Wayne's Daily Diary

Wayne Watson

Wayne's photos

29 January 2015
The snow has arrived and is still falling!

The snow arrived during the night and we started off with 15 to 20cm’s to play with, but in protected areas there was a good 30 to 40cm’s, and with no delay in the opening all the teams had a superb morning. Andreas, Thomas and Henry started off towards the Fornet while Chris, TJ and I chose Bellevarde, and it was a ‘maximum-turn’ morning of high quality. (See photos) Blimey, it was good! Unfortunately Dave H hurt his knee getting off the Lanches chair and injured it badly enough to be carted off the mountain by the pisteurs. What a bummer!

I must say how impressed I am with Geoff D’s new knees. He has two artificial joints and is skiing like a demon. I also witnessed his ‘splat of the season’ last year and watched him bounce back up, dust himself off, and carry on! Cheers to modern medicine!

Our afternoon with the school children was cancelled so Andreas, Thomas, Chris, TJ and I had lunch together, which doesn’t happen very often these days and it was nice to have a little ‘social’.

It’s still snowing and we are definitely heading towards an important snowfall that will help set up the rest of the winter. Bring it on!

I must run as I want to go up and see how Dave is doing. What a shame as he’s a great skier and loves every minute of it. These chairlift accidents are quite common so always pay attention when getting off a chair, especially if it’s fully loaded!

And happy birthday to Chris and Grandpa Fred. Many happy returns to you both!

28 January 2015
A perfect day before the storm!

Wow, what a day! As we await snow over the next four or five days accompanied by wind, and of course flat light, everyone was pumped to have a beautifully sunny day before the storm. All the teams made the most of the window of opportunity and everyone had a glorious day. Andreas and Henry returned to the Col des Fours for a spectacular ski, while Thomas and TJ chose the Glacier Pers and were rewarded with fantastic snow, and Chris and I had a brilliant ski on the Crete du Genepy. (I forgot my camera again but it was similar to Chris’ photos that were posted on Facebook yesterday, and perhaps even better)

I had a lovely afternoon skiing with Gill and the girls, although it did cloud over leaving us in flat light. We skied a nice mix of piste and off-piste and I did manage some photos!

We are now hoping that forecasted storm will arrive and we’ll receive enough snow to purge the mountain and start setting us up for the rest of the winter. With so little snow up until now we’ll need a couple of good storms before the melt process begins. Fingers crossed!

John D mentioned how much he enjoyed the beeper training yesterday afternoon and how useful it was. He’s planning on recruiting some of his mates to do a session when they return later in the winter as it made him realise how important thorough training really is. Andreas will try to run weekly Tuesday afternoon sessions when possible throughout the winter so do try to attend a session on your next visit.

Hopefully we’ll have some good news about the snowstorm tomorrow.

PS The avalanche risk for tomorrow is 4/5, and it hasn’t snowed a flake yet!

27 January 2015
Tuesday afternoon beep sessions!

It was a funny mix today of beautiful sunshine that had everyone oohhing and aahhing and fog that had everyone slightly in defensive-mode. There was also a strong north-westerly wind blowing, which turned out to be a factor for those heading to the Fornet. My plan was for a little ‘skin’ to the Crete du Genepy to shelter ourselves from the wind but that sector was in a fog and enough new snow had blown in overnight to give us some options so I headed to the Sache via the Lower Borsat. Some nice snow had blown into the Borsat but the Upper Sache was a little scratchy, although we were in full sunshine, which made it much easier. The middle slopes were excellent and skied beautifully before we dropped back into a fog for the way out. We then finished off the morning with a very good Familial, half in full sunshine and half in a fog! (See photos) Chris was in the neighbourhood as was Andreas, who skied the Chardonnet as well. TJ and Thomas headed to the Fornet but needed to turn back due to the wind with Thomas skiing off the Motte and I haven’t heard from TJ.

Chris and I were doing our community service this afternoon with the four-year-old school children. Blimey, they’re a handful but I did manage to get my group into a few centimetres off powder off the Verte!

Andreas and Thomas did a beep search today with the equipment that we bought with David’s fund money, and hopefully it will become a weekly feature on Tuesday afternoons. Olivier felt his life was saved in Greenland due to the teamwork of his clients, all of whom have trained quite extensively over the years. We feel that we should make more of an effort to train our clientele because when it hits the fan there are no second chances, and how many of us are really ready for the challenge?

Stay tune for more skiing news and photos tomorrow.

