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

 

Christmas Dinner 2011

As we had guests from Singapore and the United States this year, we celebrated our main Christmas Dinner on the 24th – Christmas Eve – like the French do. As usual, it was a seven course gala affair and a lot of fun…

 

The Lees' and Bretts' at Christmas

 

  • Pan-fried Foie Gras on toasted brioche, with miniature Amaretto jellies and a selection of homemade chutneys
  • Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Cucumber Brunoise and Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream
  • Tiger Prawns flambéed in Pastis with its herbed butter sauce
  • Homemade Rosé and Raspberry Sorbet refresher
  • Freerange Roast Turkey – served with Chestnut stuffing, Goose-fat roasted potatoes, Parmasan parsnips, Carrots sautéed in Honey and Ginger, Green beans wrapped in bacon, with Bread and Cranberry sauces and Gravy…
  • Cognac-laced Christmas Pudding served with homemade Cinnamon Ice Cream
  • Blue Stilon cheese served with Port
  • Coffee and homemade chocolate truffles

I personally love the look we get when people realise we are serving Mustard Ice Cream.  It is classic.

The idea of Mustard Ice Cream sounds very bizarre I know, but the flavour combination of the Red Cabbage soup with the ice cream is simply delicious.  Also, as it uses wholegrain mustard, the ice cream is not as strongly flavoured as you might imagine, but has a more subtle kick to it…  As savoury ice creams go, I think it is a winner!

I also love the richness of colour of the Rosé and Raspberry sorbet… which just coincidentally matched the red Christmas underplates brilliantly! No planning there… No, really! 😉

Homemade Rosé and Raspberry Sorbet

Everything was spot on.  Timings were good.  The free-range turkey was lovely – wonderfully flavoursome and moist.  I hate dried Turkey breast meat that many places serve, instead, this was simply gorgeous.  We actually cook the Turkey upside down to help maintain the moisture in the breast, and then turn it near the end to brown the meat.

We do not normally get to photograph our food as we are typically too busy concentrating on cooking and serving it – so we are very grateful to Yih San for all the photos that he took.  I feel they really capture the mood, vibrancy and colours!

 

Christmas Turkey dinner

I also love Helen’s table decorations.  It is all the multitude of little things that go to make up a truly wonderful experience…

 

Autumn is here in Chamonix….

Autumn has arrived in Chamonix.

It has arrived quite quickly and approximately three weeks earlier than previous years… The trees are now glorious shades of yellows, orange and brown…  The snowline is falling – although the forecast was for snow down to 1400 metres the other day, I think the snowline is nearer 1800!

This shot was taken from central Chamonix of the Aiguilles…

View of the Aiguilles from Chamonix town

View of the Aiguilles from Chamonix town

Judging from the snow and early Autumn, it looks like my forecast for a great early start to the ski season could be right….

View from the Chalet towards Montenvers

View from the Chalet towards Montenvers - the Dru in the Clouds

New Years Day

Here in Chamonix, when we have English guests, we get to celebrate New Year twice – once on French time, and then again an hour later…

But one of the best features of New Years Day is HOW empty the pistes are…  especially in the morning when all are nursing their hang-overs

This year on New Year’s day, the weather was simply spectacular…. the most amazing blue skies….  Low level clouds in the valley below…
We enjoyed skiing in Les Houches with friends, and I couldn’t resist taking a few photos…

Looking towards the Dôme du Goûter and the Glacier de Bionnassay

Looking towards the Dôme du Goûter and the Glacier de Bionnassay

 

Aiguillette des Houches and the Chamonix valley

Aiguillette des Houches and the Chamonix valley

Looking at the Aravis range above the clouds

Looking at the Aravis range above the cloudsThe Fiz mountain range

Another beautiful day – plus Prarion lift opens tomorrow…

Chamonix valley looks absolutely wonderful today yet again… 

Just 400 metres down the piste from the chalet, the Prarion lift is due to open tomorrow – which is excellent news. The pistes have already been open now for two weeks!!

Snow-covered trees and the Aiguille Vert behind

Snow-covered trees and the Aiguille Vert behind

Aiguille Vert (taken from the chalet)

Aiguille Vert (taken from the chalet)

Hot tub with the Aiguille du Midi behind it.

Hot tub with the Aiguille du Midi behind it.

Snow-covered trees with the Aigulle du Midi in the background

Snow-covered trees with the Aigulle du Midi in the background

Picnic benches covered in powder

Picnic benches covered in powder

Beautiful day, beautiful sunset!

It is on days such as today, with crystal clear skies, and with the mountains and trees around all coated in fresh white snow, that Chamonix truly impresses upon me just HOW lucky we are to be living here.

Our guests come for a week – maybe two – and are delighted by the scenery.
But even Helen and I, who live here all year, still get our breath taken away by the staggering beauty of the place…

Sunset on the Fiz mountain range

Sunset on the Fiz mountain range

Close up of the Fiz at sunset

Close up of the Fiz at sunset

The Mont Blanc massif - and Aiguille Vert - going into sunset

The Mont Blanc massif - and Aiguille Vert - going into sunset

These glowing embers of fire and ice that warm the soul and stoke ones heart.

These glowing embers of fire and ice that warm the soul and stoke ones heart.

Woken up to a beautiful morning

The snow stopped falling yesterday afternoon. This morning we woke up to an absolutely beautiful day. 100% clear skies. Cold. Crisp. Simply beautiful…

Chamonix is simply amazing on such days. The precipitation removes any air pollution, and you can see for simply miles! On such mornings, I can’t wait to get the camera out…

Panorama showing the Fiz mountain range - taken from the Master bathroom

Panorama showing the Fiz mountain range - taken from the Master bathroom

Chamonix valley looking towards the Aiguille Vert - from the Master bedroom

Chamonix valley looking towards the Aiguille Vert - from the Master bedroom

View showing the blue piste and Chamonix valley

View showing the blue piste and Chamonix valley

Close up of the house decorations

Close up of the house decorations