Saturday, 31 January 2009

Vanoise Off Piste & Day Tours

Yesterday saw the last day of the Offpisteskiing Vanoise Off Piste / Day Tours week.
The weather definitely played into our hands, with fresh snow early in the week, followed by 4 days of glorious sunshine allowing us to explore the off piste and touring around the 3 Valleys and further afield, with a great day out at Areches-Beaufort where we put first tracks in the Combe Nord-Est of the Grand Mont... a great day out...

Putting in fresh tracks above Mottaret:

Skiing down to Brides-les-Bains:

First tracks off the Grand Mont D'Areches:

Skinning up to the Col des Saulces:

The team:

Gentle powder pitches to warm up for the descent:

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Blue skies and powder!

Cracking first day for the offpisteskiing Vanoise Off Piste/Day Tours week today.
After some warming up on and near the pistes we managed to find some good (and safe) powder to ski high up in Mottaret. Alot of care was required in slope selection following the heavy snowfalls, strong winds, and varying temperatures of the last few days; and there was plenty of avalanche activity to observe (including one large slab under Speedball which looked skier triggered!).

Although the risk for tomorrow is down to 3 alot of care is needed off-piste at the moment, so take care out there!!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

More powder...

Another good day for the Off Piste Beginners course skies and powder on the menu...

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Off Piste Beginners '09

Great conditions this week for the Off Piste Beginners course based in Brides les Bains and run through Jagged Globe.
Simon, Lee, Chris, Katherine, Christine and David have enjoyed some great powder, and with progressively more snow falling for the first 4 days of the course it has been a great progression for the guys to get to grips with skiing the soft stuff...

Spot the skier:

Perfect powder:

Going, going...


The gang have all been making great progress this week (with the odd tumble along the way...) and hopefully in the last 2 days of the course we will be able to consolidate all the changes made.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Col du Bonmartin

With a last minute cancellation today due to half the clients being taken out by a gastro bug I hooked up with Will & Sylvain who were heading for a descent into the Maurienne valley.

Sliding across to the Col du Bonmartin:

Do you think it goes down here? Peering over the edge - Maurienne valley 2000m below...:

Looking in from just below the top...not too steep, grippy snow...not bad...:

300m later - Sylvain in the lower part of the couloir:

Looking back up at the couloir (over on the right...):

Lower down, the tree-lined slopes gave 450m vertical of great powder, with sluff management needed and a few tree-holes to avoid - great skiing!!

Hmm, must have been good judging by the smiles:

A slide down the forest road, and a bit of garden-hopping got us back to Le Col and a welcome beer at the Auberge, before a taxi back to Orelle and a (succesful) race back over the 3 Valleys to finish with the long ski home to Bozel... Not bad for a last-minute day out...

Thursday, 15 January 2009

A bit of powder!

With resort really quiet the slopes have been in excellent condition this week - firm & fast. Yesterday with Jim & John we still managed to get some fresh tracks in Les Avals (along with the best omelette in France). Today we went up the hill to discover a couple of inches of fresh had been deposited up high.
After a mornings play in Courchevel we nipped over to Val Thorens for a run down the classic Lac du Lou itinerary from the Cime de Caron, only a few clear ways down at the moment following the gully lines, but some nice patches of powder to put a smile on everyones face.
After lunch we hit the jackpot at a secret location, where the powder was super soft but had drifted in up to 5 inches deep. Heaven...

James hard at work:

And again:

Ian making the most of his 'study leave':

Snow is forecast for Sunday pm into Monday and Tuesday, so its all looking good for the upcoming courses with

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Who says there's no snow in the 3 Valleys?

Back to work in the 3 Valleys today after 2 weeks away, and despite all the doom and gloom on the grapevine conditions are actually not bad. Okay there are a lot of very bare areas around the ridges and crests, and some places you simply can't ski, but if you go looking you can still find some soft snow off piste, and the pistes themselves were in great shape throughout the day, barring one or two classic 'stone-fests' which are rocky at the best of times anyway...

Today we had good chalky snow in the Rocher de L'Ombre bowl, some powder turns and chalky snow in Les Avals, and some more soft stuff in a couple of secret spots... All in all a good day in the sun...

Mark & Nuala in Les Avals (not sure what Mark is up to!!):

And lower down in the Canyon:

Will's birthday/Beaufort again (part 1)

Back to Beaufort yesterday for a day out to celebrate Will's birthday. Will, Erica, Ginny and myself drove through from Bozel and met Emma who had come across from Chamonix. Areches-Beaufort is an area I have wanted to explore for a while prior to last months day trip, and again it didn't dissapoint...firstly as the day passes were going cheap, and they were handing out free hot chocolate & coffee at the bottom of the main lifts - now thats what I call service!!

We started with a run down the classic Combettes off-piste - this used to be accessed by a 10 minute hike, but sadly there is now a lift to the top of the ridge meaning lots more tracks. Still there was plenty of space to find our own soft snow...

Will, Erica & Emma part way down Combettes:

And hiking the ridge in the middle in search of more fresh turns:

Ginny with Mont Blanc as backdrop:

More fresh turns followed with a bit of tree-dodging, then a good ski right back down to Planay for a well-earned crepe & cup of coffee (we were on a day off after all..).
Then we headed back down to Areches to get the lifts up for the afternoons tour up the Grand Mont D'Areches.
Grand Mont is the main peak on the left of this photo:

The Grand Mont is easily accessed from the top of the Areches lift system, with just 350 metres of uphill to do from the Col de Forclaz button lift.
Looking into the Combe Nord, our descent route from the Grand Mont:

The views on the skin up just get better, halfway up and already a great view of the Vanoise, with the Mt Pourri, Bellecote, Grande Casse all visible:

Skinning up:

Looking over the back at the Pointe de Comborsier - some nice North-facing couloirs to come back and ski here:

The view from the summit is, I think, possibly the best panorama you will find of the Northern French Alps with the view covering the Aravis, Mt Blanc range, Gd Combin, Grivola, Gran Paradiso, the high Tarentaise peaks, all the major Vanoise & Beaufortain summits, Ecrins, Lauziere, and Chablais areas...breathtaking...

Will's birthday/Beaufort again (part 2)

Ginny, Erica, Emma & Will on the Grand Mont summit:

The descent matched the views as well, with a few inches of powder to be skied, slightly wind-affected in places, but soft nonetheless.

Emma & Will go couloir-hunting (spot them if you can):

Wide open slopes of soft snow:

More couloir action:

The descent gives over 1400m of off-piste skiing right back down to Planay, and the last half-hour of hour descent was topped off with a beautiful sunset on Mont Blanc, with the full moon rising just behind it. Not a bad day out...
All that remained was to get home & back out for the surprise party organised for Will in a hut above Mottaret, with a classic fondue & a late, late finish...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Behind the camera.

Last week saw me donning my cameramans hat for a few days filming over in Chamonix on a project myself and Andy Perkins are working on. Blue skies on the Sunday made for great conditions to film a descent of the Petit Envers route in the valle Blanche, but later in the week was more problematic, with strong winds & very cold temperatures making life a little tricky. Still we managed to shoot some good footage, some of which was filmed inside a crevasse for maximum scenic effect... Keep your eyes on this blog and Ridestyle Productions website for details of the finished film.

Drying out the gear after a day of wind & spindrift: