Not Great

Alex: Dropping into Italian Bowl

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: 15-20cm powder on a bumpy base
Weather: Cloudy but bright

Decent snow and sunny skies were forecast, but unfortunately things weren’t as good as we expected today.

First lifts on Plan Joran got us up to midsation with no queues at all giving us our pick of where to go.  Off Bochard into Lavancher Bowl the visibility forced us to stay right near the rocks and out to the tunnel, in only light powder on top of the moguls formed from yesterday’s traffic during the snowfall.  What was untouched was nice but it was hard to find those sections.

Over on Italian Bowl off Herse chairlift it was a similar story; pretty fun but nothing compared to the good days we’ve been having lately.  Top Bin queues were out the door already so just one more run all the way down Lavancher Bowl then home on the Pierre à Ric which was skiing incredibly well.

Can’t have epic days all the time I guess!

Lunchtime Touring

Graham, Rob: Starting the traverse from Plan de l'Aiguille

Location: Plan de l’Aiguille
Snow: 15-20cm powder, heavy lower down
Weather: Bluebird

A quick lunchtime tour today in more perfect weather with no-one else around (only two skiers today, on a different route).

From Plan de l’Aiguille we took the existing traverse track a fair way across then skinned towards the base of the Aiguille de l’M for about 25 minutes to find a nice section of untouched snow which would hopefully lead into some more good stuff below.

Rob, Graham: Approaching the Aiguille de l'M

On finishing the first section Graham shouted to “keep going” so I did, flat-out, down a lovely mellow gully in smooth creamy powder.  I should have stopped to let us regroup but everything was feeling so good and I felt safe enough to continue further and further, finally clipping a rock under the surface and waiting for the others, so no photos sorry.  It turned out that I had stopped just in time to cut hard left to join the summer path to the Blatiere Alpage for an easy exit back to the normal route; no bushwhacking required!

Rob: Dropping in above Chamonix

Yet another day making the most of conditions for some relaxed skiing in untouched snow during high-season; knowledge from several years spent in Chamonix is definitely paying off this winter.

Plan x2

Spencer: Fresh turns on the first lap

Location: Plan de l’Aiguille
Snow: Mostly 25cm powder, some slightly wind-affected, some rocks
Weather: Bluebird but cold in the shade

Feeling better today, just a bit tired, but with bluer skies than forecast I had to get at least a few runs in again so up to the Midi Plan for a couple of morning laps.

The Midi lifts had opened yesterday but the Plan hadn’t seen much traffic.  We put the high traverse in skier’s-right over yesterday’s windblown tracks and had a play in our familiar areas finding mostly excellent smooth powder on the descent through the rolls and pillows with just a few rocks clipped and a decent exit back to town each time.

No-one else around except for three skiers and one chamois; definitely a more relaxing day than battling crowds off the top of the mountain.

Graham: Getting loose on the second lap

Just A Couple

Alex: Drop in the trees

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: 20cm powder on a bumpy base
Weather: Moderate snowfall, poor visibility

Feeling a bit ill today (not enough food or water during my 6 day ski week I think) but thought I’d head up the hill anyway to see how I felt and maybe get some good runs.  In the car and on the first lift up I felt a bit better but once on the hill I was feeling some pretty nasty vertigo in the flat light and not able to ski at 100% so just got a couple of laps in the Magic Trees before heading down.

Only about 20cm fresh snow in the trees, which would have been fine if I was feeling better and the light was better, but taking it cautiously though the underlying bumps and not being able to see some of the rolls there was no point in me risking anything today.

Ian: Taking off in poor light

Still snowing a fair amount so I’m happy to let the snow gather for now.

Got It Right Again

Alex: Huck of the season, not quite landed but we'll give him it!

Location: Courmayeur
Snow: 35-40cm powder
Weather: Cloudy clearing to bluebird

Back to Courmayeur today in hope of deep snow and sunny skies.  And that’s pretty much what we got.

A couple of laps on our favourite tree areas to start with while the clouds were still lurking; very good in the main parts, a little scratchy to exit but worth the effort.

One run down the Dolonne Couloir when things got a little brighter; quite tracked but still soft and deep with pillows and open faces and a good exit.

Then when the sun cracked fully one run off Arp and one off Youla exiting to the Zerotta road both times.  The snow was tracked in concentrated areas so it was easy to find out own way for some deep turns, slashes, drops and decent exit through two different gullies.  Well worth the half hour queue and push back to the lift!

On returning to Chamonix we were greeted with overcast skies once again.  Seems like we’re hitting the right locations on the right days lately!

Five In A Row

Alex: Not quite getting the airbag backflip around

Location: Brevent
Snow: Firm pistes then softening
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Tired legs this morning after four days in a row on the hill but it would be rude not to go up and enjoy the last warm sunny day on the forecast.  Mostly easy cruising around the pistes from 11.00-1.30pm; firm but grippy when we started and getting nice and soft by the end.  We really should have started at 1pm when the queues died down during lunchtime and gotten some proper slush later in the afternoon but it was still really fun on the piste skis.

