Chamonix & Alpine Ski Reports 2015/16
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 the mountain! Having parked at 1800m the walk in to the hut involved an hour of carrying skis before the pleasant skin up to the hut. The Valsorey hut is higher and a tougher & steeper approach. We saw tracks on the Plateau de Couloir and heard of numerous teams skiing the Grand Combin.
The crossing of the Col de la Gouille (3150m) on the voie normale on Mont Velan was well snowy and none of the chains were visible. A short rocky / snowy scramble on the hut side was followed by a steep down climb on the far side requiring a steady approach. Some teams were also abseiling pitch. The glacier above was well filled in and gave a steady skin to the final booting section to the summit. Poor visibility on the summit plateau meant no views and deterred us from going to check out the couloirs on the west face although we heard that the couloir Annibal had been skied.
As La Fouly was closed for any accommodation options - the next morning we have a very early start from Orsierres and made steady pre dawn progress up the Col Pt Feret separating the Swiss & Italian sides of the beautiful Val Feret. A good track was in place leading round to the Italian Fioro bivi hut at C 2740m and we continued steadily up to the ski depot below the summit bastion on Mont Dolent. This provided a good steady climb in crampons up the couloir and lovely short summit ridge. Again we missed the view as clouds descended! These lingering clouds also meant the upper pitches stayed rattly although there was some lovely spring snow beneath the hut and in to the Val Feret. An excellent round trip with 2200m of ascent and many south facing slopes to ski means an early start and sense of momentum is required for a ski ascent in May.
The weather in the Northern Alps this morning is deteriorating with light snow and low clouds in the Bernese Oberland and at least several days of showery & cool weather on the forecast.
29th April 2016 - Great Late Season Skiing All Around The Vallee Blanche
Recent fresh snow has built up the cover even more high on the glaciers around the Vallee Blanche and teams were enjoying all variations on both French & Italian side today as well as the classic tours up the Periades Glacier. The snow remained good even on the sunny aspects of the French descents and was even better on the shady slopes of the Italian side.
The Midi ridge is still equipped with metal stakes and large rope but the main Z track on the north face has been removed and the ropes on the ridge will follow suit in a week or so. There is a little walk to reach the Montenvers steps at the end of the ski. In-between conditions are good with fine snow cover and lots of fresh snow, turning heavy below the Requin Hut today but with even more cold and snowy weather forecast for the weekend.
Over in the Paradiso area Ben & Sam enjoyed several good days touring above the Benevolo Hut and make the classic ski ascent of Punta Galisia, again in cold & snowy conditions!
26th April 2016 - Powder Day At Les Grands Montets....Plenty Fresh Snow Around MB Range
Excellent days skiing at the Grands Montets as the clouds rolled back to reveal glistening white fresh snow all round the massif with a dusting down to valley floor level. Higher up there was a lot lot more than a dusting with reports of 70-90cms of fresh snow in the high mountains. An impressive top up of an already already extensive snow pack!
High mountain ski touring conditions remain good, once the fresh snow has stabilised and the weather has improved. Teams are still descending the Vallee Blanche with good cover down to the Mer de Glace before a short walk to the Montenvers station steps.
22nd April 2016 - Good Snow Cover & Ski Mountaineering Conditions In The Bernese Oberland
An excellent ski tourers combination of big snow volume, fine snow quality and some excellent weather has seen much activity across the Oberland with the big 3 central huts of Konkordia, Finsterarhorn and Hollandia all reporting generally good conditions.
Teams are skiing the steep Mittaghorn above Hollandia Hut today with other teams climbing both Abenhi Flue and the tough Hassler Rib on the Aletschorn also. The approach to Hollandia up the Loschental is fine with team starting from Blatten. Conditions are also 'correct' for ski ascents of the Gros Grunhorn, Finsterarhorn, Wanenhorn and Fiescherhon. Plenty of objectives with the huts generally remaining open until later in May.
This weekend looks like bringing poor weather to the northern Alps with some very significant precipitation falling as snow from around 1500, then 1000m....so a return to winter with a commensurate rise in avalanche forecast to match. The should be some good fresh snow to be skied once the weather improves and the snowfall on top of existing good snow volumes will only further enhance the general state of the glaciers and high mountain routes for the rest of spring and into summer.
14th April 2016 - Gran Paradiso & Valsavarenche Ski Touring Conditions
Great spring conditions around the Paradiso National Park today with fresh snow from last night giving fun powder turns above 2500m and good cover and fine spring snow still lower down - all the way to the cafe at Pont for us at the end of a good 2000m ski tour around the upper Valsaverenche.
We started in Pont at 0630 this morning and put started skinning from the car park. A good track albeit a tad icy & broken in places. Otherwise good progress to our first cappuccino stop at the Vittorio Emanuelle Hut at 0830. Our intended ski peak of Tresenta looked well battered by both ski tracks and wind and we diverted to a lovely high col on Ciaforon at 3400m, a great journey up the pristine feeling Glacier di Moncorve.
Many teams were heading up further left to cross the Col del Gran Paradiso en route to the Pontese Hut. We joined the hut guardian and other marshals laying out the route for this weekends Gran Paradiso ski race. The Italian team were out training which was impressive to see, especially when they started skinning up the North Face of the Becca di Monciar! This face has not been climbed or skied this winter so far according to the Guardian and there is a very large crown wall - up to 3m high at the base of the face. The debris from this is spread far & wide on the slopes below making the traverse over to the upper Valsavarenche a bit more complicated than normal!
The 450m to the Col Grand Etret was a pleasant powder skin and gave great views to the South & Valle dell'Orco, as well as taking our skinning ascent to 2000m. The descent direct to the cafe at Pont was a pleasure. Fall line powder skiing followed by cruisy spring snow, only a few bushes to negotiate lower down and quick skate along the track right back to the car. Good conditions and a fun day tour and making a change to visit this area without using the huts.
A skinning track had been put in this morning by a team crossing from the upper Valsavarenche across to the Col Pt. Foura (3411m) en route to the Chivasso Hut. Many other teams were also making day ascents of the Gran Paradiso from both Chabod & Vittorio Emanuelle sides as well as teams crossing over the Grand Serra from the Sella Hut.
An action packed 4 day course designed for ski mountaineers who want to sample a taste of Italy and climb its highest mountain on skis. The ski touring in the famous Italian Valle d'Aoste is as good as the coffee and we aim to give you an excellent introduction to the area with... more>
12th April 2016 - Ski Domes de Miage - Glacier d'Armancette
An excellent ski journey and adventure over a couple of days with base camp as the Refuge Conscrits Hut above the Contamines Valley. Conditions were good accessing the hut despite a long walk carrying skis to the snow line not much below the Tre La Tete hut at 1900m. Some well frozen steep snow slopes below the hut in the morning. We negotiated all this and through the Mauvais Pas right up on to the glacier in boots and crampons carrying skis. The mauvais pass was starting to lose some snow and offering bits of rocky / grassy scrambling which we did in crampons. Still exposed as always!
Teams had enjoyed good north facing powder of Mont Tondu and sunnier spring snow coming back down to the hut from the Berangere. The main event though was the ascent of the Tre la Tete glacier, good snow cover and up to the Col des Domes. From here we booted up and along the superb narrow snow ridge of the Dome de Miage to the western summit at 3670m.
