It’s snowing again!!

First blog post in a while.  Sorry.

Guess I kind-of got distracted and forgot…  …for a couple of years.

Anyhow.

It’s snowing.
Right now.
At chalet level.
18:53 Tuesday the 28th of February 2017..

and despite the drought across the French Alps this season, we are still ski in, and ski out.

Fantastic! and there will be powder around later this week…

New Vallée Blanche video

Long time no blog posts.  However, this is because we’ve been pretty much flat out with guests this Winter….

We’ve had one of our best seasons so far – fantastic snow, and we’ve had some wonderful guests through the chalet again.  Hopefully made some good friends too…

I bought a Go-Pro camera back in December and have been out a few times with it.

In January, we skied the Vallée Blanche with our guests, John and his wife, Kathy, together with James Kaler, our trusted ski guide and instructor, and took the camera along with us.

What a day!
Amazingly clear, blue skies.
Fresh, incredibly deep, virgin powder.
Bonus! Precious few people had been down the route before us – so we had LOADS of fresh tracks!

It was, however, incredibly cold and windy on the arete…
So cold, in fact, that I even got frost nip on my ears, despite wearing some ear protection thingies…

In all the time that I have lived in Chamonix, I have never experienced powder snow as deep as it was this day…

Awesome.  Watch and enjoy!

 

Ski season begins this Saturday

Fantastic news!!  It has been dumping snow hard here in Chamonix the last few days, and there’s more snow on its way.

As a consequence, both Les Houches and Grands Montets are opening from this Saturday 8th December…

Also, we are still number 1 on Tripadvisor for specialty lodging in Les Houches.
We’re thrilled at both and are looking forward eagerly to our first ski of the year!

Come and help us celebrate!

If you fancy a little pre-Christmas get-away, we are offering mulled wine, Christmas cheer, and a special early season deal.

 

Just 120 euros per person per night.
Three night minimum.
Come any dates from Friday 14th December through to Sunday 23rd !!
We can arrange transfers for 50 euros return (during normal hours).
Limited availability.

 

Also, we have two remaining places for New Year week.  Normally 1,497 euros, we are offering these at a third off!!
Save 499 euros!  Now only 998 euros!!

This includes Geneva airport transfers, and a gala SEVEN course banquet on New Year’s Eve, followed by free-flowing Champagne and fireworks at midnight!
So, Merry Christmas! And bon ski!

 

Oops! Our second worst nightmare comes true…

We experienced one of our worst nightmares the other day: we discovered we’d taken a double booking.
We’re only human after all, and mistakes can happen.

Luckily we discovered it before we had two sets of guests arriving on the front door step. (that would be our worst nightmare!)

So the question is, how do we handle this nightmarish situation and still end up with two sets of satisfied guests?

Well…  It is actually quite simple, but hurts financially.
The people that booked first get to know nothing about it….

And the people that booked second get their money back together with a FREE ski holiday for their family later in the season!

I think they were happy with that!

Financial a big ouch for us, but it’s better than us losing our reputation!

Now there’s a long healthy look at our processes to ensure this never happens again….

ps. it looks like the snow will arrive on Thursday!!!

Preparations for the coming Winter ski season

On Sunday, we hosted a dinner party for friends.
What a wonderfully delightful opportunity to trial new recipes for Winter!!!

Helen spent the day in the kitchen preparing different foods, gutting pigeons and preparing two types of stock…
I spend the morning preparing the Pepper Ice cream for dessert…

Dinner was…

Salmon mi-cuit in vanilla and star anise oil with Parsnip purée…  The salmon was gorgeous.  We cook it in flavoured olive oil at 35-40°c for about 40 minutes..   When done right, the salmon almost looks uncooked as it comes out really pink and incredibly moist.  By cooking it at that temperature, none of the oils in the fish cook or congeal, so the fish retains its moisture and colour, and the texture – well, the fish falls apart.  Very succulent…  The parsnip purée was prepared by simmering parsnips in milk, then puréeing them with lots of cream and a dash of s&p.  Delicious, light and very tasty!

Roasted pigeon breasts with caramelised figs and pigeon jus, on a bed of spiced red cabbage with Swede sautéed with sage.   This took a lot of effort – hence Helen preparing two stocks from scratch, spending nearly an hour gutting fresh pigeons… However, once the stocks are prepped (and can be frozen for the future), the actual cooking of the pigeon is only 6 minutes!  It was simply delicious!!  Not sure what most people think about eating pigeon meat though??  What do you think?  Unfortunately, the swede was a little bit disappointing and not at all like normal.  The previous times that we have sautéed swede with sage, it was delicious – however this time, it was a little bitter.  I think it was because we used a frying pan instead of our deep heavy-based pot (which was full of stock at the time!).  This meant that some of the cubes of swede were not nicely covered in that layer of melted butter that helps brings out their sweetness, and they dry-fried instead…. Lesson learned.

