I was reminded of my Canadian upbringing this week as we’ve had a seriously cold snap that made me feel right at home, and cold weather like that is something that I don’t miss at all! Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were all around -18 to -20C but what really made it chilly was the strong foehn wind that was quite brutal.
(In Canada it gets down to -30C, which is significantly colder than what we've just experienced and one of the reasons I love skiing in Europe!) We managed to stay in the sun as much as possible and away from the wind in sheltered areas, and we had a pretty good week of skiing. The Fornet was a no-go-zone this week and we did quite a few short ‘skins’ to stay warm, but when it started to warm up on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday it was very welcome. (I wore my neoprene boot covers for five days and finally took them off on Wednesday afternoon. They are fantastic against the cold and I should have added them to the ‘tips for cold weather skiing’ in the last update!)
The cold weather affects the snow quite drastically and makes it feel very sticky. Your skis just don’t want to glide and you end up walking and pushing and working much harder on gentle slopes or trails that you might normally glide along quite nicely with a gentle push on the poles. The cold makes pivoting the skis much more difficult as well and waxing your skis doesn’t really help. In fact there is an old saying, "the best wax is no wax!" It was difficult to teach in the afternoon because you couldn’t do slow exercises or stand around and explain things so on Wednesday afternoon when it finally warmed up and the wind dropped it was a pleasure to get back out and teach.
Last week we had the winds coming from the north to northwest, which left some wonderful snow on the eastern and southern slopes. This works out beautifully when you have a cold snap because the good snow is in the sun and we profited for a couple of days with some fantastic powder skiing. But unfortunately the wind turned and a fierce foehn wind (southerly wind) started to blow and the foehn damaged much of the beautiful snow we were enjoying on the sunny-side of the mountain, and that has made conditions much tougher for us off-piste these past few days. Still, we’re finding some good snow to ski but this entire winter so far as been one of limited options and although we’ve enjoyed some brilliant skiing we have had our work cut out for us.
On the bright side, the sun has been shining all week long and holiday-makers are having a brilliant time, just like they’ve had all winter. I can’t remember so much day-after-day sunshine for a very long time, and I must say it has been wonderful to wake up almost every morning to clear blue skis. The sunshine isn’t too hard to take and with the pistes in magnificent condition and with the resort being fairly quiet it has been another great week around the Espace Killy.
The sun is expected to shine Friday and Saturday followed by a cloudy day on Sunday, but unfortunately no snow is forecast. Enjoy those quiet pistes over the weekend and stay tuned for another update with photos on Monday morning!
P.S. After ‘skinning’ up today I skied the first pitch and then went to dig out my camera only to find it missing. I’d missed my pocket after taking photos at the top and my camera slid down under my clothes and into the snow. I realised what must have happened so I climbed back up to where we’d taken off our ‘skins’ and fortunately found my camera sitting in the snow, exactly where I’d left it! Thankfully it wasn’t a 100-turn pitch so it only took five-minutes to walk back up but it would have been difficult to update photos without a camera!
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 - Centre