26 January 2015
Hoping for some sun in the morning!

We were teased with the possibility of some sunshine this morning but we ended up skiing in flat-light for the most part, which didn’t make our jobs any easier. Chris, TJ and I all headed towards the Motte and had some lovely skiing on the Rosolin (100 plus turns worth), the Little Borsat West and the Familial while Andreas started his day with the first Little Lavachet of the season en route to the Grapillon. Meanwhile, Thomas and Henry chose the Fornet and skied the Pays Desert and Grand Vallon.

There is a chance of a few centimetres of snow this afternoon and this evening with the possibility of a little sunshine to help us out in the morning. Sounds promising!

I watched the second half of the West Ham match yesterday and boy, did they make hard work of it. Still, a win is a win and it’s on to the next round! It was an excellent weekend for the competition as all the games were hard fought and everyone loves an upset or five!

25 January 2015
Pretty cold but with high quality snow!

It was jolly cold this morning with -15C on the top of Bellevarde and -17C at the bottom of the Borsat Chair. I took it easy today as the team has been working fairly hard of late and the ten to fifteen centimetres of fresh snow certainly helped, although some places had significantly more snow than others. One bonus to this cold weather is that the snow is ridiculously light and everyone enjoyed the high quality snow again this morning. (See photos as I remembered by camera)

Chris headed back up to the Fornet with his new team and dove over the Col Pers for another good ski. He did get some nice photos from yesterday’s trip to the Crete du Genepy and will post some later. Andreas had a superb ‘skin’ and ski in the Col des Fours while TJ skied in Tignes with Russell. Henry was around the Bellevarde area and Thomas has had the weekend off.

I may sneak out to watch the Hammers FA Cup game, but I do feel nice and warm and cosy, so maybe not!

Hopefully we’ll get some sun in the morning so we can make the most of the day and fingers crossed for the snow on Thursday!

24 January 2015
A lovely change of scenery!

After seven wonderful consecutive days at the Fornet it was time for a change of venue so Chris and I headed up Bellevarde and on to the Crete du Genepy. With it being -16C at the Fornet this morning the Crete is always a good alternative when you want to stay warm and during the walk we all shed several layers. Although the snow wasn’t as deep as up at the Fornet the quality was excellent and everyone enjoyed a great morning. I forgot my camera again but Chris had his big camera with him and took quite a few shots, so everyone in both groups is hoping for a ‘keeper’ or two for their mantelpiece. (Chris is down in Bourg this afternoon so won’t be posting until later.) Meanwhile, Andreas had a new group today so he headed up to the fabulous snow in the Glaciers Pers, and TJ joined him with Craig.

We are being promised (which is always dangerous) a load of snow next Thursday. How much a ‘load’ is remains to be seen but the most optimistic guess so far is two metres. Blimey, I like that one!

Neutral sports fans everywhere will have enjoyed the nil-nil draw between Cambridge and United last night.

And happy birthday Jeremy and congratulations to you and Fay on the birth of your beautiful son Zac.

PS I have posted a few photos of Millie snowboarding this afternoon.

PSS What a thrilling afternoon of upsets in the FA Cup with Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham, and Southhampton all losing. I guess Man U will now be happy with their draw!

23 January 2015
Stunning weather, wonderful snow!

It was a stunning day with beautiful clear blue skies and the entire team headed to the Fornet to make the most of the wonderful snow conditions. Chris and I dove over the Col right away and skied a lovely pitch before ‘skinning’ to the Lechoir, which was fabulous top-to-bottom. It was Jean’s first day back after a two week lay-off due to a chest infection and what a day to return! He was grinning from ear-to-ear and was also very pleased with his new Bonds. And what a day for Michael to finish his 55-day holiday! It’s scary how time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.

There has been a few more avalanches over the past few days and Andreas sent me a photo of one today in the Pays Desert above the cliffs. The accumulation was impressive by the time it arrived at the bottom and it did take out of few tracks. I’ll try to post it on the Photos of the Day.

Thomas tells me that the forecast is for cold weather over the next couple of days before a significant snowfall mid-week. Although the skiing has been brilliant this week the big picture calls for an old fashion storm where we get a couple of metres of snow and the place shuts down. No fun if you’re stuck or trying to travel but we do need some serious snow before the sun starts to heat up and the melting process begins.

