Lunch Plan

Colin: Second lap

Location: Plan de l’Aiguille
Snow: Deep powder, some rocks
Weather: Light snow

Just a couple of quick laps on the right side of the Plan today.  Good snow, good exit.  Very nice.

After a nice landing

Flegere Powder

Classic Flegere backdrop

Location: Flegere
Snow: Moderate/deep powder
Weather: Sunny then hazy cloud

Excellent conditions on Flegere this morning with Index open for the first time this winter.  Crowds were pretty low and the snow seems to be stabilising well, although there were still a few rocks lurking just under the surface.

Angus: Deeper

Further down the Lachenal couloir

Getting Deeper

Pretty easy to find untracked snow today

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Moderate powder on a good base, heavy below 2000m
Weather: Moderate snowfall

Deeper snow today on Grands Montets and surprisingly few people out enjoying it, making it very easy to take quick laps of the Tabé chairlift.  We tried a traverse from the Marmottons chairlift towards the Lognan Refuge but poor visibility was making for frustrating skiing, so we cut off piste from the start of Pierre a Ric finding some deeper but heavier stashes.

Graham: Little drop, the first of many


Kathryn: A little piste-side powder

Location: Les Houches
Snow: Shallow powder on a good base
Weather: Heavy snowfall, some wind

I probably wouldn’t have skied today if I didn’t have a friend visiting but pretty glad that I did get out for a few hours in the morning.  Not many lifts were running but crowds were also less than I had imagined they would be so there were still some good turns to be had, mostly lapping the Kandahar chairlift and playing off the sides of the piste.

Snow was falling increasingly heavily all morning but temperatures were also rising so things were a little heavier low down.  Should be some good days on the mountain coming up.

Learning to Tour

On the way up

Location: Planards
Snow: Fresh & heavy/artificial snow
Weather: Light snowfall

My old pal from Kathryn is in town for the weekend and was keen to get out for an introduction to ski touring.  Unsure of how the weather would change through the day and keen to avoid any crowds we picked the Planards area for a couple of quick skinning laps close to home at low elevation.  Not the most exciting descents but a good choice I think; all we needed as an introduction to how the touring gear all works and Kathryn managed some impressively quick changeovers from skinning to skiing and vice-versa, definitely something any future touring partners will appreciate!

Snow for the descent was a bit heavy with some firm areas of artificial snow, but cover was very good.  More snow incoming tomorrow.

Tricky heavy snow on the descent

Opening Day

Graham: Best snow of the day just down from Col des Rachasses

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Variable, some rocks
Weather: Cloudy, some wind

I’ve had a pretty hectic time since returning from Canada with a new apartment to move into and a lot of work on but Grands Montets opened today so I thought I should get out for my first ski of the winter.

Only the Bochard, Marmottons and Tabé lifts were running above midstation but a quick skin from the Bochard lift got us to Col des Rachasses behind just one other skier; surprising not to see more people up there.  Snow on the way down was pretty mixed; some windloaded, some firm and plenty of rocks (both visible and hiding under the surface) but there was enough soft, powdery snow to enjoy almost all the way down to the top of the Herse chairlift.

One piste lap off Bochard finished us off; pretty firm snow and busy.  Off piste looked soft but rocky; even if I had skis that I didn’t care about I wouldn’t fancy it at the moment.

I’d call the snow cover pretty typical for early December at the moment.  Let’s see how the rest of the winter shapes up.

Graham: Picking through the rocks lower down

School Holiday Dates 2017/2018

Nearly time to start thinking about skiing.  Here are the UK and French school holiday dates for the winter ahead.

Back in BC

Tech trails in damp conditions (Korova Milk Bar, Whistler)

Just back from another amazing three weeks’ biking in Canada.  I’ll let the photos do most of the talking but BC once again proved why it is the centre of the mountain biking universe with a wide variety of very well-built trails and a biking culture that most of Europe can only dream of, while the weather ended up perfect with just a little rain to keep the dirt tacky and the temperatures perfect for pedalling.

We spent a bit more time in Whistler’s bike park than I would have liked, especially with a shoulder/rib injury from a silly crash on day one making me feel a bit stiff and cautious on the bigger jumps, but you can’t really complain at getting 6-8 long runs in a day compared to 3-4 shorter ones outside the park.  Still, we did manage to hit a few classic trails too around Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish (my favourite trails of the trip) and a couple of nights’ camping in the Chilcotins for some big Alps-meets-BC alpine days.

