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Spring like conditions after heavy snow last week

All change in the weather in Val d'Isere

The ‘powder extravaganza’ of last week seems like a distant memory as the temperatures have shot up and the snow on my terrace has dropped by at least a metre in just three days. 

Extremely warm temperatures have also stabilised the mountain and the avalanche risk has gone from a delicate 4/5 to a much more stable 2/5 and instead of knee-deep powder of the highest quality, we are now thinking about looking for spring snow!

It’s incredible just how quickly conditions can change in the mountains, and not just change but drastically change! Everything from piste conditions, avalanche risk, off-piste snow conditions, the exit to the Gorge du Malpasset and more can become unrecognisable from one day to the next.    

On Friday the sun was shining and with conditions changing rapidly we had a really good ski up at the Fornet as we ‘skinned’ to the Glacier Pers.

The snow was wind and heat compressed but still skied nicely and I thought it was a pretty good result. Normally this winter I’d ski to the bottom and exit through the Gorge du Malpasset but because the avalanche risk was still 4/5 on the lower part of the mountain and we’d had a minimum freeze, I didn’t want to risk going through the gorge. The steep slopes above on either side were still loaded with snow and being avalanched from above while in the gorge would be a disaster.  

We needed to ‘skin’ up to and ski down the Grand Torsai to avoid the gorge, but the Grand Torsai was in a dreadful state with chopped up frozen tracks and bumps so I skied around it through a sneaky passage where the snow was smooth and much easier to negotiate.

I call it my ‘funky’ route, or the’ non-touristic route’ because it’s quite well hidden, pretty atmospheric as it skirts the cliffs, needs good steady skiers and the right conditions to be able to do it. (We came across a couple of beautiful Perdrix Blanche in our path here and managed to get a photo of one - see above).

Fortunately it was much colder on Friday night, so the good re-freeze stabilised to the lower slopes and the avalanche risk came down to 3/5. The powder was really drying up at this stage, but we had good skiing on lightly supporting north-facing spring snow on the Little Lavachet (on the way into Tignes) and then a pitch of powder in the Sachette before skiing spring snow to the bottom. 

Usually we’d ski the sunny-side where the snow transforms to spring snow first, but the southern slopes had channels or rivulets formed by running water due to the heat and they weren’t smooth enough to ski. I skied gentle north facing slopes instead, which were perfectly smooth and still had a wintry texture on the surface. It was all a bit of an unusual set of conditions but it worked out well and we had a great morning.

It was cloudy Saturday night so we didn’t get a good re-freeze and with high thin cloud cover we lacked some visibility on Sunday morning making for trickier off-piste conditions. I had new clients so we headed back to the Sachette, which I knew would work and en-route skied some of the best piste of the season on the way into Tignes. The northern-facing pistes into Tignes were absolutely perfect with a lovely winter texture and they were ‘pool-table’ smooth.

The north-facing pistes are still excellent first thing in the morning at the moment, especially higher up the mountain, while the sunnier slopes can be a little icy because they get so slushy during the day and then re-freeze at night and those really wet slopes are harder for the piste machines to regenerate the snow. 

As the season progresses and the sun gets higher in the sky, it gets trickier to hit the pistes at just the right time to avoid either ice first thing in the morning or slush as the day wears on. I’ll do an update in April about ways to make your skiing more pleasant once the melt-freeze cycle is affecting all the slopes.

There was a nasty accident on Saturday when a free-rider skied off small cliff in the Vallonnet and suffered severe spinal injuries. He was rescued flown out by helicopter direct to hospital and I haven’t heard how he is doing.

Sunshine is forecast for the next five days and if you’ve come looking for last week’s powder, sorry but you’ve missed it. But, we should have a stunning week of weather with fantastic piste skiing and hopefully some brilliant spring snow off-piste. Have a great week, don’t forget the Killer Beez Tuesday night at the Petit Danois and Mike and Ritchie Friday night at the Moris Pub, and look out for another update next 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.


Location: Val d'Isere Region



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