Monday, 21 March 2016

Freeride Briançon

One part of the winter is slowly drawing to a close, while another is just beginning.

Last week I was running a Freeride Briançon course for Jagged Globe and Based in Villeneuve, in the heart of the Serre Chevalier ski area we kept to a flexible brief, going wherever we thought might give the best skiing.

Day 1 was a local day, exploring the easily accessible off piste in Serre Chevalier, where conditions were OK but not great, but made for good coaching conditions to set up some common goals for the week.
Serre Che's tribute to the Happy Mondays?

On day 2 we headed over the Col du Lautaret for a quick pilgrimage to La Grave - again conditions were slightly underwhelming compared to the previous 2 weeks Vanoise powder frenzy, but again another great day ay a classic venue:

Days 3 and 4 came with mixed forecasts, so we stayed local as Serre Che has some great tree skiing - as it turned out the cover was not needed and we managed some good runs down the Balme couloir and a few other local classics:

The weather patterns had changed through the week, with (yet) another 'Retour d'Est' dumping snow on the Italian side of the range, so after a consultation with an old friend of mine who runs his family's ski shop in St Veran we set off for the Queyras to a little known ski area... where we hit a jackpot of waist deep powder, and faceshots from first turn to last... absolutely incredible!:

After such an incredible day it was always going to be a hard act to follow. The best of the snow had been skied at Resort X, so another Italian option was pulled out of the hat. This was my first time working in Sestriere but I will most definitely be back - great terrain, good coffee, and great food!:

Thanks to Gavin and Dave for the insider info, and thanks to Chas and Steve for a great week - here's to next year's course!

This pretty much wraps up my Alpine work for the winter - fast approaching are 2 weeks ski touring in the magical Lofoten Islands, before a brief break at home and then a 'mates trip' to Baffin Island for some Arctic couloir skiing!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Steep Vanoise 2016

This week has seen the 8th year of the now legendary Steep Vanoise course, with possibly the best conditions ever!

The Steep Vanoise week combines maximum mileage on steep off piste terrain with coaching on the go, and has become a firm fixture in the calendar, with 3 groups running this year.

We have been treated to some amazing snow - Monday kicked off the week in style with January temperatures, blue skies and cold, deep snow in Courchevel:

Tuesday served up more of the same, but with cloudier weather forcing opportunistic use of the short sunny spells. Dorian and his team trenched their way up the NW couloir of the Aiguille du Fruit, Rob was busy around Courchevel with his group, and I spent most of the day around the Creux Noir area, with 2 laps on the far side of the Pointe Emilienne (it was so good first time that it seemed a pity to waste the bootpack we had put in!):

Wednesday peaked way off the scale.

An all time great Breche Portetta with waist deep snow!

We had a lot to live up to for the last 2 days of the course, but managed to pull another blinder out of the bag on Thursday - a local 'mole' told me the Cheval Noir NE face had not yet been touched, so we set the controls for Valmorel and another stunning day:

For our final day, and with everyone keen to search out more untracked snow, we put skins on again for a little known line out behind Valmorel. Result: more great powder all the way to Celliers, and a bonus lap or two in resort on the great steep 'spines' and faces accessible from the lifts.

A fantastic end to a fantastic week! - Steep Vanoise 2017 will most likely be around the same dates - so don't hesitate to get in touch to reserve your space now!

Thanks again to Rob & Dorian who led two of the groups, and a huge thank you to all those who took part - see you next year!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Courchevel snow report 7 March 2016

It is fair to say that conditions in Courchevel are quite exceptional right now. At the end of last week several successive snowfalls, with a brief milder spell inbetween gave amazing conditions in the trees, while the more exposed slopes were definitely a risky proposition.

Now we have had a cool, clear weekend, the snowpack is starting to stabilise, and there is good snow to be skied on just about every aspect. Sunny slopes are starting to show a little surface crust, but with air temperatures staying very cold this is currently no problem!

For day 1 of this year's Steep Vanoise course the teams were treated to an absolute feast of great snow...

Friday, 4 March 2016

Vanoise variations - part 2

Despite a not very promising forecast Courchevel delivered the goods on Wednesday - I had thought we would probably be hiding in the tress most of the day but as it turned out the windows kept on opening and we spent the day putting first tracks into nearly all the Saulire couloirs - noone else seemed to be skiing anything other than the Grand Couloir!

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Thursday pulled out all the stops - 40cm of light fluffy powder, hardly anyone out skiing, and some great laps to be had in the trees. I managed to miss out on the really good photo opportunities somehow, but this one sums up the day quite well:

Friday had a groundhog day feel to it, as the cloudy skies stayed away longer than expected, and a 'reset' of the couloirs with fresh light snow offered itself to us:

Everything went a bit 'heavy' in the afternoon with a South wind humidifying the snowpack, but there is between 15 and 35 cm forecast for tonight tomorrow with a low freezing level so that should top things up nicely - avalanche risk will be high though, so lots of care will be needed out there!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Vanoise variations - part 1

Once again winter 2016 has been playing tricks...having had an amazing day of powder skiing in Orelle on Friday, the foehn winds picked up and by Sunday morning there was barely a flake of soft snow left in the 3 Valleys....

After a day scratching about in the Courchevel couloirs with Jerry, Stuart, Jason and Costin on Sunday on a variety of wind-affected snow a radical rethink was required so we set sail for Le Fornet, where the 'Retour d'Est' had been doing the business, and had a great day lapping the trees in 60cm of light powder!

Tuesday was forecast to be sunny, and despite a dusting in the 3 Valleys we once again hit the road, and had a fantastic day in La Thuile (after battling the wind and cloud across from La Rosiere!), with some great coffee and pizza to boot:

The next 3 days have a good bit of snow in the forecast so all change again!