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Fabulous week of skiing in Val d'Isere

Outstanding spring snow on the slopes

Featured in: | Wayne Watson, Val d'Isere Reporter | Published
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With the sun shining, the piste skiing this week has been excellent. And, with it being another quiet week in the resort, the pistes have been relatively empty.

Last weekend was superb. On Friday, I took my team to Tignes and we skied some great spring snow on the lower slopes down to the road, followed by some lovely winter snow up high in the Sachette with spring snow on the lower slopes.

On Saturday, we skinned up to the Crete du Genepy and Mont Roup for perfectly clean spring snow, which had softened to perfection. I was skiing with a young FIS racer who could ski the spring snow fast and hard without damaging the snow and it was fun to watch. Unfortunately, he raced by me and sprayed my camera with snow that managed to squeeze through the seals, rendering it useless. I’ve reverted back to my old camera that I normally only use on snowy, wet days and it has some water spots on the lens so my photos won’t quite be the same quality for the rest of the season (sorry about that!).

On Sunday, I returned to the Crete du Genepy and Mont Roup and skied a wonderful couloir that I’d only skied once before. It was steep and long with a perfectly straight fall-line, meaning that if someone fell they wouldn’t slide into rocks, and the snow was billiard-table smooth. It always exciting to ski such a stunning slope and my team absolutely loved it. We finished off the morning hiking up the Charvet ridge before skiing down via the Bec d’Aigle.

The skiing on the Crete du Genepy, Mont Roup and the Charvet had been so good I returned on Monday with a new group. The options have been very limited so, when you have a stash of great snow, you milk it to the last drop.

On Tuesday, I headed to Tignes to ski some nice spring snow in the paravalanche, followed by the Sachette. Unfortunately, I lost my radio that I stay in touch with my colleagues with, as well as the Security Vanoise rescue services, and that sort of wrecked my morning. I left my team on top of the Boisse bubble around 12:30 and went back to the Sachette to look for it but, with the wind blowing and the clouds starting to roll in, I couldn’t see very well didn’t find it.

We had a light freeze overnight on Tuesday with a few flakes of snow and Wednesday was a pretty tough day with strong foehn winds. Even though the day started brightly enough, the light deteriorated as it progressed. With limited options, I took my entire team back to the Sachette to search for my radio but we couldn’t find it. It was a bad few days on the technical front as my camera was ruined and I lost my radio, which I’ll need to replace as quickly as possible.

On Wednesday afternoon it started to snow offering us a fresh canvas to work with. I’d guess that we’ve lately had about 1% of our off-piste options available to us bu,t within that 1%, we’ve had some wonderful if not repetitious skiing. Some fresh snow to open up our full options would be fantastic and it would be a massive bonus if the Fornet sector comes back into play. I’ve skied it rarely this season and it’s normally a go-to sector where we ski a few times each week.

As it turned out, Radio Val announced between 5 and 15cm of snow during the night but, with the wind direction over the previous 36-hours, we knew there’d be more snow at the Fornet. However, we were surprised to find between 20 and 35cm in the Grand Vallon and up on the Pisaillas Glacier. It was the first day of proper powder that we’ve had for quite a while and it was a fabulous morning of high-quality snow. The only drawback was poor visibility that made navigating difficult but it kept away 99% of the skiing public and it was hardly touched track-wise.

The live music scene is slowing down – Le Petit Danois has concerts twice a week for après-ski while La Baraque continues to have live music nightly from 19:30. The Danois is an old fashioned road-house and my favourite bar in town, while the Baraque is quite sophisticated and my second favourite bar in town. You’ll have a fantastic time in either so do get out and enjoy the live music.

Next week’s weather forecast is a little mixed with a stunning day on Friday followed by on-and-off light snow for the rest of the week. On-and-off snow means on-and-off sunshine as well, so my bet is that we’re in for another fantastic week of skiing. Have a brilliant time 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.