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A snowy weekend ahead in Val d'Isere

Off piste conditions in the Espace Killy

Featured in:

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


A snowy weekend ahead in Val d'Isere

Monday was a beautiful day with sunny blue skies and absolutely no wind, and after a good refreeze Sunday night it looked as if we were in for a stunning morning of spring skiing.

My colleague Chris and I opened up with the always impressive Face du Charvet and the top-half of the slope was superb, but once he arrived on the lower-half it was evident that the freeze wasn’t going to last and we skied to the bottom in fragile spring snow. 

Val d'Isere

Twenty-minutes later and the bottom slopes would have been what I call ‘quick-snow’, which is a bit like quick-sand that you sink into it and ‘quick-snow’ is un-skiable and becomes dangerous as well. That was enough of a warning to totally change our plans and we headed up to the Fornet, where it’s much colder and we could guarantee supporting snow even if it was still a little firm.

We went over the Col Pers and enjoyed a fantastic run with winter snow up high followed by firm but smooth spring snow further down. Besides the skiing, the Col Pers is a stunning place with fabulous views and ambience and we continued down through the Gorge du Malpasset, which is also a treat. The last 100-metres have become impossible to pass through unless you’re willing to fill your ski boots with water so we walked back up to the summer path, which takes about 10-minutes and it accesses a lovely slope of spring snow down to the Pont St Charles.

Val d'Isere

I should start walking around town with my camera as so much seems to be going on. On my way to the gym (Centre AquaSportif) there were people diving off a platform onto a massive air-bag while beer-drinkers below were shouting encouragement, people flying above with various types of parachutes/parapentes, there was a stage being set-up for a concert, and there were people riding mountain-bikes with massive tyres [fatbikes].

The outdoor bar and cafe scene is alive and it won’t be long until many bars start having bands playing. It’s starting to have that ‘end-of-season’ feel about it although we still have a long way to go and will have snow, rain and grey skies at times. Still, Monday afternoon was wonderful and people were out enjoying themselves, which always gives off a good vibe.

Val d'Isere

Tuesday was another excellent day both on and off-piste. We had a better refreeze, which made the off-piste safer and the piste skiing continues to be excellent. There have been a few huge natural avalanches the past couple of days due to the extremely warm temperatures (natural meaning they are unprovoked, either my skiers or dynamite!)

That means it is critical for those skiing off-piste to be on time when the snow is still supporting and not arriving late when the freeze is gone and the surface layer no longer supports. At this moment the slope becomes dangerous as well as un-skiable. One of the slides came down Monday morning around noon and came across the path the skiers use to exit the Tour du Charvet area. It was a huge avalanche and fortunately no one was passing underneath when it came down!

Val d'Isere

Tuesday evening has become my favourite part of the week as I visited Le Petit Danois to watch the Killer Beez again. These guys are absolutely brilliant and if you’re in town do not miss them, it will be the best two-hours of your week!

Wednesday was a potentially tricky day where we had a minimum freeze on Tuesday night and after a light freeze you must make a calculated decision on how low you can ski without breaking through. It’s really import to get it right for the quality of the skiing as well as the client’s safety. It also looked as if we were in for a flat-light day, but the visibility was really good and we stayed at altitude on the Pissaillas Glacier, had a great ski and ‘skin’ in the Pays Desert before deciding that we could make it to the bottom of the Col Pers and exit through the gorge. It turned out to be a pretty good morning when expectations were low.

Val d'Isere

Thursday was another day that started out looking a bit difficult after another light refreeze but a little fresh snow fell and that helped to give us a soft feel underfoot as well as cleaning up some of the tracks, and the sun popped out at times, which helps enormously on a grey day.

The piste skiing has been good all week and at this time of year the higher you go the better. The lower slopes are getting pretty slushy by the end of the day and after they refreeze at night they are rock-hard in the morning. On days when the sun isn’t shining, these pistes take much longer to soften up and should be avoided first thing in the morning.

Val d'Isere

It’s looks as if we’re in for a snowy weekend as snow is forecast for the next three days. We should have some light rain in the village at times but that is normal for this time of year and means that it will snow higher up the mountain.

An easterly wind is also forecast and that means the possibility of a retour de l’est, which can see the Fornet sector receive a serious amount of snow. Sometimes it might snow one metre near the Italian border and only snow 15 to 20cm’s in Tignes! Anyway, have a great weekend and don’t forget your goggles!

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.