Early season can be exasperating. The last three years have brought substantial snow falls early in November followed by a settled spell of warm weather all but obliterating the snow base. Chamonix cannot boast that it has provided great Xmas conditions for skiers since 2012. Hopefully things may change this year. After an exceedingly dry summer and autumn, November brought some icy weather and the Northern Alps have enjoyed some early season snowfall accompanied by freezing temperatures. Don’t get me wrong the snow depth is not significant and we are in need of a storm or two.
Penny and I managed to travel through to Verbier for Opening Day on 11th November. After parking at Le Chable, in the valley floor, we encountered a 45 minute queue to validate our tickets. Although the Le Chable option didnt serve us well on this occasion it generally provides free parking and quick access to the slopes. The skiing was good on the half dozen pistes that were open but heavily reliant on man made snow. It was sunny, cold and nice to be on snow again. It is unfortunate that on many occasions that we go to Verbier it is because of poor condition in this valley only to find things not much better in the Valais.
We waited till the end of November to venture out again. Ziggy, our “new dog”, had never been out touring so we drove across to Combloux for a first attempt. We were hoping that although the snow depth was limited the snow had fallen on pasture and this would make for good skiing. We parked at Haut Combloux and Ziggy enjoyed the skin up towards Les Salles. The ski down didnt go just as planned with Ziggy losing out to one of my edges and cutting her leg. Time to go home. Snow conditions at that time were pretty average with less snowfall than the Chamonix Valley.
Les Houches announced its opening for the Weekend of 2nd December limited to the 2 lifts and stopping at the top of the Maison Neuve Chair. We headed up Saturday lunchtime and then after a quick skin to the top of Prarion we traversed to the summer pasture at La Charme. Some nice soft snow at first leading on to minimal depth on frozen earth. Back to the top and home.
PS the pistes were pretty poor, hard and icy at the bottom.
On Sunday, with the sun shining, we toured to the Bellevue side and to our delight were rewarded with some great soft snow to the side of the Grand Bois Piste without another skier in sight. . A good day and delighted to have avoided the crowds (and rocks) at Grand Montets.
As I write this the forecast is showing the first storm of the winter with perhaps over a metre of snow due. Grand Montets is open from 9th December and the rest of the areas are open from the tenth. I understand that Megeve. St Gervais and Les Contamines will open for the weekend but are delaying full time opening till 17th December.