How are conditions in the Alps at the moment?

The storms that have hit the Alps one after the other since early December, have surpassed anything that we’ve experienced in quite a few years. There have been periods of sunshine in-between the storms to enjoy the unusually snowy mountains.

Col d’Entreves panorama

In the last month, there have been two occasions where the avalanche risk level has gone up to a 5 out of 5. Both times this was due to exteme amounts of fresh snow, followed by rain up to two thousand metres or so, which provoke big wet avalanches which often reach the valley floor and mean many residences have to be evacuated.

So how much snow is there?

Snow depth in the Mont-Blanc range

So there is a lot of snow, does that mean a generally high avalanche risk this winter?

No, winter’s with more snow statistically have much fewer avalanche fatalities than winters with little snow-fall. Why? Because a thick snow-pack is more uniform and is less likely to hold persistent weak layers. Of course that does not mean there is no avalanche risk, there can always be slabs on the surface of a good snowpack especially after snowfall accompanied by wind.

So how are the skiing conditions?

Skiing conditions are generally very good. Before the snowfall on 1 February, it was icy below 2000m, now it is much improved and skiing to the valley floor in the Chamonix valley and surroundings is quite good and excellent above 1800m or so. The glaciers are generally well filled in, however, we should not forget what lies beneath after the dry summer.