And so the Season begins

It has been a bit of a slow start to the season with an early fall of snow in the first week of November followed by cold weather. Some keen tourers found good conditions above mid station at Le Tour followed by a pretty rocky descent to the car park. I wasn’t really tempted.

Last weekend saw a partial opening at Grand Montets accompanied by a föhn gale. Again not tempted.

Italy has benefited from the weather patterns with large falls in the lower Aoste Valley and fairly large falls in Courmayeur.

Penny, Ziggy and I skinned up from Val Veny on Monday to find a good covering of wet snow. It was more of a walk than a ski but nice to be on the mountain.

Top of Val Veny cable car

The rain then arrived and after a fairly miserable few days in the valley it looked like a substantial amount of snow had fallen above 1800 metres and we were tempted by opening day at Courmayeur. Thankfully the clouds had dispelled and the slopes were in great condition above mid station.

An early start allowed 5 or 6 runs in good cold powder followed by a short quick skin up to the shoulder of Youla and some good turns if a little wind affected. As usual home for lunch.

Penny breaking trail
Looking at the views

Earning your turns
Good snow

Plan Aguille 31/05/2019

With no great desire to walk a long way we headed up to mid station at the Midi this morning. Clear skies and an overnight freeze led to some great snow under the North face of the Midi. There were quite a lot of skiers heading for Mont Blanc but no one joined us for a couple of laps in nice snow on Plan Aguille.

Quite a backdrop for the skin up
First turns of the morning
Penny on our first lap

We were home for 1300 and hope to return tomorrow. Skiing on 01/06 will be a first for me.

30th May- Col de Berard Ski Tour

After spending two weeks in Lyngen (post to follow) and a long drive back we found that Chamonix had been very wet and pretty cold in our absence. A quick check with the Office de Haute Montagne confirmed the Berard Valley still had good snow cover and the walk in was a max 1 hour. One of these statements was true.

Lots of snow- true

A minimum 90 mins allowed us to put our skins on and head up to the north eastern slopes under Col de Belvedere. Ziggy joined us sporting her new backpack and carried her lunch and lots of water.

Lunch in the sun followed by a quick skin and some super turns in creamy spring snow.

And then the long walk out.

Anyone fancy it – walk up in walking shoes. Too far in ski boots for me. The trip took about 6 hours walking from the Buet Hotel.

A Season Recap

The season is heading towards a close although the slopes over 2000 metres are in pretty good shape. Closing day at Grands Montets is 5th May and Brevent and Le Tour close on 22nd April. Otherwise Flegere and Les Houches have already closed. Flegere has snow but the Cable Car is being replaced this summer. Les Houches struggled with late season snow depth.

Early snow arrived in November prior to lift opening but didn’t really consolidate into good early conditions and the option for early season touring was limited.

Above Charamillon 11th December prior to lifts opening.

December conditions were average and the resort was super busy over Xmas and New Year. We were lucky to have a few good days with Hayley.

Below Floria

January through to early February were pretty good with substantial snowfall and some good weather days.

Le Tour front face
Jenna at Charme

James keeping the faith

Let’s forget February. Too many people and very little fresh snow.

Early March brought some great powder days

Phoebe bluebird day

Smiling Chris
Kiera enjoying excellent snow

Cal on holiday

March was pretty good with a combination of good snow and decent weather

Touring options for April have been exceptional although we have only managed a few days

Col du Dards

Crap snow Brevent backside
Excellent spring snow Hauteluce

We are now heading north for a bit of an adventure.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Let’s start with the ugly.  On Wednesday we skied the home run at Brevent. Don’t do it. The snow cover is so thin that it hasn’t been pisted. An uncomfortable ski down  punctuated with avoiding rocks. A week ago it was in great condition but unfortunately no longer. 

And the bad. On Tuesday we decided to try and catch Flegere off piste in good condition. After a decent fall of new snow on Sunday and a bit more on Monday Index and Floria didn’t open on those two days. With cold weather and sunshine forecast it seemed, and was, a rare opportunity to ski the south facing slopes of Flegere in good conditions. Mindful of the French holidays starting we were in the car park at 0815 and in the lift station for 0820. Probably on time for the second or third bin. A 40 minute wait we had counted on. Then, as usual, Index opening was delayed until 10.00. I appreciate that the fresh snow was accompanied by high winds but as is usual in Chamonix there seems to be no forward planning in these situations. So it was the best part of two hours to reach the top of Index. 

