Easter Rognon

Lorne: Plenty of untouched snow at the top of Gros Rognon

Location: Aiguille du Midi
Snow: 15-20cm powder
Weather: Hazy cloud

This morning’s weather was much better than was predicted yesterday, so I grabbed a quick lap off the Midi with Graham.  Easter holiday crowds were out in force (mostly sightseers) so we got tickets for 11am and waited with cups of tea back at Graham’s.  On our way up we chatted to a pair who had just done a lap of Cosmiques, reporting just OK snow, the usual shitshow of over-eager groups dropping in on top of each other and a bit of a sketchy return to midstation, so we stuck to our plan of an easy lap of the Gros Rognon.

Snow on the Rognon was decent powder, plenty untouched but even the tracked snow was skiing well, and an easy cruise out to the steps and gondola got us to a packed train which waiting for us at the top for a quick return to town.

Late-Season Powder

Lorne: Finding decent snow on the Rachasses face

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: 15cm powder on a crunchy base, very firm on piste
Weather: Light snowfall, poor visibility, some wind, cold

Rain/sleet/snow was falling in town all day yesterday and is still falling now, enough to freshen things up on the mountain for the final weeks of the winter season, so I headed up to Grands Montets for just a couple of runs today with Graham.  We headed straight to the top of the mountain and round to the Rachasses face on the front side for both laps to try to find the best snow where we hoped it would have gathered from the wind.  We found about 15cm of new powder; most of the time riding on the firm and bumpy base below but it was still good enough to make big turns through most of the time.  Back on the piste things were very firm and scraped, coupled with very poor visibility which didn’t make for the most confident skiing but still worth the trip up.

Current forecasts show continuing drizzle through the week, possibly with a couple of sunny days towards next weekend before more snowfall.  Just two more weeks to go; let’s hope for some sunny weather the following week to finish off the winter nicely.

Graham: Feeling the cold but making the most of the new snow

Still Going

Graham: Head 103s too heavy to spin but fine for some shifties

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Very firm on upper slopes, soft in the park
Weather: Bluebird, colder than the past week

Winter is definitely winding down now but I’ll still be on the hill day on/day off until the resort lifts stop completely on 4th May.  Some friends have been out on the bikes already for the past two weeks so I started to fix mine up yesterday; unfortunately my rear shock is completely knackered but that gave me a good excuse to buy a new one which my brother will bring over at the end of the month.

Today, just a quick ski on Grands Montets to make the most of whatever we could find from about 11.30-1.30pm.  The top of the mountain had very high winds so wasn’t open, while the piste and off-piste from Bochard and Herse was very firm so not great fun but we got a few laps anyway.  The park had the best snow since it isn’t scraped much from traffic straight in and out of the kickers; soft but fast and still skiing well.  Pierre à Ric is now marked as closed but we skied it anyway for good fun soft moguls for the first two thirds then some negotiation of bare sections lower down and a walk from the tunnel crossing at the end; still worth it.

Tomorrow will be the last sunny day before a storm rolls in through the weekend – let’s see how things freshen up and what happens with the temperatures on the mountain.

Angus, Graham: Thin cover towards the end of Pierre à Ric

Breche De Berard

Graham: Excellent spring snow at the top of the descent

Location: Aiguilles Rouges
Snow: Mostly good spring snow at 10.30am, some still quite firm
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Probably my last ski tour in the Aiguilles Rouges today, to the Breche de Berard (AKA Keyhole) with Graham and Sandy.

Flegere’s main telecabin and Index chairlift are open for touring access until Wednesday from 8.30-10am only, with “possible extension of the openings from the 17th to the 21st of April depending on the weather conditions”.  We arrived just in time for the 8.30am lift along with only three other ski tourers and were up to the top of Index in no time.  The snow was very firm first thing so Graham and Sandy bootpacked to the top of the Floria drag lift then up to the Col des Crochues while I skinned until the final section of the ascent, taking pretty about the same time as the others but having to deal with skins.

