The sun continued to feature until Thursday when we awoke to grey skies, which translates to flat-light, -17C on the summit of Bellevarde, a strong northerly wind to make it feel even colder, and worse than all that, only 1cm of fresh snow!
I was hoping to write a ‘dump alert’, but one would need an incredible imagination to stretch it that far! Still, with the wind there will be a few centimetres in the gullies and on certain slopes in the lee, so it’s better than nothing. We were expecting another chance of a few flakes later in the week but I’ve just checked the Meteo France forecast and all the snowflakes have disappeared, so the wait continues. (My daughter promises me that it will still snow a few flakes on Saturday night and again next Tuesday night so fingers crossed!)
The skiing has been jolly good however and so far I’ve really enjoyed the season, and all our clients have been pleasantly surprised at how good the skiing has been, both on and off-piste. A client emailed me yesterday to say he ran into a friend at the airport who hadn’t done any skiing at all on his trip! What we’ve had due to lack of snow and strong winds are slopes of soufflé, which is wind-blown snow that supports and when it’s smooth and chalky is fantastic to ski.
Because the avalanche risk has been 1-out-of-5 for the past three weeks we’ve been able to ski steep slopes that we don’t normally go near because of avalanche danger, and we wait until the spring to ski these slopes when the snowpack has stabilised. But the avalanche risk that we normally have at this time of year has been replaced by the danger of people falling and sliding because these steep slopes of soufflé are very slippery. If someone falls and doesn’t react immediately to stop themselves they are off and it’s frightening how quickly they’re doing 80 to 100km/h, and they’ll slide until the bottom or until they collide with something en-route. You have the same danger of ‘sliders’ on spring snow and it’s very important to chose slopes with a good ‘reception-zone’ and without obstacles such as rock, trees, or cliffs below. It’s quite scary leading groups in these conditions and perhaps more nerve-racking than skiing in powder when there is a risk of avalanche. (Another time I'll write about the Giles Green Self-Arrest Technique, which is a method of stopping yourself once you’ve fallen on a steep slope.)
I must confess to giving you some incorrect information on the last update. I warned of big crowds this week and in fact it has been pretty quiet. Normally we have two very busy weeks over the Christmas and New Year period, but because of Christmas falling on a Sunday we only had one week of huge crowds to endure. That’s great for skiers and snowboarders alike, although not so good for the bars, hotels and restaurants!
The weekend is forecast to be colder but the sun should return to lighten the mood. Dress up warmly with an extra layer or two and have something handy to cover your face with because if you’re subjected to the wind any bare skin will be frostbitten! Have a great weekend and stay tuned for another update on Monday!
Follow more from Wayne in his Daily Diary.
NB. 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