22 January 2015
Maybe the best?

Well, if that wasn’t the best morning of the season it wasn’t too far off! We expected some fresh snow in the Fornet because of the east wind and cloud cover yesterday but we didn’t expect as much as 50cm’s of ultra-light powder. It was absolutely stunning and because of the cloud cover and flat-light we had the place to ourselves. Although the visibility wasn’t great there was just enough vis to navigate and ski comfortably, and Thomas, Chris, Andreas and my teams all profited from the fabulous snow and a ‘maximum-turn’ morning. (A 3300 and 3 in the Pays Desert ) It finally cleared around 11:30 and we finished the morning with bright blue skies, which was jolly good fun but won’t do much for tomorrow’s skiing as people will be following tracks this afternoon and the entire sector will be hit hard. Still, what a buzz this morning was and one for the memory bank!

Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos as it was too cold on bare fingers to start with, then my camera froze up and the battery died. Hopefully Thomas, Andreas or Chris will have taken some good shots today, and I know Frans will be posting a video on his Facebook page, so buddy up with Frans if you haven’t already done so!

Three days of blue skies are forecast so what a way for Michael to finish his two-month stint! Stay tuned!

On a terribly sad note, Graham Plant, who has been a regular in Val d’Isere for well over thirty years died peacefully on Tuesday night after a battle with cancer. Graham was a great character who was always jovial with a huge smile on his face. He was extremely positive and always had something nice to say. Graham was courageous until the end and he will be sadly missed by his many friends here in Val, and our hearts go out to his lovely wife Carole at this most difficult time.

PS Great video Frans!

21 January 2015
Great skiing and ambience in the Fornet!

The foehn wind was blowing again today and for the second day in a row we profited from better-than-expected light. Thomas, TJ, Chris and I all headed to the Fornet again as the snow up there is too good to miss, especially when some snow and a fresh canvas is expected by tomorrow. TJ skied the Lechoir while the rest of us continued on to the Glacier Pers, my first of the season, and it was excellent top-to-bottom. (see photos) We were protected from the wind until the Grand Torsai, where the easterly wind intensified turning a calm day into a ‘travelling safely in the mountains’ experience the rest of the way. It was a terrific morning of contrasts with superb snow and great skiing in decent light followed by ferocious winds, flat-light and hang on tight to the bottom! (Andreas had a mixed level group with time restrictions today and I’m not too sure what he skied.)

I had a lovely lunch with Gill, Millie and Katie at the Perdrix this afternoon and I must say it was excellent and very good value. The difference in price between lunch and dinner in this town is quite extraordinary and I can definitely recommend the Perdrix as a lunch venue.

Hopefully the forecasted snow will arrive tonight but it has calmed down this afternoon when we were expecting some snow. Fingers crossed and stay tuned!

PS There were a couple of horrible accidents yesterday. One boarder was seriously injured in a collision around Solaise and was transported to Grenoble, and another boarder was taken in an avalanche in the Cugnai and also ended up in Grenoble.

20 January 2015
What a pleasant surprise!

We had an unexpectedly clear morning today and the entire team headed up to the Fornet to take advantage of the light and the brilliant snow conditions. Andreas and I skied a stunning Tour de Lechoir while Chris continued on for a wonderful Glaciers Pers. TJ took his initiation group over the Col, Henry skied the Col Pers as well and Thomas was also in the neighbourhood.

I’d like to give Dave D a mention for a ‘skier of the morning’ award. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so there isn’t any photographic proof of Dave’s exploits, and I was rather cross with myself because it was a photographer’s paradise this morning. The snow was fantastic, everyone was skiing well and looking their best, the backdrops were spectacular, and there was a mystical light that added to the ambience. (My team wasn’t too pleased with me either because there was an opportunity of some special photos, and everyone enjoys being on camera!) I’m sure Chris will post some photos later as he was snapping away all morning long!

A cloudy day is forecast for tomorrow, but who knows? They certainly had today’s forecast wrong!

19 January 2015
Back to flat-light!

It was back to flat light again today with a light foehn wind that didn’t really feature, and Chris and I headed back up to the Fornet. We ‘skinned’ for ten minutes to access the highest slope in the Pays Desert and then ‘skinned’ again later on to get the big slopes at the bottom. We were lucky with the vis as a ‘light bulb’ hung above us giving us just enough extra light to easily ski and navigate, and the snow is still excellent in that sector. (see photos) Meanwhile, TJ headed to Tignes with his initiation group and they had a great time and did really well considering the flat-light they had to deal with. Thomas was also in Tignes with his group and I haven’t yet had a report.

It was a busy day for the rescue services at the Fornet yesterday. Besides the two avalanches a 41-year-old died in a ‘speed-riding’ accident. (I believe ‘speed-riding’ is when they skim the surface of the snow at high speeds with a parapente.) The man involved hurtled into the rocks and died quickly from his injuries. It makes you realise that some days when it’s tough out there it’s just nice to get everyone back in one piece!

