Monday, 31 March 2014


All quiet on the ski front this last week as I have had my 'other' hat on, doing some work for climbing equipment and headtorch manufacturer Petzl.

This afternoon I am off to Lofoten for a return visit following last year's amazing 2 weeks. Sadly the snow doesn't look to be quite as good as last year (always the danger of going back to somewhere after a fantastic snow experience...), but from what my local sources are telling me there is still plenty of skiing to be done! If not then we may have to revert to cod-fishing and northern lights spotting (anything to keep away from the very expensive beer!).

In the bag are my Dynafit Mercurys, which I am still very impressed with (despite quite a bit of boot work to create enough forefoot space), along with the Whitedot Skis Ranger Carbonlites which are really proving themselves. During the Steep Vanoise week we did quite a bit of skinning on firm snow without ski crampons (some of the clients had forgotten theirs so I also didn't use them so as to judge how feasible the skinning was) - the torsional stiffness of the Rangers makes for very comfortable skinning on steep firm snow, as you really get a feel of good edge grip and a solid platform under the foot. On the downhill they still feel great and were performing well in heavy 'old' powder, on spring snow and on some quite rough wind-affected surfaces...

Here's hoping we find some more of this to test them out on:

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Steep Vanoise 2014 last day

For the last day of this year's Steep Vanoise course it was time for a proper adventure.

The North couloir of the Grand Perron des Encombres has been on my list of things to do for a while, but lack of time, or a suitably fit, competent and motivated team, plus the need for a car shuttle to make life easy, have stopped me getting in there until now...

The Grand Perron seen from La Masse. The North couloir is just visible right of summit, disappearing behind the rocky ridge:

An icy ski down the Vanoise/Maurienne watershed ridge and a bit of traversing took us to the Col des Encombres, where we put skins on for the climb:

The Maurienne valley gradually comes into view:

An airy scramble to the summit:

Amanda, Vadim and Rod on the Grand Perron summit:

Looking down the North couloir from the summit:

Vadim finding powder high in the couloir:



Team looking moody:

Looking back at the Grand Perron - the dogleg couloir obvious below the summit

A big thank you to Amanda, Rod and Vadim for being a great team - see you next year!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Steep Vanoise 2014 - St Foy

On Thursday we made the (almost mandatory) trip to St Foy for day 4 of this year's Steep Vanoise week. As always, it delivered big style!

A short skin up to the Fogliettaz summit and we dropped in to the North face, and found some good cold soft snow (some might call it powder..!) - even 2 1/2 weeks after the last snowfall!

With such good snow to be skied (all things considered) we hung a hard right traverse below the top face and put skins on again to head up to the Col D'Argentiere and on to the top of Couloir Doudou.

Doudou looked rather unappealing so we headed back to the Col D'Argentiere, where I had spied a totally unskied shoulder line of good looking snow as we skinned up. Good choice as it turned out:

A late lunch in the sun below the Archeboc refuge, and we headed off down a nicely softened 'icy path of doom' and back to the car for a well-earned refreshment at the Monal...

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Steep Vanoise Day 2 & 3

Day 2 of this year's Steep Vanoise week saw us making the obligatory pilgrimage to La Plagne for a run on the North Face of Bellecote. Cairn couloir had some nice chalky grippy snow in it (though definitely a more serious feel than when there is 2 feet of powder, as a slide would almost certainly end very badly...).

Vadim putting in the first turns:

Amazingly we had the face pretty much to ourselves for the whole descent, with just 1 group passing by underneath on the traverse in from Petit Face Nord.

Rod lower down in Cairn:

Today we went up into Courchevel and headed off on probably my favourite tour in the area, the Breche Portetta via Les Glacerets.

After 2 hours of skinning and a short ski down the top of Les Glacerets from the Rocher de Plassa we climbed up into the halls of the mountain kings:

The Breche has become a victim of its own success (aided undoubtedly by www sites like skitour) and sadly the top part of the couloir had had so many people side-slipping down it that a side-slip was the only reasonable option for the top 45ยบ+ section.

Vadim below the first steep section:

Vadim and Amanda partway down the main couloir:

Vadim again in the more open 2nd half:

A happy team! Rod, Amanda and Vadim below the main couloir

The big face below the couloir was pretty soft & slushy, but eminently rippable on fat skis! Some gentle cruising on a forest track finally took us down to Pralognan where our taxi pick-up was waiting to take us back to a well-earned beer on the St Roc terrace in Bozel...

Monday, 17 March 2014

Steep Vanoise day 1 - 3 Valleys (inc conditions report)

"Reports of winter's demise have been greatly exaggerated"

This misquote of a Mark Twain misquote pretty much sums up the current situation.

Despite what you may read elsewhere there is still plenty of snow on the hills (and right down to resort level), and actually some reasonable conditions to be found off piste, and with more snow due this weekend & early next week we should be well set for a little while longer...