We put skis on here to enjoy some fun blown in powder on the immediate north facing ground before the steeper, harder and less fun NW section above the Col de la Berangere. This was well steep, 40 degrees for about 150m and with very hard packed snow. Not for the faint hearted today! The skiing below was more enjoyable initially on some powder on the high altitude north facing slopes and then heavily winded & sastrugi leading back under the serac and into the main bowl. Here the high altitude NW facing spring snow had not transformed but things improved below 3000m and we took the little skinning re-ascent as recommended by the Vamos Mt Blanc ski touring guide.
Below that there was some excellent spring snow nicely softening and always in a magnificent position with Mont Blanc and the Aiguille de Bionassay providing a stunning back drop to ski in. One team were also skiing a steep couloir on above the Combe d'Armancette.
Lower down we joined the woody right trending ramp above the Lac and walked down a muddy path for a 100m or so to the Lac d'Armancette, which was half iced over and full of frogs in the sunny margins. A scenic walk back to Cugnon provided time to reflect on a very enjoyable ski mountaineering traverse of the Dome de Miage and east side of the Contamines Valley.
10th April 2016 - Good Ski Touring Conditions After Fresh Snow In Northern Alps
Brilliant birthday Vallee Blanche today for our guests who skied the Combe Vierge on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche, followed by joining the French side for the Geant Icefall...and a good sunny lunch at the Requin Hut. There was even time for a run down the Argentiere Glacier. A classic spring skiing day with fresh powder in the Vierge and soft spring snow lower down.
In other touring news teams also enjoyed fresh snow on shady aspects on Pt Ronde and on most sheltered and shady aspects above 2500m or so. Lots of teams crossed the Col de Chardonnet en route to the Trient Hut and Haute Route beyond. The Conscrits Hut reported a busy day with teams touring around the Tre la Tete Glacier and one team was spotted making a late descent of the Armancette Glacier in lovely evening light!
The Velan Hut also reported a busy day with many teams ski touring on Mont Velan.
7th April 2016 - Off Piste & Ski Touring Conditions Round Up
Early spring transitional conditions as we have now can be tricky with powder remaining high in shady & sheltered northern bowls, heavy snow lower down in the sun with the refrozen crust on many aspects and altitudes in between demanding careful timing and appreciation of the factors of elevation, aspect, sun, wind, strength of the re-freeze....oh, and a bit of luck!
Good cover remains despite recent rain and foehn winds stripping a lot back lower in the valleys. This process actually helps get rid of the more superficial lower snow pack and whilst it means a trek must often be made from the valley to the snow line, this is better than skiing thin slush to get down!
A snow line generally above 1600m means teams skiing the Vallee Blanche are taking the Montenvers train down although snow cover remains good high on the glacier. A large hole in a fragile snow bridge on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche was uncovered today whilst trying to avoid one of the many and extensive fields of debris covering the slopes on the Italian side of the Geant Icefall. The Combe Noire was also skied in crusty conditions.
Other teams have reported decent cover but variable snow quality in the Aiguilles Rouges, Crochues Berard and Glacier Morte with just a little walking at the end of the Berarde Valley to get to Le Buet. No walking needed on the high tours of the Argentiere Glacier as the return via the normal left bank exit from the ice fall and subsequent descent through the Grands Montets is still fine. Tourers reaching the Col Tour Noir reported snow on the descent varying from crusty where shaded to soft & heavy where sunny.
Numerous teams have been doing the Col du Passon, many en route to the Albert Premier as an alternative way of starting the Haute Route for a less complicated / technical crossing than the Col de Chardonnet. Conditions on the descent to Champex via the Val d'Arpette were reported as good.
In the Contamines area there has been little activity from the Conscrits Hut due to the recent cloudy & windy conditions although there has been little fresh snow snow, cover remains good and there will be many teams at the hut this weekend.
A little more fresh snow has been experienced over in Italy but again with a high freezing level this has been soft & wet until above the tree line, with some good skiing when the visibility has been fine but difficult conditions in the frequently cloudy recent weather.
31st March 2016 - Strong Winds & Cloud But Good Skiing Still At Les Grands Montets
Strong foehn winds did not spoil the day at the Grands Montets and a quick ascent to the top allowed an enjoyable descent of the Rognons and Argentiere Glaciers via the voie normale in good condition with wind blown cold snow higher up and some pleasant spring snow lower down, especially on the 2nd run. After the top lift shut we skinned up the glacier and skied a lovely 40 degree couloir on pleasant softened snow & friendly conditions. A great end to the day, weeks course and the last of this seasons courses we run with Off Piste Performance....2017 dates now on line and some places booked up already!
Snow conditions are reported as being poor in the Vallee Blanche with crusty snow & refrozen tracks, not to mention wild winds! This should improve once the snow transforms to spring with more sun and cooler nights.
30th March 2016 - Good Snow High Up At Courmayeur But Cloudy & Warm Weather
After some excellent off piste conditions at Courmayeur yesterday we enjoyed the good snow & very quiet conditions again today. However...the good snow high up was hard to enjoy this morning as there were only momentary clearings in the very thick hanging cloud. Thus a few runs were enjoyed on steep couloirs in the trees which were already getting heavy in the morning but ok where well tracked. Then the clouds lifted and we enjoyed some good north facing powder off the various couloirs & slopes accessed from Youla & Arp. By mid-day the snow was wet up to 2200m, even on shady aspects. Some teams skied down the big couloirs down to Val Veny but we traversed back across to Plan de la Gabba and did laps off the Youla & Arp to avoid descending too low if not on the piste!
Our other Chamonix off piste & Mountain skills course skied at the Grands Montets in Chamonix today and experience similar if not even heavier snow conditions. With more warm & windy weather tomorrow the snow conditions will not improve!
29th March 2016 - Fresh Top Up Of Snow - Great Conditions At Les Grands Montets
Strong winds prevented the Grands Montets top bin opening today but the snow quality accessed from the other lifts more than made up for it. Lovely fresh powder on a soft base on shady aspects between about 1900m and to the Col des Rachasses which we skinned up to at 3000m for an excellent ski down the Grand Mur - which, unusually, we had to ourselves with no people and no tracks - thanks to the fresh snow and shut top lift!
Yesterday we toured on the Pt Ronde above the Col de la Forclaz. Good conditions with many teams doing the normal route and a few tackling the steeper northern couloirs and bowl. Good conditions have been reported in the Aiguilles Rouges too with the exit from the Berade Valley being in good shape.
Unfortunately the arrival of strong foehn winds with warm temperatures in Chamonix tomorrow increased the avalanche hazard and will not help the currently good snow conditions.
25th March 2016 - Ski Mt Blanc Massif Conditions Summary As Fresh Snow Arrives Over Easter Weekend
Only very light snow today (approximately 5cms at 1800m) but significant in being the first precipitation for a couple of weeks of sunny but windy weather. Many teams have been out in the high mountains skiing interesting and often steep lines. The Trappier Couloir was skied again yesterday with decent firm pack skiing. Ben made a swift circuit of the high Aiguilles Rouges tour de Mont Buet and, further East in the Swiss Valais many teams have been ski mountaineering on Mont Velan including the impressive Couloir Annibal.
