High Mountain Guides / News / Chamonix & Alpine Ski & Climb Reports 2017

Chamonix & Alpine Ski & Climb Reports 2017

Good skiing, great weather and reasonable early spring conditions in the Vallee Blanche, Mid March 2017

19th March 2017, Fresh Snow In The Vallee Blanche

Only a handful of teams enjoyed the fine fresh turns in the upper Vallee Blanche this morning - because the Midi was shut all morning! This gave a pristine atmosphere as all the fine new snow was left totally untracked on the French side, until the Midi opened at lunch time.

On the Italian side, conditions were good and many teams enjoyed the Toule Glacier descent as well as some steeper variants from the Entreves shoulder and the steeper gullies and front face around Hellbronner and the Torino Hut. The Combe Vierge had reasonably good snow in it but the slopes below the Entreves looked well wind blown with plenty of soft sastrugi in evidence.

Once the Midi opened there were many teams skiing most variations on the French side of the Vallee Blanche including the steeper left hand variants.

18th March 2017, Ski Touring in Val d'Aosta

The warm and sunny early spring weather continues and whilst much of the snow pack is still in a transitional phase, most sunny southerly aspects have completely transformed to good spring snow and teams have been getting their timing right and enjoying the 'magic carpet ride' of skiing the super "Moquette" or re-frozen sun warmed snow - just at it's velvet juicy best when warmed by the spring sun, at the moment 1130 on South facing slopes between 1900 and 2700m seems about right, but it can all vary with just a bit of cloud and / or wind.

Tours with large bowls and the options to choose your aspect are a good bet if the timings are in question as the ability to traverse to a sunnier / shadier side can make all the difference. We have enjoyed some great touring on both sides of the Val d'Aosta above Morgex, Petit St. Bernard and Aosta itself. It's a fascinating area to explore on skis with superb link ups to be had via for example Val Feret, Planeval and Vetan. Around the Petit Bernard there are cols linking across towards the Courmayeur lift system and Val Veny. Great touring country for those prepared to follow the conditions and run the gauntlet of navigating on Italian maps! Worth noting that numerous good tours on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Range & nearby Swiss border are covered on the Swiss ski touring maps including the fine new 'Mont Blanc' map.

14th March 2017, Spring Weather Across The Northern Alps

Warm & sunny spring like weather continues across much of the Northern Alps with valley temperatures up in to the high teens in places and the 0C isotherm climbing above 3000m. This looks set to continue until the weekend when more snow is due but well above valley level eg around 2000m.

The good news for ski tourers this week has been the decent overnight freezing conditions and thus teams have been enjoying good sun softened spring snow in the morning or at just the right time for the elevation & aspect. Teams found good spring snow yesterday on the sunny aspects at Brevent, on the tours above the Argentiere Glacier and over on the south facing slopes ski touring above the Aosta Valley.

High on the north facing glacier on Rutor on the other side of the Val d'Aosta there was still some beautiful light untransformed powder and several heli ski teams enjoying the ride!

Conditions were OK in the Vallee Blanche today with a fine touring journey up to the Col d'Entreves on shady / chalky snow. Lower down on the sunny / French side things were getting bumpy on the bottle neck passage left of the Geant Icefall and down to the Salle a Manger. Also getting a little icy in the tracks early on. Most teams were taking the train down although plenty skied down too with some rocks coming through on the lower glacier and track and a C. 20 min walk at the base of the James Bond track without snow.

Other off piste news of note is the rock fall / avalanche in the lower Pas de Chèvre slopes linking the Grands Montets with the Mer de Glace. This means the normal exit on to the Glacier is no longer safe or practical and thus worth completely avoiding. The warm temperatures mean these steep rocky & loose west facing slopes will be out of condition anyway.

24th February 2017, Combloux Ski Touring - Croise Baulet

Despite there being nowhere near as much snow as forecast (more like 2cms instead of 20!) there was indeed a light freshening of the surface which gave some fun turns high on the Petit & Grand Croise Baulet above Combloux / La Giettaz.

