by rain below altitudes of 2200/1800 m, the snowpack at these lower altitudes has become very heavy, deeply humid and difficult to ski. If it refreezes overnight, there is a nasty crust to contend with first thing in the morning. At altitudes between around 2000 to 2500 m, mainly just the superficial layers of the snowpack have been humidified and heavy. Any fresh snow expected at higher altitudes will be extremely wind-affected.

Added to this, visibility could be very difficult, with cloudy days ahead, and likely ‘white out’ conditions. Earlier in Val d’Isere this week a group of ski tourers became disoriented in flat-light on a steep and exposed off-piste area. They called the piste-patrol rescue services, and ended up having to be helicopter-rescued from above a cliff face. It was too dangerous to ski out, and everyone’s lives (including the pisteurs who came to rescue them) were put at risk.

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