Many teams have been completing the Haute Route in the great weather albeit with some tough snow & very windy conditions. Decent conditions were reported for the ski ascent of Gran Paradiso and good powder still remains in places on high & shady north faces. Tim has just made the fine crossing from the Robert Blanc hut over the Col des Glaciers and down to Courmayeur as part of a superb extended hut to hut journey around the Western end of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Bon Ski Weekend!
21st March 2016 - Almost Piste Like Early Spring Conditions On The Vallee Blanche
Very sunny & spring like conditions with many teams enjoying the large snow volume in the upper VB has given almost piste like conditions for many sections of the descent. Although where there are constrictions - this is like a Grands Montets piste - with big bumps and lots of them. Good fun skiing the Gros Rognon though in the main tracked area - grippy up high and soft spring lower down. Like most, but not all, teams we got the train down to avoid the rocky and muddy James Bond track with plenty of walking at the bottom.
Lots of teams touring on the Italian side Cols - albeit with fairly wind affected looking snow. Also teams on the Periades heading for the Cols Puiseux and Tacul. Quite a lot of teams climbing as well - see our Chamonix spring mountaineering conditions report.
18th March 2016 - Glacier Periades & Ski Touring Conditions Around The Vallee Blanche
Spring like weather continues around the Mont Blanc Range with warm & sunny weather and cool nights. The strong winds and fresh snow on Wednesday had left there mark though with wind crust and sastrugi in many locations exposed to the wind but some lovely fresh velvet powder to ski on shady aspects which were sheltered.
We skied the Gros Rognon variation to the Vallee Blanche down to the Salle a Manger in fun grippy tracked snow. A physical skin up the Periades glacier then accessed some excellent north facing powder from the top down to near the bottom at which point there was some tricky wind crust with hard old tracks for good measure.
We then skied down the classic VB run and, like most teams, took the train down although a few teams were carrying on down to the valley no doubt with a bit of spring like walking on the lower James Bond track.
Numerous teams were going over the Col Tacul and Breche Puiseux as well as some steep tracks coming down in to the Periades glacier bowl from the Italian side. Numerous tracks were also in the Combe Vierge, Combe Noire and going up to the Col d'Entreves although the snow looked pretty wind affected.
Looks like a very sunny few days ahead - Bon ski weekend!
12th March 2016 - Fine High Mountain Ski Conditions Around The Vallee Blanche
The perfect mountain weather continues and it remains cool & dry enough for snow on shady aspects to still be lovely light velvet powder. An absolute delight to ski although it does not take much deviation on to sunnier aspects to find the crust!
We skied the Vrai Vallee Blanche which was well filled in and had great snow where untracked but some pretty rough & choppy where partially tracked. We then skinned up the Periades Glacier and up to the Col Tacul where some teams were heading up the steeper final section and others heading up the couloir on lookers left to ski off the shoulder. We skied crusty snow back down the line of ascent before a northerly deviation took us back on to the the pure velvet snow which we enjoyed all the way down the beautiful north facing slopes & couloirs down to re-join the Vallee Blanche. This we then skied all the way to Chamonix with some rocky and walking sections lower down and a few narrow & bumpy sections higher up!
There were many interesting skinning tracks to be noted around the massif not to mention steep ski lines off the NE side of Pt Yeld which looked steep and exposed and this was confirmed on talking to one of the folk putting the tracks in! Skinning tracks were also noted climbing the SE face of the Aiguille du Plan and up to the North Face of the Dent du Requin from the Requin hut area.
Many teams were also climbing the Periades and over the Breche Puiseux to ski the Mont Mallet glacier which was reported to be wind effected and not in primo snow quality conditions. The week ahead looks to have plenty more sun so whilst the powder should hang around in high, shady & sheltered locations the spring snow may start to be enjoyed on lower & sunnier aspects. Bonne semaine de ski!
12th March 2016 - Brilliant High Mountain Ski Conditions In The Argentiere Basin
Beautiful early spring weather is combining with big late winter snow volumes to give some great conditions for all kinds of ski trips around the Mt Blanc Massif at the moment. We enjoyed a superb traverse of the Glaciers des Rognons before ski touring on the Amethystes glacier. Big snow volume and very enjoyable skiing, especially on the shady side below 3000m.
Numerous teams were booting up and then descending the NE slopes off the Courtes which looked good. Many teams were visiting the more mellow Col Tour Noir and Col d'Argentiere as well as the classics Col Chardonnet & Passon with folk skiing back the same way and going over the back. Lots of teams were also climbing the Milau Glacier en route to the Aiguille d'Argentiere.
The normal glacier left bank descent down the Argentiere glacier is now much better filled in but, like most lift accessed terrain at the Montets, it's very bumpy!
Above the Grand St. Bernard Monastery on the high Swiss Italian alpine border, brother John took our ski touring team up the Pain de Sucre. A right of passage and fine ski pilgrimage!
1st March 2016 - Exceptional Ski Conditions Around The Mont Blanc Range
A long weekend of cold, snowy weather has more than topped up the existing good cover - it's turned season snow volume in to 'very good' at high altitudes according to Meteo France's comparison with the seasonal average. Great news for those touring high up and on glaciers from now into this spring and early summer seasons.
Some fine cool clear weather has arrived also to allow teams to make the most of the great snow. As the winter ski holidays have also finished it's also relatively quiet on the slopes!
The Vallee Blanche was in good shape today with a ski descent all the way to Chamonix and only a little walking to finish the James Bond track. The snow was a bit more wind blown than yesterday but still excellent conditions.
Over in the Aravis John and team started their week of intro touring on the classic Croise Baulet above Megeve. Cool, light snow and great cover with sunny weather but still plenty of snow in the trees on the shady side of the hill. Very good conditions to start your ski touring course!
Very good snow conditions also reported from the Aiguilles Rouges and over on the North side of the Balme / Le Tour resort in the bowls / couloirs above Vallorcine and Trient.
1st March 2016 - Excellent Ski Conditions In The Vallee Blanche
A classic VB! Lovely light sunny powder all the way down to the train station and excellent snow volume high up and at middle altitudes. Great skiing & a real treat for many teams today. We skied a Petit Envers left of the Petite Rognon and enjoyed very good snow & fresh tracks most of the way down. It was slightly surprising how little damage the wind had done to the slopes after the weekend of very strong foehn winds...but no one was complaining!
Teams were skiing most other variations including later on, the steep Italian side of the Geant Icefall. Teams were also skinning up to the Col du Tacul with at least one team skiing the superb fall line slopes above & near the Salle a Manger.
The Z track descent on the North Face is now finally open which makes the exit from the station a bit easier and whilst numerous teams took the lower James Bond track down to Chamonix at the end of the run - there is quite a lot of bare track and thus a substantial walk before the pistes of Les Planards are reached. We took the train down!
29th February - After The Storm - Powder & Winded Snow Either Side of Monte Bianco
Thick valley clouds and light rain at times in the valley belied some good early morning clearings and our glacier touring and crevasse rescue team made better than expected progress up towards the Col de Tour Noire via the Argentiere Glacier. The snow was fairly rough except for the odd sheltered pocket of lighter skiing.