Teams had skied various lines as usual on the Petit Croise Baulet including the fine steep summit couloir on the ENE face as well as, several days ago, the impressive East face of the Grand Croise Baulet.

Higher up in Chamonix there was a little more fresh snow, 10cms of fresh at the Aiguille du Midi. After a warm weekend it looks like some more wintery weather bringing snow from Tuesday onwards.

23rd Feb 2017, Classic Vallee Blanche Descent & Short Ski Tour

The winds were not as strong as forecast at the Aiguille du Midi this morning and many teams enjoyed the sunny weather and pleasant skiing in the tracked snow of the classic Vallee Blanche descent. We also ski toured up in to Combe Maudit and various other teams were touring up to the Col d'Entreves and over in to the Combe Vierge as well as skiing the Italian right hand passage of the Geant Icefall.

Unskied snow was often quite wind effected but the grippy snow in the tracked corridor was pleasant and easy to ski albeit fairly bumpy on the Chamonix left hand side of the Geant icefall. The Salle a Manger and lower Mer de Glace section have low snow volume / cover but still fun skiing in the well tracked route. The section below Montenvers, whilst possible(!) looks very lean and not recommended. There is a short walk to the steps of the Montenvers railway which is easy but slightly exposed and requires concentration.

Teams were climbing various dry ice / mixed routes on the Pt Lachenal and Tacul like Pellissier Gully, M6 solar and Modica Noury but conditions are generally very dry in terms of ice volume.

More snow on Friday will be welcome to help with conditions but a lot more is needed to bring the snow cover up to seasonal average. It looks like there is some more snow on the way next week.

22nd Feb 2017, Punta Croce Ski Touring & Vallee Blanche Descent

The pleasant and springlike mild weather finally reached the Italian side of the Mt Blanc Range and upper Val d'Aosta today, so whilst there still remains some good powder higher up in the shade, the transitional process of shifting towards spring snow started on more than just steep sunny slopes. We enjoyed a variety of snow types on Punta Croce and had a good ski tour from the lovely village of Arpy. Teams were also skiing Mont Colmet and tracks could also be seen on the impressive big open west facing slopes overlooking the Lago d'arby bowl.

It was a day of 'Yo-Yo' weather in the Mont Blanc Range with sun, showers, some thick cloud and wind giving some tough conditions for our Vallee Blanche descent team. They manage to find a good gap in the weather and enjoy the descent of the classic route, bumps and all! There were some enlarged tight crevasses entering the Salle a Manger from below the Requin Hut but otherwise reasonable conditions down to catch the train at Montenvers. Hopefully the snow forecast for Friday will improve conditions somewhat once it has settled down again.

16th Feb 2017, Brevent, Vallee Blanche, Grands Montets & Val d'Aosta Ski Conditions

Whilst conditions are still not great in terms of snow volume, the descent of the VB is now possible and was busy today with the vast majority of teams descending via the Montenvers railway due to lean conditions on the lower glacier and poor rocky conditions on the final descent (walk!?) through the woods due to recent warm & dry weather. There is little to no powder left on the French side at least, but plenty of bumps!

Whilst there were also big lift queues at Brevent and the steeper off piste terrain was well tracked, it was also pretty quiet in the warm spring conditions today. There were lots of tracks on the south facing steep runs accessed from the top station meaning they were not enjoyable skiing this morning in hard & refrozen conditions but did at least soften up as the warm sunny morning warmed them up!

Teams have also been skiing the high altitude cols Tour Noire and Argentiere above the Argentiere Glacier with reasonable snow cover for this and the return descent back in to the Grands Montes lift system but with mixed snow conditions / quality!

The snow remains cooler and lighter over on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Range and our intro ski touring group found good light snow & fresh tracks at La Thuile and snow shoeing group enjoyed 2 great journeys up to the Rifugio Bonatti in Val Feret and up towards the Col Fetita above Morge in Val d’Aosta.

