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

Y Couloir

Graham: Finding the entrance to Y Couloir

Location: Argentiere Basin
Snow: Very firm & rutted at the top, softening lower
Weather: Bluebird, some wind

Graham and I headed up the Aiguille d’Argentiere to try to find good snow in the skier’s-right branch of Y Couloir today, but nae luck.  Very firm snow in the first half of the branch with horrible ruts, softening just a little lower down, and OK spring snow once joining the main branch.  One to try again sometime.

Graham: Starting the skin up the Argentiere Glacier

Graham: Softer snow once joining the main couloir branch

Floria/Mort

Nice soft/sugary snow on the Mort descent variation

Location: Aiguilles Rouges
Snow: Mixed
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Very mixed snow today but a fun day anyway linking two Chamonix classics.

A quick ascent form Index to Col de la Floria brought us to some chalky/grabby snow in the main couloir, tracked but not tracked-out, followed by a mix of soft and wind/warmth-affected snow on the mellow slopes below.  From the bottom, we had initially planned to climb directly to Glacier du Mort but with sunny slopes warming up fast we changed plans to climb to the top of the Mort couloir from the north from midway along the Col de Berard traverse skintrack which turned out to be pretty straightforward with just a short tricky steep section at the end.

On the Mort descent, more semi-tracked mixed snow, mostly quite grabby again, before taking an untracked variation I know from past years which provided very nice soft/sugary snow and linked back into the Col de Berard descent where the medowy section was still holding nice soft snow.

A very good Berard Valley exit brought us out to the Buet Hotel in perfect time, ie. 40 minutes before the train arrived for beers on the deckchairs outside.

Graham: Grabby snow in the Col de la Floria north couloir but not too tracked

Graham: Nice soft/sugary snow on the Mort descent variation

Classic end to a tour in the Aiguilles Rouges

Surprise Surprise

The best snow on shaded slopes of the Toule Glacier

Location: Helbronner & Courmayeur
Snow: Deep powder in the shade, heavy in the sun
Weather: Sun & cloud

It’s entirely fair to say that winter 16/17 has been totally shit so far in Chamonix.  I’ve had less than 10 ski days so far instead of my usual 35-40 by this time of year, and with warm temperatures and school holidays starting this week plus lots of work on, my ski motivation has been at an all time low so I’ve been shopping for bike parts and making summer plans already.  Then today came along and completely blew away my expectations.

Italy got a bit more recent snow than the French side of Mont Blanc so Graham and I headed through mid-morning to have a look about.  One lap off the top of the Helbronner lifts to start with (my first time in over two years) for a line far right on the Toule Glacier provided excellent deep powder especially in shaded areas.  The snow was warming up fast and got progressively more heavy and sticky back towards Pavillon midstation so we decided than one run was enough.

Over on the Courmayeur lifts we bagged just one main run too, exploring further left than usual from the Arp for fairly mellow skiing with some interesting gullies and plenty of untouched powder all the way to the Zerotta road, and the Val Veny trees were skiing pretty well at the top of our home run but got heavy very quickly.

Graham: Steps down to the Toule Glacier

Graham: Far right of the Toule Glacier

Graham: Very nice off the Arp

Vallorcine Powder

Graham: Dropping into the lower Vallorcine trees

Location: Vallorcine
Snow: 25cm powder, some soft windslab
Weather: Snow/cloud/sun

Decent snow off the Tete de Balme today.  Things got busy pretty quickly but we still found some good untracked stuff on each lap anyway with a little effort.

Graham: Not everywhere got tracked-out

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