Over on the southern side of the Range, cooler conditions with more fresh snow and less recent wind effects gave better skiing with teams enjoying tours up around the Bonatti Hut and Punta Croce. Teams also had reasonable off piste skiing at Courmayeur.
26th February - Deep Powder & Excellent Skiing Around The Mont Blanc Massif
Outstanding snow & skiing conditions today on all sides of the Mont Blanc Range. Deep, light, cold powder enjoyed by many teams from a very busy Aiguille du Midi on the French side of the Vallee Blanche and rather less teams on the Italian side. Around Punta Hellbroner, many teams were skiing the steep couloirs in to the Toule Glacier from both the lift station and Torino Hut. Also many teams doing the steep front face under the cables of the Hellbroner lift. Remarkable conditions!
Teams were ski touring around also with deep tracks going up to the Tour Ronde, Col d'Entreves and in to the Combe Vierge. On easy angled slopes going down hill was hard work the snow was so deep....never mind going uphill!
During the afternoon strong cold southerly winds arrived from Italy with cloud rolling in and later snow. This did not reach the Chamonix side of the range and teams enjoyed brilliant off piste skiing from Le Tour and touring above Combloux. A great ski Friday! Bon Weekend!
25th February - Heavy Snow All Day In Chamonix - Poor Viz But Good Skiing In Trees
The rain snow limit dipped to 900m at times today and there was steady snowfall throughout the day giving fun skiing on both the Le Tour & Vallorcine sides of the Balme ski area at the East End of the Chamonix Valley. The visibility was really poor so pistes had to be used to get down to the trees, but that was good fun as the pistes were covered in powder! The forecast clearing did not materialise but they look set to arrive tomorrow with some fine sunny clear skies of the first time in a while hopefully!
23rd February - More Fresh Snow Falling Above 1400m In Chamonix
Good fresh snow high on the Grands Montets today with lots of fresh snow on the descent from the summit. We avoided the Argentiere Glacier descent as the visibility was poor but enjoyed fun deep powder on the piste and side country lower down. Great skiing in the upper Italian bowl too. We hit the rain snow limit low on the Pierre a Ric piste on the home run down which matched the forecast limit of 1400m. More fresh snow overnight.
22nd February - Mild Weather But Still Good Skiing At Les Grands Montets
Another very mild & windy day around the Mt Blanc Massif with both the Midi & Montets top lifts closed due to the wind. With the freezing level rising up to C. 2700m the snow pack felt moist and heavy but was still fun to ski were either well skied already or completely fresh. The in-between half tracked country was not great! We skied a good Lavancher bowl on fun grippy packed snow and an Italian bowl with big bumps!
More fresh snow on the way tonight and tomorrow with a rain snow limit at C. 1400m.
21st February - SE Couloir Col de La Forclaz (Aravis) & Ski Touring Italian Val Feret
A weekend of two halves, as normal! Saturday was cool & snowy with great powder snow and poor weather although not so bad that they could not still run the mens world cup downhill ski race on the famous piste Verte at Les Houches. Cool conditions gave good touring even low down and a fine skinning track ran almost the entire length of the SE couloir of the Col de la Forclaz above the Doran Hut and overlooking Sallanches. The ski tracks looked good too and there were even some lower down in the steep couloir on the right bank of this main feature, although as usual, the entrance looked very steep and corniced.
Jonny, Mike & Kenny found good snow and fun touring above the Col de la Columbiere between Cluses and Grand Bornand and our intro ski touring team had a great trip in to the Italian Val Feret staying at the Rifugio Bonatti and again enjoying superb snow with poor weather on the Saturday and fine weather with 'varied' snow on the Sunday!
19th February - More Fresh Snow Than Forecast - Plan de l'Aiguille & Brevent
It felt like a good 40cms of fresh snow this morning at the Plan de l'Aiguille at 2300m. There were certainly some great turns to be had although the visibility was not great until the tree line was reached. We did a great run skiers right from the mid station whilst Tim & Dan went skiers left and reported spectacular conditions higher up albeit with the inevitable punishment skiing down the path through the trees lower down. The lower part of the Pre de Rocher is fine but as per the Meteo France avalanche bulletin info, snow cover is actually pretty weak lower down but good at middle and high altitudes.
It felt like less fresh snow at the Brevent this afternoon and on a harder base after yesterdays warm & sunny weather and overnight freeze. A light wind had blown some fresh snow over the top of the main Brevent Aiguille Rouges ridge line and the viz was not great either. Lower down below the mid station the run down the main gully line to the bottom was fine albeit not great with shallow powder on a rough & hard base.
Looks like another cloudy day on Saturday with light snow followed by a very mild & sunny Sunday. Bon ski weekend.
18th February - Steep Skiing Conditions Around The Mont Blanc Range...
Good cool dry weather after recent successive snow falls has reduced the avalanche risk to category 2 and still with some great snow around. Lots of teams were skiing the Vallee Blanche today including most variations and all the steeper lines around the Grand Envers have been tracked. On the other side of the Aiguille du Midi the Couloir Cosmiques and Glacier Ronde have also been skied.
Further up the Chamonix Valley, on the Swiss border, good conditions were reported on the steep northern couloirs of the Aiguille du Van above Trient and further north in the Aiguilles Rouges good snow was again the theme of reports from the Cornu - Gliere area as well as Crochues Berard traverse.
Good conditions were also reported recently from the classic Grands Montets - Le Tour link via the Col de Passon.
16th February - Chamonix Powder In The Sun - Brevent - Ensa Couloir - Vallee Blanche
A sunny but still relatively cool day in the Chamonix Valley with brilliant snow conditions on the steep and sunny powder slopes of the Brevent. We enjoyed fun skiing off the Cornu chairlift whilst the top of Brevent waited to open. When it did lots of teams enjoyed a feast of cool but sunny steep powder. A good combination in today's fine snow conditions with teams skiing lots of different lines on the Hotel Face, Demi Lune, Faux Col etc.
To the West of the Brevent summit lots of steeper lines were being skied including the rarely skied Couloir Vallençant as well as the famous Ensa couloir which had good conditions including a well snowed up entrance meaning the normal abseil was not required. Teams were also enjoying skiing the steep faces further west and joining the Ensa lower down.
Meteo France are now reporting better than average snow volume for middle and high altitude slopes with slightly weaker than average low in the valley due to the large amounts of rain lower down. It certainly felt like great full winter conditions at Brevent and even the ski back out from the couloirs to the car park was pleasant in the sun warmed snow lower down.
There was less activity on the ski touring side and with the full on snow conditions no one had put in a track up from the Cornu chairlift towards the Pourrie or Col de la Gliere or, for that matter, across to the Aiguillette des Houches.
Over in the Vallee Blance really excellent snow was reported on the Gros Rognon variation as well as many others on the Vallee Blanche. Teams had put a track in to the Col du Tacul and up the Glacier Periades. It looks like more good weather for the next couple of days before further snow down to C. 500m on Thursday night.
12th February - Chamonix Deep Powder - Les Grands Montets
Wow!. The snow really was that good today at the Grands Montets with bottomless powder in many parts of the resort after last nights fresh falls and heavy fresh snow falling throughout the day building to blizzard conditions this afternoon. By 1530 the resort was shutting down and even the car park had plenty of fresh powder in it!
