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~ Thursday 16th November 2017

There's snow in the Alps! Yes, it's that time of year again with a new ski season just around the corner, excitement and anticipation building...and nervous skiers wondering if this year will be the "big one". Too early to say, but at least the hills are white - it's good when the first snow comes before the first Christmas advert on the telly! It's been cold too, and lots of resorts are already well prepared and making artificial snow ready to open this weekend - parts of Verbier opened last weekend.

Looking ahead, it's probably time to service some skis, get your transceiver checked and updated (or at least put some new batteries in it!) but it's also good idea to keep track of the developing snow-pack. People are already skiing, but the snow we can see now becomes the base for the winter - the question is, will it be a good base?

There was some snow way back in October - here's a picture of the Col du Tsan in Grimentz.

This is a great, easy-access descent from the lifts in Grimentz but it ticks all the avalanche boxes - steep, shady, prone to wind-loading and (relatively) rarely skied, especially early season. Is that this year's weak base we can see? After the October snow came several weeks of clear skies and cold nights...shady aspects have been cold for weeks now.

Same day, different aspect, T-shirt and trainers in the sun - it's easy to forget that "avalanche conditions" might be developing higher up the same hill.

Last weekend saw some big snowfalls in the Alps - and the usual frenzy of early-season first turns. The big risk at this time of year is hitting rocks, but there's some nice skiing on mid-altitude meadows with rock-free grass base (!) The snow came with a lot of wind though, Westerly at first then several days of Northerly (bise in French)

Here's the Pigne this morning (16 November) with the North face completely blown dry. A lot of snow disappeared from this face this week. Looking closely the foreground ridge-lines (accessible from the Arolla lifts) are also blown bare.

Here are a couple of poor phone pics from this morning:

Above La Forclaz, clear signs of wind.

Palanche de la Crettaz, with the North aspects blown dry.

The excellent SLF avalanche bulletin has started up for the winter, with a new website translated in to English, and is well worth following. Here's the snowpack page:

https://www.slf.ch/en/avalanche-bulletin-and-snow-situation.html#snowpack

And the Bulletin

https://www.slf.ch/en/avalanche-bulletin-and-snow-situation.html

Fingers crossed this is the start of a bumper ski season - and a safe one!