Wayne's Daily Diary Archive

20 June 2007

31 December 2012
Much better than expected at the Fornet!

We profited from another sunny day as we await snow tomorrow afternoon, and everyone made the most of it. I decided on a trip to the Fornet for a change of scenery and although it looked pretty rough from the Col we found some nice creamy snow in the Pays Desert mixed with a some shots of frisset. We ‘skinned’ for 10 minutes to access clean snow and the big slopes at the bottom and it turned out to be a good trip with no one about. From there I took my first trip over the Col Pers of the season and it too was better than expected. Both the entrance and exit were really good, which is always a bonus as you can struggle to get in and then have tough skiing after the Grand Torsai, but it skied well right to the bottom. Thomas was in the neighbourhood and his team thoroughly enjoyed their morning and the trip over the Col.

Andreas skied the Col des Fours for the first time this season and they had a very good outing as did Chris’ team on Mont Roup but I’m not sure what Jean Marc or Henry skied today.

Thank you Margaret for a lovely dinner party last night. Great food as always and terrific company with Clare and Peter, Mike and Laura and Jean Marc. And thank you Ray for taking Millie and Katie to John D’s drinks party then getting them to bed in decent time afterwards. Thanks also to John for hosting the gathering and emailing the girls a personal invite on Millie’s tablet. They had a fantastic time and because they slept in this morning, Gill needed to shake me awake at ten-to-eight and I had to fly to make it to the Gourmandine on time. In my rush I picked up my camera but failed to take the battery out of the charger and couldn’t take any photos this morning, but Jean will have today’s action on his link.

The girls are still out with Gill, Rob, and their cousins as they’ve had a big ski and are lunching in the Sachette in Les Brevieres. Yummy! They’ll be on top form and are really looking forward to drinks at Penny’s tonight.

Happy New Year to you all and don’t make any promises that you don’t intend to keep!

PS. I just ran into Douglas in the shop who wanted to say what a cracking good job Thomas did with his team this morning. Bravo Thomas! And I was just thinking about all the training I did years ago with TJ when we used to stay up half the night and then get up for work in the morning. It came in handy this morning although I was rusty enough to forget my battery.

30 December 2012
First 'skin' of the season!

What a bonus this morning turned out to be! At 7:30 am it was snowing lightly and overcast and I was not looking forward to a tracked-out resort in flat-light but by the time we arrived at the Gourmandine it was starting to clear and by ‘show-time’ the clouds had lifted as had my mood.

Andreas and I decided on Mont Roup and on December 30th I put my ‘skins’ on for the first time all season! (By this time last year we’d ‘skinned’ 15 times already). Mont Roup came through again as we had great skiing, wonderful ambience and at this time of year with the soft light it was stunningly beautiful. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it was nice to go for a walk again.

Meanwhile, Thomas skied the Chardonnet and Sache while Chris headed Tignes way and also skied the Sache. We ran into JM in the bottom of the Tour du Charvet and I’m not too sure what Henry skied today.

I skied this afternoon with Millie, Wils, Rosie and Rob and we had fun skiing hard and spending some time trying to ‘sniff’ out jumps. (Check photos) Katie, Millie and Gill skied with Laura this morning and the girls are settling in nicely now.

Sunshine is forecast for tomorrow and I’m not going to mention yesterday’s football scores.

29 December 2012
Sunshine and great skiing!

After a busy week people-wise Saturday rolled around and we all enjoyed a quieter ski this morning. And with the sun shining and the snow improving after a cold night, it was a fantastic ski. JM, Andreas and I all headed to Tignes skiing off the Verte where the first touch let us know we were in business. The Borsat was lovely, as were the meadows into Tignes. JM and Andreas went up to the Chardonnet while I opened up the Col du Palet and we all skied the Sache from the classic entrance above the chairlift. That entrance as already been purged (killing a skier earlier in the season) making it safer but our regular entrances are still waiting to go and are ‘no-go-zones’ for the moment. The snow up top was ‘crème Anglaise’ as JM put it, and the snow just became better and better towards the bottom. Brilliant really! Meanwhile, Chris and Henry went up to the Fornet but I haven’t heard a report, although I’m sure they ‘sniffed’ out some great skiing. Thomas skied the Tour du Charvet and reported an excellent trip with ambience and good snow. Bravo Thomas!

Ray took Millie skiing on the first lift and the two of them hammered about and didn’t get home until around 1:30. Thanks Ray! We met up with them and they joined us on- piste for a couple of short runs en route to the Sache. Gill skied with Katie who is recovering from her illness and is doing much better, and they enjoyed the calmer pistes and sunshine as well.

It’s a big day in the Premiership and fingers crossed that West Ham can get a result against Reading away. We need to start clocking up some points after a tough run while Reading are desperate, and desperate people are always dangerous. Come on boys! Stay tuned for more news tomorrow!

28 December 2012
The girls first ski!

It’s a late update tonight as Gill and I took the girls for their first ski of the season this afternoon, followed by a ferocious argument over the Club des Sports, then Ian came over to show us his safari opportunities in Kenya, then supper followed by Christmas presents. Pretty busy really!

Today’s skiing was jolly good for the most part but we needed to jockey about trying to hit lifts as they opened and to avoid the crowds, which were exaggerated due to the slow opening. The strong winds over the past 24-hours damaged a lot of snow but we found some fantastic skiing in places while needing to settle for ‘educational’ snow in others, but with pretty good light and moments in the sun the vis made the tricky bits that much easier. (See photos)

Andreas was a little stiff after his free-fall yesterday and Penny won the ‘splat du jour’ award today, twice over! The second one was an absolute beauty but Penny dusted herself off and continued on as usual, bravo!

I’m off to bed now so stay tuned for more skiing news tomorrow.

27 December 2012
Welcome back girls!

I picked the girls up in Geneva last night and it was wonderful to see them all again. Unfortunately Katie is really ill with a temperature and horrible cough. What a way to spend her Christmas holidays the poor little sausage! It was an easy drive with a break in the weather, which was incredibly lucky as I wouldn’t be wanting to drive down there tonight as we await 50cm’s of snow.

