01/11/2019: Today's Update... A Cool Down On The Way...
The 1st of November and the first update of the season... November is the month when we can start getting interesting in snow falling and potentially hanging around. Although we often see snow higher up in September and down to the village on occasions in October, these snowfalls tend to be transient affairs and have no bearing on the coming season.
November is different, as the sun is getting lower in the sky, the days are getting shorter and the northern hemisphere is cooling down, so any snow on the upper half of the ski area does have a chance of starting to create the all important base for the season. It is also a month when the snow cannon have the potential for operating - if we see some cold and dry air.
Having said all that, we still have to be cautious, especially if we see snow during the first half of the month. The horrendous foehn event of November 2016 saw an excellent series of early to mid -November snowfalls reduced to zero in a matter of hours, creating all sorts of lack of snow issues for the following December, which meant only a tiny part of the ski area was able to function during that Christmas and New Year, with natural snow on the open pistes practically non-existent. On the other hand, November snow brought some excellent early season conditions in 2017, with a powder fest opening weekend.
So, what are the prospects for us seeing snow in the next 10 days...
Well, they are not too bad at all... The latest models suggest low pressure dominating the weather over the coming week. We get our snow (in general terms), with weather coming in from between the west and north. Anything too far to the east tends to be drier and anything south of west, tends to bring a higher snow/rain limit, so ideally we want moisture laden winds blasting in from the Atlantic from that west to north quarter. As Chatel and the PDS is on the west-northwestern periphery of the Alps, we are ideally placed to see large quantities of snowfall, considering our relatively modest ski area elevations. This is why the area around Avoriaz, including PLJ , is considered to be one of the snowiest parts of the French Alps. This is not always the case, but in general we do see a fair amount more snow than areas with corresponding elevations in parts of the 3 Valleys etc. This was one of the reasons why we chose Chatel as a place to live.
Looking at the latest models, and there is plenty of precipitation on the way from the weekend onwards and it looks as though there will also be a general lowering of the 0C isotherm, early next week, when it may start to nudge below 2000m. There could be some snow above 1800m on Sunday, before things get a little more interesting.
The fax chart for Tuesday from the Met Office (see above) shows the boundary between mild and chillier air across the alps - as indicated by that hatched line labelled as 546. With low pressure dominating Europe, we may see various fronts / troughs swing in from the favoured quarter from between the west and north, bringing the chance of snow to the upper half of the ski area and perhaps as low as the village. The latest GFS model run (Tues 6Z), if it is believed, keeps the 0C isotherm below 1500m from Tuesday evening through to the 11th - so if we see some precipitation too, then we could be in business. Obviously, this is still a few days off, and the track and behaviour of the various lows are yet to be determined and milder, wetter options cannot be ruled out, but there is reason for cautious optimism for some decent quantities of snow accumulating above mid-station next week, with perhaps a covering lower down too.
We should have a better idea of the prospects for snow once we get into the weekend, when this will be updated as well as taking a look at what the various long range signals for winter are suggesting.
Thanks for reading.