I’m slightly regretting not applying for a Canadian working holiday visa while I was still 30 to really take advantage of the BC summer and winter but am still looking forward to some good autumn trail riding around Chamonix until winter hits and the skis come back out to play.  The lifts might not be running at the moment but there’s still a lot of pedalling to do in spots old and new close to home.

Thanks as always to everyone I rode with in Canada and helped out in various ways.  See you all again next year hopefully!

Dropping in (A-Line, Whistler Bike Park)

Midway down the last run of my favourite day of the trip (Hueso, Squamish)

Big pedal/push for big alpine descents (Ridge-o-Rama, Chilcotins)

Big climb for our final day, well worth the effort (Lord of the Squirrels, Whistler)

Summertime on the Bikes

One of many big solo days this summer (Mont Joly/Tete de la Combaz)

Even after more biking than skiing last winter I was still really looking forward to another good summer on the bike around Chamonix this year.  I wasn’t feeling quite as fit at the start of summer compared to most years thanks to far less spring ski touring than usual but some pedally days sorted that out pretty quickly before the lifts started to open in mid-June.  I was happy with my old bike which I’d been riding for the last two years, but when I saw a bit of a deal on my dream frame and a bit of web design work came together I couldn’t resist so ordered it up and switched all of my components across.  I’m very glad that I made the change, as the length feels a better fit on me and it rides nicer in every situation.

As usual some trail restrictions came into action in mid-summer and Brevent & Flegere didn’t allow bike access at all since all of the trails are off-limits there, and as usual Chamonix’s moaniest mountain bikers took to the internet to whinge about it while the rest of us took full advantage of the huge area covered by our summer lift passes and the excellent natural trails on offer between Trient and Megeve.  Exploring new natural trails off the lifts is probably my favourite style of biking; even if the descents aren’t amazing it’s always a bit of an adventure but I did find some very nice new routes and variations this year especially around Saint Gervais, Les Contamines and Megeve.

Personally the Chamonix commune’s trail restrictions don’t bother me too much since they largely apply to the trails that are very busy with day-hikers in peak season and are therefore not as fun or safe to ride as they are at other times of the year.  Yes, I have been guilty of the odd cheeky run on Posettes or Trappette in mid-summer in the past, but after exploring a lot more of the local terrain I’ve been behaving myself this year and enjoying riding in other spots to save those for September.  And while it was nice to return to those trails for a little variety once the restrictions expired, I really don’t think that they’re as good as I once thought they were anyway.

Some bikers are calling for the restrictions to be overturned but I feel like there’s a lot of ignorance involved in a lot of the arguments, including those by a newly-formed group who are trying to improve local trail access who I have expressed my opinion to but opinions will always be mixed.  With the growing number of bikes on the trails, especially in the last two years, I think it’s more important than ever to understand what the restrictions are and why they are in place, otherwise I feel that it’s quite likely that more restrictions will be made in the near future.  I would have thought that respecting other trail users and the trails themselves would go without saying, but I’ve seen a growing number of bikers (particularly some large groups of bikers) not giving enough respect to walkers and runners and on a couple of trails in particular the increased numbers of skid marks and new cut-lines are going to piss off some people.  I think that education should be the focus now to preserve what we currently have.  And who knows; maybe if the mountain bike community proves that they can ride respectfully then the current restrictions may be loosened in the future.

A few friends are now at various stages of their bike guiding qualifications; Wayne is the first British legitimate bike guide to be based in Chamonix so give him a shout if you’re looking to make the most of the local trails on a visit.  If enough bike visitors are looking to hire guides in Chamonix then guiding is definitely something I think I would enjoy and be good at but I’m not sure if Chamonix’s trails would be able to sustain the high levels of bike traffic that would be required to give even a handful of guides enough work to live on.  So for now I’m happy to just enjoy the trails and show any friends around when they come on holiday; I had some really good days at both ends of the valley in August this year with old friends who I’ve never ridden with before and their comments made me appreciate how good the local riding is more than ever.

September is probably my favourite month of riding in Chamonix but it was cut a little short this year when I had to head back to Glasgow for my grandad’s funeral.  A good ceremony with a big turnout saw him off really well and it’s been good to see the whole family during have a bit of downtime.  Still, I’m definitely looking forward to flying west in a few days’ time for another trip to BC…

New spot & new riding buddies; definitely planning to return here in the Autumn (Mont de l'Arpille)

Nice views from the top end of the valley (Le Tour/Vormaine)

Showing some old pals the old classics (Croix de Fer/Catogne/Trient)

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)

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