It started snowing around 7AM and it did leave a nice little cushion but the goal was to find where it hadn’t been skied yesterday, which in flat light is easier said than done. Chris and I headed up Bellevarde and warmed-up off the Verte before skiing a clean run in the Borsat and down through the meadows and under the Fresse chair. From there we skied an excellent Combe des Lanches, which hadn’t been skied yesterday for some reason, then we decided to head back home before they started closing lifts as the wind was forecast to pick up considerably. We made it back just in time as the Borsat and Tommeuses both closed shortly afterwards. We finished skiing a couple of runs I haven’t done before by skiing down into the Piste Perdue from both sides and it was jolly good fun.

Meanwhile, JM and Andreas headed up to the Fornet via Les Danaides and had a great run in the Combe 3300 before the wind drove them back down. Andreas skied off a cornice in the flat-light and dropped down 3 or 4 metres, which believe me is quite frightening when you’re dropping and not knowing how long it’s going to last, but he landed it without doing himself any damage, thank goodness!

I’m not too sure about tomorrow’s forecast but we’ll have a load of new snow that has fallen whilst being accompanied by strong winds at altitude. Should be interesting!

PS Just had a word with Andreas and he said the cornice was closer to 5 metres and he was very lucky not to have hurt himself. Ray just said, “It helps to be young”!

26 December 2012
A Boxing Day Special!

I knew when it was drizzling in town last night that we’d have a chance today, but when leaving John and Margaret’s last night at 10:45 with lovely snow flakes falling, there was no doubt that we were in for a good one! It was overcast this morning but with a hint of light towards the Fornet so Chris, Andreas, Henry and I all headed that way, and what a brilliant ski we had with 20 to 30cm’s of fresh snow to play with. My team opened with great powder on the Mattis piste, followed by the Table de Orientation, one under the Pyramid chair, then an excellent Combe du Signal from the top, then up to the Glacier for a Combe de Giant followed by two runs in the Combe de 3300. Quite a morning really! All the boys were in the neighbourhood and everyone had a cracking morning. (It was great to ski with you again Ian!)

Last night Margaret, Penny and Chrissy laid on a fabulous Christmas dinner, which Jean R totally approved of. It’s nice to watch a Frenchman enjoying English cuisine and nodding his head with satisfaction as he savoured every mouthful. Brilliant and thank you ladies for a wonderful meal!

I’m off shortly to pick up my girls in Geneva and I can hardly wait to see them. It’s been almost a month now and they are pretty excited about seeing naughty old Daddy again!

Unfortunately Chrissy, Jeremy and Jean all missed the morning with illness or injury, but I was thinking of them. And here’s to you Mister Robinson……!

25 December 2012
Not quite a 'Stinker'!

Merry Christmas to you all and well done to those who braved today’s skiing. It wasn’t a ‘stinker’ but it wasn’t easy either. The Foehn wind was blowing and with it we endured grey skies and flat-light, which made the skiing difficult. ‘Educational’ snow in bright sunshine is one thing but in flat-light it just isn’t worth the risk of someone hurting a knee so Chris and I skied piste and mixed in some off-piste shots. The best skiing was the meadows under the Balme and the Familial, where the snow is still very good. We finished up just after noon and met Tansy who is being assisted by Ness.

We spoke to a French couple at the Gourmandine who I’ve known by sight for 30-years or more. They’ve been reading my blog and are going to ski with us in the New Year, and Patrick and Catherine are both excellent skiers and it will be nice to have them along. Bienvenue!

I’m picking up my family tomorrow after skiing and I’m really looking forward to seeing them and to have their season get under way. Skiing, skating, tobogganing, swimming, burger bar, Perdrix, Chevallot, drinks parties, learning French and so much more!

I’m looking forward to my annual Christmas dinner at John and Margaret’s tonight. Margaret, Penny and Chrissy put in an amazing effort and produce some absolutely stunning food, and it’s very much appreciated. Thank you ladies!

We should get a little snow tonight so hopefully things should be a little easier in the morning. Fingers crossed as today wasn’t the easiest.

24 December 2012
A stunning day of 'educational' snow!

I really wasn’t expecting much this morning and was just grateful for some sunshine to at least give us a chance. But what a morning it turned out to be! We skied ‘skiers’ snow most of the morning but it skied well and was very satisfying. My team skied off the Verte, followed by the Borsat and meadows into Tignes, all of which was good. Then we joined JM, Andreas, and Chris’ teams in the Chardonnet, which I must admit wasn’t the best, but everyone enjoyed the ambience. Then we headed upstairs to the Motte and skied off my shoulder, which was superb ‘educational’ snow. There was a slight rain crust on the surface but you just powered right through it. If you were positive and showed the snow who was the boss, it skied beautifully. We all finished a cracking good day with perhaps the best snow of the morning in the Altiport, and a tricky morning turned out to be very satisfying and enjoyable. Bravo boys! (See photos)

Chrissy and Jean R are both out of action for five days or so with sore backs. We wish them both a speedy recovery and you know it takes a lot to stop them from skiing!

Sports Report- I thoroughly enjoyed watching Chelsea last night at the Pacific with John D, Jeremy, Fay, Paul G and Neil. Chelsea were wonderful to watch and all their 8 goals were well taken. I thought the Man of the Match should have been the Villa keeper, as he made about 6 world-class saves or it could have been 14. Wow!

Merry Christmas to you all and I’m really looking forward to picking up my girls on Boxing Day!

PS And thanks for a brilliant meal last night Penny!

