Category Archives: Alpine snowfall

An erratic season for snow in the Alps

Earlier this winter there were many reports on how good snowfall had been in Austria. But on closer inspection it was clear that the weather pattern at that time only favoured certain resorts.

In contrast with last year the totals I’ve used in my cross section of the range don’t look that exciting; Bourg-St-Maurice, the jumping off point for Savoie resorts including Les Arcs and Val d’Isere, has recorded 96mm of precipitation this season, in stark contrast to the 433mm it recorded last season between Christmas Day and February 5th.

In Switzerland Arosa, a resort well placed to pick up snow from any direction, has recorded the same this season as last. Totals in Davos are well down on last season. Similarly San Bernardino has recorded about half the amount of precipitation than it did last season. Its location toward the southern side of the range has been sheltered from the prevailing winds this year. That said it did enjoy a big dump last week.

Going further south and east St Vallentin in Italy has recorded about a third what it did at this stage last season.

Mean temperatures overall are about 2C to 3C lower than they were last season.

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30-day precipitation totals reveal that Bourg St Maurice recorded just 96mm, compared with last year’s 433mm while Obertauern in the east recorded 77mm, compared with 106mm the same period last year

 

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Galtür avalanche 20 years on

With all the snow falling in Austria I noticed that next month is the 20th anniversary of the Galtür avalanche that left 31 dead, 26 injured and left a trail of devastation.

This animation shows its devastating power. https://youtu.be/PBxl3i8Bzro

The avalanche was considered the worst in 40 years. Three weather systems originating from the Atlantic accounted for large snowfalls up to 4m deep. Freeze-thaw conditions created a weak layer on top of an existing snowpack; further snow then settled. This, together with high wind speeds, created large drifts and caused roughly 170,000 tons of snow to be deposited.

Even more snow is expected in this and surrounding regions.

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The extreme amounts will fall mostly on the north of the range with very little on the south side, more or less the opposite of what happened last year.

Of course Alpine snowfall, from year to year, has always varied greatly as this study of San Bernadino shows.

 

 

Best Alpine snow for 30 years?

There’s been countless reports about amazing amounts of snow falling across the French, Swiss and Italian Alps to the point where some agencies have been proclaiming that it has been the best season for the white stuff in 30 years.

Extraordinary totals have fallen in some areas. Bourg-St-Maurice, the jumping off point for Savoie resorts including Les Arcs and Val d’Isere, has recorded over 400mm of precipitation over the past 30 days, equating to around 4m of snow at the resort summits.

In Switzerland, large amounts of snow in a short period caused chaos in Zermatt, stranding tourists after the area’s rail services suffered disruption.

Away from the north and west side of the Alps, however, snowfall, while good, has been less impressive the further south and east you look.

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30-day precipitation totals reveal that Bourg St Maurice recorded 422mm while Obertauern in the east recorded 99mm. 

It is a far cry from last year where some resorts on the southern side of the range were particularly dry. San Bernardino, during the last 30-days, has recorded 179mm of precipitation. During the same period last year just 14.6mm fell!

The outlook for the Alps continues to look unsettled with snow forecast to fall at resorts that are in deficit to the Valais and Savoie areas.

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