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A mixed week of weather with snow on the forecast

Great on the pistes but off-piste needs a lot more snow

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 24 Feb 2017


A mixed week of weather with snow on the forecast

The week started off with a bright sunny day on Monday morning and because it was my family’s last morning before heading back to England I took the day off so we could go for a serious piste cruise, and I learnt something from the experience. 

If you are staying at the La Daille end of the resort and you don’t start really early you can have a nightmare trying to get on a bus...

My kids were a little slow getting out of the house and by the time the bus arrived it was jam-packed and we needed to muscle our way on, all at different doors, and we live off the second stop from La Daille. By the third stop it was impossible for anyone to get on so the crowd had to wait for the next bus, which would have had a similar scramble. (I should have taken a photo!)

I used to make fun of people being dropped off by their chalet company chauffeur when they could have easily taken the bus but I eat my words and now recommend that you check to see if your chalet company offers a drop-off service if your accommodation is at the La Daille end of town during the busy school holiday weeks.

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On Tuesday I was expecting sunny skies but it was overcast with a conflicting forecast of cloud rising from the valley below, to clouds clearing as the morning progressed. I headed to the Fornet with my colleague Chris to go over the Col thinking that we might be high enough to stay above the sea-of-cloud that was forecast and also to stay away from the crowds.

We ended up with cloud cover and the odd patch of sunshine and although the light was flat we had good visibility for navigating but not enough to properly ‘read’ the snow. Anyway, we ‘skinned’ up to the Glacier Pers and although the snow was ‘educational’ it was a great outing and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. I could tell my team were pretty adventurous and it was evident that they wanted to go through the gorge, so after explaining the pro’s and con’s and having a consultation with Chris we both decided to have a go. 

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For many it was the first time and with the frozen waterfalls, some gaping holes to skirt around, and a fresh rock-fall to add to the ambience the cameras and smart-phones were clicking away. Near the bottom we found an easy place to walk out if necessary, so Chris stayed with both teams while I went down to check out the exit and was pleasantly surprised to find that someone had been in there with a shovel rearranging the last snow bridge, which made it much easier than the other day when I took my 13 year-old daughter Millie went through.

We all made it down without incident and on the way out we were treated to an excellent wild-life show and one of Chris’ clients said, “What an end to a perfect morning”, which I thought was a jolly good result for a morning like that.

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On Wednesday the sun returned but there was a north-west wind that was severe at altitude and ended up shutting down the bubble lift at the Fornet. I returned to the Glacier Pers again just to stay away from the crowds and skied ‘educational’ snow but the skiing was much easier with the improved visibility.

It was another beautiful day on Thursday but the wind had shifted around and was blowing from the south. After two days at the Fornet it was time for a change of scenery so we ‘skinned’ up to the Crete du Genepy and skied the first taste of ‘spring’ snow of the season. It supported because it was wind-pressed combined with the felt-freeze process and it wasn’t proper spring snow that we get later in the season, but it skied nicely and was a great result because everything else had been ruined by the wind. We then ‘skinned’ up Mont Roup and had a lovely combination of winter frisset and warm powder and it was a pretty good day out in tough conditions.

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On the last traverse back to the lifts on Thursday morning I told my team to spread out and keep an eye above them because the slope drops off from time-to-time, and sure enough a surface sluff dropped and slid right between my last two skiers who were doing as instructed and were left plenty of space between themselves.

Fortunately it was just a surface sluff, which is only the top few centimetres so there wasn’t a lot of snow building up, but it was enough snow to damage someone’s knees if they happened to be in the way. Anyway the moral of the story is to be aware of increased avalanche activity when there is a sharp rise in temperature, and traverse well spread out and ski slopes one-at-a-time!

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Radio Val announced today that we’ve received only 1/3 of the snow that we had at this time last winter, and that includes the 50 to 60 cm’s of powder that was washed off the mountain in the heavy rain at the end of November.

It has been a tough winter to say the least, but we’ve managed to find great skiing all winter long, but the past few days have been the most difficult of the season off-piste. We are expecting some snow Thursday night and during Friday and I can tell you that we are desperate for a fresh canvas to work with. The off-piste has had track-damage, wind-damage on all exposures as the wind keeps changing direction, and sun-damage. Our options have been pretty limited and any snow falling out of the sky will be great appreciated! As for the pistes, they are in great shape as the resort is world-class in grooming and piste maintenance thankfully.

It looks like a snowy start to the weekend followed by full sunshine on Saturday and a partially sunny day on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday look set to bring a lot more snow too, which would be great.

Have a brilliant weekend and stay tuned for another update on Monday.

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.