13th Feb 2017, Aiguille du Midi - Ski Climb Conditions

After a tough windy day with a battering foehn wind coming over from the Italian side yesterday it was the return to calm today with pleasant easy mild winter high alpine conditions. Lots of teams were setting off on the Vallee Blanche from the Midi and reporting reasonable conditions down to Montenvers. Some teams were also heading over to ski the Cosmiques Couloir. Tracks were also seen on the Italian entrance to the Vallee Blanche and Col d'Entreves area.

On the mountaineering front - the foehn had left a pristine atmosphere across the Col du Midi this morning and it was necessary to break trail round to the base of the Cosmiques arete. There is now a track in place! Teams were climbing the Cosmiques as well as the Chere Couloir and starting up theContamines Mazeuad. Several teams were also getting settled in to the Abri Simond hut in anticipation of the week of mild sunny weather ahead.

12th Feb, Ski Touring in Les Aravis

A good 3 days of touring with some nice powder remaining well on shady aspects but getting heavier lower down today with the 0C isotherm rising above the 2000m contour for the first time in a long time. Thus both sunny and lower aspect are getting crusty / heavy and some may even turn to good spring condition with relatively chilly nights. It’s a transitional phase as a week of spring weather arrives with what was a wintery snow pack.

Conditions on the Pointe d’Andey above Bonneville were good after the last dump of powder but have rapidly detiorated under the multiple stresses of skiers, sun and warmth….conditions a lot less good now, but again, keep an eye out for spring snow forming well on the fine smooth east face if there are some cold night to drive the melt freeze process. Across the other side of the Plateau de Solaison, teams were skiing the Rocher de Leschaux north couloir / normal route but it was fairly lean and could do with some more snow both in the trees at the base and the narrow rocky valley.

Megeve, Contamines and Combloux all had reasonable cover, especially above about 1600m with team doing many of the classic tours and good conditions on the snowy track home runs back through the trees, even down to Le Leutaz at 1300m.

Today was harder to find good touring conditions with the foehn wind blowing hard down northern & western flanks of the Mont Blanc Range giving tough windy conditions higher up with the rising freezing level climbing rapidly from the valley and leaving only a narrow band in-between the 2!

8th Feb 2017, Le Tour Powder Touring Day - Great Skiing

Good training day with Team FATMAP in Chamonix looking at planning and route choice for off piste skiing and ski touring. As well as Fatmap we used lots of other resources including other digital mapping apps and even a paper map! Great team enjoying a mix of good powder skiing off the lifts and some touring in the trees on the Swiss side of the mountain.

Teams were skiing in the back bowls a bit but mainly sensibly nibbling in to them from the easier angled and more wooded flank - rather than piling in from the top of the Tete de Balme. The deep & soft windblown snow combined poor visibillity gave considerable avalanche risk and some tricky route finding which needed to managed with good route choice choosing more mellow terrain and using the piste / woods to get lower down the mountain.

Light snow all day gave a good wintery feel and another little top up to the much improving snow pack which was "well below average" and is now, according to Meteo France, "Correct!" from 1500m upwards. Bon ski!

7th Feb 2017, St Gervais Powder Day - Great Skiing

The snow that has fallen throughout the weekend has really been a game changer in the story of evolving winter conditions thus far this season. Nearly 1m of fresh snow has fallen at 1800 in the last few days and there was a feast of good powder skiing high on Mont Joly this morning! Fresh tracks off nearly all lifts were enjoyed around the Mont Blanc Evasion resorts of St Gervais, Megeve, Combloux and Les Contamines. Whilst the snow got a bit heavy lower down later in the day there was no big thaw on the mountain and it was great to see trees and slopes plastered in thick snow. The temperatures during the storm were not that low and the snow has stuck well to - most things!

Our Intro touring course enjoyed good snow albeit with a tough trail breaking skinning ascent to make the summit of Punta Croce before they head up to the Grand St. Bernard Monastery today for a 2 day / overnight intro touring expedition up there.

