Off Piste Snow Report : 12th – 16th December 2015

Having fun on our off-piste course this week. Thanks Wayne Watson for the photo

Extended Weather Forecast (as reported by Météo-France Savoie) for Savoie and the N French Alps:

Dry, sunny and mild by day. Cold by night. Possibly some light snowfall between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Saturday 12th: Sunny and dry with a few thin high clouds. Mild/warm during the and cold overnight.
Sunday 13th & Monday 14th: Bright and sunny with just some thin high cloud. Light SW windflow continuing.
Tuesday 15th & Wednesday 16th: Slight change in the weather with a W then NW weather system coming through bringing some cloud and, hopefully, very light snow above 1500 m (fingers crossed!).

Off Piste Snow Conditions

Weather and mountain ambiance have been fantastic and the pistes are great, but the off-piste snow conditions could be better. Our last significant snowfall was back in November and despite a couple of vey light sprinklings of snow since then, we could certainly do with a good top-up. Much of Savoie and the N. French Alps have snowdepths of around 100 cm on high N facing slopes at 2700 m altitude, 20 - 80 cm at 2400 m, and 15 - 50 cm between 1800 & 2000 m. Sunny south facing slopes have suffered more. Strong NW to W winds, and strong blasts of Lombard and Foehn winds have often ravaged high mountain areas, such as the Pissaillas area near the border, above 2700 m, in Val d'Isere.
In sheltered high altitude areas, like couloirs and gulleys, we can occasionally still find pockets of cold, light snow. We're having to walk to find these and they're becoming more difficult to find though. It's time for a full-on snow dance!
The previously mentioned wind has had a major effect, hardening and densifying the snow in exposed areas. This has made the skiing 'educational' at times, particularly on high altitude slopes and along the breezy French/Italian border. Sections of windslab persist at the surface, and buried within, the snowpack, especially above 2500 m. This windslab is more unstable on NE to NW facing slopes less exposed to the softening effects of the sun. On steep, sun-exposed S facing slopes, the surface snow is humidified, refreezing overnight, then softening up again in the sunshine. Below 1800 m on slopes facing other directions, the day may start with a little surface crust when overnight temperatures haven't been cold enough to break it up.
There are now plenty of rocks poking through the snow, or lurking just under the surface. The workshop in the skishop we use has found itself very busy with rock-damaged skis from people going off-piste.

Snow Stability

The avalanche risk remains low below 2500 m, and slightly higher above that. It's estimated at around 1 to 2 out of 5. See our HAT advice for what all the danger ratings mean: http://www.henrysavalanchetalk.com/avalanche-forecasts-danger-rating. Surface windslab could release either by the weight of a skier, or naturally. Older, hardened areas of buried windslab could be triggered by the weight of one or several skiers passing by. Be particularly wary on steep NE to NW facing slopes above 2700 m.

Tip of the Week

The main off-piste risk continues to be the rocks and other obstacles poking through the snow or hidden below the surface.
When the more detailed daily avalanche bulletins start to appear, you can check them on this link: http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches, entering the mountain area of your choice.
We'll be updating our blog as much as possible if conditions start to look unstable, or if we have some nice photos from a great ski on www.henrysavalanchetalk.com/blog also on Twitter @HenryOff_Piste and Google+ and Facebook
Ride Hard !! Ride Safe everybody
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