23 December 2012
Not at all what we expected!

Blimey, today was a total contrast to the powder paradise of days gone by. Heat, humidity, and wind combined to ruin some fabulous snow and left us struggling to find good snow. Because the avalanche risk was 4/5 our options were pretty limited but at the Gourmandine I really expected some nice easy skiing after 10 to 15cm’s of fresh snow fell yesterday afternoon and during the night. We didn’t expect the ferocity of the wind, which kept the Pisaillas closed, as well as Tommeuses and eventually the Borsat, but we did manage a decent morning considering. (Check photos)

My team started off the Laisinant Express and skied some of the best snow of the morning off the edge of the piste Table de Orientation. I only skied that way because it was pisted and open and I knew when we arrived at the steep slope that we could cut back onto the piste. Just as we arrived at the wall I thought to myself, “Bugger, this is going to be interesting”. There was a plaque that had blown in across the piste so I told Margaret to stay back while I cut it. I chose my spot and set-off a small but nasty plague right I front of me, and another went behind me. Both were off the edge of the groomed piste but anyone trying to ski the edge of the piste would have had a shock.
After skiing one from the top of the Signal (beside the piste) we headed back to Bellevarde looking for some easier snow, but for the most part there was a lot of ‘educational’ snow about this morning and the next few days are going to be difficult. Bummer!

I’d like to say a big hello to Doug and Val and thanks for the Christmas card. We spent many great days together back at Top Ski and during our early ‘Alpine’ days.

I received this lovely email from Tom L who was here skiing with friends and family:

I just want to say we have all had an amazing time with Chris and Thomas this week. They were both superbly suited to the groups that went out. All my friends thought they were great and pitched things just right. I think we have some new Alpine addicts!!
We have been amazingly lucky with the weather and yesterday in a totally untracked pays desert will go down as a truly historic day! Obviously we were all very sad to hear the news from the grand vallon and our thoughts are with you and the other guides who know them well.
Thank you and your team for everything. I hope you have a great rest of the season.
With best wishes, Tom (Thanks Tom and bravo Chris and Thomas!)

Millie and Katie will be extremely pleased as their dancing and Olympic hero Louis won Strictly Come Dancing last night in a hotly contested final. Brilliant and I’m really happy for you girls!

Stay tuned for more news tomorrow.

PS. It’s incredibly how busy the town has suddenly become. I’ve a couple of tips for you if you’re about to arrive: 1. Pay attention as the roads and pavements are lethal. 2. Watch out for dog poo! And on the sports front, how good were Chelsea tonight?

22 December 2012
A calm morning of skiing!

After yesterday’s tragic accident it was nice to have some sunshine this morning to lift the spirits and allow us to enjoy a great morning of powder snow. We all skied similar slopes and my team opened with some lovely warm-up turns off the Verte before skiing some excellent snow in the meadows to the Grand Pre from the Borsat. From there we skied a terrific Tour du Charvet before working our way up to the Pisaillas Glacier for a fantastic Pays Desert. JM, Andreas and Chris were all in the neighbourhood and it was a wonderful ski after a very emotional day yesterday.

Thanks you to Candice and Peter for hosting a very appropriate and appreciated gathering last night and it was a real pleasure to spend some time with your family after all these years. (And thanks for the tequila Peter!) Also thanks to Clare for a lovely supper along with Jean Marc and Catherine.

After a sunny morning it’s been snowing all afternoon and it may warm up enough for it to rain in the village. We’ll have fresh snow at altitude for sure tomorrow and fingers crossed for some visibility. Stay tuned!

21 December 2012
Wonderful day marred by tragedy!

Today we skied some of the best snow of the season and everyone had an outstanding morning under beautiful blue skies. Unfortunately there was a major avalanche in the Grand Vallon, involving a good friend and mentor, and someone I have incredible respect for, who tragically lost a good friend in the avalanche. I’m distraught at the moment as I know exactly how he feels and what he’s going through. For all the fun, adventure and friendships, this can be such a cruel place.

Congratulations to Ginnie and Henry on the birth of their son Jackson. It’s fantastic news and we all look forward to meeting him.

20 December 2012
It's a Boy!

No new snow fell overnight and with overcast skies and flat-light it was a bit of guess work as far as finding untracked snow after yesterday’s powder feast. Still, the boys spread out and we did a pretty good job of finding clean snow and everyone had a pretty decent ski. Andreas was skiing with a University group organised by Ed H and had help from Christophe (who did the re-furb on Derek’s flat) and the two of them did a great job entertaining the youngsters. Thanks Ed! Olivier, Thomas, and Andreas all skied the Chardonnet and a conservative Sache, while JM skied the Tour de Charvet, Arcelle and finished Mattis-way, and Chris and I skied the Borsat and Grande Motte.

This afternoon Zoë, who’s 12 years-old, won a ‘splat du jour’ award with a fabulous front forward flip. Douglas and I were seriously relieved when she came up for air and it’s a good thing her Mum missed it! It was my last day with the Cook’s and Lambert’s and we’ve had three excellent days, all of which have been totally different with the drastic changes in conditions.

It won’t be long now before Gill, Millie and Katie arrive and I’m really looking forward to seeing them. They’ve the Strictly final, followed by Christmas with their grandparents and cousins, then it will be Boxing Day and their season will commence. See you soon girls!

It started snowing fairly heavily early evening and hopefully we’ll be in for another ‘fresh canvas’ in the morning. It’s late again so I’m shutting down. Stay tuned!

PS I forgot the biggest news of the day was Ginnie delivering a baby boy! They’ve called the little fellow Jackson and Jackson and Mum are well. More details to follow.

19 December 2012
Simply Wonderful!

Sorry for the late update but I’m just sitting down now at 10 PM after a long but totally satisfying day. After skiing until 4:30 with the Cook’s and Lambert’s, we had an excellent team ‘Alpine’ meeting (missed the avalanche conference), downloaded the photos, talked to the girls, snuck out for a burger with Ray, had a hot bath and here we are.

For the first time in a while the sun was out today and with Meteo France rating the avalanche risk at 4/5 we had a fairly slow opening. All was forgiven quickly as the skiing was superb, again! My team opened with the Fontaine Froide and down the Epaule du Charvet, followed by the Arcelle, Super L, Combe du Signal, Combe du 3300, the Pays Desert, lunch, the Pays Desert again, and a nice piste ski down Solaise to finish a wonderful day. Chris, Andreas and Thomas skied similar runs while Oli and JM started off on the Banane before working their way towards the Fornet. Oli and Andreas went over the Col Pers to finish the day and they had a great adventure but unfortunately the snow back-side hasn’t improved since Pietro tried it last week. C’est la vie and nice try boys, and thanks as someone has to check it out! (I was thinking of doing it as well but decided to play safe with the teenage girls)

We had a very constructive team meeting tonight as well as a good laugh. Thanks Catherine for trying to take a decent photograph of a pretty un-photographic bunch!

