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Immaculately groomed pistes in Val d'Isere

And still pockets of nice snow off piste too

Featured in:

Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 30 Jan 2017


Immaculately groomed pistes in Val d'Isere

The weekend was better than expected weather-wise although it was grey and windy, but we had enough visibility to navigate and ski comfortably on Friday and Saturday.

The southerly and eastern wind blew in some lovely snow up at the Fornet, which is right up against the Italian border and we had some great powder skiing in snow ranging from 5 to 20cm's. In the gullies and in the lee we enjoyed some soft snow, which was very welcome after skiing on so much firm snow.

We had to battle a ferocious wind en-route to the Col Pers but once over the Col we were protected and the wind was soon forgotten as the skiing was excellent because of the snow that floated in on that same wind. Getting over the Col has been a little tricky as the wind has ripped the snow away and we've needed to step down carefully over the rocks, but the tricky entrance, the misty cloud cover and the howling wind have kept people away, and we've had the entire Col Pers to ourselves! (We could have skied in Tignes were it was calmer and brighter but the best snow has been at the Fornet for the first time in about two weeks!)

a skier in an off piste section

We've had some wonderful trips through the Gorge du Malpasset, which isn't passable every season so we've tried to make the most of it so far this winter. Avalanches come down from both sides and fill the gorge to create snow-bridges above the Isere River, which is flowing underneath. You ski down on these snow-bridges but there are places where holes have developed and you can see the flowing water below. These holes need to be safely negotiated and there have been incidents over the years where skiers have fallen in and been swept under the snow-bridges and drowned. (Hence the name Malpasset!)

off piste in val disere

On Saturday morning one of my colleague Chris had a client who fell and very nearly went into one of the holes. Fortunately it was in about the best place possible as it wasn't deep and Chris pulled from above while I pushed from below and we managed to get him out safe and dry. It certainly added a little spice to the morning and it shows just how easily something can go wrong, even with experienced skiers! On Sunday we were treated to an extraordinary day as the wind dropped, the sun came out and we 'skinned' to some wonderful snow without a track in sight on the Glacier Pers. We skied soft powder from top-to-bottom and then had another trip through the gorge with everyone paying attention!

skiers in low cloud

With the rougher windy weather the chamois and bouquetin have come down to lower altitudes and we've had some fantastic wildlife sightings. It's a lovely bonus at the end of the morning to be able to watch the animals above grazing and scratching out enough food to feed themselves in such a harsh environment. We saw a dead chamois on Friday that had been picked clean by foxes and birds and there wasn't much left of it, but at least nothing went to waste as the scavengers made the most of the opportunity. Then on Sunday we saw another chamois that looked as if it had been dug up. It was either killed in an avalanche earlier in the winter and dug up last night by something with a fantastic sense of smell, or perhaps the two chamois have been killed by wolves that have been coming across from Italy. I should phone the Parks Department in case they'd like to investigate because wolves coming into the area is something they'd like to know about.

The piste skiing has been brilliant again over the weekend as Saturday is the quietest day of the week, followed closely by Sunday. As usual the pistes have been immaculately groomed and are in fantastic condition leaving the weekend piste skier in their own paradise.

skiers in the sunshine in val disere

I forgot to mention the torchlight parade last week that was in memory of 'Friends Lost in the Mountains''. Over the years there have been many instructors, guides, pisteurs, locals and tourists who have died in the mountains here and it is an annual event and well attended. There are drinks at the top of Bellevarde, a prayer from a local Priest, and then everyone is off for the torchlight parade, which is always well attended.

On Saturday night I couldn't believe the number of people arriving in town. Our wonderful period of tranquility seems to be over as it seems the holidays must be starting, which ambushed me because it's still January and I always think of the holidays as a 'February' thing. Anyway, people are throwing themselves in front of buses and cars as if they've never been in traffic before. If they knew how bad the drivers were in this town they'd start paying more attention! It's amazing how excited holiday-makers can be and it seems they sometimes leave their common sense at home. Don't get hit by a bus and also be aware of the pavements as they are icy and pretty nasty at the moment!

A cloudy day is forecast for Monday with the possibility of some snow during the night and into Tuesday. The rest of the week is in-and-out as far as the sun goes but some snow on Tuesday would go down nicely!

Have a fantastic week 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