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Fantastic week in Val d'Isere for UK half-term

Noting but blue skies on the long term forecast

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 15 Feb 2019


Fantastic week in Val d'Isere for UK half-term

Last weekend was a little mixed snow-wise and weather-wise. On Friday we enjoyed some sunshine after a flat-light day on Thursday, and I took my team to the Fornet for a change of scenery even though the Fornet sector didn’t have the best snow.

Most winters we normally ski the Fornet sector a couple of times a week, and occasionally four or five days in a row, but so far this season it’s been poor compared to what’s on offer elsewhere in the resort. But it’s such a stunning place scenically that it must be visited to give the clients a feel for the enormity and beauty of the entire resort. With that said, we had a cracking good ski over the Col Pers up against the Italian border, followed by the atmospheric "oh my."

On Saturday we had overcast skies, but an extremely good day with better than expected visibility. We skied the Borsat into Tignes, followed by a hike up into the impressive Chardonnet, followed by the steep Tourne, then a rare visit to Jardini, and a Familial to finish a cracking good morning. A few flakes of fresh snow had fallen overnight, and with the wind transporting snow there was a nice new cushion on the lee slopes and in some gullies, which helped enormously. Sunday was another overcast day with a daunting forecast that wasn’t too inspiring as we were expecting high winds, heavy cloud cover, and snow with really poor visibility by noon. Fortunately we could stay out of the wind for the most part, and the light was much better than expected and we had a great morning in the Sachette and Familial.

20cm to 40cm of fresh snow was expected on Sunday night, but it only snowed about 15cm, which turned out to be a blessing. The overnight wind was clocked at 140kmph, so there was a huge accumulation in places while others slopes were wind scoured. But with less snow, the resort opened pretty much on time Monday morning, and the avalanche risk remained at a manageable 3/5. Had it snowed 40cm we would have had a very late opening and an avalanche risk of 4/5, which would have shut us down for the day. As it was we enjoyed a fantastic day of powder skiing, although the visibility was poor for the most part, with just brief periods where enough light filtered through to navigate some of the bigger slopes such as the Epaule du Charvet. The wind was fierce from the north-west, but by staying on easterly and southern slopes we stayed in the lee and remained comfortable. Knowing what way the wind is blowing is just as important for piste skiing, to keep you warm, comfortable, and to help you make the most of your day.

On Tuesday the sun returned and with brilliant visibility you could see the wind damage as many slopes were scoured, but you could also clearly see where the good snow lay and we had a stunning day of gravity-fed skiing, and skied the Borsat, the Tignes Altiport, the Combe des Lanches, three runs off the Genepy on the Motte, the Campanules, and the Familial to finish. With it being the holidays, Tuesday’s off-piste frenzy saw the resort tracked out in one day, and on Wednesday it was time to walk for our snow. I took my group for a double-skin on the Crete du Genepy, followed by Mont Roup. Although the snow was slightly wind compressed it skied beautifully, and we had a brilliant morning with no one else around. The wind changed direction which complicated things, as what was on the lee slopes after the 140 kmph  winds of a few days ago have also been touched up, and it’s not getting any easier to find good quality snow. On Thursday I took my team to the Col des Fours, which was magnificent scenery-wise, but pretty tough skiing as the snow was educational to say the least. It was still a great morning out, but not the easiest conditions-wise.

On the music front, my two favourite gigs of the week are the Guinea Pigs at Le Petit Danois on Thursday après-ski starting at 17:30, and Karen and Andreas at the Danois each Friday starting at 17:15. I’ve just returned from the Guinea Pigs and they were absolutely brilliant, and if you’re in Val d’Isere this winter don’t miss them. Andreas and Karen both came out to watch, and I’m really looking forward to their gig Friday night. The Baraque also has fantastic music every night except Mondays, starting at 19:30.

There is also a Torchlight Parade, and a freestyle skiing and boarding show with free hot wine and hot chocolate on the Snowfront starting at 18:30 on Tuesday evening, and the show ends with a fireworks display (I’ll be serving hot wine and be the one in the West Ham hat). The weather for the next week looks like nothing but sunshine, so if you’re a track abuser don’t complain that there isn’t any fresh snow to be skied. Please keep your tracks close off-piste, and one thing for sure is that the piste skiing will be sensational (but please ski carefully and respect beginners and children, especially when they are skiing one blues and greens.) Have a wonderful week, and stay tuned 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.