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An incredible weekend of extremes in Val d'Isere

Bluebird & snow storms all in the space of a few days

Featured in:

Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 6 Feb 2017


An incredible weekend of extremes in Val d'Isere

What an incredible weekend of extremes! On Friday we were treated to one of the top five-days of the season. We had a lovely fresh snowfall to play in but the real bonus was the unexpected blue skies to go with it! It was what I call a 'maximum-turn' morning where we skied pretty much non-stop without needing to put on our 'skins'. (I think my clients would have mutinied if I had of reached for my 'skins'!)

It really was a brilliant day and one that will be remembered. Saturday was an equally fantastic day but for totally different reasons. It snowed again overnight so we had some wonderful fresh snow underfoot, but with heavy cloud-cover and foggy patches the visibility was poor and at times terrible. The winds also got up to 150kph in Val d'Isere overnight!

a woman skiing off piste in Val d'Isere

We started on-piste on the Face du Bellevarde with 10cm's of powder on top of a perfectly groomed piste, which as a wonderful start to the day. Then we moved off- piste and headed towards the Grande Motte in Tignes via the Borsat Nord. The wind started to pick up and the resort started to shut down but we just made it back to Val d'Isere via the Col de Fresse chair first. The wind was incredible and I've never seen so much snow being transported by the wind before, it looked like thick smoke billowing off the ridge of the Fresse and it was very impressive.

Then after skiing around in flat light all morning long, the clouds separated and we were rewarded with an hour and a half of stunning skiing in some of the best powder of the season. It was one of those days that was hugely satisfying because everyone's expectations were low and the skiing turned out to be fantastic!

two skiers off piste

Sunday again was a different day as no new snow fell overnight and the wind from Saturday and through the night made for some tricky skiing in places. It started to snow around 07:00 so we were back to skiing in flat-light and when you're above the treeline it can be pretty disorientating. After a difficult start we headed back to Tignes via the Borsat and found some great snow and it turned out to be another cracking morning.

The pistes were fantastic on Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday they became much more difficult as they started to 'bump up' with the fresh soft snow. If you get out early the pistes are at their best but once they get skied and become bumpy it makes for uncomfortable skiing, especially when you can't see the bumps!

a skier off piste in val disere

The pavements in town are lethal at the moment and I witnessed three people take some very heavy falls over the weekend. Fortunately they were young and didn't hurt themselves but the pavements and streets here are very slippery and call for your attention. Wear sensible shoes, don't stuff your hands in your pockets and please don't carry children on your shoulders because it's a long way down! (Sorry to sound like your mother but there are some horrible accidents in the street!)

It is forecast to snow off-and-on all the way through until Thursday, when we'll have a few flakes with some sunshine breaking through. For the first time all season we'll have a prolonged period of high avalanche risk, which just happens to coincide with the French holidays. It's scary to watch holiday-makers show up in town chomping at the bit, raring to go and without really appreciating the potential dangers. What will keep them safe is the overcast weather, because they won't be able to see and won't be able to venture too far off-piste. However, the first sunny day is usually a nightmare as the 'power-frenzy' kicks in after a few days of 'cabin fever' and people generally go beserk. It's an experience that should be witnessed from a safe distance!

two skiers off piste in val disere

If you're a fair-weather skier don't forget the Centre Aquasportif, which is a fabulous facility complete with swimming pools, spas, gym, weight-room, squash courts, indoor football, volleyball, badminton, a golf simulator, cafe, soft play for the smaller children.

The resort is turning into a 'winter wonderland' with all the fresh snow that is falling. Have a brilliant week and get out early to avoid the crowds while taking advantage of the best piste skiing. And look out for another update on Friday!

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