It was a great win for the Hammers yesterday as I watched the second half at the Pacific, and an even better wind for the Gunners. And Michael R was a happy boy this morning as his New England Patriots dismantled the Colts 45-7 in last night’s American League Play-off game!

Unfortunately it cleared up this afternoon, which will aid the trashing of the mountain this afternoon. Bummer!

18 January 2015
Simply glorious!

The sun returned and after a beautiful snowfall yesterday followed by a cold night conditions were absolutely perfect this morning. Andreas and I returned to the Fornet and enjoyed another brilliant day and after yesterday’s flat light it was nice to see the scenery that we missed. My team skied the Combe du Signal, the 3300, the Pays Desert and then finished a stunning morning with a wonderful Col Pers. Andreas’ team skied similar itineraries while Thomas’ team had a great ski in Tignes with the Borsat Nord, Chardonnet, Col du Palet, Cairn, and Familial. Wow, what a morning! (See photos and Facebook)

All I need now to round off a spectacular day would be a Hammers victory over Hull this afternoon. Come on boys, make my day!

Rumour has it we may see some serious snow over the next few days but conditions have improved drastically and if the wind stays away we’re in for some great skiing. Stay tuned!

PS TJ has arrived and is raring to go tomorrow!

PSS There were two guided groups caught in avalanches at the Fornet today, both off the Signal poma. One had two skiers taken in the Combe du Signal (where David was taken) and the second was in the Grand Vallon, out skiers right on the western slopes. No one was killed but the warning lights continue to flash!

17 January 2015
Another wonderful day at the Fornet!

After yesterday’s foehn wind we headed to the Fornet expecting more snow in the sector, and we weren’t let down. The Combe du Signal had 30cm’s or more and the Pissaillas was simply stunning. All the teams had a fantastic morning (see photos and Facebook) and there isn’t too much more you can say about a near-perfect morning, even if the light was pretty flat for the most part.

I also had a great afternoon of technique mixed with initiation with Mark and his lovely wife Jan. Jan is ready to go and will be joining TJ (who arrives tonight!) on Monday with Jenni and Anna.

It snowed most of the day and bright blue skies are forecast for tomorrow, and that adds up to a potential ‘maximum-turn’ morning!

I’ve been really busy and haven’t even checked the football scores yet so I’ll sign off for now!

16 January 2015
The Flying Dutchman!

After yesterday’s superb morning in beautiful sunshine and wonderfully proper powder it was back to reality today as it was overcast with a strong foehn wind blowing, and although a return to the Fornet was tempting, shelter from the wind and better visibility in Tignes won out. Chris, Andreas and I all headed to the Sache via the Lower Borsat and the skiing was much tougher today than a couple of days ago. The upper gullies and slope in the Sache were tricky today, but once off the big slope it was much better skiing, although it was ‘skiers’ snow which needed application but good skiing nontheless. We then finished off a pretty good morning with a decent Familial.

I’d like to mention Frans’ performance this morning as the Dutchman picked up a ‘skier of the morning’ award. He skied very positively with finesse and really showed the snow who’s boss, making the tougher pitches look much easier than they really were. Great effort and top marks Frans! (And well done Tom for a gritty ski as well!)

Dave D and Chris returned from the ‘ill-list’ and really enjoyed being on the mountain again and Andreas had a group of Australian teenagers on their first visit to Val d’Isere, and they thoroughly enjoyed their mountain experience.

It’s very warm in the village at the moment (2 o’clock) with light snow and the forecast is for snow the rest of the day and into the night. Fingers crossed on that one and hopefully the expected high winds won’t be too much of a factor for our skiing tomorrow. Stay tuned! (I forgot my camera today so no new photos posted)

PS Congratulations to my nephew Wils who at 17 passed his driving test at the first attempt. It can’t hurt the love life Wils!

15 January 2015
A window of opportunity!

The sun was shining this morning and with snow and wind forecast to return on Friday there was a window of opportunity to ski at the Fornet. After the fierce wind over the past several days Thomas and I weren’t too sure what we’d find but felt there would be pockets of snow here and there, but the snow was stunning and we enjoyed one of the best mornings of the season. My team opened the Combe du Signal, then the Combe 3300, and when we came back around for another round no one had followed us in. Brilliant! At this stage we met up with Thomas who was just finishing the Pays Desert and together we headed over the Col Pers, which was fantastic top-to-bottom.