The high volume of extra snow has improved the cover and snow quality around the Mont Blanc Range although the Avalanche risk remains considerable in the aftermath of the fresh snow and wind. Conditions will be improved in the Vallee Blanche although it will take a while to establish what the actual snow conditions are like and we won't be rushing down it just yet!

Special care is required off piste skiing and ski touring around the Italian Val Feret at the moment as avalanche control work goes on in the area around the Marbrees Couloir / S. Face of the Dent du Geant - details here.

3rd Feb 2017, Courmayeur Powder Day - Great Skiing

Excellent fun morning skiing the overnight fresh snow in the upper Val d'Aosta. Much cooler conditions than in the Chamonix Valley and with more fresh snow. Great skiing all morning until the thick cloud pushed in mid afternoon giving poor visibility. Powder on the piste first thing this morning, then side country, then lovely fresh turns in the backcountry runs from the Youla lift and Val Veny trees area. A good run was also had down the upper Dolonne Valley with the upper exit taken to avoid the lower valley despite plenty of tracks continuing down - must be thin though!

Plenty more snow due over the weekend and, coming from the West, Chamonix is forecast to get plenty of fresh snow too, albeit on strong - gale force winds. Bon ski weekend.

1st Feb 2017, Fresh Snow Up High - Grands Montets Powder Day!

Yes, the cover is still very lean for early Feb; Yes, it's still very rocky lower down, yes, there are plenty of big crevasses on the glacier and yes, the recent rain snow limit was flirting with the 2000m contour....BUT, there was powder at the Grands Montets today and some very fun skiing to be high in the upper half of the resort. Lots of the Chamonix faithful were in the queue at the Grands Montets to get whisked up to the 3300m top lift and enjoy some fine skiing on most of the terrain accessible from the top lift, front face, Grand Mur, Argentiere glacier, all being enjoyed with fresh tracks today. Lots of attention required, especially in the lower reaches which have a poor base and were rocky despite the shallow layer of good fresh snow on top.

Teams were also touring up the Argentiere Glacier and good tracks were seen on the Col du Tour Noir and Col d'Argentiere areas as well as later in the day, a skinning track was heading up to the Col du Passon.

The descent via the classic left bank Argentiere Glacier run was reasonable with a couple of narrow passages requiring care - but skis on all the way. Not great but a lot better than recent conditions and an enjoyable long off piste run from top to mid station.

Now looking promising for more snow over the weekend so conditions should continue to improve. Bon ski.

27th January 2017, Foehn In The Mont Blanc Massif, Some Good Snow On The Italian Side...

Enjoyable days off piste skiing and touring at La Thuile today although the SE foehn winds were a bit stronger than forecast and the visibility was also a bit poorer so the plan A of being up on the near 3000m summits around La Thuile did not materialise. Still, good snow was found in shady places even below 2000m with impressive cover compared to North of Mont Blanc.

Decent creamy turns were also found at Courmayeur although there is obviously not much fresh lift accessed snow left anymore! There was some very light snowfall in Val d'Aosta as we returned to France and even a bit in the forecast for Chamonix now for next week albeit with relatively warm weather. Bon Weekend.

26th January 2017, Lean Snow Conditions Around The Mont Blanc Massif - But Some Good Skiing!

This has been the leanest of conditions for the last week in January for the last 5 years or so at least. With only 2 big snow falls of the winter so far the cover remains lean although the temperatures have remained low which means a white and wintery feel prevails in the Chamonix / Arve Valleys down to low altitudes. The base does not remain good below 1700m although the snow cover goes down to 500 on shady aspects and good cool powder remains in shady & sheltered locations still.

Off Piste & ski touring from the lifts of the Grand Montets this week has been fine with chalky / firm pack snow which has been well skied but remains mostly grippy and pleasant to ski, albeit with lots of rocks poking out! The classic Argentiere Glacier run from the Grands Montets is being done although conditions are more awkward than usual. Likewise, lower down at St. Gervais, Combloux, Les Contamimes and Megeve nearly all lifts are open and the resorts are fully white but cover remains lean and the side country and classic tours now well tracked although there remains good snow in shady meadows accessed by skinning.

