After the grim sequence of avalanche accidents over the last week, it’s been a relief to see the weather calm down, and the snowpack finally settle.
I can’t recall such an extended period of turbulent weather in the Alps, which stretched from the beginning of November all the way to Christmas. Yes, the beginning of 2018 was wilder and more intense. But at the end of 2019 “stormy” seemed to become the standard setting for the Alpine weather. Perhaps, as climate change takes hold these exaggerated meteorological mood swings will become the new norm.
Anyway, it’s done for now. But the weather that’s replaced it is ludicrously mild. The end of December is usually the moment when the Alpine winter gets serious: but this year, it’s turned spring-like in its warmth. The daytime freezing point in the western Alps was at 3000m today (a figure more appropriate for April), and it will be at that level again tomorrow.
It will drop back a little as the week progresses, but in the French Alps the mid-range forecasts aren’t showing any significant change in the weather for a while.
That’s not a problem at the moment, especially at higher altitudes, where many resorts have well over two metres of the white stuff bedded down. But the cover is thin at the 1000m mark. It’ll need topping up soon.
In the east, the outlook is more promising. Colder, more humid air is going to sweep in round the edge of western Europe’s area of warm sunshine. Austria and Switzerland will get some more snow on Sunday as a result, and (possibly) a more significant helping on January 9. In fact, the weather pattern is reminiscent of the set-up in January 2019, when Austria was walloped by snow. Though it’s much to soon to predict a repeat performance.
In the meantime, it’s time to put on the sunscreen, and get ready to ski like it’s springtime. Expect icy pistes first thing in the morning, which soften nicely if they get enough sunshine. Make sure you have a fabulous New Year’s Eve too.
The best of luck to everyone in 2020.