Winter weather: Pyrenees and French Alps set for more snow

It has already been a remarkable December for snow in the Pyrénées - but more heavy falls are forecast from Wednesday, while the Alps are also set to enjoy more fresh snow.

A male skier wearing a facemask, helmet and skiing gear waits for a skilift at a ski resort in the French Pyrénées
There's much more snow in the Pyrénées now than when this photgraph was taken on November 20, 2021. Photo: Raymond Roig / AFP

The weekend was marked by sustained snowfall in the Pyrénées, with an average of between 50cm and 70cm of snow at altitudes above 1200m, rising in some areas towards western areas of the mountain chain to 1m.

According to Météo-France, the level of snowfall in the west of the Pyrénées is remarkable for the time of year, especially since accumulations were considered ‘very low’ as recently as November 24th. The forecaster said the winter snow covering below 2,000m – the average now is 1m at 1500m – is among the best for the beginning of December and equivalent to normal levels in mid-January.

The 1.37m of snow recorded at Arette La Pierre Saint Martin (1,650m) on December 6th is a record for the month since the weather station opened there in December 1971. The 1.36m recorded at the Soum Couy automatic weather station is in the top four accumulations recorded there since the station opened in January 1997.

A record 2m of snow was also recorded at Cauterets snow-meteorological observation network post, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, on December 6th – thanks to the 1m snowfall between Friday and Monday, while the 1.75m of snow recorded at lac d’Ardiden (2,445m) is the highest since the station there opened in October 1995.

The new falls, due to start on the evening of Tuesday, December 7th, are linked to the Storm Barra weather system that is currently battering southwest Ireland and is set to move across Ireland and into Great Britain.

While winds in France will not reach speeds of 157kph recorded at Fastnet, off the coast of southwest Ireland, earlier on Tuesday, strong gusts are forecast in the northwest of France, and the Atlantic coast will experience heavy seas.

On Wednesday, heavy snow is again forecast in the Pyrénées. “Snow will fall again at relatively low altitude … with falls potentially impacting the road network”, Météo-France warned in its evening bulletin on Monday.

“The Pyrénées could see another 1m-plus of snow.”

With the new snow, however, there’s a warning. “Snow depths, greater than 2m on the ground, would then become extraordinary over a good part of the range for the first half of December,” the forecaster said, warning of the increased risk of avalanches.

Over in the Alps, the remnants of the weather system is expected to bring substantial snowfall, particularly in western and southern areas, and another storm from the northwest will reach the mountain range on Friday.

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Snow warnings for northern and central France as winter weather arrives

After snow fell over much of France Monday morning, several départements were placed on the "yellow" weather warning as the country expects more winter weather later in the week.

Snow warnings for northern and central France as winter weather arrives

Winter weather has made its way to France. On Monday, Météo-France placed 24 departments under the “yellow” warning on Monday, over snow and ice. 

The départements concerned were primarily located in France’s north, north-east, and centre.

Screenshot from Météo France

Snowflakes made their appearance in Hauts de France and the Paris region on Monday morning, with a few centimetres accumulated in the Grand-Est region. 

In Lozere, significant snowfall on Monday left several motorists blocked in traffic on the A75. 

Ski season opened at several resorts, such as the high-altitude Val Thorens resort, in the French Alps this weekend.

As of Monday morning, six of France’s mountainous departments, from Haute-Savoie to Alpes-Maritimes were placed on the “yellow” (be aware) alert for avalanches on Monday.

Where snow is expected later this week

According to BFMTV, the remainder of the week will be marked by dry, cold weather across much of the northern parts of France, but the snowflakes are likely to return over the weekend, from Friday through Sunday.

Météo France expects temperatures to be colder than average this week, by about 4 to 5C chillier than seasonal norms.

Snowfall may begin on Friday morning, starting in France’s east and centre, particularly in the Oise and Cher départements. Later in the evening, light snowflakes are expected to fall on the départements north of the Seine and as far east as Alsace, particularly impacting Ille-et-Vilaine, Mayenne, Orne, Sarthe, Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire could also be affected.

Over the weekend, about two thirds of the northern part of the country will get to see some flurries, and by Sunday morning, a large northeast quarter of France could have a dusting of snow over the ground before higher temperatures turn the snow to rain later in the day.