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Another sunny week in Val d'Isere

Springlike conditions continue in resort

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 1 Mar 2019

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Another sunny week in Val d'Isere

We’ve been basking in non-stop sunshine for the past two weeks with unseasonably warm temperatures, and the piste skiing just doesn’t get any better. And for some reason this past week has been extremely quiet considering it’s the Parisian holidays.

The pistes have been groomed to perfection each and every night, and with clear blue skies it has been absolutely brilliant. The off-piste skiing however has been another story.

The resort has been tracked-out, the wind from two weeks ago damaged many slopes, the heat has damaged others, and our options have been very limited. But the skiing has been much better than people have expected, as skiers and boarders have shown up in the resort with low expectations and for the most part been very pleasantly surprised. We’ve had some good pitches of powder, some nice chalky snow, and even some very early spring snow while mixing in some fabulous piste skiing while travelling from A to B, and it really hasn’t been too hard to take. With the sun beating down along with stunning scenery, there really hasn’t been too much to complain about.

With the unseasonably warm temperatures and the underlying gobelet crystals that formed during January’s long forgotten cold snap, the mountain has become unstable later in the day, and there have been a few avalanches. On Sunday an avalanche came down across the walking path that leads from the Fornet cable-car up towards the Pont St Charles. The avalanche came down around 13:00 from the sunny-side of the valley, and the path was closed at the time as the pisteurs knew trouble was brewing, but there were still walkers and skiers using the path, and fortunately no one was injured. On Monday afternoon there was a slide late in the day in Tignes Campanules, but I haven’t heard any confirmed news on whether skiers were caught or not. All around the resort there are signs of plaques popping out, and some of them have gone right down to the ground. We need some cold nights and a drop in daytime temperatures to stabilise the mountain before any fresh snow falls.

Even with the lack of options I’ve had a very good week of skiing, and it just shows the quality of Tignes-Val d'Isere ski area. Last Friday I had a cracking morning in winter snow off the Grande Motte, followed by a short skin. On Saturday I had a very rare day off and was tempted to go skiing, but decided to give my body a rest and went to the excellent AquaSportif Centre instead. On Sunday my team had a great morning in the Sachette with three short 10-minute skins, and skied a combination of lovely winter snow as well as some pitches of spring snow. I had a really tough day on Monday as after a very good Mont Roup, one of my clients injured her knee and needed a helicopter rescue to get her off the mountain. It’s so sad when someone injures themselves, and it took the wind out of my sails, and I felt quite deflated during the afternoon and into the evening. On Tuesday my colleague Thomas and I took our groups down to St Foy, and we had a fantastic morning skiing the Foglietta Sud down to the Pigettes.

It was a 55-minute skin to the summit, and we skied excellent spring snow top to bottom, and the outing made a great change of scenery. Wednesday was another stunning day, and we skied some nice frisset (form of regenerated powder), and then finished up at the Fornet skiing some lovely chalky wind-blown snow on some pretty steep slopes. The Fornet is one of the most spectacular areas in the resort, and it’s been sadly out of play most of this winter due to extremely high winds ruining the snow, and it was great to be up there again. I had a couple of Americans who had never been to Val d’Isere before, so the Fornet sector is always a must if only for the scenery. On Thursday I didn’t skin or look for powder, and just skied chalky winter snow and moved about the mountain as much as possible. A little snow is forecast for Friday, and today could be the last of the sunshine, so I gave my clients a scenic tour.

People are still being rescued out of the Gorge du Malpasset on a daily basis. There are warnings every morning on Radio Val, there are signs at the top of the Cascade chairlift, there are signs on the Col Pers as well as a weekly mention on this website, but people still manage to find themselves stranded and in need of tying up several Pisteurs as well as a very expensive emergency helicopter, which could be needed elsewhere where someone has had a serious accident, instead of dealing with idiotic tourists.  Please ,stay out of the Gorge. With all these warm sunny days, many of the pavements have been scraped and melted down to the bare tarmac, but in between there are still some extremely icy sections, so be careful while walking about town, especially later in the evening when they start to freeze up again. This time of night usually corresponds with people leaving bars and restaurants.

After nothing but clear blue skis for what seems forever, next week should be very mixed, with a few flakes of snow floating about, partially sunny/cloudy skies. We were hoping for some decent snowfalls, but the latest forecast is showing less snow than first expected. Don’t forget to get out and sample the live music in town, and my two favourite venues are the Baraque and Le Petit Danois. The Baraque kicks-off nightly (except Mondays when there is a DJ) at 19:30, and the Danois is an après-ski bar with live music every night around 17:30, and they also have a DJ later on in the night. Cocoricos is a favourite outdoor après-ski hot-spot with the teenagers, and they have a live band every afternoon, and the place gets rocking. Have a fantastic week, and look out for another update next Friday.

Follow more from Wayne in his Daily Diary.


NB: Exploring beyond the ski resort boundaries is an amazing experience for anyone who's physically fit and has mastered the pistes well enough. There are, however, risks associated with venturing outside the safety of the marked/patrolled ski area, including awareness of your actions on those below you on the slopes. Mountain guides are professionally qualified and have extensive knowledge of the local terrain to provide you with the safest and most enjoyable possible experience in the mountains; as a visitor here we highly recommend you hiring one. Many ski schools also provide instruction in off-piste skiing, avalanche safety and mountaineering techniques. Make your time in the mountains unforgettable for the right reasons, ski safe!

Off-piste skiing and mountaineering are dangerous. The opinions expressed in these articles are very much time and condition-specific and the content is not intended in any way to be a substitute for hiring a mountain guide, undergoing professional mountaineering training and/or the individual's own backcountry decision making.