Henry has taken Ginnie down the valley as the baby is threatening an early appearance so perhaps we’ll have some fantastic news for you tomorrow.

I’m probably forgetting something but it’s time to go to bed and read a few pages of Shantaram. A demain!

PS Jean skied with Chris today and took some great shots, especially one of John Ellis, who resembles the teenagers in my group!

18 December 2012

At least another 20cm’s of snow fell overnight and I swear it snowed that much again during the morning, and by noon it was deep, deep, deep! In fact, the avalanche risk went from 3 to 4 above 2200m during the morning, which is no surprise with the amount of snow coming down.

As for the skiing, it was another wonderful day in what can only be described as a truly stunning winter wonderland. There were face shots everywhere from the Fornet, to Solaise and the Arcelle, Bellevarde and the trees at La Daille. I was skiing with the Lambert and the Cook families, but unfortunately Robert injured his knee yesterday skiing in the trees below Les Arcs and won’t be able to ski anymore this holiday. Bummer Robert and we hope it‘s not too serious! Sophie (14) and Justine (15) are skiing up a storm and doing Mum’s and Dad’s proud! Thomas and Chris are taking care of Tom’s friend’s and family, who are new to off-piste, and they all had a great time. Oli and JM are skiing with their touring pals while Andreas skied with James, Michael, Sylvie, Jeremy, Chrissy and Duncan this morning. Henry’s on board on Thursday but only if Ginnie isn’t in labour, but Henry is cutting it a bit fine to say the least!

Unfortunately the wind picked up this afternoon, which isn’t good for the snow quality or for avalanche risk, and the connecting lifts to Tignes shut down stranding hundreds of Tignes-dwellers on our side of the mountain. There was a massive queue of people desperately trying to get back home and I can only imagine the stampede that was about to occur when a bus with a capacity for 80 pulled up in front of 300 or more people. Ugly!

The last forecast I saw was for sun tomorrow followed by more snowy weather moving in.

17 December 2012
Too good!

We all enjoyed another absolutely brilliant morning of ‘fill-your-boots’ skiing. The snow quality has been superb and we’ve had enough light over the past few days to ski hard and let ourselves go, and today it resulted in another ‘maximum-turn’ session. We haven’t had a start to a season like this for quite some time and it looks set to continue although sunshine is forecast for Wednesday. (Chris and I did however, get into one fog bank that was pretty uncomfortable and we were both pleased to eventually drop through it.)

Margaret won a ‘splat du jour’ award today with a superb ‘park-and-fly’. She jarred her ankle a little and called it a day but she should be alright. Margaret continues to inspire us with not just her skiing but also because it’s not everyday that you see a 75-year-old woman flying through the air like Superman, then getting up without a fuss! Bravo but sorry Margaret, you skied exactly where I told you to!

Jeremy has arrived to kick off his season and he skied with Chrissy and Andreas this morning. They had a great time at the Fornet and ended up getting in a couple of Combe du 3300’s, along with Oli’s team, up on the Glacier. Welcome back Jeremy!

Thanks to Johnny ‘Alpine’ for a tense but satisfying afternoon watching my beloved Hammers yesterday. We defended superbly, and needed to as well and it was a very important and hard earned point away from home. And thanks to JM and Oli for organising a wonderful drinks party with wonderful specialties from the Pyrenees.

Jane Seaford, who has skied with us from as far back as our Top Ski days, has written a book called ‘Archie’s Daughter’. The link is up on the news page so have a look and check-out her website. Well done Jane!

Millie and Katie are really enjoying the Strictly Come Dancing competition and both are cheering for Louis. It’s heating up with the finals next weekend (I think). Millie is proud but gutted that Jessica didn’t win the Sports Personality of the Year award last night. What a tough competition with so many deserving winners!

I’d like to say goodbye until next time to George and Jenny, who spent their first week with ‘Alpine’ and see you tomorrow Ray!

16 December 2012
Avalanche risk drops from 4 to 3!

We had a similar day to yesterday except there was a better accumulation of snow and it was slightly colder, which improve the snow on the lower slopes. The visibility was in-and-out but for the most part it was pretty comfortable skiing. (Good thing too as I had a little ‘spontaneous combustion’ last night, thanks to Mike and Laura, and I wasn’t looking forward to ‘white-out’ conditions). Tommeuses opened today and Chris and I had a couple of fantastic runs in the Familial top-to-bottom and had great skiing around Bellevarde and the Borsat. JM and Oli are entertaining their touring friends and Jo H, Jo M, Roy and Marilyn, Clare C, Johnny ‘Alpine’, Tony W, Mike A, Catherine K, and Oli’s son Sasha are all in town. (Sorry if I missed anyone!) I think they skied around Solaise and the Arcelle and I’m sure they had brilliant skiing as well. The boys have organised a get-together with Jean Sport tonight and we’ll be sampling some delicious taste treats from the Pyrenees. (Thomas, Henry and Andreas were off today)

Although the avalanche risk dropped from 4 to 3 today, I’m playing it safe and being satisfyed with great snow on gentler terrain. There has been enough warning signs so far to make me wary of the big slopes and I’m waiting for things to stabilise naturally and by skier-compaction before I wander to far afield.

I’m off to Johnny ‘Alpine’s’ late this afternoon for the West Brom v West Ham match, which is a big one as both teams are going through a tough patch. Come on boys! Stay tuned for more skiing news tomorrow.

