27 January, 2010

La grave - Steep but not so deep!

The classic La Grave lift shot

Rupert looking in controll on the 40 degree Patoui couloir

An epic descent down to St Cristophe

More steeps, Giles needs a new ski suit I think?

We had a brilliant few days despite the lack of fresh snow. I managed to hunt out some great tracks and didn't scare anyone too much (appart from Jamie) on some 40 degree coulouirs.
Check out the pictures here http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/mountaintracks.co.uk/LaGraveJan2010

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19 January, 2010

Glacier Safety Film

This is a great short film that everyone should watch, its has some excellent information in it on glacier skiing and associated hazards.

Glacier Skiing Safety (full audio version) from Simon Christy on Vimeo.

Filmed last winter on the Vallee Blanche in Chamonix, it shows the basic principals of safe glacier skiing and group management. Directed and produced by Andy Perkins IFMGA Mountain Guide and ski instructor Simon Christy, both of whom work for Mountain Tracks, its a must watch film if you are a keen off piste skier exploring the high mountains.

17 January, 2010

Scott Skis On Test

Scott skis on test from left to right, Stunt, Pure, Crusade, Crusair, Stunt and Neo.

I didn't want to give these ones back!

Scott Ski Test

The beautiful Swiss village of Zinal is situated about 30 minutes drive from Sierre. The area is shadowed by some of the most famous Valais 4000m peaks at the head of the valley. So when your skiing some of the quietest off-piste around you get glimpses of the Zinal rothorn, Obergabelhorn, Weisshorn and many others.

Eric and Penny who run ‘Ski Zinal’ provided the base for the week. Whilst seeking out fresh tracks for the guys on our Off Piste Performance course I had the pleasure of taking different Scott skis out each day and giving them a good thrash. Ski Zinal have these skis available for anyone to test when they are there. I suggest you take advantage of this and ‘try before you buy’!

The Scott range is very broad with a ski for every ones taste. I think for me the two that stood out above the others were the ‘Crusair’ and the ‘Crusade’.

The ‘Crusair’ is a dedicated touring ski with a wood core laminate and carbon top sheet. This allows it to be very light yet skis amazingly well (carbon top sheet adds some rigidity). It’s pretty wide underfoot (90mm) so has brilliant flotation in powder. On piste it holds an edge surprisingly we’ll unlike some of it’s competitors which flap like lolly sticks. Off piste it comes into its own being great fun in the powder and stable on chopped up crud. It has reasonable side cut so is easy to turn it tight spots such as trees and couloirs. This is by far the best touring ski on the market and I would thoroughly recommend combining it with a Dynafit binding for the ultimate light go anywhere tourer. The only minor suggestion to Scott is a redesign of the skin clip at the tip and tail as its a bit over engineered!

The ‘Crusade’ lives up to its name and annihilates everything in its path! It’s the most fun I’ve had on a pair of skis for years. They are truly an all mountain ski. They aren’t bad on piste for a wide ski (92mm) and the spoon like tip and gives you loads of lift in powder. Because they have a beefed up laminated wood core they are stiffer than the Scott Mission so are better on chopped up crud and moguls. I found them very easy to ski and were always willing to turn whatever the mountain threw at me. If your looking for a ‘do it all’ quality free-ride ski this is the one. Again the only minor suggestion to the design guys at Scott is to get shot off the Venturi (air scoop) tip and tail as it makes skin fixing annoying and adds very little float to the ski unless you are doing mach 5!

Great fun was had on the other skis in the range. The ‘Pure’ and ‘Stunt’ are Scotts big mountain Freeride ski. They are fat with a capital F and like going very fast. If you have the correct genetic make up (Scandinavian) then you’ll love driving these at high speed round wide turns in powder fields. Don’t expect too much in tight tree skiing or moguls though (bit like trying to drive a Ferrari round Manchester!). The ‘Neo’ is a good 50/50 ski for on and off piste performance. I loved railing it round corners on its short piste turn radius. Surprisingly good fun was there backcountry park ski the ‘Stunt’ This skied like a softer version of the ‘Mission’ but was great fun in the powder. I secretly loved the graphics seriously ‘New School

So in conclusion if your going touring with us get the ‘Crusair’ and if your doing an off piste course get the ‘Crusade’ or ‘Mission’.

