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A mixed week of weather with more snow on the forecast

Wet snow lower down in the valley with fresh soft snow higher up

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 3 Feb 2017


A mixed week of weather with more snow on the forecast

After a fantastic weekend we kicked the week off on Monday with a 40-minute 'skin' to the Glacier Pers up near the Italian border at the Fornet, and had a wonderful ski in lovely powder. 

The sun was out for the most part so we enjoyed good visibility and great skiing. Tuesday was a totally different day as it snowed overnight and continued during the day. The light was flat and at times we had fog patches to deal with that made choosing a line and navigating quite tough.

skiers in powder under blue skies in val disere

In fact I managed to ski off a 2 metre drop up off the Grande Motte in Tignes but fortunately didn't hurt myself, although I did wake up with a stiff neck on Wednesday, but the skiing was brilliant on Tuesday even if we couldn't see a lot and everyone was happy to have some fresh snow underfoot.

On Wednesday the sun came back out and the fresh snow made a huge difference. It was fairly mild during the snowfall and close to rain in the village so the lower slopes had more humidity in the snow, and the higher you went the lighter the snow became but the wet snow was good news for the base because it will stick and it helped to smooth out what was a rough surface in places. On Thursday the southerly wind picked up and was gusting up to 100km/h later in the day and was a factor on certain lifts. We 'skinned' for about 45-minutes to Mont Roup and skied some excellent snow up top but lower down the snow was more humid and starting to be worked over by the wind.

wind over the mountains in val disere

As usual the piste skiing has been as been excellent and like the off-piste, the higher you went the better the snow. At altitude the snow was still cold but lower down with the warmth and humidity in the snow the snow could be quite 'grabby', which is uncomfortable if your edges aren't in good condition. Many holiday-makers come skiing and think they're rusty or rubbish if they don't ski as well as they'd like but quite often their skis are un-skiable because of the state of the edges. This can happen when renting skis as well as not all ski shops do a good job tuning skis, so if your skis are jumping about and not skiing smoothly it may well be the your skis are poorly tuned and you're not as bad of skier as you think!

skiers in fresh powder in val disere

Sometimes when I'm off-piste and burr my edges on rocks it can be a nightmare when I return to the pistes as burred edges cause the skis to jump about and it makes them difficult to pivot. It makes for very uncomfortable skiing, which can make your knees and back ache so if you experience these feelings have your skis checked! (Even the best shops have off days with their machines because they can vibrate out of the perfect setting and need to be re-adjusted.)

People often mention that Val d'sere is a little bit like Disneyland because you see the most extraordinary things as people pursue some pretty incredible passions. The other day I drove up to my colleague Chris' to send off the photos for the update as I've had computer melt-down due to wine spillage and I witnessed a near tragedy. I was backing my car into a spot when I looked up and through my windscreen I saw this parapenter coming right at me at high speed and extremely low. I immediately thought that this is going to be interesting, as he was just above the chalet in front of me and he needed to lift and separate his legs to avoid ripping them off on the chimney (and he barely cleared it), and a second later he hit the lamp-post just ten-metres away out of my side window. He spun around a couple of times before dropping like a stone to the ground. Fortunately he was unhurt and his friend who had landed safely a minute or so earlier had hysterics as he thought it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen! There is a saying that goes 'there are no such thing as friends on a powder day' but obviously 'there are no such things as friends in Disneyland either...

The snowpack is starting to feel unstable and there have been a few avalanches triggered in the past couple of days. Up until now the mountain has been pretty stable and we've been able to take on some steep slopes but conditions are changing and it's time to rein in and let the mountain settle. One thing for sure is that when the snow comes a period of extreme caution will be necessary. Check the daily Avalanche Bulletin for information. 

There have been a couple of accidents over the past couple of days with someone skiing off a cliff on the Rocher du Bellevarde. The skier has been hospitalised but I haven't heard anything more than that. And on Thursday the helicopters seemed to be flying around for most of the day, which is never a good sign! We saw a Gendarmes helicopter landing beside the Manchet piste, and the police never show up unless it's serious so fingers crossed that no one was seriously injured! [Read our news story on the British Snowboarder injured in this accident]

Snow is forecast for Thursday night and into Friday morning with heavier snow on Saturday followed by lighter snowfalls on Sunday. We haven't had more than one day of snow at a time all winter so this should be considered a serious 'dump alert'.. Have a fantastic weekend!

Follow more from Wayne in his Daily Diary.

NB. Some of the areas Wayne has been skiing this week are off piste and not suitable to all skiers. Wayne has 35 years experience in these mountains. If you're considering going off piste you should always take a guide with you