Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Courchevel off piste conditions

A quick update on off piste conditions in Courchevel.

In a nutshell - "good, but rapidly getting heavy"

Yesterday we had 30/40cm of light fresh powder all over, but even by lunchtime sunny slopes were feeling the heat of the sun.
Today the foehn wind has gradually been picking up, with 5ºC at 1800m at lunchtime. North facing slopes are still fantastic, but anything that has seen some sun is heavier, with some aspects developing a light crust. The humidification of the snowpack will doubtless continue through the afternoon as well...

The Equinox face was in great shape today (so good I skied it twice) and hardly a soul had been into Les Avals, though it is worth now finding the shady slopes for the best skiing.

Reports also in of the Breche Portetta being skied in good conditions yesterday, with both entries in good shape...

Half term mayhem in Courchevel? Not really...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Whitedot Ranger Carbonlite review

Whitedot Skis very kindly provided me with a pair of their Ranger Carbonlite skis this winter, and having spent a bit of time on them now here are some personal opinions:

First off, a bit about me (as no ski review is useful without knowing about the reviewer...):

Height 6'2", weight 83(ish) Kg, boot size 28.0, boot skied during review - Dynafit Mercury

Professional skier for 18 years, specialising in off-piste coaching. Ski mountaineering is what floats my boat on days off.

Personal 'reference' skis currently - Volkl Mantra (184), Volkl Gotama (184) - these skis for me are the standard by which I would compare anything else for off-piste, ski touring, ski mountaineering and freeride... (so many different words for one thing!)

Testing conditions: on piste & off, up to 40 cm of powder, chopped up powder, some crud
Turn types - everything from tight couloir jump turns to big arcs on open faces, speeds from very slow to 'giving it heaps'.

Test ski - 2013/14 Whitedot Skis Ranger Carbonlite - length 186 cm

Bindings used - Plum Yak (separate review to follow).

Testing conditions were 'OK' at times...

First impressions - these things are LIGHT! For such a big ski they weigh next to nothing and yet still feel solid in the hand and underfoot. Absolutely no qualms about going out for a big uphill day on these...

Mounting point: the skis come with one main mounting point marked, along with a mark 5mm either way - personally I thought the suggested point (marked by FR on the topsheet) looked quite far back for my taste (I don't like having a monstruously long tip and short tail) so they have been mounted at +15mm relative to this and this seems to work quite well (though without skiing another paired mounted bang on the mark its hard to tell if it makes any difference!).

The 'almost flat' camber gives the ski a nice smeary feel for tighter spots, or when skiing with slower clients - some reviews I had read suggested otherwise but I found the skis very easy to handle at low speeds.

About to test out the 'tight spot' capabilities of the Ranger Carbonlites:

Photo ©www.andypmountainguide.com

And opening up the throttle a bit:
Photo ©www.andypmountainguide.com

At higher speeds these skis feel very stable, helped along by the fairly long turn radius (28m according to the Whitedot info sheet) - the flip side of this is that on piste the skis really needed a wide slope for a pure carve... I am however a fan of 'not too shaped' skis for steep skiing as it avoids the possibility for tip and tail to be touching while the foot is suspended in mid-air in tight concave gullies.

One major bug-bear is the squared profile tip, extremely annoying when you are fitting skins - even the adjustable tip loop that comes with 125mm Black Diamond STS skins isn't wide enough, forcing me to buy (yet) another set of adjustable uber-wide tip loops and add to my collection of unused tip loops in the garage...

Of course, its important to test skis in the air as well as on the snow...taking the Ranger CLs for a test flight:

Photo ©www.andypmountainguide.com

For the record one ski + Plum Yak (no brakes) weighs in at 2.35 Kg (only 20g more than a 184 Dynastar Mythic Light (88mm underfoot) + Dynafit Vertical FT, and some 350g less than a 184 Volkl Mantra + Radical FT).

*Caveat* I am a firm believer that there are very few bad skis on the market these days, just poor choice of ski by the skier (or lack of skill to be able to adjust and cope with different ski styles) *

Having said that I think the Ranger Carbonlite is likely to find a firm foothold in the ski mountaineering world amongst those looking for a wider ski without taking a weight penalty and certainly gets a very big thumbs up from me! I am looking forward to taking these skis out for some real adventures as the season progresses...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

La Grave & Alpe D'Huez part 2...

A few more pictures from last week. We had mixed weather but great snow (the two do seem to go hand in hand funnily enough :-) ) and Sarah, Pete and Chas all made great progress, ticking off all 3 of the Lake couloirs at La Grave and skiing some particularly deep and very light powder on Thursday!

Sarah and Pete below the Breche Pacave:

A classic view:

Sarah in Couloir Patou:

Pete in Patou:

Sarah, Pete and Chas in the Vallons de la Meije:

Soft even though tracked on Cotes des Rivets at Alpe D'Huez:

Chas enjoying a big powder day at La Grave:

La Reine Meije:

Powder Pete:

Chas again:

Chas does the Banane:

Pete styling it up in Couloir Banane:

Great to be skiing down in the Isère again!

Conditions in general are very good, though care still needs to be taken with the snowpack... All the 'small' classics in La Grave are in good condition (Triffides, Couloirs du Lac etc) - the road runs definitely are very thin and boney lower down, probably best not to take your favourite skis in!

Alpe D'Huez also is in good condition, with lots of snow on Cotes de Rivets, Combe du Loup and Grand Sablat. Lower down is thinner (Combe du Bras etc) and around the Dome des Petites Rousses looked very wind-stripped, though we did not go in for a close investigation.

Friday, 7 February 2014

La Grave & Alpe D'Huez

A brief stop at home after a great week coaching in La Grave and Alpe D'Huez. Off tomorrow for a whistle-stop business meeting in Aberdeen, so more details from this week to follow, meanwhile here is one shot to keep you going: