Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Hidden gems

Day 3 & 4 of our week of coaching & adventures in the Maurienne valley, time to unleash some more little known delights on the team...

Yesterday we went up to Bonneval and found good powder aplenty, despite a vicious wind above 2700m:

Today we headed for Aussois, and a trip over the Col des Hauts to Sollieres.
A short skin from the top of the lift system, and a fly past from a Lammergeier (always too quick for the camera!) and we dropped in to this:

With nearly 1700m of vertical descent, in good conditions that means a lot of powder turns!

Lower down we avoided the start of a rubble filled gully with some quality combat skiing:

But eventually dropped back into this:

The exit was actually not as bad as it looked, with smooth snow on the right bank of the gully. A moment of perfect timing saw us walk up to the bus stop as the last bus for 3 hours pulled in, and we went back up into the Aussois lift system for some more turns...

Monday, 25 February 2013

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Maurienne magic

Small resort, no-one skiing off piste, 1400m vertical of lift access and this:

Happy team!

Friday, 22 February 2013


Not much to update on the off piste front this week as I have mostly been on the piste in Courchevel (and next to David Guetta in the VIP area at La Folie Douce this afternoon!). The weather has been cold and sunny all week (very, very cold today!), snow conditions reasonably stable off piste by all accounts, and tracks almost everywhere you look!

Some big lines have been getting ticked off with the Couloir de l'Aiguille Carrée on the Aiguille Verte seeing a rare descent from the Snowhow boys today, the South Face of the Grande Sassiere being ticked last weekend by my mates Chipie and Blair, and Ross striking out on a bold solo mission up the NE slope and down the South Face direct of Les Courtes! Busy times...

Meanwhile I have some big thank yous to throw out -

Dynafit, for very quick replacement of some malfunctioning Radical FTs

Jon Coster at The Piste Office for loads of advice and speedy shipping of some Quiver Killer inserts and plates to adjust the ramp angle of my Dynafits (more on this to come in a post shortly)

Gavin and Tom (and Ewan) at The Boot Lab in Courchevel for Quiver Killer mounting, and careful insertion of rivets to take out the forefoot flex of my TLT5s (and more on this to follow!).

Great customer service all round - thanks everybody!!!

Saturday, 16 February 2013


It's not often you get good conditions low down, but right now is one of those times. In the 3 valleys there are quite a few runs that drop along way down into the valleys below, most of which I have skied. The descent to Villarlurin just above Moutiers is one I had never quite got around to doing - so when I got a phone call this week to take Adrian, Oli & Sam down there, the answer was a definite YES!

Conditions were just about perfect, blue skies, powder down to about 850m, and cool air temperatures.

Working along the ridge from the top of the Olympique chair:

Fantastic powder down to Col de la Lune:

Sam, Adrian & Oli:

Good open skiing through the trees:

Bit of new-school tree-grinding:

A bit steeper dropping into the Belleville valley, but still quite skiable:

Oli getting some air:

There are 3 skiers in there...:

Good snow in the meadows still at 900m:

Nearly there - walking down into the village:

All in all this run gave a surprisingly good ratio of good skiing to combat skiing and is definitely worth the effort!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Happy days... and sad days...

Today I have my feet up resting after a very cold and very very powdery week in the Oisans running the Off Piste Perfection coaching week.

Despite some testing weather conditions with wind chill temperatures down to -35 Celsius we found great conditions in La Grave and at Alpe D'Huez. 2 groups alternated between coaching with myself and guiding with local IFMGA Guide Jerome Chancrin.

Early in the week and La Grave is full of light powder:

La Reine Meije looking good:

Dan puts his new-found skills to full effect in couloir Patou:


After 3 days in La Grave and a tick list including Patou, Banane, Lac and Voute we changed scenery to Alpe D'Huez on day 4 - only one word can describe the day - EPIC! Thigh deep, super-light powder and hardly another soul on the tree runs. So snowy in the morning that I left the camera in the car (and then regretted it...).

Day 5 saw us driving up to La Grave again with the promise of a powder day, the top lift having stayed shut the day before... we weren't dissapointed, with fresh powder everywhere, and a nice finish to the day in the Fréaux couloir.

Dan in Les Fréaux:

A happy team below the main Fréaux couloir:

On Friday we wraped up the week in style back at Alpe D'Huez. After some delay in the morning for mechanicals the DMC finally swung into action, only to deposit us in the teeth of an arctic gale. A quick change of plans and we headed for the Vaujany trees for some great boulder-hopping and meadow-skipping.

The wind finally relented at lunchtime so we headed up to Pic Blanc and slid over to the Combe du Loup for a last descent. Heavy powder at the top soon gave way to light and deep goodness lower down:

Last few turns before rejoining the Sarenne piste:

A huge thanks to Peter, Peter, Sue, Audrey, Nigel, Dan, Martin, Mike and Allan for coping with the cold, and also to Eric and Pauline at the Gite Les Petites Sources i Bourg D'Oisans who were excellent hosts as usual - see you next year!

On a sadder note I had heard through the day about an avalanche accident in Chamonix and woke this morning to find that it involved a friend of mine. I only skied with Martin a few times, he was a super-nice guy and very experienced in the mountains and will be sorely missed by many. I shared a memorable birthday a couple of years ago skiing fresh September powder off the Midi with Martin along with Cedric Bernardini and Tom Grant. RIP buddy...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Steeps coaching

I have just finished 4 days of steep ski coaching here in the Vanoise for IFMGA Mountain Guide Andy Perkins and his friends Jim & Pete. We struck lucky with 4 days of reasonable weather & visibility, with some variable snow to keep the team on their toes. The guys have all skied some steep terrain in the past including the NE face of Les Courtes, but were looking to build confidence and solid technique & tactics to handle steeper terrain with less stress.

Day 1 in Courchevel saw a cloudy start clearing to give blue skies and lots of fresh snow - perfect to warm the legs and get in to some easy steep ground:

Andy warming up on some lower angle powder:

Checking out the line:

Couloir action:



Me (thanks to Andy for the photo!!):

On Day 2 we went back up to Courchevel again, with thechnical input for the team which we then took onto some 40º+ ground.

Andy P in action:


Opening up the curves below some steeper ground:

Mottaret was the venue of choice for Day 3 with technical input mixed with plenty of opportunity to put the skills into practise as before. Bad light put paid to any decent photos and a thin rain crust from the night before helped to focus the mind on steeper terrain!

On our last day we took the chance to put it all together on a longer descent, and headed for the North face of the Bellecote. Sadly strong winds during the night and morning restricted our choices somewhat, and we had to tone down our objectives but still found an interesting challenge in the Canadian couloir with a tricky mix of snow, particularly on the entry pitches which definitely feel steep & exposed when not in great conditions:

It was interesting to watch a lone skier rock up to the top of Cairn couloir (which we had decided against due to a very wind-loaded looking top cone) and jump in without even pausing to assess conditions - either I am getting old and boring or people are getting very risk-tolerant (is that a polite way of saying stupid??).

Off to Bourg D'Oisans this week for the Off Piste Perfection course - hopefully conditions will allow to make the most of the fantastic skiing down here with Alpe D'Huez, Deux Alpes and of course the one and only La Grave all on the agenda!