15 December 2012
Who Was That Girl?

Last night I went into town to watch the awards presentation for the Women’s World Cup Downhill, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable 45-minutes I’ve had in ages. To begin with there were a couple of French blokes with microphones singing and dancing to piped-in music, trying their best to animate and stir up the crowd. Then this English girl who was still in her ski boots after an après-ski session started dancing and after about 30 seconds it was evident that she was jolly good and totally into it. The French boys invited her up onto the stage and she went absolutely wild! She danced like a mad-woman for about 15-minutes while the crowd was cheering her on. I’ve never seen anyone shake it around like that before and she would have given Flavia from Strictly a run for her money. When she turned around and bent over, a la Rod Stewart, and started shaking her butt about, my eyes went blurry with the speed of it all. Rod in his prime would have been proud of her and she was so entertaining that the organisers ended up giving her a pair of racing skis! (See photos) I wished that Millie and Katie were there to witness the spectacle as they would have had huge eyes (like Dad) and absolutely loved it.

Then the actual presentation of cheques and medals started and it was lovely to see these young ladies so pleased with themselves and so friendly with one another. The sixth place girl won 2,800 euros and then it increased up to 25,000 euros for the young Swiss who came first. The bronze, silver and gold medals were then delivered by a huge bald eagle. The eagle flew down from a balcony above with the bronze and landed on the handlers arm, delivered it then flew off again to get the next medal. It was all pretty impressive and I can’t imagine them duplicating a ceremony like that again. (Unless of course they hire in the English girl to kick things off again) Brilliant stuff!

Now on to today’s skiing. We were expecting 15 to 50 cm’s of fresh snow this morning but when I awoke at 7-ish there wasn’t a flake on the ground, and I felt a little deflated. It had been raining so there was some fresh snow at altitude but none in the village, but fortunately it then started to snow massive flakes and by 9 o’clock there was a nice cushion of fresh snow in town as well. The light was decent and we profited with a maximum-turn session with great snow, and no people. Chris and I skied around the Bellevarde, Fontaine Froide and Borsat sectors while Oli and JM worked their way towards Solaise and the Fornet. The wind didn’t bother us this morning but it was blowing hard enough at altitude to keep the upper part of the mountain closed. All in all, it was a fantastic day of skiing that didn’t look that promising first thing.

I managed to somehow delete all yesterday’s photos, which is no big deal unless you happened to be in them and wanted a look when you returned home. Sorry Jenny and George as I had a few good ones of you.

Stay tuned for more news tomorrow!

14 December 2012
What a bonus!

The visibility was much better than forecast and the wind wasn’t a factor this morning and we all enjoyed a ‘bonus’ day as we weren’t expecting too much while climbing into bed last night. The light was brightest towards the Aiguille Percee so after a warm-up off the Verte and a lovely little Borsat Nord we headed towards the sun. Chris came up with a great suggestion of skiing the Sache via the avalanche rubble from a couple of days ago, and because it’s already slide we’d be perfectly safe. I went in first to check that it was doable and called Chris and our team’s in. Our only worry was someone falling on the smooth sliding surface of the avalanche and going for a ‘whipper’, so we slide-slipped the steep couloir before accessing some fantastic snow lower down. Once in, we had wonderful skiing all the way down without anyone else in sight. It was great to be back there again and being George and Jenny’s first trip back there, they were suitably impressed, especially after an ‘interesting’ entrance. Excellent call Chris and great ambience!

Andreas came in after us after having skied an excellent Chardonnet and cut out a little earlier than we did, which worked out beautifully as the buses aren’t yet running and hewas able to organise taxis for us all at the bottom. Well done and thanks Andreas! I must admit to being a bit of a naughty boy and nipping Chris to the second taxi, but fortunately the next taxi showed up a couple of minutes later. Sorry JC, very cheeky of me!

For those who missed the late add-on to the blog yesterday, if you Google ‘data avalanche’ you’ll find photos of the avalanche in the Sache a couple of days ago. The sliding plane is what we skied down today to get to the powder lower down.

Pietro has been skiing with a lovely Italian named Alessandro, who reads the diary regularly. They been having a great time together and it was a pleasure to me you Alessandro. We all look forward to seeing you here again soon.

Fifteen to fifty centimetres are forecast for this evening accompanied by strong foehn winds. It has warmed up from -18C a few days back to around -1 or 2C. The warming should help stabilise the snow pack and bring down some of the dodgy slopes. There has been a lot of instability and several serious avalanches already, so we’re all hoping for the snow pack to start to improve. Stay tuned!

Thanks for a wonderful meal last night Margaret! And well done Richard for climbing into the boot for the ride home, just like the old days!

13 December 2012
An Adventurous Morning!

At 7AM the skies were clear and it looked as if we were in for a fairly easy day. Wrong! By ‘Showtime’ it had clouded over and we were in for another morning of flat-light. Chris and I were heading towards the Aiguille Percee but it was already very dark in that sector and with a ‘light bulb’ of light above us we skied the sunny-side of the Borsat down through the meadows towards the Grande Pre and then down underneath the Face du Charvet. The snow was good easy powder but the better vis was a real bonus. We then had an interesting run in the Arcelle where we skied station-to-station near the ridges to keep it safe. There are some big steep slopes out there so we really took our time with the skiing and route finding as the visibility had deteriorated. From there we finished up an adventurous morning with a run around the Mattis trees as we went from ‘plan A’ to ‘plan H’ this morning but it worked out pretty well and we managed the best of the light on offer. (The annoying thing is it’s sunnier now at 2PM than it was all morning, and it’s suppose to be starting to snow by now.)

Olivier, Jean Marc and Pietro were all working this morning but I’m not sure where they skied. Oli has a touring group so they may have gone off to ‘skin’ somewhere. Thomas has been helping with the races the past two days and Andreas had the morning off.

As far as I know the two skiers taken yesterday around the Sache are alive and well, although one was under for 30-minutes and helicoptered to hospital.

It’s just about time to start getting my life organised as the girls arrive in just under two weeks. I’ve loads to do so I’m off to finish unpacking the car. Stay tuned for more news tomorrow!

PS Chris tried his new Bond’s today and loved them, while John Ellis bought a pair immediately after testing them yesterday. They are great skis and if you’re interested in a pair don’t hesitate, because they will go quickly.

PSS If you google data avalanche you’ll find photos of the massive avalanche in the Sache yesterday. I’ve been told that one skier died but I can’t verify that.