Many teams were enjoying the brilliant snow from the glacier first thing this morning when there was reasonable visibility to the Dream Forest and lovely deep soft snow in the steep well spaced trees. A Grands Montets classic with even a final bit of skinning, ski crampon practice and an avalanche emergency scenario to wrap up this weeks ski touring course.
It looks like plenty more fresh snow over the weekend with some difficult mountain weather to matchbox at least remaining relatively cool so the snow continues to build.
Bon Ski Weekend...
11th February - Ski Touring & Superb Powder Snow in Les Contamines / Hauteluce
Les Contamines had a chunky lift queue before opening this morning which was no surprise considering the appealing combination of perfect cold clear weather and abundant beautiful light powder snow! The high expectations were matched easily in the side country never mind the brilliant lift accessed backcountry terrain around the resort and especially on the Hauteluce side of the mountain.
We enjoyed a round tour taking in the Rochers des Enclaves North Ridge with lovely snow all the way down to the pistes of Hauteluce. Other teams were crossing the Col de la Fenetre and taking some steep lines of the faces / couloirs in that area and en route to the Col Cicle.
There was some excellent snow at the Grands Montets also and teams enjoyed fresh tracks in all the normal areas with some good runs down on to the glacier left of Rognon and down the steep exit couloirs to access the Argentiere glacier below the currently tricky rocky section.
10th February - Ski Touring & Superb Powder Snow in The Aravis
The long awaited next big dump of snow did not disappoint. Deep, light, cold and abundant powder snow all round the Aravis & Mont Blanc Ranges today, especially lower down between 1500 and 2300m where it was light and not wind affected. We had a great ski off the Petit Croise Baulet above the lifts of Combloux / Megeve and enjoyed deep light powder down to just below 1500 where the new snow was shallower.
Great snow remained untracked even close to the pistes later in the day and it looks like tomorrow will be a good day to enjoy some more of the same with a bit more fresh overnight snow followed by a brighter day tomorrow with cool temperatures.
8th February - Intro Ski Touring With Big Storm Weather Arriving To Mont Blanc Range
This afternoon's storm arrived at lunch time as per forecast and soon after, all the upper lifts of Balme and most of the rest of the Chamonix Valley were shut due to the very strong W winds. This gave full on mountain conditions and we enjoyed some physical ski touring journeys and training and seeking out some mellow terrain before retreating to the cafe where everyone else in the resort was!
Snow was falling steadily at the close of play with moderate snowfall forecast through out the night and heavy tomorrow night. With more storm force winds and relatively mild temperatures tomorrow, the avalanche forecast goes up to high and there will be difficult mountain conditions.
5th February - Chamonix Off Piste & Val d'Aoste Ski Touring Conditions
Half a metre of fresh snow has fallen at 1800m in the last 3 days and this has improved ski conditions considerably! The temperatures remained fairly low also until today with the rain snow limit down below 500m. Great off piste skiing conditions in Chamonix at Le Tour, Les Grands Montets, Les Houches, St. Gervais & Combloux, both of the latter Arve Valley resorts now on the Chamonix Mont Blanc Unlimited pass. Teams were also back enjoying the sun & fresh snow in the Vallee Blanche today also and we have a team descent tomorrow with places remaining so get in touch if you are keen to join. The foehn wind looks to be gathering later in the day so it will be an early start and hope the lift is running!
Sunday looks like the full return to winter again with a very cool & snowy week being forecast ahead. That should give some good powder skiing for the arrival of the first week of half term and hopefully the Chamonix 2500m snow line will top 3m by the end of the week! The winds are from the NW on Sunday again like much of the snow bearing weather so far this winter. This has been good for Chamonix but has left dry conditions further SE down Val d'Aoste.
Teams reported lean or almost non existent snow in Gressoney and then steadily getting better the further NW and higher up the Val d'Aoste teams travelled. Pointe de la Pierre near the Pila lift system was ski toured yesterday with 10cms of fresh snow and nice skiing for the top 400m but rather lean and increasingly awkward below that. Better conditions were reported from the Ski touring ascent of Punta Croce above Morgex.
Bon Ski Weekend!
2nd February - Tricky Snow & Glacier Conditions At Les Grands Montets
The soaring rain snow limit in the big storm saw the snow get thoroughly wetted by intense rain well up to 2500m and this did not improve the quality of the skiing! Unusually at the Grands Montets there was fresh tracks to be had everywhere but the problem was actually skiing it! Several good skiers were seen kick turn traversing their way out of the off piste and rapidly heading back to the relative sanctity of the piste! Tracked snow faired better and there was a little fresh to be had from the top lift at both the Montets and the Midi.
The descent of the Argentiere Glacier is still more complicated than usual with some tricky steps and negotiating steeper / rocky sections. Unfortunately it gives a complicated finish to any descent from the Argentiere Glacier including the popular and relatively mellow Col de Tour Noir tour. More snow is required to bring this in to normal accessible condition and happily it looks like there is a fair bit on the way both tonight, tomorrow and from early next week.
29th January - Combe de la Vierge & Col d'Entreves, Italian Side Vallee Blanche
Beautiful high mountain weather combined with fun varied snow conditions and a fit team to give a great final day to this years January Chamonix off piste ski & Mountain Skills course run with Alison Culshaw. Whilst one team skied at Courmayeur and did some good off piste journeys in to Val Veny and the Dolonne Canal we did less skiing but enjoyed a fine physical high altitude ski journey on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche.
Having skied the fine north facing Vierge bowl we skinned up to the Col d'Entreves for an incredibly scenic picnic. Magnificent views from the Grandes Jorasses, Grand Combin, Matterhorn and Monte Rosa across the Val d'Aosta with Mont Emilius, Grivola, Gran Paradiso and satellites to Rutor, Grande Casse, Vanoise, Tartentaise...Ecrins....a lot of mountains and a brilliant end to a good week of ski coaching, ski touring and training with a great team.
Neil & team skied the Gros Rognon variation on the Vallee Blanche whilst many other teams skied the Glacier de Toule via an awkward approach via a rickety ladder linking the metal steps with a steep snowy / icy slope to access the glacier. Conditions early on were rattling hard refrozen & tracked but numerous teams reported better softer conditions in the afternoon. The wise wizard at Punta Hellbroner said the Marbrees Couloir had also been skied a bit albeit with a steep and tricky entrance.
Mild conditions continuing over the weekend but with some wild, windy and very snowy weather (higher up) arriving on Sunday. Bon Ski Weekend....
28th January - Ski Touring, Off Piste & Avalanche Training at Le Tour / Balme, Chamonix
Another mild, almost spring like day giving pleasant soft snow conditions off piste on the tracked bowls and fun features to around the resort of Le Tour. We found some remaining powder pockets with a bit of booting off the Posettes lift and then enjoyed a skinning journey around the Col de Balme area.
The back bowls and shady areas were in good grippy tracked conditions whilst the sunny front face was mainly unpleasant re-frozen tracked crud!
A little fresh snow tonight above around 1500m although only a dusting really with another mild & sunny day tomorrow. Another good day to ski up high.
