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!

 

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.

Bluebird day off-piste on Grands Montets

We are SO lucky to live here in Chamonix valley.
Every now and again, we get to experience conditions that are simply PERFECT for great ski days.

Take yesterday, for instance.
It was one of those bluebird days with not a cloud in the sky.  We headed up to Les Grands Montets, one of the five ski stations in Chamonix valley which is world-renowned for its acres and acres of off-piste terrain, and found it virtually empty.

It would have been simply rude not to have taken advantage of this by heading up to the very top.

Normally there is a long queue for the top station, but yesterday, we were lucky and scarcely waited.

Here’s a little local’s tip: The buvette at the top of the lift station at the very top of Grands Montets serves potentially the best Croûte Forestière in Chamonix valley.  Perhaps it is the altitude. Perhaps it is the method.  I don’t know.  But over the past few years, we have consistently enjoyed this simple Savoyard meal here.  Fresh bread, a heaping of creamy mushrooms, topped with a slice of ham and a handful of grated cheese, add a swig of white wine and a pouring of fresh cream and bake for a few minutes to melt the cheese and wine down to a gorgeous, creamy, sticky consistency.  Absolutely delicious at 3230 metres above sea level.

Sustainance applied, Helen, Tim (Helen’s nephew) and myself stumbled down the 30-odd metres of metal steps (ski boots and steps are rarely a gainly combination) to the snow, where leaving the pistes behind, we headed out onto the untracked Glacier d’Argentière for our descent.

Please note that we would not recommend this route to our guests or people who do not know the area without a guide. This is glaciated terrain, and just a few metres past the rope marking the piste, you ski on snow bridges over hidden crevasses. Last year, a guide died here when the snow bridge he was on collapsed, so it can be deadly terrain.

Helen and Tim on the Glacier d'Argentière

Okay. Warning aside, the Glacier d’Argentière is staggeringly beautiful.  We were virtually the sole people skiing the top half, skiing open patches of perfect powdery snow, carefully finding the route, avoiding those place we know there are crevasses, before dropping down amongst the towering seracs and icefalls.

Once we’d dropped onto the main body of the glacier, we were joined by a few other skiers taking the same route out.

Helen skiing the crowded glaciated terrain

Sadly, we only had time of one top bin, but we quickly skirted over to the Bochard lift to grab a last descent down the Lavancher bowl.  Again, awesome conditions with lovely soft snow….

View from Lavancher towards Brévent

View towards the Aiguilles Rouges

We arrived back down at the Pendant lift just before it closed.  Just as the liftie was pushing the seats up on chairlift.

All in all, one spectacular memorable day!

Helen and Tim

 

One of our best ski days ever…

Every now and then, there comes a ski day which stands out WAY more than all the others. For me, it typically it involves vast quantities of powder snow….

I remember approximately two years back, skiing down one of the faces of the Brevent ski area in Chamonix in waist-deep powder. We did that run three times that day, and not a single set of our tracks crossed.  Amazing.

Well, yesterday, Helen, myself and a couple of friends skipped through to Courmayeur. It is a small ski town, the other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel from Chamonix. A mere 30 minutes drive away.

We soon found ourselves at the top of the Arp lift – the very top of the mountain where there are no ski pistes at all… facing a huge off-piste descent back to Courmayeur town. Sadly, the visibility was not so great, but with the lift behind us closing for lunch, our avalanche transceivers bleeping, we set off…

After a seriously steep entry down a powder-covered icy slope – great practice for jump turns! – we soon found ourselves the only skiers left on the mountain, and emerged into the most amazing valley.  Waist-deep powder that stretched on for miles!  I have never experienced powder this consistently good.

[ed note:] it might have transformed into boiler plate by now – the mere location does not necessarily guarantee great powder!

Simply WOW!

 

Off-piste in powder in Courmayeur

Off-piste in powder in Courmayeur

 

 

A bit further on, the valley opened up and we found ourselves tracking down through pine trees – following narrow paths through the trees – yet still the snow was simply incredible – soft, easy to ski.   The path weaved past summer chalets with a metre of snow covering their roofs.   Down gullies with huge (soft!) moguls, dodging the over-laiden snow-covered branches of pine trees hanging in our way…

 

Yes - the route drops down through the gap in the trees

Yes - the route drops down through the gap in the trees

 

 

The photos truly don’t do justice to this route…  (taken by iphone rather than my usual camera)

… An hour and a half later, we emerged from the forest straight into Courmayeur village.   Legs tired.   Adrenaline pumping.   Ecstatic!

(shortly followed by a quick tele-cabin ride straight up to the Maison Vieille – one of the best restaurants on the mountain for pasta and bombardinos!)