Up on the upper Vallee Blanche snow conditions were fine today for the ski down the Combe Vierge and ski tour back round to the Toule Glacier. Strong wind and cloud arrived at the same time as us so we descended by the Skyway lift but several teams had done the Toule glacier and reported reasonable conditions. The Couloir Marbrees was reported to be hard and polished from avalanche debris and not recommended.

18th January 2017, Good Aravis Ski Touring, Improved But Mixed Snow Conditions Around Mt Blanc Massif

The heavy snow over the weekend has transformed the previously grassy low slopes of the Aravis in to a winter wonderland with skiing possible down to below 1000m albeit on a base of grass! We toured from the Col Plan Bois at 1300m and enjoyed a great variety of touring, aspects and snow types on the Montagne de Sulens with superb views around the Aravis, Bauges and Mt Blanc range. Lots of other inspiring objectives like Mont Charvin in this area with it’s fine NE Ridge as a mountaineering ascent and superb 45° skiers descent of the West Face.

There were no tracks on that but many other more mellow ski touring tracks in place including on the nearby Gouenne & Mandallaz. Cover was extensive but with a limited base below C. 1800m. Above this altitude there was improving cover on a snowy base but often with wind affected snow, especially near ridges. Good powder existed well down the mountain below that but with the limited base, we avoided the classic steeper ‘Combe Nord’ descent from the Montagne de Sulens and skied pleasant powder on a grassy base back to Plan Bois.

There had been lots of activity in the La Clusaz area too with great skiing earlier in the week after the powder arrived and plenty of touring activity in the big combs albeit again with limited cover lower down. Good tracks were also seen on The Mole and Petite Croise Baulet back in the Arve Valley.

Higher up the Arve Valley conditions are much improved in the Vallee Blanche but still poor with lean snow cover, extensive crevassing, some exposed ice in places and very rocky sections lower down. More snow required and no fixed equipment in place for descending the Midi snow ridge. Also extremely cold at the Midi at the moment!! On the other side of the Chamonix Valley, the Aiguilles Rouges now has much better cover higher up but with heavily wind effected snow across much of the range and with reports of at least one skier triggered wind slab avalanche.

Cold conditions are preserving the current state of the snow pack and powder still exists in sheltered & shady locations which have not been skied or trashed by the wind. This situation looks stable for a few more days now so things are unlikely to change radically in the cold mid winter weather. Bon ski and please let us know if you have any good mountain conditions info to share.

13th January 2017, Major Snowfalls in Mt Blanc Massif & NW Alps

Finally some fresh tracks in deep cold powder snow in Chamonix today! A night of heavy precipitation had left up to 40cms of fresh snow in sheltered or leeward zones at around 1800m today with plenty more during tonight & tomorrow. A game changer for the story of the season so far in the Mont Blanc Range and NW Alps.

Strong NW winds closed the Grands Montets & Aiguille du Midi for the day so plenty of teams headed to Les Houches which started opening more lifts for folk to enjoy good powder in the top third of the resort with fun skiing & plenty of fresh tracks despite the relatively sparse cover.

The fresh snow will be a welcome boost to the Chamonix Valley resorts as well as nearby Chablais resorts like Morzine and Aravis resorts like Megeve, St. Gervais and Les Contamines. The fresh snow also reached across to the southern Italian side of the range where the Rifugio Torino got a major dump but with a less in Courmayeur and a lot less lower down Val d'Aosta.

Before the major arrival of the fresh snow today several previous smaller snow showers had brought a little fresh snow to the NW with Les Contamines right on the north western tip of Mont Blanc getting as much as anywhere in the area.

Conditions were still very rocky at the Grands Montets and thus care will be required with the fresh snow burying many previously visible lumps of granite! The top station was closed to normal skiers but open for teams going climbing or ski mountaineering with some folk heading up the Argentiere Basin and up to the Col d'Argentiere for example.

