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All things Spring snow

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So really seems to be payback for all that powder we've had this season in that Spring has not sprung.

I don't think we've had more than two consecutive days of sunshine and the overcast sky is not good for an overnight freeze at lower altitudes 1,750 - 2,000m+.

What seems to be happening is that snow is melting rapidly on S facing slopes even without direct sunshine and all the great spring ski touring we were looking forward to could well be a non starter as we must get to a point when the freezing levels are too high every day.

I'm just back from a ski tour having left at 08:30 and temps were +2 at 1400 and I was mildly encouraged when I got out the van and nearly slipped over on black ice on the tarmac.

Had to hike to the snow line at around 1,750 and then started skinning, snow was frozen but with a crust and when you occasionally broke through it was nigh on rotten snow 30+ cms deep and did make me think that later on skiing it would not be a lot of fun and was it worth continuing?

From around 2,000 snow was way better and was quite optimistic for the descent though sky was very overcast. Did wait around at the summit 2,753 but there was a chill wind and the first 250m descent had not really transformed - then it was really sweet Con for a while and then I hit the soft rotten snow which is not a lot of fun plus at first it's sporadic so you have to be on your lookout,

So big question, will this rotten snow ever transform back to corn if we were to get three or four days with overnight temps circa -5 or has it lost all its cohesion and is just too wet and all we'll get will be a crust if it does freeze overnight.

It's a perverse outcome in that we have all this "deep" snow, but it's pretty "rotten" to ski on!

I'll ping a guide the same question and see what he comes back with


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Mon 23-04-18 9:59; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
We had nearly a week of foehn, I think you are being a bit optimistic to hope that one night of clear skies will transform an isothermic snowpack into a skiable crust. If we get a few days of clear weather it will be fine, it was okay here on west (and north sector) slopes today. Snow is practically firn/névé at lower altitudes here.

But it will be hot this week.
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Just in from a guide.....

For saturated snow to transform it will need to have a few good freeze thaw cycles.

The deeper the freeze the better the potential will be for a good corn cycle to transform as the sun and warmer temps effect the snow.

If the freeze is poor the snow will just crust over.

The wet snow will still be under the crust and the problem can be extremely dangerous if new loading occurs over this type of weak crust layer sitting on isothermic snow.

Hopefully this helps and makes sense.


So yes it can happen, but my concern is that now as we get later into the season then the chances of the necessary deep freeze (at lower altitudes) is fast diminishing and we'll just end up at best with the wet snow will still be under the crust.

Irony is that was we've had so much snow this season it's still really deep on S facing slopes but now might never transform.

We'll just have to take this into account on route selection which is a shame as there are so many options, and hopefully I'm just being a tad glass half empty, but usually by now we've clocked up a fair number of spring ski tours as well as going off the back which we've not really done at all this season.
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The snow will refreeze at up to around +7C if there are clear skies so you just need to be patient, in the mean time don't ski on east or south faces.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@davidof, today higher up 1900 - 2500 the S to SE facing slopes were very sweet, though above 2500 had not transformed due to the chill wind and overcast sky.

I'm not the only local ski tourer a tad concerned about how God might be playing a cruel trick on us as we've all been saying what a great ski touring season we're gonna have.

For the past five or six year usually by now we're clocking up three or four sorties a week!

Bit more in from Kris, he must be bored Smile

Think about aspect as well. Northern slopes will heat up much slower during the day than south or east. If you have to return by south or east remember you’ll be at more risk if the snow becomes saturated again.

Because of all the snow this season the spring skiing should be fantastic.

We’ve been enjoying a very nice transformation around here between 2500m and 1600m.

A bit sloppy lower down and plenty of glide cracks as the weight of the snowpack wants to pull down on the bed surface with days when it was super warm and didn’t freeze


Tomorrow forecast again looking not too good then I have to go back to the UK for a few days returning Friday but forecast is bonkers warm / hot for down here 24 °C and FLs overnight 2800 so can more or less write off this week and then next week looks like we'll have to be thinking about N facing slopes if at all possible.

And of course there's always the bike Cool
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Weathercam wrote:
@davidof, today higher up 1900 - 2500 the S to SE facing slopes were very sweet, though above 2500 had not transformed due to the chill wind and overcast sky.


That's the nature of ski touring I'm afraid. It is rare that you get perfect snow from summit to parking, especially in the spring where the lower runs are often sticky.

