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Incredible powder skiing in Val d'Isere

Avalanche risk remains high

Featured in:

Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 18 Dec 2017


Incredible powder skiing in Val d'Isere

Friday was a wonderful surprise as at least 30cm’s of fresh snow fell on Thursday night, and the brutal winds died down to leave us with a stunning day of powder skiing. The sun made a brief appearance and with the added visibility it was without a doubt the best day of the season so far!

The avalanche risk remained 4/5 locally on Friday even though Meteo France had a rating of 3/5. My colleague Thomas dug a snow pit to show his Ski Club of Great Britain clients the various layers in the snowpack. He found 60cms of gobelets at around 2700 metres, which is a serious problem for the moment. Gobelets crystals are the big grains that resemble sugar and have no cohesion and very little strength to support future snowfalls. The rain at lower altitudes help to stabilise the slopes below 2300 metres but above that altitude there is a very unstable layer which is perhaps the reason the local avalanche risk has been kept at 4/5. We need the upper slopes to purge themselves in the next snowfall or two so that we can start again to build a stable base.

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This early part of the season is habitually the most dangerous of the season as we’ve yet to have ‘skier compaction’. Many of the big slopes have not been touched by a skier or boarder and they are much more delicate than they will be in a month’s time when thousands of skiers will have tracked the slopes and packed down the base. Early season skiing is the most unpredictable of the year and off-piste skiers need to be very aware of the risks.

On Saturday it was overcast and we were back to skiing in flat-light which makes skiing and navigating above the tree-line much more difficult. We did have just enough light filtering through to light the way and we did have a great day of skiing up high, but during overcast days the Fornet and La Daille trees are always a good option.

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Due to weather conditions the Woman’s World Cup Downhill was cancelled and replaced by a Super G, which was won by the American Lindsey Vonn who claimed her first world cup victory in over a year. She has had a fantastic career having won more races than any other woman in world cup history. As usual it was a brilliant awards ceremony in the centre of town. Sunday’s Women’s World Cup Super G was won by Lara Gut as she raced down to win her 21st career victory. The town, the piste services and all the volunteers who worked so hard to put on these races during a time of difficult weather conditions were rewarded by two fantastic events that were well attended and watched world-wide on TV. And that’s about as good an advertisement as you’re going to get!

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Friday had been a brilliant day off-piste but Sunday was even better! It was much brighter than expected and we profited with some stunning skiing. After warming-up with a lovely Fontaine Froide in great untracked powder we opened up the Tour du Charvet. With outstanding deep snow top-to-bottom, the ambience was incredible as there wasn’t a track on the mountain and we were totally alone in spectacular scenery. We then had a great run down the Marmottons before circling back around for another Tour du Charvet. The past three days have been without a shadow of a doubt the best skiing of the new season so far! Wow!

The week ahead looks terrific with snow on Monday followed by mostly sunshine for the rest of the week. Enjoy your holiday and look out for another update on Friday!