Conditions remain extremely lean and crevassed lower down in the Vallee Blanche although skiers have been down it - not recommended yet! With more snow tomorrow followed by more settled dry & cold weather conditions look set to improve for most types of skiing across the range. Bon weekend, bon ski.

4th January 2017, Val Veny, Val di Rhemes & Aosta - Ski Touring Italian Val d'Aosta

There is clearly a lot more snow at middle and lower altitudes on the Southern Italian side of Monte Bianco than the northern / Chamonix side. Further down the Val d'Aosta the cover is reasonable for the time of year and there is a some decent ski touring to be had and even a few fresh tracks....although not many!

Cover is reasonable on the track leading up the Val Veny and accessing the Lex Blanche / Lac Combal area and teams have been skinning up towards the Col de la Seigne and skiing some fine steep lines on the North Facing slopes between Mont Fortin and the Col de Chavannes.

Again the cover is fine in the Val di Rhemes and lots of teams were ski touring up towards the Entrelor from Bruil aswell as up to the Benevelo Hut. The conditions on the ski de fond track at the end of the Val di Rhemes looked good and lots of folk were enjoying a work out on some of the steep slopes on that!

A much milder day skiing above Pila - Aosta today with the Northerly foehn wind giving a coolish breeze in the shade but very warm and pleasant in the sun out of the wind and with great views across to the Grivola and Grand Paradiso. Teams ski touring on the various lift accessed cols above the resort and cover on the upper section of Punta Pierre looked good. There are also various appealing steeper looking lines which have been accessed with skins / boot tracks and some good fresh tracks on steep northerly slopes above the resort.

Reasonable conditions also reported from ski touring on Punta Croce above Morgex as well as Valgrisanche & Valtournanches lower down the Aosta Valley.

30th December 2016, Midi - Cosmiques - Mont Blanc - Tour Ronde - Cogne - New Year Conditions Round Up!

Very pleasant mild and sunny conditions again today high in the mountains with a strong inversion and hard frost persisting all day in the Chamonix Valley floor. Lots of teams out enjoying the decent mountaineering conditions around the Aiguille du Midi. A good stiff snowy track ran all the way along the Cosmiques Arete and gave enjoyable conditions for this and the traverse of the Arete Laurence.

Many teams were also heading over to, and climbing, the Chere Couloir although this looked very lean, grey and fairly unappealing. The line of the Perroux to the left was even dryer but a team was starting up this route also. Other teams climbed the normal route on Mont Blanc du Tacul and both boot and ski tracks were also heading over to Pointe Lachenal. The Abri Simond hut is open and has various mattresses but not many blankets by the look of it. I think I would take a sleeping bag if heading there at the moment!

Tracks were also seen topping out on Vent du Dragon, which also looked pretty dry, but has been climbed. The North Face of the Midi also looked generally quite dry and icy at the top although apparently the Mallory Porter has been climbed albeit in very lean / mixed / icy conditions. Tough conditions were also found on the Tour Ronde North Face which has just had an ascent from Kyle who described conditions as "Not ideal. Pretty icy, lots of unconsolidated snow and hard, brittle ice in the upper section. Ice in the gully pitches was helpfully stepped out though!"

Ice conditions for cascade climbing are generally also pretty poor with just a few of the more reliable ice lines in Cogne complete and climbable like the Patri's and some reasonable lean ice at the Cremerie in Argentiere, but generally not much to write home about at the moment.

Slovenian Ranger John & partner climbed high on Mont Blanc a couple of days ago, and found reasonable conditions for the ascent via the Gouter Hut - but then were forced to turn around in high winds at the Vallot Hut.

Ski conditions around the resorts of Chamonix are currently poor with no fresh snow for over a month and this week has seen busy / icy / rocky pistes with the need also to download in the lifts as the home runs back to the valley floor are not open. The Midi snow ridge is completely devoid of any equipment / ropes due to the poor conditions for skiing the Vallee Blanche.