12 December 2012
Cold but beautiful!

Radio Val (not the same without Will) announced -18C this morning so I put on extra layers and headed out into stunning sunshine. It was wonderful to have a day of clear skies with perfect visibility and everyone profited with some great skiing. With the Isere smoking, which it only does when it’s properly cold, the only way to go was towards the sun in Tignes and we actually stayed pretty warm. Everyone had brilliant snow with Chris and I skiing off the Motte, while Andreas skied the Chardonnet, Oli was around the Palafour sector, JM was doing a mix of off-piste and technique, and I’m not too sure where Pietro ended up. We ended up finishing with the Alti-port for the first time this winter as someone had cut the traverse, which was handy as I wasn’t going to be the first one across.

I went down to Bourg for some shopping this afternoon before the next storm moves in and I’ve finally just about finished unpacking the car. I’m rushing a little as I’m cooking for Chris tonight as he worked all afternoon and his cupboards are bare. Steak, potatoes, green beans and salad are on the menu with a glass or two of Guigal Cotes du Rhone to wash it down. It almost sounds romantic, I’d best not light a fire!

I had a nice chat with Pat Zimmer at the bus stop this morning and he’s on pretty good form. We talked a little about the old days when we were just six at Top Ski and how much fun we had, and Pat’s wife Zoë has had a beautiful book published of some of her favourite artwork that’s she’s done over the past twenty-plus years. Chris gets a credit in the book as he did several photos for Zoë and it’s available at the Tourist Office.

Hopefully we’ll have more sun tomorrow before some big snow moves in over the next few days.

PS Late breaking news: Andreas has just informed me of an avalanche in the Sache today with a couple of people buried. One victim was under for 30 minutes but rumours has it they have survived. More news tomorrow.

11 December 2012
X-Rated Update Below!

Today was much kinder that yesterday as the wind dropped off and we had pretty decent vis for most of the morning. Chris and I headed up Bellevarde and had a few good warm-up runs on Bonnevie’s drag before skiing some lovely snow in the Borsat Nord and down through the meadows into Tignes. From there we headed up the Funicular hoping to ski the closed Genepy piste in powder but the light wasn’t good enough to avoid the ‘haggis’ traps that I know are lurking down there. Instead, we skied the Combe des Lanches, which turned out to be outstanding, so we circled back up for another go and met up with Thomas and his team. Meanwhile, Pietro, Andreas, Oli and JM were all around the Super L and on up to the Fornet while Oli came back to ski the Banane. Excellent skiing was reported by all, and after a tough one yesterday, it was well appreciated.

I had some new clients this afternoon, George and Jenny, and we skied the Borsat and Combe des Lanches. They did really well and are going to join in the morning group tomorrow. It was jolly cold this afternoon and by 4:30 it’s starting to get dark, especially when you’re still wearing sunglasses!

Warning: X rated for the faint-hearted.

The night before last I was awakened at 4AM by the loudest moaning and groaning I’ve ever heard in my life. Two apartments down it was all happening and I’m sure she was faking because nobody could be that good, could they? She was definitely in the ‘screamer’ category and whoever he was will have been feeling pretty proud of himself, and rightly so. Bravo Monsieur! Anyway, I told Paul, Andy, John E and Jean about it in the Olympique (and whoever else was listening) and that I was a little concerned with Gill and the girls arriving soon, as well as Ray, and that I must confront her about it. My mate Jean volunteered to compose a letter in French, which he emailed to me, and I copied it out and posted it under her door. It was a humorous letter stating that I’m pleased she had such a fabulous evening, but after the polite formalities it translates to: next time go to chez-lui or stick a sock in it! Merci beaucoup Jean, job done!

Sunny skies are forecast for tomorrow.

10 December 2012
What a contrast to yesterday!

Sorry I didn’t get back to you with the finished update yesterday but I was gutted after the Hammers lost 3-2 after being ahead 2-1 with fifteen minutes to go. I know I shouldn’t take my sports so seriously, but I can’t help myself! Thanks John for two fantastic matches and a great meal.

Yesterday was a wonderful day with brilliant sunshine, which we haven’t had much of so far this season, and stunning snow. Pietro, Chris and Andreas all skied at the Fornet and although the opening was limited they had some terrific skiing. Andreas finished off skiing the Arcelle piste in powder before walking out, then decided to do it again for a 2PM finish. Nice one! Meanwhile my team enjoyed great skiing around Bellevarde, the Borsat front-side as well as the north, the meadows into Tignes and off the Motte.

Today however, was tough, tough, tough! Fifteen to twenty centimetres fell over night but this morning the wind was ferocious and the visibility on the top of Bellevarde was extremely poor. We made the best of it (see photos) and bravo to my team of John E, Jean, Andy and Paul W, and Chris’ group of James R, Arlene, and Paul, for hanging in there until the end. Our last run was our best so we went back up for another, but the wind had increased and the Pisteurs wouldn’t let us out and sent us back down in the Funival as they closed the resort! (Great photos Jean, they really captured the morning!) Unfortunately Derek has missed the past two days with his injury, and it takes a lot to stop Derek from skiing. Get well soon Derek.

Fortunately better weather is forecast for tomorrow.

9 December 2012
A Late Update!

The sun is out in full force this morning and I’m so looking forward to the visibility and the chance to have a look at the mountain’s avalanche activity.

Today’s update will be a little late as I’m watching Man City v Man United followed by West Ham v Liverpool at Johnny ‘Alpine’s’.

It was a stunning morning of ‘maximum-turn’ skiing with brilliant sunshine. The photos are posted and a detailed report will follow this evening. All I need now is a West Ham victory to round off a perfect day!