Meanwhile Andreas had some new clients and introduced them to the Borsat, Chardonnet, Sache and Familial. Nice one boys! Chris is still off but will hopefully return tomorrow and I’m not too sure what Henry is up to these days. TJ arrives on Saturday so we’re all looking forward to seeing him!

I’d like to give Sue D a mention as she skied brilliantly today. She’s improved enormously over the past few weeks and has gone from being a little rushed and panicky to being relaxed and controlled, and able to side-slip in the powder when needed. I was really impressed with her progress and bravo Sue!

Stay tuned for more news tomorrow as duty calls!

14 January 2015
An adventurous Sache!

Last night’s forecast wasn’t very inspiring and it was a pleasant surprise to open the curtains to 10cm’s or so of fresh snow this morning. In places the accumulation was much more and it made for an excellent morning of skiing. Thomas and I decided on the Sache to shelter ourselves from the wind and we headed that way via a very promising and soft Lower Borsat. It was blowing a hoolie on top of the Aiguille Percee and the entrance was going to be interesting to say the least. Fortunately a dangerous amount of snow didn’t drift in with the wind and we could safely and comfortably ski the first gulley before spreading ourselves out further down. The ambience was terrific and the snow was fantastic top-to-bottom, making for a cracking and satisfying decent. It was another case of low expectations followed by a great result.

Chris was off ill today with a chest infection while Andreas spent his day helping out at Ness’ birthday party. I bet that was fun! Stuart-the-Sea-Captain is in a soft cast as he partially tore his Achilles tendon and is out for the foreseeable future, and I’d like to say a big hello to Babette who broke her leg badly in early December.

And it was a great win for the Hammers last night, even if it took awhile!

13 January 2015
First Mont Roup of the season!

The sun was shining again but the wind was still a factor, and to make matters worse the wind has swung around from the south. I’d thought about skiing the Sache today but Andreas said that the first entrance slope was sheet ice and not very pleasant, so I then decided to try the Crete du Genepy instead. After the Borsat traverse my mind changed for the third time as we’d ski variations of the Crete twice last week so we continued on to try Mont Roup for the first time this season. I was expecting some strips here and there but there was very little accumulation as the wind seemed to have whipped all the loose snow away. It was probably my toughest morning of the season snow-wise but the team did the business and we made the most of it. (See photos) Bravo to all those involved for a great effort! Meanwhile, Chris skied Mont Roup as well, Thomas skied the Crete du Genepy and Andreas was over in Tignes with Peter B.

Snow is forecast for Thursday, which is seriously good news and tomorrow should be interesting as the forecast is calling for one of those in-between mornings! Wish us luck but we’ll come up with something!

PS We have quite a ‘sick list’ at the moment with Jean out for a week, Dave out for a few days as well, and this morning Ian, Murray and Frans all called in ill. To top it off Chris went down on the climb up Mont Roup and is having trouble breathing and will not be able to ski for a few days. Blimey, count your blessings!

12 January 2015
A wonderful morning with great vis!

After skiing in some pretty tough conditions over the past two days it was wonderful to have the sun shining again. It was still windy and it was amazing how icy it was high up the mountain after the rain and wet snow of the past two days had re-frozen after a much colder night. The goal today was to find protected gullies and the lee-side of shoulders where there were lovely strips of soft snow blown in, and it was a cracking morning bordering on ‘maximum turns’. My team warmed up off the Verte before skiing the Upper Familial, the Campanules, two off the Motte, the meadows under the Balme, and the Familial to finish.

Chris was in the neighbourhood but we never crossed paths until the Familial while Andreas skied the Upper Familial, Chardonnet, Sache, and Familial. Henry was doing a ‘HAT’ day and Thomas is back in action tomorrow.

A great day was enjoyed by all and sun is forecast again for tomorrow before more snow on Wednesday. Fingers crossed that the wind dies down so we can have a look around further afield as we’ve been pinned down a little these past few days. Stay tuned!

I’ve lost my mobile so if you’ve been trying to contact me and I haven’t answered it’s because I’m a berk and not rude!

11 January 2015
That was impressive!

I awoke to rain this morning but by 8AM it had turned to snow and I arrived at the Gourmandine to meet Frans and Michael feeling that we had a chance for another good morning. Unfortunately it was blowing a gale and the opening was even more limited than yesterday, and you know you’re in trouble when Bonnevie’s Drag closes! Anyway, Michael, Frans and I had a go and enjoyed some good skiing up until 10:30 when the wind intensified and lifts started to close. It just wasn’t worth risking an injury so we had a beep search then called it a morning around 11 o’clock. Thomas, Andreas, Chris and Henry were all off and as far as days off go, it was a good one to take!