And the Good. In the end it was worth it with two quick laps of Lachenal bowl. The snow at high level was seriously wind affected but the lower down, skiers right , and in the trees, was exceptional. Floria wasn’t open at 1100 and the offpiste off Index wasn’t as great but not at all bad. The snow in the trees was consistent at lower levels. A couple of laps and home.  A very good day. 

On Wednesday we were again up early at Brevent. On the second Cornu chair and skinned to Col de Gliere to be rewarded by some great cold snow on the northern aspect all the way to the Liason. We were the only skiers in the bowl.  Then a quick ski off the top of Brévent towards Aguillete des Houches and a skin back out. The snow was a bit variable due to the wind but lovely to be on our own again. 

An empty bowl from Col de Gliere
Back of Brevent
Variable conditions

The weather is to be fine for a while and the resort is going to be super busy so it might be a lot more difficult to find some fresh snow although the pistes are in exceptional condition. 

Real Snow in Chamonix

It has been a slow start to the season in the Northern Alps but at long last winter storms have arrived. More familiar conditions have returned and as I write we are expecting another 40/60 cms of fresh snow today. I think that at least a metre and a half has fallen in the last 7 days and the Valley looks completely different.

Strong west to north west winds have accompanied the storm cycles and this has led to limited lift opening at times. Also many slopes are badly wind affected.

Monday brought 30 cms of fresh snow and we had great tree skiing in Le Tour. Not many skiers on the hill and pretty much fresh lines all day.

James keeping the freeheel faith
North side Le Tour
More Tim

Tuesday bluebird powder in Les Contamines. In great condition .

Wednesday was stormbound and although we ventured out th wind, snow,strong winds and lack of lift opening drove us home very early.

Thursday brought super deep conditions on the northern slopes and Penny and I enjoyed the deepest snow of the season. Still blowing hard from the Nortwest and very cold.

After today’s fall I think Conditions will be exceptional throughout the Valley. Unfortunately the Italian side seems to have missed out on most of the recent falls.

Le Tour today

Very cold with windblown powder. The snow depth was inconsistent making commitment difficult but still super enjoyable. Pistes are great and the resort was empty. Off piste below 2000 metres was unskiable crust. All in all a pretty good morning.

It’s a lot better

Snow started to fall late on Saturday evening and continued well into Monday. Unfortunately it was accompanied by extremely high winds.

I think that the upper end of the valley has had about a metre of fresh snow at 2000 metres with maybe 50/70 cms in Les Houches, Megeve and Contamines.

With few lifts likely to open early on Sunday Penny managed to catch first lift and enjoyed perfect conditions for the first hour and and a half. By the time I managed to join her at 1030 things weren’t as good with the majority of the fresh snow skied out. You have to be quick these days to catch the best conditions.

On Monday we headed for Grand Montets and found ourselves quite near the front of the lift line. In normal GM fashion we the waited for 75 minutes for the lift to open. As Bouchard wasn’t running I have no idea of the reason for the delay and again in true GM fashion no information was forthcoming. When the lift finally opened it was the usual rush/crush even though a queue had formed.

The snow was good, deep but compacted by the wind so a bit heavy. Impossible to stop to take any photos as limited lifts were open and it was pretty obvious that it would ski out quickly. We lapped the new Plan Joran chair in pretty good conditions and had a final run on Herse. It was pretty good but windblown. A final run through the trees gave up some exceptional powder.

The sky cleared on Tuesday for a freezing cold bluebird day at Les Contamines. The frontside was wind effected but Hauteluce side was exceptional- the best skiing of the season so far. The snow depth is limited with a number of areas not skiable and some bushwhacking necessary to escape others. Too much fun to take any photos.

We returned the next day hopefully to skin on the Hautluce side but found the snow to have been badly sun affected( it must have warmed considerably the previous afternoon) Nothing worse than a 2 inch crust ice crust over powder to show up my technique.

Penny then suggested the long traverse from the top of Aig Croche towards Mont Joly and then a descent towards the valley. The traverse was pretty horrible but the ski to the valley floor was good. Creamy boot top snow and pretty consistent. A good call. A brief boot pack took us back to the Grevattaz Poma.

Piste Conditions are great and the slopes are empty.