27th January - Combe Noire & Glacier Des Periades, Italian Vallee Blanche
Brilliant journey across the Vallee Blanche from the Aiguille du Midi and steady skinning ascent up the north facing Combe Vierge on the Italian side. Aesthetic ascending traversing journey to access the top of the fine sustained slopes of the Combe Noire. These gave a fun albeit physical ski on snow ranging from light powder to firm pack with an occasional dose of crust in-between!
These slopes lead naturally in to the steep shady passage through the Geant Icefall on the Italian side which gave rougher ski in the tracked snow but allowed access to the Glacier Periades which we ascended using the skins again. Various good looking tracks in this area ranging from the Breche Puiseux approach to the Col du Tacul area and hanging slopes in between. We skied the fine open and steep slopes beneath the Col du Tacul approach down to the Salle a Manger and on to Montenvers.
An excellent high altitude ski mountaineering day on the Italian side of the range, but still in France!
26th January - Vallee Blanche Gros Rognon Variation
Another warm & sunny high mountain day with mellow temperatures and friendly soft snow in the well tracked area of the Gros Rognon variation. Light bumps and some bigger ones in the bottle necks leading down to the Salle a Manger. There are plenty of crevasses in evidence but with care & accurate skiing in the tracks they were easily avoided.
We took the train down from Montenvers like most teams although a few carried on down via the somewhat rocky end of the glacier. Various tracks and teams were seen on the steeper VB variants too with one set of tracks at least coming down the Leschaux glacier, probably from a team doing the Breche Puiseaux.
24th January - The 3 Cols - Springlike Weather In Mont Blanc Massif
Warm sunny weather and a moderate avalanche risk in the high mountains saw lots of teams heading up to enjoy the mini spring like feel to the mountains after the recent arctic like full on winter weather. Mike enjoyed the classic spring 3 Cols route traversing the Cols Chardonnet, Saleina and Sup de Tour in a fine journey linking the Grands Montets with Le Tour. Many types of snow conditions were encountered on the way! From crust to powder pockets and lots of smooth firm pack. The Tour glacier was traversed to join the tracks descending from the Col de Passon to Le Tour.
Ben & Raymond enjoyed even sunnier conditions on the ski trek up to the Chalet Loriaz and on to Pt. Ruby. Spring like and varied snow conditions. The Loriaz Hut (2020m) is now open for the winter season until the end of March and offers great views SW back in to the Mont Blanc range as well as a restaurant and dormitory service. Well worth a visit and their website has a good round up of ski touring conditions around the refuge.
22nd January - Off Piste Ski & Touring Around Balme & Chamonix Ski Round Up
The sunny weather & light cool snow gave a great mid winter middle mountain altitude around the Col de Balme at the Eastern end of the Chamonix valley today. We linked various areas using the lifts, skins and booting to find lovely snow, even on sunny aspects higher in the resort. Various teams climbed the steep East facing slopes of the Grandes Autannes with teams both back to Le Tour and over on the shady side to Trient. The bad news from Trient / Vallorcine is that there will be no navette / bus service linking Trient back to the Vallorcine making it more logistically complicated to ski the Combe Noire from the Col de Balme and get back in to the resort via the old bus service back to Vallorcine.
Many skiers had also skied numerous lines in to the Vormaine bowl via the couloirs and steep slopes around the bowl although there are also signs of recent full depth slips / creeps on the sunny side of the bowl. Skiers were also seen high on the slopes of the Col de Passon descent.
Over on Pt Ronde across the Trient Valley, one team reported good conditions and snow all the way from the Col de la Forclaz approach. On the northern side of the valley there were some good looking skinning & ski tracks on the fine open southerly slopes above the Loriaz hut and Le Combaz above Vallorcine.
More reports came in from teams skiing the Vallee Blanche with reasonable snow conditions but Neil reported 'lots of crevasses in new places' on the Gros Rognon variation and heavy crevassing on the easier angled classic route. There is also a rough walk from taking skis off at the glacier exit before reaching the steps up to the Montenvers bubbles lift.
Pas de Chèvre done with thin conditions on the moraine exit to Mer de Glace, not recommended.
Over in Contamine, Jonny and team Eagles skied the Col de la Fenetre with good cover and excellent snow and a decent ski down the roman road without crampons required as per sometimes on the lower road.
21st January 2016 - Improving Conditions In The Vallee Blanche
After recent days of heavy snow and arctic weather, there were quite a few teams enjoying milder and sunnier high mountain conditions in the Vallee Blanche today. Most teams finished at Montenvers and took the train down with those proceeding reporting good conditions for the James Bond track descent from the (open) buvette but a rocky and icy exit from the glacier snout, hardly recommended, especially for those who value the bases of their skis!
Teams were skiing both the Gros Rognon and Petit Envers variations on the VB but the latter was reported to be quite complicated with many open crevasses remaining. The former gave some fun skiing with good snow. Big crevasses in evidence but easily avoided today. Both the Salle a Manger exit and leftward traverse to the couloir were being used to exit below the Requin Hut. Crevasses evident but passable with care on the former and quite low snow volume on the lower glacier leading down to Montenvers with lots of little rocks, 'growlers' poking through.
The snow ridge exit from the Midi station is steadily being equipped now with stanchions down the centre line of the ridge linked by a rope. This is not 'equipped' in the high season sense and crampons on boots and skis on packs are required for a secure descent.
Thanks to Jonny Baird for the info.
19th January 2016 - Courmayeur Off Piste
A fun day skiing around the North Facing side of the resort in the trees of the Val Veny. A large team with some less experienced skiers so the terrain was kept relatively mellow around the Plan de la Gabba and Neyron lifts. Generally tracked soft snow with some nice small sections of powder remaining in places and with more windblown conditions higher in the resort.
Other teams were skiing the couloirs from Youla and Arp down in to the Val Veny and reported good grippy tracked snow down in the couloirs. Teams were also skiing the Dolonne / Canale.
18th January 2016 - Megeve Off Piste
Yes, there were a lot of tracks in the almost infinite off piste possibilities around Megeve, St. Gervais & St. Nicholas today - but there was still plenty of fresh left in the fringes and, with the arctic like weather - the snow remained perfectly light & cold.
The whole resort is open with the exception of the Mont Joly chairlift and the final piste descent to St. Gervais, although there were plenty still skiing the latter. A little more snow due tonight & tomorrow and more later in the week.
17th January 2016 - Intro Ski Touring, Les Houches
Cold temperatures are locked on to the Mont Blanc Massif at the moment giving a superb wintery feel with trees heavily laden with snow and no melting. The snow pack remains pristine and superb to ski where untracked and not affected by the wind. Thus we were glad of the skins to get out of the confines of just the lift accessed areas at Les Houches today as the side country was well tracked.
We skied both off the Prarion and down on the St. Gervais side of the mountain with very good snow on both sides. A good day of ski touring training with skinning technique, several short journeys and discussions about information gathering and planning a route according to terrain.
We have 1 place left on our 5 day Chamonix Ski Touring Intro course, 8-12 Feb.
Ski touring provides a fantastic way of exploring the backcountry and enjoying some creative ski journeys and adventures away from the resorts. For those with some off piste ski experience and reasonable fitness this action packed 5 day course provides the inspiration & info... more>
15th January 2016 - Les Contamines, Superb Off Piste Skiing Conditions
The Westerly arrival of many of the recent storms has ensured Les Contamines has got even more than it's fair share of snow. The powder today was DEEP! Brilliant off piste skiing - we simply ran out of superlatives as the clouds cleared to reveal vast slopes of untracked pristine, light, deep & cold powder. The quality of the snow & skiing was only matched by the beauty of the landscape at this most western end of the Mont Blanc Massif.
