Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Haute Maurienne Off Piste Adventures

I am in the Haute Maurienne this week running a course for a group from the Eagles Ski Club. We are exploring the many resorts in this valley with a mix of coaching, off-piste & touring along the way...

Sunday saw us in Val Cenis mostly in the cloud despite a good forecast (seemed to be the same everywhere!) but this gave us lots of coaching time, and we still managed to fit in a good 800m off-piste run in the afternoon in a brief clear spell.

On Monday I took the guys up to Bonneval at the head of the valley. Generally crunchy snow, but a good place to work on steeper slope technique (there are some reds here which would make some 3 Valleys blacks look easy!). In the afternoon we managed to find some good spring snow on the way down to Andagne for some transceiver training.

Today we went to Aussois in search of more spring snow. The upper Maurienne seems to have suffered a lot from the windy spells earlier in the winter, and Aussois was no exception, with alot of the close-in off-piste round the lifts being grass! We had a plan however and found some great spring snow doing lift- and skin-assisted laps of the Grand Chatelard.

Backdrop of Rateau D'Aussois & Pointe de L'Echelle:

Lunch with a view!

Great spring snow:

Pointe de la Fournache:



Big wide slopes of perfectly cooked spring snow!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Scarpa Maestrale problems

After multiple sessions on skis and several visits to Jules at The Boot Room in Chamonix I have finished by trading in my Scarpa Maestrales and moving to a Dynafit TLT5.

The reason?

As soon as I got on the Maestrales I felt like I was on a 5º outside edge on both skis - this meant I had to internally rotate both legs (ie ski with a major A-frame) just to get the skis flat let alone find any edge on the outside ski...
As well as feeling all wrong this also caused considerable hip & knee pain after 2 days skiing - not ideal!

On closer inspection it would appear that the front Dynafit inserts in the Maestrales are not set horizontally - the inside insert is higher than the outside insert. This appears to be an integral part of the boot design (though why is beyond me when the boot is designed to clip into a horizontal set of pins on a horizontal ski).

Interestingly I tried several Maestrale shells with Jules at The Boot Room in Chamonix yesterday and there was variation between all of them in the amount of offset!
As a simple test - in touring mode flex forward until your knee touches the ski - with my Titans it is completely central as you'd expect, with the Maestrale it is offset over the inside edge...

(Thanks to Will for the idea for this test - funnily enough when I mentioned this to him he said "hey, maybe that is why I have had sore knees this winter!")

I can't believe that no one else has had this problem, though an internet search only reveals one result with a similar issue... to me it was blindingly obvious from the moment I first clipped in and slid along a gentle path that something was not right!

Off to test run the TLT5s this afternoon, shoping for better 'feel' there.

While I'm in gear mode I do need to say a big 'MERCI' to Jean-Pierre at Dynastar in Sallanches who not only replaced my blistered Mythic Riders free of charge for some Mythic Lights but also mounted them then & there (and understood my request for the binding to fit a 307 and 322mm bsl, something Sport Conrad failed to do earlier this winter...). Now that is customer service for you!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Course availability - Spring 2012.

There are still some spaces left on the offpisteskiing.com & Jagged Globe Freeride course running April 1 - 7 in Chamonix.
Over 6 days we will explore the off-piste around the different Chamonix ski areas with coaching input along the way. This week is aimed at strong off-piste skiers looking to develop their all-mountain skiing.

Contact us for more information

An early morning speed hit.

After Sunday's trip through the clouds I was motivated to get back out in the good weather this week and ski one of the other couloir lines in the same area. With a 10a.m. babysitting call a short day was in order - Will had been out on Monday skiing the 'twin sister' of Sunday's line - perfect! An early start was needed so at 7.30 I was leaving the car in Pralognan at the start of the skin up to the summit 'du jour'.

A sweaty hour & a quarter later I was 750m up enjoying the views:

Great snow on the access slope compared to Sunday's crust!:

A bit of bushwhacking required on the abseil in:

First turns - Will's tracks from yesterday still visible though after 2 turns these quickly filled in with sluff:

Great scenery:

Mmmmmm, yes please:

Rogues gallery:

Plenty more still to come - still great powder:

Looking up from the final apron - still good powder to be found by sticking to the shadier aspects all the way back to the car :-)

By 9.15 I was back at the car - not bad for a 750 D+/- session with an abseil involved... coffee & baby-bouncing on the programme for the rest of the day!

