Weather in the Alps

You’re not in Kansas anymore!

Surprise, surprise! The continental climate in the Alps means that the weather varies greatly across the range, and while relatively predictable it is overall unstable. Even when a high-pressure system appears here to stay and the forecast calls for several days of good weather, the altitude and the rugged nature of the mountains means that a sunny and warm morning can quickly turn into cold, windy, and stormy afternoon, with lightning and thunder pounding the high passes and summits. Not a summer goes by without it snowing at least once or twice above 2000m elevation! In addition, the weather can vary considerably from one valley to another: as you head up to a high mountain pass on sunny southwest facing slopes, you may encounter cold temperatures, fog, or even a storm on the other side (or vice versa).

Given this variability, and the fact that the weather can change so quickly, you need to carry the right gear:

  • Always have warm clothing (a fleece or a lightweight down or synthetic insulated jacket) and waterproof shells (jacket and pants) in your pack.
  • A beanie and lightweight gloves are useful as well.

Make sure that you keep well informed about the weather conditions. Check the forecast every day, either in the morning before you leave or, ideally, at night right after dinner. You have several options for sources of information:

  • Hut managers usually provide guests with the latest forecast either right before or right after dinner. If you have any questions regarding the weather, please feel free and comfortable to ask them. In areas with no cell phone reception, they will be your only source of weather information (so don’t be shy!).
  • Several weather apps provide both overview and very detailed information about the forecast. We recommend MeteoFrance, MeteoBlue (available in English), Chamonix-Meteo (also available in English).
  • Several areas have webcams for viewing conditions in real time.

All three sources provide extremely useful information during periods of unstable weather.