It was -9C at the Signal station this morning and whilst strong winds could be seen blowing plumes of spindrift off Mont Blanc, it was calm down here leaving the pristine powder unruffled. As the clouds cleared it became clear today was the day to benefit from the recent stormy weather with strong snow falls and poor visibility. Today was the day the rewards from the storm were reaped and whilst many teams were out enjoying the fresh tracks, there is so much terrain there was more than enough to go around.
Snow stability was however delicate and we saw a couple of small avalanches triggered during the day including one team who triggered a small slope and were carried a short distance down it with no injury or burial. The avalanche hazard was considerable and no teams had made the classic off piste traverse under the West Face of the Aiguille de Roselette from the top of the Buche Croisse chairlift. With care to stay on the more mellow terrain, plenty of fun could be had and the day finished with rosy cheeks and daft grins at the quality of the skiing.
As we have got used to saying - there is some more fresh snow on the way tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night....Bon Ski Weekend!
14th January 2016 - St. Gervais Off Piste
Many of the ingredients today for an excellent recipe for January off piste skiing. Lots of fresh snow on the ground and in the air. Superb light untracked powder, cold weather and a very quiet resort. Lots of tracks still to be had after yesterdays powder hunters had made the most of yesterdays fresh snow falls. Around 15cms fresh powder fell at 1800m during the day today with another 5cms due overnight with a cool rain snow limit of C. 500m.
13th January 2016 - Bionnassay Ski Tour & Les Houches Off Piste
The cooler temperatures continue with a good dump of overnight snow down to below 500m and fine light powder skiing down to Les Houches at 1000m. Another good day of Les Houches off piste skiing linked with an excellent short ski tour round trip in to the Bionnassay Valley. The clouds parted this afternoon to reveal the high mountains for the first time in days - utterly plastered with fresh snow. A seriously impressive volume of fresh snow has fallen over the last few days and weeks....with another 20cms on the forecast for tomorrow!
12th January 2016 - Les Houches
The Grands Montets & other Chamonix resorts again were largely closed today due to tough high mountain conditions & avalanche risk. As is often the case in these conditions - Les Houches saves the day - with almost all the lifts open and lots of good fresh & cool powder higher in the resort. A very welcome contrast to yesterdays rain swept scenes!
There was at least 30cms fresh snow higher in the resort and where this had a base there was some fun powder skiing and touring to do. We made several mini ski tours around the area to maximise fresh tracks as well as enjoying the mellow meadows and side country which characterise this ski area, at it's best on cold & very snowy mid winter powder days.
With another 20cms due to fall this evening and tonight with cool temperatures, tomorrow will be even better at Les Houches and when the higher lifts of the valley open up there will be some superb snow - to be enjoyed with caution due to the high avalanche risk.
11th January 2016 - Good Cool Italian Powder!
Many skiers from the Chamonix Valley escaped the valley and low resort rain over to the cooler southern Italian side of the Mont Blanc Range. There was some great snow to be enjoyed with plenty of fresh and a reasonable base in many places around the north facing trees above the Val Veny. Skiers reported good snow and skiing at La Thuile also.
A massive amount of precipitation has fallen, all snow above around 2000m and lower on the Italian side of the range. The rain has stripped back some of the snow on the lower slopes, especially below about 1700m but the return to cooler conditions early next week with plenty more snow should soon help to sort this out!
In the meantime, most of the Chamonix Valley lifts system was closed today due to heavy rain / snow / wind / avalanche risk! Tough mountain conditions but very good news for filling in the higher slopes and glaciers with large amounts of fresh snow.
4th January 2016 - Ski Megeve Powder
The fresh snow keeps coming, and then some more, and plenty more on the forecast for the weekend and next week. It looks like snow volumes will go from very weak to normal for the time of year in little over a week!
The fun powder skiing continued at Megeve & St. Gervais today with a good 30cms of fresh snow already on a soft and deep base at 1800m. The cover in the trees and low down is still lean, but getting better fast and we skied some fun meadows and rides through the forests with a good backcountry route down to the base of the Mont D'Arbois lift above Megeve.
The cool morning succumbed to a rapidly rising freezing level by lunchtime however and below around 1700m the light and fresh was rapidly becoming porridge. We had lunch and the snow turned to full on rain at 1500m. This pattern looks set to continue tomorrow with rain even as high as 1800m. Not good for the snow low down but lots of wet / warm precipitation is exactly what is needed in the mountains and the glaciers to help them re-charge.
4th January 2016 - Ski St.Gervais Powder
As promised a good 30cms of fresh snow was to be found at 1800m this morning, and with another 10cms during the day, this gave an impressive shift to the feel of the winter conditions....and the skiing. Yes, the base is still not well formed, but on the mainly grassy slopes of St. Gervais this amount of fresh snow was a fun and welcome kick start to the powder season. Higher up, the lack of base did not matter as there was plenty of fresh snow to support a skier without needing a base! Many pistes were closed but had powder on a firm base and gave great skiing. The resort is steadily opening up and the forecast is for more snow tonight (10cms at 2000m) and more throughout the week. Already by the close of play today the 'Epaule' chairlift had opened.
We skied as low as 1300m at one point and whilst the cover was thin and the snow sticky, it was good to see a decent amount of fresh even down at this altitude. Higher up there was some really significant accumulations of windblown snow - justifying todays cat 4 avalanche hazard for above 2200m.
Still well below the seasonal average, the snow cover remains weak, but the good news is not hard to see with plenty of fresh powder and plenty more on the way. C'est parti. Bon ski...but be cautious about the avalanche hazard with the early winter snow pack - with as much as 60cms of fresh snow in total accumulated at 2000m in the last few days pushing the hazard category to 'High'.
3rd January 2016 - Fresh Snow & Ski Mountaineering At Punta Hellbronner
Yesterday fairly heavy snow falls across the Mont Blanc range provided a welcome boost to the early winter snow cover and skiers have reason to be moreoptimistic about evolving conditions with a very snow week ahead being forecast. However the sun came out this morning and many teams by skiing up high. A few teams made an early descent of the Glacier de Toule - still in very lean conditions and with the steps officially closed. Over on the French side of the Vallee Blanche teams were enjoying good powder on the Grand & Petit Envers as well as the Gros Rognan variation. No teams were skiing the voie normale and all routes still look well crevassed.
We enjoyed some good touring & trail breaking from the Combe Vierge and up towards the Dent du Geant. Fun turns on the way down with 30cms of fresh lightly wind blown snow. Up to 40cms of fresh snow is now forecast to arrive at 2000m during tonight and tomorrow with various other showers and more heavy snowfalls arriving later in the week. Whilst conditions remain very lean for the time of year, with a poor snow base low down and heavily crevassed glaciers, this at least looks like a promising start to improving conditions.
