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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As soon as New Year week ended things began to improve. The crowds disappeared and we even had a little snow. The depth of the new snow varied throughout the valley with Le Tour receiving about 20cms – heavily windblown- and Les Houches perhaps 10cms. The weather then turned clear and exceedingly cold.
We ventured out to Le Tour pretty much for first lift on 10th January. It was -10C in the car park and with a very strong NE wind it must have been -30C at the top of Autannes Chair. There were pockets of good powder side piste but the overnight wind had ruined many of the faces. Nice to have some powder turns though. The pistes were in excellent condition, well covered and cold grippy snow. We only lasted about an hour and a half due to the extreme cold but went home pretty happy with the improvement in conditions.
Due to continuing freezing conditions we had a quick piste ski on 11/01 at Les Houches. Conditions pretty good with huge amounts of man made snow being pumped out.
Today we had a quick skin to ski an area which is pasture in the summer. 10cms of cold snow made it worthwhile.
Snow due to fall from tonight with reports of up to 75 cms in the next 48 hours.
For the last few years Grand Montets has offered up a day or two of winter snow at the end of April. Cham Meteo told me last night that 30 to 50cms of fresh snow, heavily windblown, was expected with clear skies first thing today. I wasn’t the only one to read the forecast and wasn’t quite at the front of the queue despite arriving at 08.10
There was a rush for the top bin so I headed for Bochard to be rewarded by 15cms of powder on piste and first tracks bar 2 pisteurs. Pendant Chair is closed for the season and the access to the bowl was roped off. It must have put some skiers off as I had first tracks in Pendant Bowl on the next lap. The snow was windblown so the gullies provided great conditions and justified another lap.
The high winds had scoured Herse and the Canadian Bowl. Clouds moved in. Time to go home.
After a few days of cold, clear weather we headed off to try and find what was left of the off piste. It was a pleasant surprise to find some nice lines on northern and eastern aspects. This photo of Penny is taken from just below Tete de Balme. This line involves a skin out to Col de Balme (although we saw two guided groups heading all the way down to Trient where there must have arranged transport home). It looks like fresh snow on Tuesday/Wednesday with no real signs of Spring yet.