8 December 2012
Splat du Jour!

Not that much new snow fell overnight compared to the past few evenings and Solaise and the Olympique both opened on time. We did a lot of skiing this morning, and my team opened with a leg-burner in powder on the Solaise piste. From there we headed up the Olympique and skied great snow all the way down and across the bridge before continuing down the Triffolet right to the bottom. There we had a little ‘Alpine’ reunion as we met up with Chris’ team and Olivier’s. After that we skied what we could off the Verte, Bonnevie’s drag, and Mont Blanc as nothing else was running, but just as we were about to call it a day the Tommeuses chair opened and we had a fabulous run top-to-bottom to finish. Unfortunately I won the ’splat du jour’ award for a lovely somersault-head-plant, right under Chris’ team who were cheering from the chairlift above. Nothing like a discerning audience! Anyway, I thought Andy skied beautifully today (check photos) and he’s really improved since this time last season. Well done Andy! Paul, Toby, Tilly, Anton, and Derek all skied well also but unfortunately Derek had to stop early again. Chris awarded James R with the ‘skier of the morning award’ in his group. Bravo James!

It looks like we should have some sunshine tomorrow, which will be a welcomed change. Stay tuned!

Sports Report- Unless I’m mistaken the World Cup Race from Val d’Isere, which cost a fortune to run, isn’t being shown on French TV. One of the main excuses for the cost is the publicity, but if the French don’t really care, who does? (Maybe it will be on later?) And well done England for a great cricketing display in India.

7 December 2012
It's a Winter Wonderland!

No fresh snow fell overnight and when awakening to grey skies and flat-light, I must admit to not expecting too much this morning. But, we managed to find lovely untracked snow around the Verte and Borsat and had a couple of great runs down the (closed) OK and on down the Orange before skiing through the trees at the bottom. In the trees the snow had a few tracks but it was soft enough to blow through and it was fantastic skiing. It was Derek and Paul’s first ski of the season and as usual Derek arrived for a good one. Unfortunately Derek needed to stop around 11:30 with a sore back but Paul, Alex and I rocked on until 12:45.

Storm warnings are out over many departments in France with snow and freezing rain making travel very treacherous. Here in town it is dumping it down and we could see another 40cm’s before morning. Hopefully we’ll be able to ski tomorrow but if the avalanche risk is rated at 5/5 as rumoured, they won’t open the resort. Fingers crossed we can ski because the resort is empty and even with limited lifts running the skiing is jolly good fun and being in this type of weather is rare and quite a privilege. (Chris is going to stay at my place tonight to avoid being snowed-in tomorrow, so that he can work if the lifts open.)

The snowfalls over the past few days are playing havoc with the World Cup preparations and they’ll be very lucky to run any events over the next couple of days. Staging World Cup Races here in town is more reliable to bring on a big snowstorm than any Snow-God I’ve ever come across.

Sports Report-Well done Alistair Cook and England for a great showing in India.

6 December 2012
Welcome back Jean!

Fifteen centimetres of snow fell overnight and with the wind dropping off a little the Olympique opened bang on time this morning. We savoured the best snow since opening day and after five pretty tough days everyone was in the mood. After several excellent runs Tommeuses opened, the sun came out, and Chris and I were the first ones in with Pietro and Andreas not far behind. The snow was brilliant but the visibility was even better, and it was a cracking good run that punctuated a lovely morning.

I saw Maeve skiing today and must say she was skiing beautifully. Well done Maeve! And Terry in my group did himself proud today as he’s improved enormously over the past four days. It’s his first week off-piste, and he’s dealt with flat-light, howling winds, cold temperatures, some ‘educational’ snow, and today was his reward. Bravo Terry! Jean Ribart kicked off his season this morning and it’s great to have him back, and don’t forget to check out his daily photos.

Andreas was treating his work force to a ski and lunch today and they’ve all had a rather jolly time as you can imagine. It was a celebration as they’ve all worked incredibly hard to finish a luxury apartment on time, and they delivered it to a very happy man yesterday. Good work boys! (Speaking of lunch, thanks Terry from Sylvie, Alex and I and it set me up for shoveling my terrace)

I haven’t seen or heard from JM or Olivier today but they were out there somewhere with the Ski Club.

It has clouded over and I’ve no idea about what to expect tomorrow. We need either sunshine so we can safely spread our wings a little or some new snow to give us a fresh canvas because the easily accessible, safe skiing, was well trashed today!

PS I’ve just been informed that there is a ‘severe weather warning’ for tomorrow. Blimey!

5 December 2012
Happy Birthday Tansy!

It snowed about 20 to 30cm’s overnight with winds topping out at 95kph, but it was a totally different story to yesterday. The wind fortunately died down and the Solaise Express was the first lift to open around 9:30, followed by the Olympique shortly before ten, which was hours before anything yesterday. Yesterday’s snow off the piste was totally un-skiable as it was thigh-deep and dense, but that same dense layer supported last night’s snowfall resulting in some pretty good skiing. It was ‘educational’ at times and Terry and his son Alex, both new to ‘Alpine’ and off-piste, coped really well with it. Bravo boys! Chris skied with Olivier’s son Sasha (Andreas joined them for a run) while Pietro skied with Maeve, Adrian and Sylvie, and Oli and JM entertained the Ski Club. (The avalanche risk has been 4/5 for the past two days, contributing to the slow and limited opening)

Thanks very much to John F (alias Johnny ‘Alpine’) for a fabulous curry last night. The ginger chicken was lovely but the spicy slow-cooked-leg-of-lamb was truly outstanding. Brilliant!

It’s still snowing lightly this afternoon and we may see some clearer spells over the next few days. Just in time for Derek who has a knack for early-season skiing!

And a big happy birthday to Tansy today!

PS I’ve added a photo of the sparrow-hawk that Suzanne nursed back to health as well a shot Chris took last weekend.

PSS I’ve just heard about an avalanche in Tignes with two people in serious condition with perhaps one more missing. Below is the report that Chris just sent me from a local newspaper’s website:

Deux skieurs ont été emportée ce mercredi matin, vers 11 h 30, par une avalanche à Tignes. Ils évoluaient dans le secteur hors-piste de Tovière, sur le versant nord, en dessous du haut de la ligne de l’Aeroski lorsqu’ils ont été surpris par la coulée. Les pisteurs-secouristes de Tignes se sont portés à leur secours, accompagnés de quelques-uns de leurs collègues de Val d’Isère et de moniteurs de ski de la station. L’hélicoptère de Modane n’a lui pas pu décoller en raison des mauvaises conditions météorologiques. Les deux victimes ensevelies ont finalement été retrouvées en toute fin de matinée. La première a été retrouvée inconsciente mais a vite repris connaissance. La seconde victime était, elle, en arrêt cardio-vasculaire mais a pu être réanimée. Elle a été transportée à l’hôpital de Grenoble.

