Monster Storm Brings Extreme Conditions to European Alps

January 16th, 2018

Eleanor steaming across Europe.

Mountainwatch | Reggae Elliss
A strong storm front named Eleanor created all sorts of problems across Europe over the past three days as it moved out of the North Atlantic and tracked eastwards with winds over 150km/hr. Initially Eleanor caused havoc in areas on Ireland’s west coast with a combination of high tides and storm surges causing flooding while the winds brought down power lines.

Similar issues occurred on the English, French and Spanish coasts while the winds also caused the temporary closure of the Eiffel Tower.

Three people have died because of the storm, including a 21-year-old skier who was killed by a falling tree in Morillon in the French Alps.

Lech, looking pretty as a picture during a morning snow fall on Jan 4.

When Eleanor hit the European Alps, it brought heavy precipitation and gale force winds, with gusts up to 250kms/hr in Les Arcs. Unfortunately, mild temperatures have seen rain up to an altitude of 2000 metres in a number of French and Italian resorts, while the winds and extreme avalanche danger have led to the closure of all lifts at a number of the higher resorts.

Roads into Tignes, Val Thorens and Les Arcs have been closed and with mild temps and heavy snow forecast until Monday Jan 8, the avalanche danger will remain extremely high.

Tignes looking good on the morning of Jan 4 after 40cms overnight, although the road in was closed due to avalanche danger.

On January 4, the avalanche danger at Chamonix was rated at four out of five. Conditions are expected to moderate over the next 48 hours.

The mountains in Switzerland and Austria fared much better and although the winds were still very strong at times the colder temps saw good snowfalls in many resorts in the past 24 hours. The resorts in Austria’s Arlberg report falls from 35-50cms while Kitzbuhel, reported 22cms of fresh snow overnight.

In Switzerland, there were some big totals at higher elevations, Sass Fee receiving a massive 100cms in 24 hours on Jan 3-4. Andermatt also had a good dump of 50cms while there are reports of 25-30cms in a number of Swiss resorts.

Prior to this storm the skiing in Chamonix has been sensational. Camille Jaccoux, ripping through some blower pow on December 29. Photo: Black Crows

Snow is forecast continue over the next few days for much of the Alps, with moderate to heavy falls at times, but the gale force winds should drop. It has been a pretty good season so far across the Alps with some epic powder days. Once Eleanor clears off and things settle down there should be some great days in most resorts across the Alps over the next few weeks.

There have been a number of significant winter storms this year, a far cry from last year when there was one good storm in Novembern nothing until late January.