The Leanest Winter

Definitely the highlight of the winter (Barbey Couloir, 27th March)

Well, it’s over now.  This winter has been the warmest and driest in most Chamonix residents’ memories and I skied fewer days than I have in a long long time.  Some storms brought good conditions briefly but skiing less regularly meant than I wasn’t feeling as strong as usual so motivation was pretty low in-between.

At least it was dry enough for some good biking every month and my days on the bike nearly hit double those on skis to make the most of the conditions on offer.

One of the few deeper days of the winter (Helbronner, 13th February)

Plan season didn't last long this winter (Plan de l'Aiguille, 8th March)

A big push up to classic trails, well worth it (Brevent, 3rd April)

A satisfying end to my last run of the winter (<a href="">Verbier, 22nd April</a>)

Hopefully the next six months will be just as warm and dry as the past six for another excellent summer on the bike.

Mini rock roll, just practising for Canada in the autumn (Les Bois, 23rd April)

Hike & Ride

Hiking along the Mont Fort ridgeline

Location: Verbier
Snow: Spring snow; some soft, some firm
Weather: Bluebird, warm

A couple of nice spring snow hikes in Verbier today.

One off Mont Fort first; along the ridge for a ski traverse on the front side, steep ski over the back and a bootpack up to the top of a line on the front side which we had spotted from the lift station with only a few tracks on it, for nice spring snow at the top and a little crust lower down.

Then on to the Bec des Rosses where the climb was much more rocky and technical than the last time I did it but still about an hour up.  Snow on the descent was pretty mixed but soft enough to feel confident on the steep entrance to the classic Dogleg Couloir which was holding firmer and more rutted snow itself with some rocks showing meaning a little sidestepping was required, before cutting out right about halfway down to ski a nice face with only a couple of tracks on it and a nice drop and fast turns to exit.

Graham: Ridgeline hike from Mont Fort

Graham: Closing in on the Bec des Rosses peak

Drop to finish our line; redemption for one I fell on in the morning

Park Day Cancelled

View from the top of Le Tour's Summit Park

Location: Le Tour
Snow: Mixed on piste
Weather: Bluebird, some wind

I was fancying my first park day in a long time today, but nae luck.  Half the park was closed for an unpublicised kids’ comp and the rest was firm, rutted and poorly shaped.  Home for a bike ride after one run.

Barbey Couloir

Alex: The most fun section of the descent

Location: Argentiere Basin
Snow: Boot-top powder where it mattered
Weather: Bluebird

Excellent conditions in Barbey Couloir today off the back side of the Aiguille d’Argentiere.  A little firm at the top but once through the rock choke the snow was near-perfect boot-top powder, just a little sluffy but nothing to worry us much.  Steep but not scary-steep; very fun.  The return ascent to Col du Chardonnet nearly finished our legs off but the mellow spring snow descent back towards the resort was still good fun, and a slushy mogul-filled Pierre Ric homerun brought us down for celebratory panachés in classic style.

Entering the rock choke as the snow got good

Graham: Steep slope, soft snow; perfect

Family Snowboard Day

Quiet pistes in the morning and nice views towards Mont Blanc

Location: Les Contamines
Snow: Spring snow pistes
Weather: Bluebird, warm

My family are staying in Saint Gervais this week (a much better holiday base for families and intermediate skiers than Chamonix) so I’ve been staying with them for the last few days between day trips with my Chamonix friends, but had a day on the hill with them today in Les Contamines, snowboarding most of the day with my sister and future brother-in-law on their first ever week of snowboarding.  They were doing very well for their first week, and being my first day in over three years it took me a few runs to get back into it but a really fun day cruising around in good spring snow.

My rental board even matched my outfit

Wan o’ They Days

Graham: Popping off a natural hip

Location: La Clusaz
Snow: Spring snow
Weather: Hazy cloud, warm

A very fun day in La Clusaz in good spring snow for my first time today, after only ever visiting in sub-par conditions in the past.

Things took a little longer than expected to soften up so we cruised around the pistes and park for most of the morning but after lunch everything softened to excellent spring corn so we lapped the Balme area’s famous natural snowpark all afternoon with a few flips & spins thrown and even caught local legend Candide Thovex doing his thing on a few laps of the terrain that made him the skier he is today.

Really nice to be blasting around without backpacks and with less risks for once.  Today’s lift pass was free on our Chamonix passes but a day like this would be well worth the price of a lift ticket for a return trip sometime.

Graham: First flip of the winter

Dent de Fenestral

The full group at Col de Fenestral

Location: Finhaut
Snow: Soft spring snow, heavy low down
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Very nice soft spring snow on a pretty relaxed tour today.  A quick ascent from Finhaut got us to Col de Fenestral then around a bit to descend the SE face under the Dent de Fenestral.  A nasty start to the entrance couloir meant that a bit of downclimbing was required but the mellow face was holding excellent spring corn (SE, 2500m at 12.30pm) all the way down to the road out, getting heavier lower down but skiing fine even on lightweight gear.

Colin: Hop turn at the start of the descent

Graham: Towards the end of the main descent

Tis the Season

Powder turn overlooking Chamonix town

Location: Plan de l’Aiguille
Snow: Deep powder, heavier lower
Weather: Overcast

South African Alex is in town, so as always that means that the Plan has come into excellent condition.

Three laps skier’s-left today for a change, exploring a bit further for amazing untracked gullies, plenty of natural kickers and excellent landings.  Well worth a bit of bushwhacking to return to the exit track; still a little bit of walking required but skis-on all the way to Grepon once joining the 4×4 track.

Scouting a line, overlooking Les Houches/Les Bossons/Les Pelerins

Graham: Taking advantage of the excellent landings on offer today

Game On

Roddy: A facial expression is worth a thousand words

Location: Helbronner/Courmayeur
Snow: Deep powder, some windslab
Weather: Steady snow/sleet, humid

Very nice in Italy today, and a good decision as it looks like not much opened in the Chamonix valley.  Three laps of the Helbronner lowers then four or five in the Val Veny trees once the lift opened, finding good deep untracked powder all day with surprisingly low crowds.

Graham: Very nice in the Val Veny trees

Fun little hit

One Each Side

Wet faceshots skier's-left of the lift station

Location: Plan de l’Aiguille
Snow: Fresh, very heavy lower
Weather: Cloudy, warm, light snow/rain

Pretty nice on Plan de l’Aiguille today on one lap each side of the lift station.  Decent fresh snow without too many tracks, starting off a little heavy and ending incredibly heavy & sticky, and the exits & 4×4 track OK with just a little walking if you care about your skis.

Graham: Shifty

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