4 December 2012
Happy Birthday Suzanne!

At least 50cm’s fell in the village overnight and with the wind and such a load of snow it’s no surprise that as of noon we still haven’t made a turn. Bummer! Anyway, I may get out later for a couple of hours of technique with Terry and his son Alex.

As you know JM and Oli are in town and this morning Pietro arrived, as well as Jean Ribart, who has already posted his first photos of the season, bravo Jean!

Suzanne has been busy over the past few days nursing a wounded sparrow hawk. She didn’t know what to do as first but has kept it alive and finally found someone in the ‘bird world’ to come and collect it. Well done Suzanne and I’ll try to get a photo up on the site as it’s a beautiful creature. I’ve heard from a reliable source (and it wasn’t Chris) that it’s Suzanne’s birthday today. I won’t say how many but happy big-one Suzanne!

Mark Weller, our polo-playing friend, has been to India and kayaked the great Brahmaputra River. Nice one Mark! And Radio Will has been in touch from the mid-Atlantic to say well done West Ham and to plug his book. It’s available from the Pacific Bar and should be a fantastic read. I’m going to get my copy and read it after I finish the 923-page Shantaram, which I’m working my way through. Anyway, Will’s book is called, ‘A View From the Cheap Seats- The Art of the Gap Decade’, and it promises to be very entertaining indeed.

Rumour has it they are slowly getting it together so I’m on my way out for a 2 o’clock rendezvous.

3 December 2012
A tough start for JM and Oli!

It was another good outing in spite of the conditions today. After opening my curtains this morning to lovely sunshine by ‘show-time’ it had clouded over, the wind had picked up, and with temperatures of -18C overnight, it was a little chilly as well. Thomas, Chris and I all took our groups up Bellevarde and yesterday’s winds of 120kph had destroyed the snow on the upper half of the mountain. Still, we managed to ‘sniff’ out some nice snow in protected gullies and in the lee, but it wasn’t a lot. After testing negative off the Verte (there were signs of a chance) we headed up the Borsat and skied the Little Face Nord and needed to traverse all the way across to the protected strip for some excellent snow and then spent the next half hour trying to ‘travel safely’ to get ourselves to the bottom in one piece.

We returned to our side of the mountain immediately in case the lifts shut down and skied a decent Familial to finish the off-piste phase of the morning. I then gave my team the option of carrying on with some technique and Chrissy, Terry, Alex and I ended up skiing until 1o’clock.

I’d like to drum up a round of applause for Maeve, Adrian, John, Margaret, Chrissy, Penny, Sylvie, and Richard, all of whom braved the elements and skied the past two days. It was nice to have Richard Finlay and his brother Roddy along today and what a first ‘Alpine Experience’ for Terry and his son Alex. Well done everyone!

Andreas was off today while Jean Marc and Olivier have arrived to ski with the Ski Club. I don’t envy them having to deal with today’s conditions on their first day. They’re skiing all-day and both of them are still out there while I’m warming up comfortably on my sofa. Bravo boys!

It’s snowing quite nicely now and we could see 30 to 40cm’s by tomorrow, but the big question is about what the wind is going to do?

2 December 2012
Not too bad for a stinker!

The day started off teasingly brighter towards the Fornet and it was tempting to head that way for a quick Pays Desert and ‘skin’, but thank god we didn’t as it closed in quickly and the wind became ferocious by 11 o’clock. We all opted to take the Olympique and we spent the morning in flat light playing around off the Verte, Mont Blanc and lower Familial from the bridge. Eventually we were all driven indoors for shelter and a hot chocolate as the wind was bitter cold and any exposed was being hit by frostbite. (I’m not painting a very good picture, am I?) Anyway, we all knocked off between 12 and 12:30 but everyone had a pretty good time.

The lower slopes to the village are closed but we skied them today and I happy to report that the lower slopes at La Daille are now nicely covered and should be open, although being closed they’re extremely quiet, just they way we like them!

In my West Ham bliss yesterday I totally forgot about the rugby. Richard Finlay was telling me how he was watching it with some fellow Scots and as usual they were all cheering for England to lose. But he said England played so well that by the end they had the entire Scottish contingent cheering for them. Unbelievable! Back to the Hammers, I hope after yesterday and our place in the table that the stubborn fans inside Upton Park will now give Big Sam a break. I love the guy!

1 December 2012
How good was that?

Wow, what a start! We all headed up to the Pisaillas Glacier at the Fornet and were treated to superb powder snow. Although it was a limited opening there was plenty enough room for the various ‘Alpine’ groups to ski fresh snow all morning long. It was a very good opening day turnout, as Chris skied with Johnny ‘Alpine’ and Richard Finlay, while Andreas skied with Peter and Clare, Steve D, Chrissie, and Jerry, and I had the pleasure of John, Margaret, Penny, and Richard Foster’s company. Thomas wasn’t working today but he skied with my group most of the morning before heading off to pick up his 13-month-old daughter Manon in Tignes. (Thomas starts with Maeve and Adrian tomorrow) After a sunny start it clouded over fairly quickly but enough light filtered through the cloud cover to give us pretty good visibility and a fantastic morning was enjoyed by all! (Check photos)

Decent vis is forecast for tomorrow before a chance on snow again on Monday. Stay tuned.

Unfortunately the Hammers are down 1-0 to Chelsea after 45 minutes but I’m praying for an equalizer or better in the second half. I’m heading up to John’s tonight to watch Reading v Man U. Thanks John!

PS. Wow, what a start to the season! Wonderful powder snow and West Ham coming back from a goal down to beat Chelsea 3-1. It’s ‘dreamland’ for the Hammers at the moment and I’m in an extremely good mood!

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