At this stage of the season, I'm often being asked: "So how has the winter been?". Some people mean this in a commercial sense, but since this is so closely linked to the weather and conditions, I tend to think immediatly of how the snow has been.
We started the winter with a super cold period in December. Typically for early season, this formed lots of depth hoar, but this year it was much more unstable than I've ever seen it. Then it rained to 2300m at Christmas, followed by a period of consolidation through January. February was great, and then in early March the winds were all over the place, distributing the snow into pockets of slab in some places and stripping it bare in others, particularly on the north faces where we would normally find the best powder.
Then in late March it went super warm, with the freezing level at nearly 3000m. I was in Andermatt last week and had just about the worst day of ski touring I've ever had in terms of snow conditions, with knee deep porridge from 2200m downwards. The team did very well to retain their sense of humour! The depth hoar that formed in January was saturated with water and this is now lurking as a very weak layer close to ground level
And now, on the 1st April, we've got a bucket of fresh snow, with the snow/rain limit falling to 800m. I was skiing powder in the resort of Les Houches today in conditions more akin to February than April. We have a week of unstable weather forecast for the Easter holidays.
So overall, the winter has been variable to say the least. It seems that with climate change, there is less of a predictable pattern these days, and this winter has been unpredicatble to say the least. It's been good, with some great days of powder, spring snow and chalky steeps, but it's also been hard work at times and occasionally very scarey.
And it's only early April, with another 5 weeks of touring. Let's see what the mountain gods bring us...