Millie went off with the Club des Sports this morning to learn to snowboard and needless to say she was happier than I was! She and all her Club pals were pretty excited about having a go so who am I to rain on their parade? Still, I don’t have to like it!

I forgot my camera today, which is unfortunate as the ambience up on the mountain was pretty impressive but Gill did get a photo of Millie and Katie and I took some shots this afternoon.

Sun and colder temperatures are forecast for the next two days followed by some snow on Wednesday. Sounds good to me!

PS Millie came home happy but her friend Charlotte broke her arm! Now I’m even less happy!

PSS Check out Henry’s website for a video clip of last week’s avalanche on the Foglietta. Impressive and scary!

10 January 2015
Boy, that was fun!

It was a morning with low expectations and tough conditions, such as wind, flat-light, and ridiculously warm temperatures, but everyone was at the Gourmandine ready to go. The best thing about ‘low expectations’ is that any kind of positive result is a winner, and thoroughly appreciated and today turned out to be a terrific morning and a lot of fun. We had a good test off the Verte but the Borsat was slow to open due to wind so we worked on some technique, which at this stage looked like the theme of the morning. But we had good skiing under the Mont Blanc chair, in the Combe des Lanches, the Campanules and three variations in the Familial as the light started to improve, mixed in with pistes that felt like great spring snow when forced on-piste due to fog. Andreas, Chris and my teams all enjoyed a great morning when things weren’t looking very rosy at the Gourmandine, and I’d describe this morning as fun!

Come on you Hammers!

9 January 2015
Back towards the Crete!

Last night’s forecasted snow never arrived and we awoke to clear skies and strong winds, so strong that the Pissailles Glacier was closed and the liaison with Tignes was under threat of not being able to open. I had a Swedish lad called Henrick (who’d skied with me 8 years ago with his wife) and he had rented touring gear for the morning so I thought it best to try and use it. Plan ‘A’, which was the Glacier Pers was a non-starter so I opted for something similar to yesterday and headed back up towards the Crete du Genepy, mostly to stay protected from the wind and also to make the most of the remaining sunlight as the skies were rapidly clouding over. We didn’t climb quite as high as yesterday and took a totally different route down and with good snow and spectacular skies and ambience (see photos) we had a brilliant morning. It was Ken, Mark, and Adrian’s last morning of a terrific week and I look forward to seeing them all again soon.

Meanwhile Chris headed to the Sache and Familial while Thomas skied off the Cairn and little Borsat West before finishing in the Familial. I’m not too sure what happened to Andreas but something broke his routine this morning and he arrived without his boots, jacket, gloves and lift pass! Being a true pro he somehow got himself organised and was ready to go by ‘show-time’. Great recovery Andreas!

At 2:20PM it’s totally overcast and snowing lightly so we should have a change of conditions for tomorrow. Stay tuned!

PS The avalanche risk for tomorrow has dropped to 2/5. In my opinion this is ridiculous as anything steep and virgin should be avoided and I hope people are not lulled into a false sense of security because of the 2/5 rating.

8 January 2015
A cracking Crete!

We decided on a change of scenery and Thomas, Chris and I headed towards the Crete du Genepy for the first time this season (except for one aborted mission earlier in the season) and the plan was to ski to the bottom and out through the Charvet. With the rotten snowpack there were numerous plaques that had popped out spontaneously so again the warning signs were there against skiing anything steep with virgin snow, so we played it as safe as possible and enjoyed a fantastic ski. (See photos) There was enough wind-compressed snow that was lovely to ski and stopped us from dropping into the underlying gobelet. The skiing was good until almost the bottom when we needed to be careful of the rocks and just pick our way down slowly for 300 metres or so. It was Gill’s first off-piste session of the season and her first time in touring boots, and she thoroughly enjoyed herself.

Meanwhile, Andreas had the morning off so he rounded up some seasonaires, including Olivier’s son Sasha, and headed up to the Col des Fours on a reconnaissance mission. They made it up to the Col via the ridge by 11 o’clock, which is pretty good going, and we met them at the Manchet chair around noon. Nice one boys! (I haven’t had a snow report from Andreas but he’s no serving hot wine for the animation tonight so I can’t call him at the moment.)

It’s possible that we’ll see a few flakes tonight and the wind is unfortunately forecast to increase so we’ll wait and see what tomorrow brings. Fingers crossed!