The airbag is open now too so a few flips and spins were in order.  The kicker is much mellower than in previous years so throw your flips around a bit harder than usual and you’ll still get them around!

A storm is incoming over the weekend and it’s a similar story of not really knowing where the snow will hit and how much but I’d happily take a repeat of the past week.

Touring School

Martin, Ian: Heading up the Argentiere Basin

Location: Argentiere Basin
Snow: Soft but shallow spring snow
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Back up the Basin today for Martin’s first ever ski tour.  After some delays and faffing (all part of the game Martin) we got up top and down onto the glacier for about 10.30am but no big deal for today’s plan.  With some gear and skinning tips handed out we headed up to the start of the Tour Noir glacier at a nice easy pace then up towards the Col d’Argentiere to see how Martin would handle it and turn back when necessary.

200m up he had had enough (a good effort but I’m getting him on my “ski lots, bike lots” fitness plan to get him up to scratch) so Ian and I continued on another 150m or so to ski the last pitch from yesterday and regrouped below.  The snow was a bit heavier than yesterday, pretty shallow spring snow, but still smooth and creamy for a very high speed descent back to the morraine for one of the best picnic spots in Chamonix where we took in the views in nice warm weather and barely any wind.

Nice to bump into a few groups of friends finishing their full descent of the Col and enjoying the day too.

Things were warmer today than yesterday and the snow was warming up by early afternoon so it might have gotten pretty bad through to sunset.  Left of Col du Passon a reasonably sized wet snow avalanche had triggered today; treat tomorrow as spring conditions.

Right Good

Lorne: Safely straying from the existing tracks for a few dream turns

Location: Argentiere Basin
Snow: Mostly soft & smooth
Weather: Bluebird, cold in the shade

I think low expectations are the way to go this winter; another one of those days today where I went out not expecting much but conditions blew me away.  Touring on the sunny side of the Argentiere Basin was the decision for a nice sunny outing and a cruisey run home but the actual snow conditions were a massive bonus.

The third bin of the day got us up top in good time without much of a queue and quickly onto the glacier for the flat walk in.  We had planned to ski the Col d’Argentiere as I thought I hadn’t done it before but it turns out I’ve actually skied it twice while thinking it was the Col du Tour Noir because it sits at the top of the Glacier du Tour Noir.  Or maybe they just look similar while skinning & skiing, who knows.  This is the best guide I found last night to clear things up.

A slightly slippy skin track got us up to the Col (+900m or so) in 3 hours after first putting skins on – I’m glad I had my ski crampons but Alex made it up fine without.  Only 10 ski tracks could be seen from yesterday (sometimes covered by a little windblown snow) and we were behind only 5 others this morning.  Time to enjoy the descent.

From feeling the snow on the way up we knew that things would be good and we had bookmarked a few completely untouched sections to hit as well as any potential crevasses or other obstacles.  I wouldn’t call it “powder” but soft, smooth and untouched, almost spring snow, amazing to make big turns down full-speed.  I’ll let the photos tell the story.

Just one slightly wind-packed section where the slope was mellower, then back into more of the same to get us back to the glacier below.

Alex: Looking back up to the col after our descent

3 hours up for maybe only 20 minutes down but in these conditions more than worth it and I was smiling all the way home.  More days like this please!

Bellissimo

Ian: Making it look deep

Location: Courmayeur
Snow: 20-25cm powder
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Italy reportedly had snow, so we went to Italy.  Emerging from the tunnel I really wasn’t sure if things would be that good but Courmayeur definitely delivered the goods.  Just three big laps really; two off the Arp (top lift) for plenty of untouched snow and some exploration rewarding us with some fun lines, and a run down the Dolonne Couloir for mixed conditions, a few pillows and drops and a slightly rocky exit.

No real queues for any lifts but things were still fairly busy on the pistes while accessing our runs with some scary traffic to dodge at times.  Italian coffees in the sun outside an empty mountain cafe at 3pm ended things on a fine note.

More sun continuing this week.  Touring locally might not give amazing snow conditions but will surely give a nice relaxed day out at the least.

Graham: Trademark style in the Dolone pillows

Wind-Affected

Alex: Finding some smoother chalky snow (Lavancher Bowl)

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Wind-affected
Weather: Mostly sun, warm, windy up high

School holidays are in full effect this week with the UK’s half term overlapping with some French holidays, so I spent the weekend resting and catching up on work.  Back to Grands Montets today for the first time in a while just to get a few easy laps.

It’s been quite windy lately so things were skiing pretty inconsistently everywhere today; lots of firm wind-scoured areas which weren’t much fun but if we looked for the smoother sections there was some nice chalky snow to find.  Pistes were pretty scary at times with firm snow and lots of traffic to dodge but that’s all part of the holiday fun.

Things have reportedly been a bit better in Italy over the weekend so a trip through the tunnel is looking the best call for tomorrow.

  • Lorne Cameron: Chamonix Ski Blog

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