28 February, 2011
Mid Ski-Season Blues... I don't think so now the powder is back!
View of the Aiguille Noir de Peuterey and Italy in the cloud
It’s been a busy couple of months since the New Year for everyone at Mountain Tracks and I can’t believe as I turned the page over in dairy this morning that it will be the 1st March tomorrow - where does the time go?
As most of you will know the last 6 weeks has been tough in the Alps. There was a long dry spell in January for over a month were very little snow fell. The off piste skiing was hard pack and in the high mountains you could still ski some cold chalky snow, the pistes remained in good condition and with the sun shining it was really not all that bad. Our guides did need to get inventive and go in search of better snow but all our trips found reasonable snow off piste and everyone benefited from skiing the more challenging snow.
Getting inventive with your skiing to keep it interesting was certainly something I got used to in Chamonix over the last 6 weeks or so. From cruising the corduroy on piste early in the mornings to brush up some technique to ski tours across the top of the Vallee Blanche to Italy for better coffee and altitude training! Thankfully now the high pressure that was blocking all the weather fronts from the Alps has moved away and we have had 3 good falls of snow since the start of last week.
Me at the top of the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche
Monday saw snow in Italy and Chamonix and we also received around 20cm of snow on Thursday which gave some great ski touring on Saturday in the Aiguille Rouge. Saturday night turned into a snowy one which made Sunday a great day of skiing powder. It continued to snow all day and my friends and I had a great days skiing at Grands Montets, despite the cloud, snow and poor visibility for those that knew where they were going the top of the Grands Montets delivered 40cm of perfect powder. After 5 runs from the top, 2 laps of the piste to the base, a run off the bochard gondola and a fat boys lunch my legs were too tired to do anymore!
Over the last few weeks I have also been out skiing with a number of the trips we have run in and around Chamonix. I really enjoy getting out to meet the guests on our holidays, especially as I speak to all of them before they travel so it’s nice to put a face to the name. It’s also a great way to see the guides at work and keep learning new skills and new routes.
Back in early January I spent the day in Courmayeur with our Off Piste Performance Plus course. Bryan Hogg was instructing and we had a great day enjoying some powder and hard pack snow off piste and lots of tree skiing, as well as the obligatory Italian pasta lunch.
Our courses in Ste. Foy through January fared well in the snow drought, the Ste. Foy and Tarentaise area gets much less skied than Chamonix and the more popular off piste resorts. Hence that even after 3 weeks of no new snow the groups were enjoying untracked powder in the quiet corners of La Plagne, Les Arcs and Tignes/Val D’Isere. Thanks to Bryan Hogg, Annie Donovan, Stuart Macdonald and Willie Todd for their expect teaching and guiding skills over those weeks.
At the end of January I spent a day with our Foundation Avalanche Course run by Francis Kelsey and Mike Arnold in Chamonix. We had a great day in the sun at Brevent and Flegere doing search and rescue training with our transceivers. In the afternoon we set up a couple of “scenario” for the group to do have a go at. Not telling them how many transceivers were buried so they could put into practise all the training from the previous 2 days. Everyone learnt a huge amount of information and many news skills to help keep them safe in the mountains, recognise avalanche terrain and how to use a transceiver effectively.
Avalanche Training Foundation course
I have also had a day out on our Ski Touring Skills Weekend in early February with Kathy Murphy leading the charge. We spent the day in the somewhat snow-reduced resort of Megeve and Combloux ski touring. We did a great little ski tour to the Petit Croisse Baulet which is ideal terrain for learning the skinning technique, uphill kick turns and all about ski touring in general. Its takes just over an hour to walk to the summit up through the pretty tree-lined slopes and you get a magnificent 360 deg panorama at the top with the whole Mont Blanc massif to the south, the Jura and lake Geneva to the north and we could even see down to the Mont Aiguille in the Vercors south of Grenbole.
Lunch at the top of the Petit Croisse Baulet
The ski down was fun with a variety of old reconstituted powder and spring snow. We did run out of snow at one point and had an amusing 10 mins learning the technique for walking down steep grassy slopes, more akin to April ski touring than February. After a quick drink in the bar in Giettaz we took the lifts back towards home doing some avalanche transceiver training on the way and some all round fun skiing in the sunshine.
Last week I headed out on the first day of out Steep Ski clinic run by Remy Lecluse; myself, Andrew and Jonathan had a great days skiing at Brevent and Flegere. The weather was not ideal but we skied some great powder in the morning and then headed to the steep slopes of the Pente de la Hotel above Brevent to learn Remy’s technique to jump turn on steep slopes. It’s certainly an education skiing with the great man, he makes every turn look effortless and is very precise about the way in which he wants you to ski. In the afternoon we headed to the Aigullie Pourrie a nice peak above the ski area. It requires an initial steep skin up a slope before a traverse towards the Col de Gliere. We then climbed to the summit before swapping crampons for skis and enjoyed a great run of powder back to the piste at Flegere.
Remy’s tutorial on steep ski technique at the top of the Hotel Face, Brevent
This Saturday I did a great ski tour to the Breche du Berard in the Aiguille Rouge, a nice day tour with 2 climbs and a great ski back to Le Buet. There was some great snow to ski on the way down the Berard valley and with fresh tracks all way in the sunshine it was brilliant day.
Self Portrait on the way down the Breche du Berard
John skiing the powder on Saturday
Make the most of the new snow and join us on some up and coming trips where we still have availability. We have space on our Off Piste Adventure Advanced week in Zinal from this Saturday. We also have places on the Wild Western Oberland ski tour from the 12th March, Off Piste Advanced course in Chamonix from the 13th March and an Intermediate Adventure trip to Andermatt from the 19th March.
Matt and Olly are out guiding our Klosters-Andermatt ski safari this week and Bryan and Willie are in Ste. Foy for our performance course, I am sure they are all enjoying excellent snow conditions. More updates from the Alps soon.....