Anyone who has spent time in Morzine or checked the weather forecast regularly will know that the weather in Morzine can change quickly and drastically.
High mountain ranges can have their very own unique climate. The proximity of Mt Blanc also affects the climate in Morzine, due to the Mt Blanc micro climate. Mt Blanc also acts as a border between the two separate climate regions of the north and west Alps and the southern Alps.
Morzine lies in the Chablais region of France in the Northern Alps and, due to the specific climate, experiences varied and changeable weather. With their crescent shape, the Alps separate the west-coast climates of Europe from the Mediterranean areas of France, Italy, and the Balkan region creating their own individual climates based on the local differences in mountain location, elevation and relief. In fact, most climatic conditions, other than tropical conditions, that exist on earth can be found somewhere in the Alps.
Generally these high mountain areas have heavier levels of precipitation and lower temperatures than the rest of France throughout the year. In the colder months most precipitation above 1500m falls as snow. In areas above 2000m this snow cover can lie on the ground from mid-November to the end of May. Although, relatively snowless winters aren't unheard of.
One distinct local factor which impacts on the Chablais climate and temperatures is the presence of Lake Geneva. In the winter, the warmth from the lake can magnify the temperature difference between the lake and the mountains. But also in the winter and the autumn the lake increases the amount of stratus clouds which hang low in the sky, often causing a sea of clouds which lies between the summits and the valley bottoms. This means that temperature inversions are not uncommon and that areas above 1000m can be warmer and sunnier than the low-lying valley bottoms.
During the summer the additional evaporation from the lake increases air pressure which leads to cumulonimbus clouds, which in turn give rise to storms in the mountains.
The Alps, due to their altitude, generally have higher precipitation and lower temperatures than other areas. In winter this combines to bring the snow that is such a draw for skiers and snowboarders. Wind is pushed up the mountain and as it cools it condenses and forms clouds.
The combination of mild, moist air from the west, cold Arctic winds from the north, dry continental air from the east and the Mediterranean air from the south converge in the mountains leading to the often unpredictable weather. A daily flow of air up and down the valley throughout the day creates its own wind patterns. In winter high winds at altitude can cause significant wind chill and it is important to be prepared for this. Higher altitudes also mean thinner air, so less UV protection. It also makes breathing more effort which can take a bit of time to get used to.
Wind also plays an important role in the weather and climatic conditions. Foehn winds, which can last from 2 to 3 days are warm dry winds. As the wind passes upward to the mountain crests it cools, leading to precipitations and continues to slow the rate of cooling. As this drier air descends on the lee side of the mountain, it warms up and therefore has a higher temperature at the same altitude than when it began its upward flow.
From winter to summer
Whilst winter is usually cold and snowy, the weather changes massively in summer. The weather in town is often hot whilst higher up it is slightly cooler. Large and spectacular thunderstorms also occur. During winter this can be reversed as cold, dense air sinks to the valley floor. When this happens fog can form lower down, whilst higher up the mountain it can be clear and sunny. Generally, however, the higher altitudes are colder. Temperatures drop by, on average, 6.5 degrees per 1000 metres. The thunderstorms in summer are caused by warm, moist air rising rapidly and forming cumulonimbus clouds.
As the sun heats the ground, warm air rises causing thermals which causes an inversion in temperature - the higher air being warmer than that at the lower altitudes.
The Morzine climate is one of contrasts, with very cold winters and very warm summers. There is certainly some crossover between the seasons with occasional snow in summer and unseasonably warm and sunny days in the middle of winter.