Today was the first day of this year's Steep Vanoise week, and we headed up into the 3 Valleys for a 'warm-up' day.

High up in Mottaret true North and also North-East aspects still held some nice chalky snow along with some patches of soft old powder:

It was all going horribly wrong for a pilot in Val Thorens - missing the runway and clipping a load of marker poles before nearly going down a stream hole and finally coming to a stop!

Val Thorens and Orelle were quite wind-affected and it was harder to find good cold snow, but a few of the good old 'secret spots' still had some great spring snow.

Vadim & Rod in the Epaule Bouchet couloir:

Vadim opening up the gas on some good corn snow:

In general sunny aspects are well transformed, though the Sahara layer from a few weeks back is very obvious and seems to have affected the surface layer which is very featured (even where it hasn't been skied). Timing is everything for spring snow, and it is definitely worth putting in the effort to get away from tracked snow at the moment. High and North in Mottaret is currently very good. Pistes in general seem to be holding up well, and the run back into Mottaret was in good shape at 4pm today.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Chamonix Freeride week + conditions report

Last week I was in Chamonix working alongside IFMGA Mountain Guide Paul Farmer on the Chamonix Freeride week run by Jagged Globe and

The week combines a mixture of guiding and coaching with the aim was of exploring as much of the Chamonix back-country as possible.
With no snow for a just over a week and warm temperatures forecast we were never likely to be skiing knee deep powder everywhere, but we still managed to sniff out some good soft snow, 'old' powder, chalky cold snow and some nice spring snow too (with a bit of sastrugi along the way!).

Conditions report follows below, but first a few photos...

Heading for the far side of Col D'Arp, Courmayeur:

Business as usual (and windy as usual on the AIguille du Midi ridge:

Paul leading the team towards the Glacier d'Envers du Plan:

Mt Blanc du Tacul looking moody, with a lenticular over Mt Blanc behind:

'Interesting' conditions at the top of Grand Mur, Grands Montets:

Then great smooth chalky snow:

A happy team above the Arp-Dolonne couloirs, Courmayeur, Mt Blanc behind:

For once someone else took some photos! Yours truly enjoying soft snow in the Arp-Dolonne couloirs:

Photo: ©Alan Scowcroft

And again:

Photo: ©Alan Scowcroft

Nice views from the top of the Youla cable car:

Descending from Pointe du Van to Trient, Amanda and Alex finding soft snow:

Looking back up:

Alex cruising down for a well-earned drink in Trient:

Yours truly again enjoying the North couloir of the Arolette:

Photo: ©Alan Scowcroft

Chamonix conditions:

Le Tour:
Chalky snow in the Posettes main couloir, but full depth slides visible in the side couloirs later in the week - caution!
Back bowls still have some chalky snow to be skied - the Arolette couloirs are in good condition, with some patches of old powder still below them before you hit the sun. Lower down reasonable spring snow can be found with the right timing. The Tournays descent from Pointe du Van to Trient had powder still on the right bank, with transformed spring snow L bank. Lower down some creep cracks are opening as you pull right to avoid the narrows.

Grands Montets:
Bumps, bumps and more bumps everywhere apart from off the top bin.
Lots of wind-affected snow up high on the glacier runs, but some nice areas of smooth wind-buffed chalky snow to be had skier's right of Point de Vue and on Grand Mur. Exit couloirs to the Glacier d'Argentiere are in good condition. Bottom of Pas de Chevre looks very scabby and had lots (& lots) of falling rocks when we went past at the bottom of the VB at approx 2pm...


Good chalky snow in the Vesses couloirs (L & R), some nice spring snow now off the Col D'Arp sticking hard left (and out of the tracks). The Arp-Dolonne couloirs still had some surprisingly nice soft snow (albeit quite well tracked) on Thursday.

Aiguille du Midi:

Strong winds at altitude through the middle of the week have left mostly firm snow on the French side of the Vallee Blanche. The Requin exit couloirs are starting to feel the heat a bit with lots of rubble coming out of the first 2. Best bet is to head hard skiers left...

Congratulations to Ross, Dave and Miko for nailing a Couturier to Whymer link-up on the Aiguille Verte in tricky conditions on Wednesday! Read more here...

Val Cenis video

I am just back from a great week coaching on the and Jagged Globe Freeride week in Chamonix - pictures and report to follow shortly...

Meanwhile here is a nice video that one of our clients put together from a descent on the Maurienne Steep Coaching & Adventures week:

ValCenis Powder from geoffers on Vimeo.

Thanks Geoff!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Touring accessories for sale

Fritschi crampons 80mm wide, £25 posted

Montana skin socks, £10 posted

Contact simon offpisteskiing com

Dynafit Zzero4 boots for sale

Size 25.5 Dynafit Zzero4 U-MF boots for sale.

Size 25.5 mondopoint (286mm sole length).

Very good condition (only used a handful of times by my wife).

£150 + postage or € 175

Contact simon offpisteskiing com