Snow on the back side of the Crochues and on the traverse under Glacier du Mort was very firm and rutted with a few rocks to cross but nothing too bad, then we skinned up to the Breche de Berard with an easy final bootpack.

Starting our descent at 10.30am we found excellent spring snow for the most part with just a few firmer sections that could have done with an extra hour to soften, but mostly good fun relaxed skiing to the Berard Valley exit.  There were a few more rocks in the exit track than when I skied it a few days ago but it was still mostly complete, and an easy walk out to Le Buet after the buvette finished things off.

Buses are currently running hourly at quarter past the hour up until 10.15am, then 1.15pm and 4.15pm, so we had a good excuse to relax in the sun with a few demis until it arrived.

Still time for some final touring into the Berard Valley this week – keep it going everyone!

Closing Day On Brevent

Graham: Very soft but still fun on Hotel Face

Location: Brevent
Snow: Very soft and heavy, some wet slides on steeper off piste
Weather: Sun and cloud

Today marked the closing day for some of Chamonix’s lifts so I got a quick final ski up Brevent with Graham from 10.30-12.30pm.  Everything was very soft and heavy but still worth the trip up for some easy laps and not busy at all.  We got one run on Hotel Face off the end of the traverse; lots of rocks to dodge and some wet slides on the steeper sections but it was good to get a final lap.

Graham was on his new rock skis, Head Mojo 103s, declaring them his new favourite skis and not bad at €30 still in the wrapper, but I definitely still prefer my Katanas – I think I’m just used to them now!

Les Houches will remain open for another week but isn’t really worth bothering with in these temperatures, and Flegere is open for touring access potentially for another week so there’s maybe still a final Aiguilles Rouges tour to come next week.  Otherwise we have three more weeks of Grands Montets and however long the snow and our motivation lasts for routes off the Midi.  Summer is definitely on its way though; I’ll be putting my shorts on shortly for the first BBQ of the year at Robbie’s this afternoon and fixing up my bike this week for the summer ahead.

Touring With Snowboarders

Scotty: Two hands in the air for perfect spring snow!

Location: Aiguilles Rouges
Snow: Perfect spring snow on the main descent
Weather: Hazy cloud, warm

Another unofficial guiding mission today with Scotty, Jamie and Lav while they’re visiting, on the classic Chamonix introductory ski tour of the Crochues-Berard Traverse from Flegere to Le Buet.

With delays at every step this morning we were at the top of Floria at 11am to start the ascent to the Col des Crochues in very soft snow.  No bootpack was in place so I skinned most of it while the boys stuck to splitboards or snowshoes before bootpacking the second half.  In the midday sun some loose snow was sliding from the ramp on looker’s-left towards the top and I was on the verge of bailing for safety but we took things carefully and got to the col safely by 12 noon to descend round towards the Col de Berard in nice spring snow with just a couple of bare sections to cross.

The traversing ascent to the Col de Berard was easy and we took a break at the col before dropping into the Berard Valley as the buses are at 1.15pm and 4.15pm at the moment, so no rush.

On the descent through the Berard Valley we found perfect spring snow with untouched patches still easy to find and even the very tracked snow was riding well.  The mellower section high skier’s-right after the first section was excellent fun, taken in one long pitch with big fast turns from everyone.

The valley exit to Le Buet is still skiing OK; just a few bare patches to cross every few minutes but mostly complete.  Some large wet avalanches have come down recently from the skier’s-right side of the valley onto the exit track at parts, so keep your eyes open for more slides in the afternoon under slopes like this.

Just after the buvette through the thicker woods the snow ran out completely but it was an easy 10 minute walk out to the Buet Hotel and our timing worked out perfectly for beers and sunbathing before the bus back to Chamonix.

