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Warm weather and spring snow in Val d'Isere

Blue skies set to continue in resort well into coming week

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Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 22 Feb 2019


Warm weather and spring snow in Val d'Isere

Last weekend started off with a brilliant trip down to St Foy to ski the very impressive Face Nord of the Foglietta. For a strong walking group the skin is about 50 minutes, and the value for that effort is outstanding.

As the sun continues to beat down and Val d’Isere - Tignes gets more and more tracked, it was nice to leave the resort and have a change of scenery. I was back in town on Saturday, and had a lovely morning off the Grande Motte skiing fairly gentle slopes, which suited my group and the snow quality was excellent.

On Sunday we skied the Lower Lavachet into Tignes, and one of my clients accidentally deployed their air-bag and had to ski down and skin out looking like a huge orange butterfly. We needed to phone Jean Sports for help, and use YouTube to work out how to deflate it and pack it back up again. Once we’d organised the pack we had a great ski in the Sachette, and even though the resort is tracked there are still some nice clean slopes to be found. My family came out on Sunday night for a three-and-a-half-day flying visit, so I drove to Lyon and back and was thankful for dry roads and no chance of needing chains. My wife and eldest daughter came out on Monday morning, and I returned to the Sachette to ski some lines that I’d spotted on Sunday, and we had a fantastic morning.

On Tuesday we skinned to Mont Roup, and by playing with expositions managed to ski powder most of the way down, mixed with a couple of pitches of spring snow on the steep southern exposures on the lower slopes. I was surprised to find as much clean snow as we did with the state of affairs off-piste, so it was a great result and everyone thoroughly enjoyed their outing. There was another eight people rescued from the Gorge du Malpasset on Tuesday, and that makes close to 50 in the past few weeks. The Gorge has been full of snow during the past two seasons, and people have become accustomed to being able to pass through safely. But this winter there isn’t nearly enough snow to make the Gorge passable, and it’s quite dangerous.

Please take note and let your friends know if anyone starts talking about a trip through the Gorge du Malpasset. We still managed to find some clean snow in the Sachette on Wednesday, but it is now officially skied out and I won’t be returning there until after the next snow fall. On Thursday I had an outstanding morning off the Grande Motte with some nice winter snow combined with some spring snow. After so many days of brilliant sunshine we are starting to get the option of some spring snow in places, which is incredibly welcome as our powder stashes gradually get used up. The trick is to find clean untracked slopes that are turning to spring snow, and thankfully there are a few such slopes that will get better and better with each melt/freeze cycle to come over the next few days.

With all the stunning weather of late the piste skiing has been absolutely sensational, but with the resort being crowded you really need to have your wits about you. Please ski under control and slow down for beginners and children. The green and blue pistes are the domain of lower level skiers, and aren’t there for better skiers to see how fast they can clock themselves with the various apps. It’s horrible how many collisions there are these days, and if you’re skiing at speed you are responsible for everyone below you on the mountain. Also be aware of where you stop. Stop at the side of the piste, and never stop anywhere where you’re hidden from view of those above you. And please look above you before pulling out after stopping for a rest or to regroup. Many skiers and boarders are lacking awareness of what’s going on around them as they’re living in their own little bubble, so be careful, pay attention, and take care of yourself and others (my colleague Chris was clobbered on the piste Wednesday afternoon while teaching a small child).

As usual, the pavements are lethal and very icy due to the warm weather during the day, followed by a solid refreeze. Pay attention and don’t get caught with your hands in your pockets or a child on your shoulders. All the sports shops in town sell crampons that slip onto your street shoes or boots, and they make an enormous difference. Don’t miss the live music in town, as the music scene in Val d’Isere is fantastic. The Baraque has brilliant music every night of the week except Monday’s starting at 19:30, and my two favourite gigs of the week are at Le Petit Danois with the Guinea Pigs playing Thursday’s at 17:30, and Karen and Andreas on Friday at 17:30.

Andreas’ 14-year-old daughter Ness is going to sing a song or two Friday, so don’t miss it, and if you like live music get out and experience these great musicians in action. The weather for next week looks set to remain sunny without a cloud in the sky until next Thursday, but no new snow is on the horizon. That adds up to an off-piste nightmare except for the spring snow possibilities, but it’s the perfect scenario for piste skiing. Have a great holiday, 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.