7 January 2015
More fun in the sun!

It was another cracking day in the mountains with beautiful sunshine, wonderful snow and very few people off-piste. Thomas, Chris and I all headed to the Fornet and Thomas went over the Col Pers with his team while Chris and I skied the top third of the Col Pers before ‘skinning’ back up to ski the Lechoir. It was great snow top-to-bottom (see photos) with lovely ambience. Meanwhile, Andreas headed to Tignes and climbed up to ski the Chardonnet couloir followed by the Sache, and his team had an excellent morning as well.

Yesterday I wrote about the snow-pack and needing to stay on gentler slopes for the most part but there are a few places such as the Borsat Nord and Chardonnet couloir that have been ski-compacted by heavy traffic during the winter, which has helped to stabilise these slopes. Andreas also put an explanation on Facebook so that you don’t think he’s being a renegade!

The people skiing the Charvet yesterday set off some plaques around the exit gulley (skiers left) that separates the upper and lower slopes. I’d noticed them yesterday but didn’t know whether the three plaques had been triggered before, during, or after their decent. Apparently it was during!

Gill and I had a great time skiing with the girls this afternoon. We skied some piste mixed with some nice off-piste off the Genepy, and it was wonderful to have our first proper family ski of the season.

Unfortunately the missing 18-year-old British lad who went missing two nights ago has been found dead this afternoon in the gorge at La Daille. He had been highly intoxicated and had lost his way trying to get home.

And to finish off with some wonderful news, Millie is absolutely loving her new school and has settled in beautifully. What a relief for Gill who has been worried about it for months! She has met some new friends, loves the food and her room, and is totally unfazed by being in a school with 2000 children. Bravo Millie! And well done to Katie as well who has also settled back in at her school here in Val d’Isere.

6 January 2015
A time for prudence!

The sun was beating down again and it was another beautiful day with great skiing. Chris and I headed up to the Fornet and had some excellent snow in the lower Combe du Signal before heading up to the Glacier. The Pays Desert didn’t look too appetizing so we headed over the Col and had a terrific run top-to-bottom in total solitude. From there we skied the top of the Manchet before joining the piste to avoid the lower slopes and although the skiing was good the underlying gobelet is still a problem as the skis tend to drop through if over pressured. Meanwhile, Thomas had a lovely day in Tignes skiing the creamy snow off the Genepy and Cairn while Andreas was off today.

On January 2nd I wrote a little piece about the weakening of the snowpack and feeling that suddenly we were entering a dangerous phase due to rocks and increasing avalanche risk. Since then the base layer continues to rot away and anything steep is seriously dangerous. The avalanche risk may be rated at 3/5 but in reality anything steep shouldn’t be trusted. The proof is evident when you look around the resort and see how many plaques have popped out on just about every exposition. Some years, like last season, we had stable conditions that allowed us to ski steep slopes and couloirs, open the Face du Charvet after a snowfall and generally comfortably ski pretty much where we wanted to go. This season however is a totally different story. The snowpack is rotten and in 33 years here in Val d’Isere I can’t remember the rocks being such a problem. At the moment we need to be content with skiing greens, blues and some reds off-piste and be patient enough to leave the steeper slopes alone until conditions stabilise. Yesterday a group of skiers tackled the Foglietta in St Foy and set off and enormous avalanche that put some of the group in the hospital with broken bones and damaged knees, and fortunately no one was killed. Today a couple of groups skied the Face du Charvet, which is a minefield of rocks up top and definitely steep enough to avalanche. They got away with it but more by luck than good judgement.

At the moment the safest skiing is on gentle slopes that can’t avalanche with creamy wind-pressed snow that supports and keeps the skier above the rocks. It might not be the most exciting skiing but as Jean Marc says, “the mountains will still be here tomorrow!”

Stay tuned!

5 January 2015
That's more like it!

The sun was shining again and after a couple of days of dealing with a funny tummy I felt wonderful today and was really in the mood. (Especially after yesterday!) Anyway, Chris, Andreas, Henry and I all headed to the sunny slopes in Tignes to ski creamy snow in the lee and everyone had a fantastic morning. It was fairly fast ‘maximum’ turn type skiing as my team skied one off the Verte, two Bonnvie’s drags, the lower Borsat, the Genepy, the Cairn, the Campanules and the Familial to finish, all by 12:45. All the boys skied similar runs and a terrific morning was enjoyed by all.

I had an excellent technique lesson with Anna and Jenni this afternoon and the ladies took my stitches out for me afterwards. Both are Casualty Doctors in Sydney are were happy with the state of my elbow as far as healing and no infection goes. Great news and thanks very much you two!

