Switzerland – Snow, snow, and more snow!

21 inches (53cm) of snow in 3 hours in the Loetschental.

Here’s the official verdict of the huge snow storm of 15 – 23rd December in Switzerland, says reader Rhys Jaggar. It’s from www.slf.ch.

Since this part of the above website isn’t translated into English, Rhys has provided an explanation.

Endlich kehrte der Winter ein. Eindrücke aus dem Lötschental, VS (Foto: P. Henzen, 21.12.2011). 

Schnee, Schnee, Schnee – die lang ersehnte weisse Pracht prägte diese Wochenberichtsperiode. Zuerst fiel Schnee im Westen, dann im Norden und das nicht zu knapp. Gerade rechtzeitig für die Weihnachtszeit kehrte also in den Bergen der Winter ein. Damit verbunden war zeitweise eine grosse Lawinengefahr, zuerst im Westen, später dann am Alpennordhang.

The message here is simple: SNOW, SNOW and MORE SNOW!

Broadly speaking, all of the listed stations (altitude of station in the left column of figures) in the table below had greatest snow depths recorded for 23rd December. The right column shows how many years of continuous recording there has been. It also says in the text that wide areas of western and northern Switzerland have 200%+ of normal snow cover, despite having had no snow at 2000m just 3 weeks earlier.

Anzahl Jahre
La Creusaz/VS
Ruinettes, Verbier/VS

Broadly, it says that the storm was unusually intense on Friday 16th December, with 53cm falling in 3 hours in the Loetschental (where the photo above was taken). This is something I’ve never heard of before.

Am Samstag, 17.12. und Sonntag, 18.12. verlagerten sich die Schneefälle zunehmend auch auf den Alpennordhang. Aber auch im Wallis schneite es weiter – wenn auch weniger intensiv als am Freitag. In der gesamten Periode vom 15. bis zum 19.12. fielen folgende Neuschneesummen (vgl. Abbildung 2):

  • Nördliches Wallis vom Trientgebiet bis ins Aletschgebiet, Waadtländer Alpen: 150 bis 200 cm, stellenweise über 200 cm
  • Freiburger Alpen, westlicher Alpennordhang, Gotthardgebiet, Urner und Glarner Alpen, westliches Unterwallis, zentrales Wallis, Goms: 100 bis 150 cm
  • Übriger Alpennordhang, Maggiatäler über die Surselva, Flims und das Prättigau bis ins Samnaun: 50 bis 100 cm
  • Mittleres Tessin, Mittelbünden, übriges Nordbünden, Engadin nördlich des Inns 20 bis 50 cm
  • Südliches Tessin, Engadin südlich des Inns, Bündner Südtäler: bis 20 cm

This broadly says that between 15 – 19th December northern Valais had 150 – 200cm with > 200cm in some places; 100-150cm in lower Valais, central Valais and Goms, the Gotthard Pass area, and alpine regions in NE Switzerland; the SE and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland had considerably less snow, although the Rhein valley and its tributaries did get 50 – 100cm, as did the border resort of Samnaun.


This broadly says that the snowfall in three days in the Loetschental was exceeded twice in the past 30 years, namely in February 1990 (I was over the peaks that winter and I remember that storm vividly – parts of France had 3-400cm in 7 days and only a bit of rain near the end stopped entire regions of resorts being wiped out by avalanches) and in February 1984. So it wasn’t unheard of but certainly unusual.

Dezember 2011: Starkschneefall im Norden<

  • Nördlicher Alpenkamm von Gstaad bis ins Liechtenstein, Gotthardgebiet, Nordbünden: 60 bis 100 cm, lokal bis 140 cm
  • übriger Alpennordhang, Wallis ohne Saastal und Simplongebiet, nördliches Tessin, Mittelbünden, Unterengadin: 30 bis 60 cm
  • Saastal, Simplongebiet: 15 bis 30 cm
  • Mittleres und südliches Tessin, Oberengadin und Bündner Südtäler: 0 bis 15 cm

This broadly says that the second period of snowfall was again a major event in itself, with large areas of the northern side of the Swiss Alps getting 60 – 100cm, with 140cm in places. The Rhone Valley and the Engadin valleys broadly got 30- 60cm (a fall the Alps is happy for at any time). Whereas the small area of the Rhone valley around the Simplon pass and Saastal,as well as Ticino, the upper Engadin and the southern valleys of the Rhein basin got very little (0-30cm).

7 thoughts on “Switzerland – Snow, snow, and more snow!”

  1. yes, but so far winter in Europe is warm for this period of the year; i know that UK has experienced one of the warmest Christmas…….we will see how winter will look like forward.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! 🙂

  2. now watch the msm ignore the huge falls and heavily promote the low areas ..just as they were whining a couple of weeks ago as the item mentioned. no snow tourism to go …etc etc.

  3. Winter in UK has been tropical compared to last year and my the only prediction I can make is that the global warming zealots will be out in force (crawling out from their lentil covered floor beds) saying look look we told you global warming is returning!

    We have had a few falls in December but nothing to write home about, a few inches, mainly built up with showers over the period of a day or so then a deluge of rain to wash it all away (good as far as I am concerned!). I like snow but hate the hangover!

    Apart from that it has been rain rain rain and mild no sign of any winter snow, however the hills are starting to whiten again. Traditionally I always remember Jan/Feb to be our best months for snow so we will see what is in store.

    • Hey Kyle,

      Have you perhaps noticed the name of this blog? No subterfuge here. And have you noticed that I back up what I say with FACTS?

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