We've lacked any clear, stable weather so far this season, if we get that it would be good. This week looks a bit unstable, as you say, more so towards the Italian border.
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@davidof aaahhhhh all depends where your parking is - we're lucky in that we have the Lautaret up our sleeve Cool

But even this week and next could well be struggling.

And last season we were driving up the Granon to 2,200 but not this season as there's still so much snow on the road!

Sun's making an appearance here now, I might go up the hill and investigate a couple of options.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
So went up the hill taking lifts to a Col at 2,457m and then went off the back.

Skiing between S & W facing slopes and initially snow was very sweet indeed though anything steep with rocks and loads of glide cracks as Kris mentioned.

I was doing a running commentary but the sound did not come through.

What was startling was how quickly the snow changed at around 2,200m you can see my skis twitching and then I just apply a little pressure to the snow pack with my pole.

Came back and went out on the bike and temps are even warmer this afternoon, was in shorts and short sleeves!


http://youtube.com/v/5p_pq8QmVR0
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@Weathercam, nice vid. Typical conditions with this weather right now. Hope we get something stable soon. Getting it right at the moment is difficult. Take care out there. Plenty of slides up our way right now. And yes the snow can and I hope will recover, but I agree it may take a while.
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Nice, clear skies last night leading to a good refreeze and spring skiing conditions this AM (even in the Southern Alps apparently).
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@davidof, I cycled up the Lautaret this morning and must have been 30 or so cars at various locations. Ok some were snow shoers though I spoke to some skiers who were finishing 11.15 at the popular Pont D'alpe and they said they left at 07.30 and snow was heavy wet then at the Lautaret i chatted to another guy who went up N face Combeynot and he said it was good.

As I was on my way down where we usually go from I saw a good friend who was just back down and said she'd found good corn on some west facing slopes. But hubby is a guide (in Alta currently) and Jojo knows her stuff!

Fred who runs the Cafe uo there was out at 07.00 but he said chapeau for cycling and inferred maybe was the better option and as i descended a nigh om empty road had me thinking the same and judging by other cyclists coming up many were thinking the same or jusy have hung up their skis now.

So a mixed bag and it's all about location location Cool

And nearly forgot heard my first Marmot !
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Was back in the UK last week when Spring finally made an appearance leaving Tuesday and back to Serre Fri.

Then did two days of piste skiing as was a social weekend with the resort closing though if I'd known what I now know should have gone off the back on Saturday. Temps were nigh on 25 degrees Sat and Sun and going down to +2 in the early hours.

Those four days of clear days and nights were enough to transform the snow above circa 2,100 it seemed and was speaking to local yesterday who does a lot of touring and he said it was good now, but has to be early starts 07:30 and down by 11:00 whereas usually we'd be leaving at 08:30.

So this morning left home just before 07:30 and parked up on the Col de Granon road at around 1,800 then circa 150m boot pack to where you could start skinning.

Snow was pretty frozen though did break through in a few places, but on the whole was good and was optimistic for the descent.

I climbed nigh on 1,000m in just over two hours and hung around at the top (again bumping into a Brit friend) waiting for the cloud to disperse a little, and again a group of Italians were making their way up even though they started well before me, but made a few errors on the ascent.

I was playing around with the aspect and angle and scored some very pleasant corn and only had to start being careful for the last 100m.

So much better than this time last week!

And dogs like it as they're not sinking in the porridge all the time!

Still not quite what we're more used to this time of year and we're in for some fickle weather this week but should be good for another tour Wednesday depending on / if we get the storms that are forecast for later.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1526521195
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So this week have clocked up another couple or ski tours alternating between bike rides.

We toured on Wed up in the Lautaret sector descent was great on NE facing slopes above 2,200 but below that was soft and heavy even though there had been a good overnight freeze.

The parking was mobbed with all the Frenchies heading up Pic Blanc, must have been 12 car loads, whilst where we went skiing was not only better but we were all on our own!

This morning plan was to ski one of our favourite routes, though we knew we'd be in for a long walk to the start of the climb as the road is closed, hence we left at 06:30.

The route is up a long West facing slope starting at 1,880m and you can see in the vid the state of the snow pack lower down.

Once we were climbing it was progressively better and we had some sweet spring snow, we could have left and hour or more later but with the drone there's a lot of faffing so we used the time that way.

I don't think that the snow lower down will ever become smooth again as the melt 10days ago was so intense and has created ripples in the snow which with subsequent melt freeze cycles just accentuates the bumpy surface.

Oh and spot the marmots


http://youtube.com/v/y_rQwmuxhqY
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