Followed by…   Individual peach tatins with caramel sauce and Pepper ice cream.   Sweet.  The risk with the pepper ice cream is either adding too much pepper and having it too strong – or too little and it is a very plain ice cream.   When ice cream freezes, the flavour actually gets less intense.  It was good, but next time, I think I’ll up the quantities of pepper just a little….  It is the pepperiness of the ice cream that offsets the sweetness of the peaches which become sticky and gooey in the oven.  Also, I think we’ll up the glaze on the puff pastry for added sweetness.

If that gets you salivating, fantastic!
Sadly we were too busy with our guests to photo the food.  Sorry.

Preparations are well and truly underway for this coming ski season…
We are renovating the “green” room this autumn. The room has been completely stripped, skirting boards ripped off,  and Helen is upstairs right now busy painting it yellow and “cutting in”. I call this “doing the edges”!

Rough-cut wood was ordered from the mill yesterday for a rustic pine headboard, just like in the other two rooms on that floor. I’ll wizzy-brush that to bring out the texture of the wood and create it’s unique style.
New heavy-weight rich red curtains have been sewn in keeping with the alpine style and our other rooms.

We have a small issue though…
With three rooms now painted yellow, it seems a bit daft to keep calling them the blue, green and yellow rooms….
(and could be slightly confusing at first for Robert, our new chalet assistant, who will be joining us in December).

We were thinking about naming them after famous skiers….   Anselme Baud, Glen Plake, de Benedetti,  McConkey, and Vallençant…

Thoughts?

We are undertaking some modifications in some of the bathrooms too.
New custom-sized mirrors have been cut by the local glazier and we are planning some lovely, thick, distressed pine frames aged to fit in with that alpine chalet feel.  They should look good!

Roll on the snow and the start of the ski season!

Chamonix events: Fireworks with Les Commandos Percu

Chamonix has been in the global news because of the tragic avalanche that took 9 lives on Mont Maudit a couple of days ago.

The day after, we were bombarded with people asking if we were ok, what the news was.
Thankfully none of us, our friends or people we know were caught up in the tragedy.
Plus, luckily, it appears that no-one who lives in the valley was killed in the avalanche.

Events like that do serve to highlight how this beautiful valley can be deadly when you least expect it.
Our thoughts go out to those suffering loss as a result.

However life always moves on — and this week has held one of the highlights of the Chamonix calendar:  the annual World Cup Climbing competition here in Chamonix.

The “Best of the Best” climbers battle it out – head-to-head in the speed competition,  and also in the technical difficulty which is measured in metres up an over-hanging wall with ever increasing levels of difficulty….

Despite the rain, the final was last night and AGAIN, we are blown away by the sheer athleticism of these amazing individuals.
An aerial ballet – plus the delight when they fall OFF the wall as they reach the expression of the peak of their ability.

This was followed by a percussion band.  But no ordinary percussion band.

This was “Les Commandos Percu”!

6 guys.
Dressed as commandos.
Creating a trance-like almost tribal experience.
with fireworks!

very cool!

Les Commandos Percu – Chamonix 13th June 2012

 

Actually, in the immortal words of Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, “Frakking Awesome!”

Chamonix in Summer 2012 – Our what’s on, not-to-be-missed guide….

Chamonix is idyllic in Summer.

The snows have melted back.  The alpine pastures are green and full of wild flowers.
The alpinists are climbing, the hikers hiking…
…and the skies are full of paragliders circling in the thermic air and Chamonix town bustles with life as tourists flock here in their tens of thousands.

Helen walking in the mountains with the Aiguille du Midi behind

For people who only know Chamonix as a Winter ski resort, they might be surprised to learn that there are actually MORE people in Chamonix in Summer than in Winter!

Like any town bustling with life, there are a whole HOST of things going on for people to enjoy and experience…

So, if you haven’t got any plans for summer yet, then you are always welcome to visit Chamonix!  For a week or a weekend, we have space available in July and August.

Every Wednesday morning at 9:30, discover the history of Les Houches at “Les Chavants, 15,000 years of history”…  Trace the last glaciation, agriculture of yesterday, the first tourists…” Registration 4€ from the tourist office in Les Houches.

Every Thursday, there are guided tours around Chamonix town for 7 euros.  Discover the history of Chamonix and its secrets.

The Festival of Baroque runs from the 6th July to the 20th!  In honour of Johann Sebastien Bach, there will be a series of 13 concerts in churches throughout the Pays du Mont Blanc.  Information here: http://www.festivalmontblanc.fr  Listen to Bach in the church in Chamonix on Sunday 8th 20:15 at the Eglise St. Michel, then choirs in Servoz on Tuesday 10th, and Vivaldi and Bach in Les Houches on the Friday 13th 21hrs 22€ on the door. 20€ from the tourist offices in advance.

 

We are especially looking forward to the World Cup Climbing competition – between Wednesday 11 and Friday 13th July, the best climbers battle it out right in the centre of town on a 15 metre high, artificial climbing wall.  Both the technical difficulty and head-to-head speed climbing competitions are equally impressive.  Should be just us and 17,000 other spectators for the final!

