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Cold, snowy weekend in Val d'Isere

Biggest December snowfall for years.

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 11 Dec 2017

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Cold, snowy weekend in Val d'Isere

We’d been expecting a significant snowfall over the weekend but unfortunately the main factor was the wind!

It blew so hard on Friday that, by 12:30, the liaison to Tignes via the Tommeuses chairlift closed stranding many skiers and boarders who had to wait for buses or fight over taxis.

Val d'Isere

Friday night’s forecasted snowfall didn’t materialise either and on Saturday morning it was -19°C, this was made a significantly colder by a strong north wind gusting to 80km/h! Any exposed skin was instantly frostbitten but with that said there were still a lot of people out skiing and enjoying themselves.

Val d'Isere

The town did a fantastic job preparing the Men’s World Cup GS and volunteers worked through the night to make sure the race could go ahead. The town was busy as spectators came up by bus or car to watch the world’s best in action and the French went home extremely happy after a French victory.

Val d'Isere

It started snowing heavily Sunday morning and 40 to 60 cms were forecast during the day with more on Monday, we could see up to a metre of snow during this 48-hour window. More snow is forecast during the week ahead and I would seriously recommend that you get out early on the first lifts because the skiing will be fantastic early on.  During snowy periods when there is fresh snow each morning the pistes become chopped up and bumpy by 11:00. From that moment on the skiing isn’t very comfortable, early-birds, however, will get perfectly smooth pistes with a little powder on top without too many other people about. Unfortunately, on snowy days, there are lift closures and everyone gets funnelled onto the same pistes meaning even an empty resort can suddenly feel crowded.

Val d'Isere

So far this season I haven’t mentioned avalanche risk once because up until a couple of days ago the risk was about as non-existent as it can get. But, with a thin snowpack and cold temperatures the base is rotten and feels like big grains of sugar that have no cohesion, and when the snow does arrive the snowpack will be very unstable and we’ll enter a period of high avalanche risk. What makes it worse is the high winds that we’re experiencing at the moment. The wind is transporting snow to the lee-side of the mountain, which causes wind plaques to develop, and during periods of high wind the avalanche risk can increase even without a flake of snow falling out of the sky. Last week the risk was 1/5, on Friday it was 2/5, and by Saturday the risk had gone up to 3/5 without any significant snow falling. When you add falling snow into the equation the avalanche risk can go from almost non-existent to extremely high and with Sunday’s forecast of heavy snow and winds of 80 to 110 km/h and more snow on Monday we’ll be going from a 1/5 to a 4/5 avalanche risk, and with it maybe even a closed resort.

Val d'Isere

There is a possibility that the resort will be slow in opening Monday morning because the piste services will have a massive job to try to secure the pistes so that they are safe. It may even get serious enough to require securing of the roads and the village itself.  If you’re in town listen to Radio Val for updates because you don’t want to stand around until 11 o’clock waiting for the avalanche control to be completed.

Have a fantastic week and besides perhaps Monday morning, try to get out early as those first two hours are often the best of the day!

This report was finished at 14:30 Sunday afternoon. Since then the road to the Fornet was closed at 19:00 due to avalanche risk and the road down the valley was also closed for a short time to secure the road. Rain is forecast to 2200-2300metres on Monday, which will help stabilise the mountain, the road access and the village itself. I’ll explain more about that in another update.


Follow more from Wayne in his Daily Diary.

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