30th December 2015 - Punta Hellbronner
Another day of very fine high mountain weather and this along with the relatively stable mid winter snow pack encouraged lots of teams up high to enjoy thewinter mountain atmosphere. Many teams were skiing the Combe Vierge as well as the normal entrance to the Vallee Blanche via the Col Petite Flambeau. Tracks were spotted in the Marbrees Couloir and whilst these looked good on the upper slopes it must be tricky and well crevassed lower down. Teams had also skied the steep slopes from the Aiguille d'Entreves into the Toule Glacier but these were quite rocky and well thin lower down on the Toule.
29th December 2015 - Les Grands Montets
Despite the lack of a significant snow fall for a month there is still some good skiing and decent snow high on the Grands Montets. There are also of course a lot of crevasses on the glacier and rarely have the locals seen such big crevasses so close to the piste descending from the top station. Real care is required negotiating any of the glaciers around the Montets at the moment and the classic ski out via the Argentiere Glacier is dry & tricky with icy / rocky / exposed sections. A lot more snow is required to fix these issues and, happily it seems like it is on the way with the arrival of the New Year!
Teams had skied the steep Chevalier Couloir from the famous Demi Lune Col on the North Face of the Petite Vert and teams were also climbing this face to ski back down it. There was good snow on the face but this got icy as the bergschrund approached at the base of the face.
26th December 2015 - Combe Maudit, Monte Bianco
Sunny & mild weather continues to dominate the Northern Alps and whilst there is not much powder left and a lot of open crevasses in the glaciers it is possible to enjoy the high mountains in a much more relaxed style than usual at Christmas! We enjoyed a pleasant ski down from the Col Petite Flambeau in to the upper Vallee Blanche from Hellbroner. A very easy & steady climb then lead up high in to Col Maudit, great views to teams climbing the North Face of the Tour Ronde, and the couloir between the Grand & Petit Capucin. There was also a track heading up to the bergschrund on the Gervasutti Couloir on the Tour Ronde but that seemed to stop at the bergschrund.
Other teams were touring round to the Col Marbrees and up towards the Dent du Geant which one team were aiming to climb thanks to the dry & sunny conditions. There were also boot tracks on the East face Aiguille du Toule & ski tracks on the Glacier de Toule although the access steps were closed due to the poor conditions. On steeper lines there were tracks descending the South side of the Aiguilles d'Entreves in to the Toule glacier as well as the West face of the Toule.
Over on the French side of the Vallee Blanche there were a few teams descending the Vallee Blanche, but not many, and a lot of crevasses! Teams had also accessed the VB from the Italian voie normale & Combe Vierge although again there were plenty of crevasses in evidence.
Another dry week is forecast for the week ahead with reports of snow arriving early in the New Year. That would be a welcome start to 2016.
Happy Christmas & Bon Ski.
22nd December 2015 - Good Snow High Up But Lots Of Crevasses!
With the opening of the Aiguille du Midi for the winter & spring seasons, lots of teams have been up high enjoying the good weather and a bit of fresh snow from two small recent snow falls. There was some good skiing high up on both the French & Italian sides of the Vallee Blanche but also lots of very open crevasses with some teams skiing roped together through complicated terrain. Not normal / easy conditions for the VB at all and great care / avoidance is required on this and all other glaciers at the moment which remain relatively dry & open still after the very hot summer and without big snow falls to recharge them during the autumn and early winter.
Other ski touring conditions remain tricky with enough snow for reasonable skinning but tricky descents in thin and variable snow packs with many rocks. Conditions for skiiing Mont Jolie on Sunday were possible but with hard snow and very icy tracks lower down and a thin & hard snowpack higher up it was not for the faint hearted or those lacking precision....and luck! Other teams skiing in the Aravis have found very lean conditions and creativity is required to find something high & grassy enough to hold any kind of reasonable cover for descending on!
Over at the eastern end of the Mont Blanc Range, the Aiguille d'Argentiere has been climbed / skied via the Glacier du Milieu. The very strong team completed the summit aller retour but reported well crevassed conditions on the glacier and a tricky & exposed exit also from the Argentiere glacier to the Grands Montets ski area, so beware of following tracks down to the glacier for this often enjoyable and steady run. We will need a lot more snow to make this more amenable.
13 December 2015 - Les Grands Montets
Great to be skiing the high north facing slopes at the Grands Montets again and good to see it open for business despite the lack of recent fresh snow. The cool December temperatures have preserved snow from the last fall and the pistes were in reasonable condition off the Bochard & Marmottons lifts. The off piste was limited and generally very rocky. We had one good run down the Canadian bowl but skied the lower section of the Herse piste rather than the steep and rocky direct finish.
Dry conditions look to continue for a week or so, good weather but more fresh snow before Christmas would be welcome! The glaciers have still not had a good re-charge from the summer heatwave so it is unlikely we will be skiing the Vallee Blanche any time very soon.
25 November 2015 - Piste & Side Country Skiing in Zermatt & Cervinia & Lots Fresh Snow in Chamonix
Whilst conditions are much leaner in Cervinia than this time last things look promising in the Mont Blanc Massif with another 15cms of fresh snow falling in the town today.
We enjoyed fun piste & side country skiing above Cervinia and Zermatt today. The lift & piste opening is currently limited but there was fresh snow falling at the close of play. In the Mont Blanc massif the good news is that both the Grands Montets & Les Houches ski areas will open early this weekend. Only partial opening but with more snow on the forecast, that will be a good start to the season especially before the arrival of December!
5 November 2015 - Team Ski Touring On Gran Paradiso
Fast team of Italian ski rando racers seen on the ascent of Gran Paradiso. We were attempting the climb on foot but did not get to the summit. There wasveryshallow snow cover from the parking in Pont but no snow worth skiing below the Hut at 2730m. We guessed this fast team were heading to the summit to make the most of the snow cover on the glacier. Obviously it's very early to be skiing on the glacier but at least the Vittorio Emanuelle route is less crevassed than the Chabod route which had some gaping crevasses this summer and would certainly not be recommended until later in the winter / spring after lots of heavy snow falls!
8 October 2015 - Micro Ski Tours From Midi & Hellbronner
After the heavy snowfall yesterday several teams were out on skis enjoying the fresh powder around the Col du Midi and Col du Geant. Skiers reported fun shallow powder on a firm base and toured over to the Abri Simond Hut, Pt Lachenal and one team headed up in to Combe Maudit from Hellbroner. Whilst snow conditions were good, and it's great for the glaciers to be getting this autumnal charge up of snow, there are obviously a lot of open crevasses after the long & hot summer. Thus great care is required manoeuvring around the snowy glaciers with the open crevasses which may become hidden with fresh unsupportive snow.
2 October 2015 - (Very) Early Season Skiing....
It was early November when we began our ski reports last season so it's good to get going a month earlier this year! This is just a quick post to start a series of updates on which resorts are opening during the early season period and how the snow conditions are developing.
Zermatt had good fresh snow on the pistes from Kleinne Matterhorn today with a narrow strip of artificial snow running all the way down to Trockenerstegg thus making for an impressive early season vertical descent of C. 900m. Keep an eye for what's opening via the Zermatt pistes page.
In other good news for early season skiers, Tignes is reporting fresh snow for their opening day, Today!
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Previous Season Ski Chamonix / Alpine Snow Reports
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 n... 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 esc... 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 Gran... more>
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