Better snow conditions have been experienced on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Range, although even the pistes of Courmayeur are showing the hammering from a busy Christmas / New Year week and no fresh snow. Better snow has been found for those ski touring in Val Veny / Feret and further down the Val d'Aosta.

Happy New Year and please send us any mountain conditions info if you have been out. Bonne Année!

28th December 2016, Aiguilles Marbrees Traverse

Lots of teams enjoying the relatively mild mid winter temperatures in the high mountains on the Italian side of Mont Blanc today. There was a stiff Northerly breeze though giving a chilly traverse of the Col de Geant and some big sastrugi! The traverse of the Aiguilles Marbrees seemed more sheltered and gave pleasant conditions with a good track and short final rap on the normal descent route from the bolted anchor on the Torino Hut side.

Teams were also climbing a fairly direct mixed route towards the summit on the Col du Geant side, probably the Directe des Cristalier which I have not done and would welcome any info on!

A few teams of skiers approached the Col Rochefort area heading towards the Marbrees Couloir but no further info & various teams headed rounded to ski the Toule Glacier which has lots of tracks in.

Looks like more sunny weather over the New Year weekend with a bit of snow currently being forecast for early next week.

23rd December 2016, Off Piste & Ski Tour Courmayeur

With no fresh snow since our last visit on Wednesday the avalanche hazard rating had dropped to Cat 2 and a few teams had been enjoying touring in to interesting terrain and doing some good steepish skiing. Teams had skinned up towards Mont Nix and skied the North facing powder slopes down in to the big bowls of Val Veny. The classic big gully exit to this is in poor very lean condition and a much nicer way of accessing the Val Veny Valley floor can be taken higher up the valley and by traversing on to the Northern slopes of Mont Fortin.

Descents in to the Dolonne Valley south of the main resort were in good condition at the top and we skied the fine high bowl accessed from the long traverse from the Youla lift and side stepping ascent. The lower Dolonne valley looks like highly unappealing due to very spartan cover low down and lots of hard refrozen debris en route. Better to take the high exit line on the skiers left to re-enter the main resort.

The steep Couloir below the cables of the Youla lift had been skied a lot although it had a rocky entrance as usual! Likewise the steep rocky slopes between the Arp & Youla lifts had been skied a few times...but were steep and rocky!

Merry Christmas, Good Skiing!

21st December 2016, Ski Courmayeur

Recent southerly winds have deposited plenty of fresh snow in the Val d'Aosta and particularly at the SE end of the Valley. Courmayeur has still had a reasonable dump of fresh snow whilst none has reached the north side of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Valley.

Much better general snow cover exists on the Italian side of the range and there was fun off piste skiing today, especially in the fresh snow above 2000m. At 2500m from the Youla lift there was at least 40cms of fresh snow in places with good skiing in the main bowl and steeper couloirs accessed from the Youla.

Teams had skied in to the large Dollone valley south of the main resort area, and whilst snow conditions looked fun in the initial couloir, they looked very lean lower down!

Teams also skied the Toule Glacier today, with lots of fresh tracks in evidence. No real fresh tracks over in the Chamonix Valley which had another day of sunny & relatively mild weather with the lean snow cover getting hard, icy and pretty rocky in lots of places at the Grands Montets.

15th December 2016, Ski La Thuile

Despite it being nearly a month now since the last major snowfall, early season snow conditions remain reasonable at La Thuile with lots of good piste skiing, most lifts open, some fun side country and touring options. We enjoyed some long winding piste journeys around this geographically interesting resort linking Italy and France via the 2 ski areas of La Thuile and La Rosiere. Throw in the Col du Petit St Bernard and magnificent views of the Mont Blanc Massif and even the Matterhorn and you have a stunning area to ski.

There is lots of interesting off piste terrain around La Thuile although the steeper lines are obviously still pretty rocky at this time of year and with only one major snow event so far.