The big news of the day was Millie’s first day at French boarding school as Gill drove Millie and her friend Charlotte down at 6:45 this morning. We thought that Millie would have a wobble at some stage but she was incredibly brave right to the end and eventually said, “I think you should go now Mummy!” I think the entire process was harder on Gill than Millie and Gill is now desperate for a text or phone call to see how Millie’s day went. Katie was also brave this morning as Ray and Patricia helped to get her sorted this morning.

Stay tuned for more news and photos tomorrow.

4 January 2015
As close to a 'stinker' as you can get!

The 20cm’s we were counting on overnight didn’t materialize and with ferocious winds and very little open it was a rather tough morning. The wind had blown the piste back to ice in places followed by drifts and with flat-light conditions and very limited options we decided to call it a morning by 11AM, which is a rare occurrence. (And no photos today)

It did snow lightly during the day right up to about 3PM so we’ll have better luck tomorrow as sunshine is forecast. Had we had some vis today and some choices we could have had a good ski as we did find some nice creamy snow in the lee. Stay tuned for more news and photos tomorrow!

Millie has spent the afternoon packing with her roommates Charlotte and Carla and she seems ready to go off to her boarding school in Bourg tomorrow. They’ve all gone off ice skating while Katie is also preparing for her first day back and has played with Maddie this afternoon before going out on a ‘wander’

3 January 2015
Happy Birthday Ness!

We are promised 20cm’s of fresh snow tonight so I decided on an easy morning with a mission to stay off the rocks while awaiting a fresh canvas tomorrow. Chris and I headed up towards the Motte and stayed high and enjoyed some good skiing with fantastic ambience as the sky was quite spectacular. My team finished off with some lovely creamy snow off the Cairn while Chris tried his luck in the Familial. I’m not too sure what Thomas skied and Henry was also in action while Andreas was celebrating Ness’ birthday with a family ski and lunch.

At 2:30 the sky has covered over and the snow is expected to start around 6PM. Fingers crossed and bring it on!

And a very Happy 10th Birthday to you Ness!

2 January 2015
Waiting for a fresh canvas!

Early in the season when we were enjoying some fantastic skiing there was a melt-freeze/rain-crust-type layer that supported and kept us off the rocks. But after a month with very little snow and some cold temperatures that support layer has disappeared and been replaced by gobelet, and all of a sudden we’re dropping straight through the snow and have no protection from the underlying rocks and the skiing can be quite tricky. There is a light support layer between 10 and 15cm’s under the surface, but with very little pressure you drop through and it’s unsettling to say the least. It feels like the snowpack has collasped and I had whomp noises all morning long, and feel that the snowpack is weakening and it won’t take too much weight to set off some slopes, either weight from skiers in the wrong place or a fresh snowfall. Between the underlying rocks and the rotten base there is plenty to think about at the moment.

After the wind compacted the snow during our last snowfall we’ve been counting on the cold nights to lighten the snow, making it a little looser and easier to ski each morning. As the surface has been improving the base has been rotting away and suddenly we’re confronted with hollow, baseless snow. This gobelet layer isn’t quite everywhere but when you run into a slope of it one needs to either ski with finesse, be extremely light, or a combination of the two. (Horribly fat skis would probably help as well) Anyway, I skied this type of snow on the Little Borsat West today and hats off to Penny who skied it really well. Bravo Penny!

It’s JM’s last day today before he returns home for five days, then he’s off with Olivier to Switzerland touring and plans to return here in April. Have fun in the meantime boys!

1 January 2015
A nice start to the New Year!

After an easy night thanks to Penny and her annual drinks and nibbles party we had clear blue skies, much warmer temperatures and the resort to ourselves for the first part of the morning. Andreas, Chris and I headed towards the sun in Tignes via the Borsat Nord and we skied my first Sache of the season, which I thought was pretty good. It was great ambience as we needed to be careful and the snow was excellent, although we should have probably cut out early. Unfortunately the bubbles out of Les Brevieres were out of order and we encountered cues and a slow return to La Lac.
JM had the Foster’s and Rosen’s and they headed for the Grande Motte while Thomas skied the Col Pers and Col de la Madeleine.

Andreas is out skiing with Ness this afternoon while my girls are out with their pal Anna and her Mum Julia. The girls are also excited by the prospect of dinner at the Perdrix tonight with their cousins Wils and Rosie and Katie has already decided on an Argetinian entrecote frites. Great choice Katie! And a big Alpine Happy Birthday to Rob W and Clare C!

The boys are all doing the Torchlight Parade tonight but I’m giving it a miss due to my recent history of noodling myself. Stay on your feet and good luck boys!

Stay tuned for more news tomorrow!

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