Last week I spent 5 challenging but very enjoyable days in the Haute Maurienne coaching Phil, Ian, Perry and John.
The primary objective was steep-oriented coaching, but with rain to 2200m on the Sunday creating a high avalanche risk (and reducing the chances of finding good snow...) we gathered in Termignon and reset our objectives for the week.
On day 1 we skied the Val Cenis area - in a good few years of coming down this valley I have never seen so little snow! Nonetheless we still managed to find some interesting terrain to work in and there was actually a zone of skiable snow below the wind-damaged stuff up high and above the rain-rotten snow down below. All in all a good day setting up some technical and tactical bases for the rest of the week and also refreshing transceiver, probe and shovel skils.
On Tuesday we headed up to Bonneval and found some slightly better conditions (certainly more snow) with softness in the main bowl and some fun chalky snow in the gullies off the 3000 lift.
Snow was in the forecast on Wednesday but despite poor weather in Valfrejus the expected snow failed to materialise. A day for hiding in the trees and working on a series of technical challenges for the team...
On Thursday we went back up to Bonneval and found much better conditions:
In the afternoon the wind was picking up and the weather looked ominous so we spent the time lapping the lower 'storm gullies', putting first tracks into each one - brilliant!
Friday was a classic Plan B day. Our initial plan of going up into the 3 Valleys lift system from Orelle was scuppered by 2 monster queues - one for the ticket office, and another (even bigger one) for the lift itself. Instead we went off exploring to a resort I have been meaning to go to for a while. It shall remain nameless for now...
The day went mostly like this:
A fantastic way to end the week. A big 'thank you' to the random ESF instructor I met in the carpark who tipped me off to a couple of good descents.
Thanks also to David and Séverine at the Auberge La Turra in Termignon for their warm welcome and great hospitality.
Phil, John, Ian and Perry have already booked for next year so I am looking forward to our 'return match'!
Bonneval: Reasonable cover above the first chair. Chalencon and Vallonets well filled in but care needed with the snow currently. Access to Couloir Fontaine is thin but the couloir looks to have enough snow to ski. The pistes were in great shape. 3000 had some good conditions last week, though we didn't venture particularly far out onto the Pentes D'Andagne.
Val Cenis: Not sure I have ever seen it this thin - I think it has suffered the same drought as the Via Lattea (by the sounds of things) and is suffering due to its position on the border. From below the tree runs from Plan Cardinal look like they would involve a lot of bushwhacking lower down!
Valfrejus: Same as for Val Cenis - never seen it this thin! Only the main couloir under the 6 man looks passable, along with the couloir way out to lookers' right of this just before the black piste. Access to Couloir des Militaires etc looks very thin. Snow depths below the tree line are really not good - both black runs closed, though Souches was passable with care on either edge.