Monday, 20 February 2012

What it should look like!

And this is what yesterday's couloir looks like in the sun! 650m very foreshortened as you look up from the valley!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Cloud avoidance

Finally a day off after a long stint of work.
3 Valleys definitely got busy on Saturday afternoon - several sets of skin-tight jeans were spotted along with the obligatory Wedze skiblades and of course some classic 1980s skis and a pair of Salomon SX81s - must be Paris holiday week!

Will & Erica were keen to tour, but with a deteriorating forecast we needed a low-vis option - Pralognan has some nice, rarely skied couloirs low down under the tree line, so a couple of hours mellow skinning up to the Col de Napremont saw us primed for action just as the visibility went...

Will turns on the radar to find the entrance:


View from the rap point:

Worth the effort - despite the poor vis the snow in the couloir was great!:

Visibility is a vastly over-rated thing...

Surprisingly good powder low down in the trees:

And finally the end... 500m+ of great snow all the way to the road, with the added bonus of sliding right back to the car on the snowed-up roads!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Alpe D'Huez wind

Yesterday was the last day of this year's Off Piste Perfection course.
On Thursday we had returned to La Grave where despite a gloomy morning briefing from the lift staff we managed to find some really smooth 'wind-buffed' snow to ski on. Not powder by any means, but great fun to ski. The wind had done its damage at all the main ski areas, and a final day at Alpe D'Huez confirmed this - the ridge from the Petites Rousses cable car to the Fare area was almost unrecognisable compared to Sunday!

Still, with a bit of cunning we managed again to find some nice smooth grippy snow in the Canyon de la Fare. Jim in the entry couloir, currently quite tight!:

In the lower canyon:

In the early afternoon we headed up Pic Blanc for round 2 in the Combe du Loup. The planned variation was binned due to the boot-pack being stripped & looking very unpleasant but we managed to find some good snow to ski hard left of the bowls while working on short/jump turn technique & tactics.

By the time we had skied back around & up to the Signal de L'Homme for a run the wind was once again howling out of the North & the communal decision to beat a hasty retreat seemed sensible as the temperature plummeted again & extremities started freezing! My thanks to Keats, Tanya, Nic, Jim S, Jim A, Mark, Andy & Nathan for being willing 'victims', and thanks also to my colleague Jim Kerr - a succesful week with good skiing developments from everyone and an enviable list of descents completed in good style - roll on next winter!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Deux Alpes to St Christophe

Yesterday we took the teams up to Venosc and in to the Deux Alpes ski area. The morning was spent in the Fee area with some coaching on steeper ground with variable snow.

Mark throwing some silhouette shapes:

Andy enjoying some better snow:

James in action:

In the afternoon we took both teams down the descent from Lac Noir to St Christophe - a classic line on an improbable mountainside - viewed from most angles a ski descent looks impossible but nowhere does the skiing get over 40º...

First turns:

Mark takes a rest after some good powder in the first bowl:

A bit of 'technical sideslipping' to rejoin the ridge:

The snow was a bit crusty low down, but still quite skiable:

Great scenery all the way:

Views into the Vallon de la Selle from the final shoulder above St Christophe:

Tania negotiates the 'St Christophe slalom':

A well-earned beer for the team in La Cordee:

Today was another La Grave day, and despite a pessimistic briefing from the lift operators in the morning there was actually loads of wind-buffed, smooth & supportive snow to ski - not powder, but very pleasant!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Off Piste Perfection coaching week

This week I am in the Oisans area running an Off Piste Perfection course alongside IFMGA Mountain Guide Jim Kerr.
A warm-up day in Alpe D'Huez gave surprisingly deep powder though with a few hidden rocks thrown in. We still managed to fit in some good laps in the couloirs off the Petite Rousses, and finish with a good run off the Pic Blanc in the Combe du Loup.

The last couple of days we have been in La Grave, with exceedingly cold temperatures (-23ºC this morning!) but great snow & visibility. Both days I have been coaching steep skiing technique, with runs down the Couloir Banane and Fréaux couloir yesterday, and today a joint team descent of the legendary Chirouze.

Andy in the Banane:

A short skin back to La Grave from the bottom of the Fréaux:

Getting a tow across to the top lift at La Grave:

Nathan in the Chirouze:

A happy team in the Chirouze exit couloir:

3 more days to go - fortunately the temperature is set to rise a bit, so the expedition duvet jacket may get left behind tomorrow...