This is followed immediately on the Friday 13th July night at 23:00hrs by the Fireworks spectacular!!  For the last 17 years, the company, “Commandos Percu” have been combining percussion with pyrotechnics!  This promises to be quite the best fireworks in Chamonix in a long while.  Original, audacious and surprising!  The post-climbing fireworks are normally SPECTACULAR, so this promises to be quite an event!

Then, more fireworks in Les Houches on Saturday 14th July to celebrate the cutting-off of heads of various French aristocrats a couple hundred years ago…

 

The Chamonix tourist office is celebrating its 100 years with free guided visits, from mon-thurs 16-19 July at 10h, as well as an exhibition of photos of Chamonix 100 years ago. We also have the  Ciné Concerts Tues 17/Fri 20 July and 11/12 August  at 18 & 20h –  a montage of old cinematography (the first fimed ascent of Mont Blanc) accompanied live by talented musicians playing the music of the period (Gershwin, Wagner, Strauss and Rossini!). 18€

 

Not to be missed!  Tuesday 24th July to Sunday 29th July, Chamonix plays host to the Cosmo Jazz Festival – organised by André Manoukian (the French equivalent of Simon Cowell!!).  During the day, you hike the mountains of Chamonix valley and get  to listen to the free Jazz concerts at altitude!   Then, there are more free concerts in the bars and restaurants throughout Chamonix starting in the early evenings.  Superb!   http://www.cosmojazzfestival.com

Béatrice Hombourger performs on the violin with a programme of Massenet, Beethoven, and Maskowsky on the Tuesday 31st July at 18h at le Temple, Place de la Gare.

 

The Fêtes des Guides  starts on the 12th August up in Lavancher, in Les Houches on the 13th, and culminates in Chamonix on the Wednesday 15th August.  The guides festival takes place every year at Les Gaillands starting at 15:00 – with demonstrations of Tyrolienne and Slacklining, acro paragliding with Baptiste Rousset at 18:30, concerts from 20h and the Sound and Light spectacle at 21h30. €13.

 

The Chamonix Adventure Festival runs from the 20th to 26th August –  screening adventure films in Chamonix and Les Houches, and offering courses on adventure photography and videography.

 

Finally on the 31st August, we have the Ultratrail du Mont Blanc.  Cheer 2,300 runners taking on a 166 km course with 9,500 metres of UP!   The runners come through Les Houches at about 19hrs – we have Edgar playing in the centre of the village together with a giant tartiflette!  The time to beat is 20h 05  set by Dawa Sherpa in 2003!    Run, Kilian Jornet, Run!  The man is a machine!  The ‘Usain Bolt‘ of Ultramarathons!

 

So…  that is just a taster of what’s going in on Chamonix this summer –  Our selection from all the events that are going on.
and of course, we still have some of the best walking, hiking, climbing, and mountaineering in Europe on our doorstep….

It promises to be a fun-packed, action-filled summer here… and if you have the opportunity, we would highly recommend coming to Chamonix for a bit of a break away this summer!

Recommended ski computer for iPhone: Ski Tracks

One of the loveliest things about the iPhone is the selection of applications that enhance it’s functionality.

Consequently I have tested a few ski computers, and have found one that I personally like and would recommend, called “Ski Tracks” which, I believe is truly amazing value at about 60 pence!

It is easy to use with lots of fantastic features, a great user interface, and loads of interesting information on your skiing….

– Maximum speed, maximum slope angle, distance you skied, vertical distance you skied…

– Plus, it can play your music whilst you ski..

– Keeps track of photos that you take on the slopes

– Tracks your progress on the mountain using the iPhone’s GPS (and allows you to play back your ski journey of the day with Google Maps)

– Enables you to share your ski tracks on Facebook

Ski Tracks: Ski computer

– You can name and view your data for the full day

Graphical display of speed and altitude

– or for each individual ski run…

Data details

All in all, I am most impressed by this app and would definitely recommend it to the gadget guru skier who wants some interesting stats on their skiing!

What’s missing? What would be nice would be some kind of automatic naming feature that recognised the names of each lift/run and names it accordingly…  Maybe the next version, heh?

Fun off-piste in powder in Les Houches!! [video]

This January, Chamonix has received more snow than any January since 1967.
Over two metres 10cms fell in just one night in Argentière a week or so back.

So, when yet another 40cms of snow fell yesterday at chalet level, and with visibility greatly reduced throughout the valley, Helen and I chose to ski our own backyard: to explore the off-piste possibilities in Les Houches.

In Chamonix, most people head up to Grands Montets when there are powder snow conditions – which unfortunately means it also gets tracked out very quickly.

Instead, we sometimes go searching for the interesting and excellent little routes and lines that can be had in Les Houches.

Les Houches is so under-rated for off-piste skiing, but it holds some superb hidden gems….

This is one of our favourite spots for off-piste here: down through the trees over by the Grand Bois button lift.
This year has seen SO much snow fallen that it is thigh-deep in places – and today was simply exceptional.