A time for prudence!

06 January 2015

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!

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