Look forward to seeing you all on Scott skis in the winter,


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Zinal Off-Piste Performance

Izzy cruising in the powder skiing down to the Moiry Dam

Nick showing us hows its done

View down to the Moiry Dam from Zinal

Combat skiing

The Zinal Off Piste Performance course had great snow last week. We managed to seek out some fresh tracks most days and hone our skills along the way. The Scottish contingent provided much comedy both on and off the slopes. Zinal has now run out of Red wine due to the combined efforts of a few. I think the highlights for most would be the powder run down to the Moiry Dam and my jump and subsequent head plant, double ejection (whilst testing scott skis) on day two.
More photos can bee seen at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/mountaintracks.co.uk/ZinalOPP#
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08 January, 2010

Sainte Foy: Performance Plus with Bryan Hogg and Matt Dickinson

First class powder skiing was enjoyed by all during this week. A good snow dump at the start of the week and persistent cold temperatures gave us fresh tracks every day.

Located in the heart of the Tarentaise, our base in St Foy gives us access to a staggering quantity of off piste opportunities. Other than St Foy itself we regularly frequent Les Arcs, Tignes, Val d'Isere, La Rosiere and La Thuile.

Mountain Tracks is celebrating 10 years of courses and guiding in the region and our guides and instructors have been with us the whole way. This means we can guarantee to seek out the best snow and conditions the mountain have to offer.

As usual we enjoyed first class hospitality at Andy and Sue's Auberge. The accommodation is spacious, cosy and always fun! Friends are always made in the Auberge, the bar and the hot tub are always open. The staff put in a tremendous effort with the food, and applause is not unknown at the dinner table!

DAY 1: St Foy

A mornings instruction and coaching on the Piste and off-piste was followed by a trip down the 'Manal'. This is a long and remote journey 'off the back', beginning high on the Foglietta and travelling down from the high mountains through beautiful forest glades and past an interesting ancient settlement.

Day 2: Les Arcs

Les Arcs is a superb off piste domain (with great on piste too) covering a vast area. The morning gave us blue skies and cold air. We headed up to the Aiguille Grive and skied the classic west face all the way down to the valley base. This expedition is not difficult, but is remote and beautiful. We were the first down since the last fall, so perfect undulating powder was enjoyed for the whole distance.

In the afternoon, I took 4 skiers down the 'Nature reserve'. Although this sounds very innocuous, the Nature Reserve is the huge 1500m North facing side of the Aiguille Rouges. Only guided groups have access to this area and the skiing is some of the best in the whole region.

Day 4: La Thuile

Today we made the journey over to Italy. This journey is made by ski from the La Rosiere. A mornings instruction was followed in the afternoon by several journeys down to the Petit San Bernard Pass. This is a large area of open and wooded slopes over a mile wide, offering plenty of interesting terrain and steep tree skiing.

Day 5: St Foy

During the morning, Bryan delivered coaching and instruction, whilst I took three of the group down the famous 'Crystal Dark', this is a long and relatively steep face which is fantastic fun in soft snow.

For the final afternoon, we regrouped to ski the long and exciting journey from Col Granier. This expedition takes us into a whole different valley system to the west of St Foy, where a vehicle pick up is necessary. Again the snow was untracked light powder, and even though the light was flat, it was a great trip.

Thanks to Andy, Sue and staff for their hospitality. And thanks to Steph, Chris, Kim, Caroline, Mike, Vanessa, Geoff and Paul for a great weeks skiing.

Matt Dickinson