Just enough time for a quick burger in Chamonix before meeting up with other friends in Chambre Neuf for the final apres ski night of the winter.  The band was as mediocre as ever but our usual drinking tactics got us in the mood and the captive audience of drunk Scandinavians was packed onto the dancefloor lapping it up as always.  Highlights included a Bryan Adams song, a Coldplay singalong, 3 songs of guest vocals by someone we can only assume is a friend of the band and a reject from the first round of Sweden’s Got Talent 2014, then another Bryan Adams song.  No 500 Miles tonight; the Scottish contingent was nae happy!  One fight broke out in the crowd but I didn’t get thrown out for watching it like last year.

A second trip to Midnight Express capped off the night nicely to say some goodbyes to friends leaving tomorrow.  Cheers guys.

Final Chambre Neuf apres ski of 13/14

Col d’Entreves

Luke: Fresh turns from Col d'Entreves

Location: Aiguille Du Midi
Snow: 15-20cm powder, some slightly wind-affected
Weather: Bluebird

Bryce’s first ever ski tour today in more perfect weather.  We had planned to skin from the Midi station to the Col d’Entreves and descend to Helbronner’s midstation for a lap or two through there before returning but unfortunately the Helbronner lift wasn’t running today (we heard rumours of a landslide yesterday being the reason) but we headed up and back instead and still had a good day.

Meeting at the Midi at 8am the queues were far smaller than yesterday morning so we were up and across to put skins on pretty quickly.  One group had started to ascend through the crevasses straight up towards Italy and a few others were roping up to follow them but we continued left to avoid the holes completely on the other track that was in place from yesterday, which proved a good decision as we overtook everyone in the process.  Just an hour and a quarter to the col at a leisurely pace and we were ready to ski.

A large military group were ahead of us but luckily they were just farming a small section of the descent with instructor turns so we found plenty of space for nice big turns in untouched powder that felt much deeper and smoother than it was yesterday on the Gros Rognon.  Linking up to the Italian Vallee Blanche we made it out to the Mer De Glace in tracked but soft snow for a relaxed train ride home and beers at Elevation on our return to town.

Big Group On The Midi

Exiting the Mer De Glace

Location: Aiguille Du Midi
Snow: 10-15cm powder on a firm base
Weather: Hazy cloud, warm

With two groups of friends in town this week, today was a good chance to get everyone up the Midi to show them around.  Unfortunately yesterday’s rain in town only fell as about 10cm powder even at the top of the Midi so we were scraping the old firm snow underneath most of the time, and with a large mixed-ability group it was pretty slow progress up there while I kept an eye on everyone, but a nice relaxed descent of the Gros Rognon route in good weather and with excellent views for everyone anyway.  The Mer De Glace exit was complete all the way to the steps and the train was quiet at 1pm, then most of the group headed to Brevent to make the most of their lift pass price while I headed home for some work.

Easy touring tomorrow for more of the same conditions.

Just Blasting Around

Graham: Roller on Pierre à Ric

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Mostly firm & bumpy off piste, mostly soft on piste
Weather: Hazy cloud, warm

Another short & easy ski today around Grands Montets making the most of what we could find.  Snow off piste was mostly firm and bumpy except for the very lower sections but the pistes were skiing well especially Pierre à Ric back to the car park – fun enough for three laps.

Bad weather tomorrow then maybe some touring on Wednesday/Thursday to see what we can find while some friends are in town, or maybe time to get out of the valley for some real pistes.

Airbags And That

Dave: Getting to grips with the backflip on the airbag

Location: Brevent
Snow: Very soft and heavy
Weather: Sun and cloud, warm

Not quite touring weather today after all, with the sun coming and going, so just another quick blast around Brevent for soft and heavy pistes, even heavier off-piste, lots of gaps to find and a few airbag runs with everyone getting their flips and spins on.  Good stuff.

  • Lorne Cameron: Chamonix Ski Blog

    Daily photos, snow conditions and trip reports from in and around the Chamonix valley

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