Winter starts with a bang!

Well over a meter of snow has fallen in this western part of Switzerland. Winter in Verbier has started with the biggest snowfall we have seen in years. The ground is now well insulated from the cold air. This will encourage a healthy snowpack for the rest of the winter. A shallow snowpack does not insulate the relatively warm ground from the cold air at higher elevations. This high “temperature gradient” promotes a rapid growth of faceted crystals, seriously weakening that layer’s ability to support the new snow on top. This is one of the most common origins of avalanches.

The avalanche danger level for the past two days has been at 4. That is quite rare to see. It dropped to level 3 today. Because we have had so much snow at once, the avalanche level increases to a high level quickly. But because there is so much weight, that danger comes down quickly. If we don’t get much wind this next week, the level may drop quite quickly to level 2.

I created a short video showing the conditions we have this weekend.

This entry was posted in Off Piste Skiing on by .

About Hans Solmssen

I am a professional mountain guide living in Verbier, Switzerland. I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii after my father moved to Hawaii to teach at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. He created a horse program at this high school, located in the middle of the largest, privately owned cattle ranch in the US. Horses were a major part of my life, even playing polo for a few years. I moved to northern Vermont to go to school, and discovered skiing. Little did I know, this would become my life's passion: guiding friends and clients over the mountains around the world on skis and foot. I moved to Verbier, Switzerland in 1982, and entered the Swiss guide's program in '88. I received my UIAGM "pin" 3 years later in 1991. I have two kids, Anya and Kevin.

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