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A tough but good weekend in Val d'Isere

Challenging weather but good snow

Featured in:

Wayne Watson | Val d'Isere Reporter | Published: 26th February 2018


Check out this A tough but good weekend in Val d'Isere

That was one of the toughest weekends of the season so far with grey skies, howling winds and fairly cold temperatures. It was a challenging off-piste as the light was very flat for the most part and, with the resort starting to become tracked-out, it wasn’t that easy to find ‘clean’ snow when you can’t see.

On Friday, I headed towards the Sachette in Tignes because it is often the brightest sector in the resort on cloudy days. We did profit from some good patches of light, which helped enormously and we enjoyed some pretty decent powder.

Saturday was another in-and-out day with flat light and the odd patch of brightness. I started with a Kern off the summit of Bellevarde. When we arrived towards the summit of the Olympique, the Kern was bathed in sunshine when the rest of the resort was grey so we dove straight in and found some very nice pockets of snow.

The easterly winds were clocked at 120km/h at around 06:00 and, although it only snowed 5cms overnight, the wind did transport enough snow to fill in some gullies with 20 to 30cms in places, as well as on some of the lee slopes. The wind on Saturday kept the Fornet sector closed for most of the day and the Solaise Express was very slow to open, so we were pleased to have had good skiing on the Kern, Fontaine Froide, Campanules and the Combe des Lanches.

During periods of easterly winds, the Fornet sector receives much more snow than anywhere else in the resort so my colleague Chris and I headed up that way on Sunday morning. We had some wonderful snow but we were unfortunately in a fog for much of the morning, which made navigating and skiing first pretty tough.

It was a terrific morning but, around 11:30, we were stuck on the Cascade Chairlift on the Pissaillas Glacier for about 45 minutes. The temperature started to drop and we were chilling down but the worst part was not knowing how long we were going to be stuck there. It started to snow and blow and it was becoming a worrying situation, especially for small children. Eventually, they got the lift running and we went straight in for a hot chocolate and a warm-up. It wasn’t until we were inside a warm building that we realised how cold we were. During my 54-years of skiing, that was the first time I’ve ever been stuck on a lift for that long, so I consider myself lucky.

It may have been a tough but good weekend off-piste, but the piste skiing has continued to be brilliant. The slopes have been beautifully groomed and the snow quality has been exceptional. Unfortunately, it looks like the week ahead will be the busiest week of the season, even worse than at New Year’s. At least the resort will be fully open so the crowds can disperse, which will take the sting out of it.

To avoid the crowds, get an early start, think about skiing over the lunch-hour period and don’t be afraid to take lifts down at the end of the day. If you live in the centre of town, taking the Olympique back to resort can be a better option than skiing to La Daille and getting stuck in a bus queue, which can be pretty unpleasant at the end of the day.

The week ahead looks like one of the coldest weeks of the season, so dress up warmly and stay out of the wind and in the sun as best you can.

Good luck and look out for another update on Friday!

Follow more from Wayne on his Daily Diary.

Ski safely off-piste

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 and also mountain guides provide instruction in off-piste skiing, avalanche safety and mountaineering techniques. Make your time in the mountains unforgettable for the right reasons, ski safe!