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Cold & cloudy but brilliant skiing in Val d'Isere

Sunny start and cloudy end to the week

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 16 Feb 2018


Cold & cloudy but brilliant skiing in Val d'Isere

It snowed 10 to 15cm Sunday night but it was accompanied by a nasty north-westerly wind, which made Monday an extremely cold day. The skies were overcast making the visibility relatively poor for the most part and it was a question of staying out of the wind as much as possible. 

Because the wind was howling from a northerly direction the south to easterly slopes were not only in the lee and protected from the wind but also had the greatest accumulation of snow. I had a cracking day skiing off the Tour du Charvet, which was protected and as warm as possible on a bitter day. We had some lovely powder but also benefited from a ‘light-bulb’ of visibility that made all the difference. A ‘light-bulb’ is when the sun is just visible through the clouds. Although it doesn’t seem like much it brightens things up and makes a massive difference when skiing off-piste above the tree-line. We also had another wildlife sighting with a herd of chamois above us on the way out, which is always a nice touch after a great run.

Val d'Isere

Being aware of wind direction is just as important when skiing on-piste, by staying in the lee and as low as possible you can remain comfortable on a cold day. On Tuesday when it was -21ºC the trick was to stay on the sunny slopes, starting on east slopes on moving towards the southerly slopes as the morning progresses. The last thing you would want to do on an extremely cold day is head up to altitude and ski north and westerly slopes first thing in the morning. On Tuesday we did a ‘double-skin’ on the Crete du Genepy and Mont Roup, all of which was in the sun and we ended up shedding a layer or two on an extremely cold day. A little awareness of wind direction and where the sun is can make for much more enjoyable and comfortable skiing, especially if you have small children with you who are vulnerable to the elements.

Val d'Isere

On Wednesday it started to warm up a little but the big feature was wall-to-wall sunshine all day long and everyone enjoyed a brilliant day both on and off-piste. My team enjoyed a ‘maximum-turn’ morning in fantastic snow in Tignes off the Grande Motte.

Val d'Isere

It was a totally different world on Thursday as it snowed much more than forecast, it was overcast and a total white-out away from trees, lifts, piste markers and buildings. For the first time in ten days or so it was uncomfortably warm! By the end of the morning, the snow was wet and heavy up to about 2600/2700m and it rained up to at least 2000m. Once again the rain doesn’t do much for the short-term skiing but it does help to stabilise the mountain and Friday could be an interesting day. On a personal level, I was happy for the rain because I drove down to Lyon and back to take my family to the airport,  rain meant clear roads and no need to worry about needing chains! (The last thing anyone wants to do in the dark is to crawl around under a car in the dark battling with chains!)

Val d'Isere

The forecast for the weekend is a little mixed with a chance of some sun on Friday, snow on Saturday and with any luck some sun again on Sunday. Whatever happens weather-wise you won’t be hitting any rocks! Have a great weekend and stay tuned for another update on Monday.

Follow more from Wayne on his Daily Diary.

Ski safely off-piste

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 and also mountain guides provide instruction in off-piste skiing, avalanche safety and mountaineering techniques. Make your time in the mountains unforgettable for the right reasons, ski safe!