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A windy & snowy weekend in Val d'Isere

Late season powder weekend

Featured in:

Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 27 Mar 2017


A windy & snowy weekend in Val d'Isere

The weekend started with an easterly wind blowing and because it has been cloudy towards the Italian border for the previous 36-hours we were sure that we’d get the best possibility of fresh snow up at the Fornet so we headed into the clouds and wind. 

The wind was blowing pretty hard and I skied on the piste off the Laisinant and Pyramid as there wasn’t much fresh snow, the light was flat, and it was all looking a little scratchy, but once up on the Pisaillas Glacier it was a different world.

There was at least 20cm’s of powder snow while the wind was considerably less of a factor, and we profited with a brilliant morning of powder skiing. I really enjoyed the superb spring skiing we’ve had over the past ten-days or so but I’m a ‘powder man’ and Friday morning was a real treat!

Val d'Isere

I gave myself another whip-lash about 200 metres from the bottom of the Mangard piste when one ski stopped dead in sticky slush while the other kept going. The sudden jerk spun me around and threw to me to the ground with incredible violence.

Blimey, that’s twice this season I’ve taken a big hit on-piste and I’m sure I’ll be stiff again tomorrow and sometimes I wonder why I bother skiing to the bottom after a great morning off-piste when there is a warm and comfy cable-car waiting. Do be aware of the sticky snow at this time of the season because once the snow becomes slushy it can be quite inconsistent and if you’re travelling with a bit of speed and hit a patch of the sticky stuff you can do yourself some serious damage. (I was lucky as I really piled in!) If you’re tired at the end of the day down-loading is always an option and you can guarantee that you’ll be fit and able to ski the following day!

Val d'Isere

We haven’t seen much wildlife over the past few days but while waiting for the Fornet bus on Friday morning we did spot a huge Gypete being hassled by a smaller bird. Gypete’s are bearded vultures and the biggest birds in Europe and we have several pairs living here around Val d’Isere.

They are often seen above the cliffs at the Fornet on the sunny-side or during bad weather they often soar above Bellevarde, which is where we spotted them on Friday morning. And it won’t be too long now before the first marmots start to stick their noses out after a long winter of hibernation and the early-spring flowers start to bloom. 

Val d'Isere

The wind was a serious factor on Saturday and at 07:00 the wind speed was recorded at 233km/h on the summit of Bellevarde! The wind calmed down by 09:00 but there was a slow and limited opening, but surprisingly the liaison to Tignes opened. I had wanted to return to the Fornet looking for more powder skiing but the entire Fornet sector was closed and I ended up doing a couple of hours of technique on-piste instead.

It snowed massive flakes Saturday afternoon and through the night and we awoke to a winter-wonderland! There was 44cm’s of snow in the Tignes village this morning and there must have been between one and two metres on the Fornet’s Pisaillas Glacier, which remained closed as far as I know. The opening was slow and we didn’t get skiing until 10 o’clock and it’s very rare to say, but there was almost too much snow! It was deep and heavy for the most part but we had a fantastic time with un-forecasted blue skies that made it so much more enjoyable. 

Val d'Isere

The snow was so deep you could only ski steep slopes otherwise you’d bog down and come to a complete stop. We were lucky to arrive just as they were opening the Funicular up to the Grande Motte around noon, and up at that altitude we had the best snow of the day as it was much colder and the snow was significantly lighter. It was a brilliant morning but seriously hard work for the most part and I must admit to down-loading at the end of the morning as I couldn’t face the bumped-up pistes with tired legs!

With the avalanche risk at 4/5 we had to be extremely careful and managed to ski steep slopes on-piste for most of the morning. The only steep slopes I skied off-piste were the Campanules and the Combe des Lanches in Tignes, and both had already purged themselves (avalanched during the snowfall) which made them safe options.

Sunshine is forecast for the week ahead so have a wonderful time and look out for another update and photos next Friday!

Val d'Isere

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.