Despite this, numerous interesting looking steeper lines were tracked and snow cover was reasonable above about 1800m although very sparse lower down, especially on sunny aspects.

All the pistes leading back to La Thuile were all shut. We did a good mini ski tour in the Ponteilles area below Mont Valaisan and between Rutor and the pistes of La Thuile with good views of these and other touring areas like across on Punta Croce and Mont Colmet.

13th December 2016, Aiguille de Toule & Punta Hellbroner Conditions Summary

Mild, dry & calm conditions continue around the Mont Blanc Massif although yesterday's strong winds have made changes to the early winter snow pack up high. It was a very mild 5C at times in Courmayeur and felt pretty pleasant enjoying the views at 3500m on the Aiguille de Toule also. Sunny, calm and mild weather giving an unusually relaxed feel to our easy alpine ascent on the short East Face of the Toule, easily accessed from Punta Hellbroner via the skiers access path to the Col & Glacier de Toule.

Several skiers were descending this and there were many tracks but conditions looked pretty hard and scratchy now as there has been plenty of wind, sun, re-freeze & skiers since the last snowfalls in November. There were also plenty of tracks on the steeper descent from the Aiguille d'Entreves in to the Toule, but again, these were old and the snow looked less appealing now.

The windy conditions had also blown in the tracks on the normal access in to the Vallee Blanche so progress on foot was laborious and it did not look too much fun on skis today either!

There were lots of boot tracks on the approach to lots of different lines on the Aiguilles Marbrees which had been scoured rather than blown in but the West Face of the Marbrees was now looking pretty dry again albeit with thin snow cover in the major gully lines. The same dry story seemed to be generally in evidence on the major gully / ice lines on the Tacul East Face & upper Vallee Blanche area. Teams have also recently done the Tour Ronde North Face and winter voie normale as well as the traverse of the Entreves, although the approach track to both was now blown in again.

More snow required now please - but, for now, in the short term, none forecast...

The Funivie Monte Bianco leading to Helbronner on the Italian side of the range is now open throughout the winter as is the Grands Montets whilst the Aiguille du Midi lift is scheduled to open on the 17th December.

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Previous Season Ski Chamonix / Alpine Snow Reports

9th May 2016 - Mont Velan & Mont Dolent

Late season conditions remain excellent for high mountain ski touring with very extensive snow cover for the time of year on the high glaciers, peaks and cols. We enjoyed a fine ski ascent of Mont Velan from the impressive Velan Hut which looks like the prow of a battleship perched high on... more>

15th May 2015 - Ski Monte Rosa - Last Day of 2015 Ski Season

The story of good snow conditions high on the glaciers and a high snow line is replicated over in the Swiss Valais Alps around Zermatt. We thus approached the Monte Rosa hut via Rotenboden on the Gornergrat railway as the steep south facing slopes below the Gornergrat are... more>

5th April 2014 Ski Touring Above the Val Veny & Val d'Aosta

The snow pack in the Mont Blanc massif is nearly generally transformed to spring condition, with just a few steep north facing slopes at lower / middle altitudes still to be purged and some good winter powder still remaining on higher north facing slopes which have e... more>

13th March 2013 - A Return to Winter Powder Skiing High in the Chamonix Valley

Great skiing over the last couple of days thanks to around 40cms of fresh snow up high, cool temperatures and light winds. A return to the theme of this winter - cruising light powder. We skied variations on both the Argentiere Glacier runs from the Gr... more>

Other Relevant Links

Ski Monte Rosa Video, May 2011

Fine powder skiing on the N. Facing descent from the Silbersattel on the Dufourspitze, Swiss Alps

Snowy Early Season Ski Touring in The Arve Valley

Skiing off the Croisse Baulet and in to the Le Plan lift system

Off-Piste Ski Jump

French ESF Ski Instructor goes for it in the soft powder at Gavarnie, French Pyrenees

If you have been out off piste skiing, boarding or ski touring recently, or have a relevant comment about snow conditions, then please share it with us via the Add Comment button at the foot of the page:

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