High Mountain Guides / News / Chamonix Ski & Snow Reports 2013/14

Chamonix Ski & Snow Reports 2013/14

Spring Ski Touring Course in the Italian Val d'Aosta

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 escaped the effects of sun / wind & other skiers!

We enjoyed some superb spring snow on the East Face of the Col de Youla (C 2700m) at around 1100 this morning. The onward skinning journey up the NE face of Mont Nix gave another enjoyable short pitch on succulent re-warmed melt freeze crystals.

Having returned to the Col de Youla, the West facing traverse above the crags was in reasonable condition to access the fine North Facing bowls leading down in to the Vesses couloir which was complete, well skied and had a short river crossing at the bottom to re-join the main Val Veny track!

9th March 2014 - Our Chamonix Ski Reports & Conditions Notes Have now moved to our 2014 Chamonix Ski Mountaineering Reports Page. Check it out via the link below:

18th May 2014, Excellent Late Spring Ski Touring Conditions Across the High Alps

Cold weather & some heavy snow falls over Easter and over the last couple of weeks have given a welcome boost to the spring snow conditions, charged up the glaciers and given some great skiing up high when the weather allowed.

We enjoyed 3 ski... more>

26th February 2014, Powder Dump in Italy - Then Chamonix. Ski Touring on Punta Croce

As forecast plenty of snow arrived on SE winds today - coming first up the Val d'Aosta and then, later on over Mont Blanc & down in to Chamonix. It is snowing well down the Arve Valley now to below 500m.

Around 20cms of fresh snow fell on the Italian side of Mont Blanc at Courmayeur town level. We needed chains to drive the slippery road up to the 1690m hamlet of Arpy, but it was well worth the fuss as we enjoyed an 800m powder tour. The snow was better lower down in the trees where it was deeper and light. Higher on the summit slopes it had been a bit scoured by the SE wind.

A great Italian powder tour with memorable cafe stops at either end of the day!

24th February 2014, Another Vallee Blanche Powder Patrol in France & Italy.

Still great snow up high in the Vallee Blanche despite mild & sunny conditions in the valley. Lovely mountain weather & great snow on all aspects at altitude. We skied a classic VB to the junction with the Italian classic route before skinning over the Col Flambeau & down the Combe Vierge. We put a track in across the plateau above the Geant Icefall to link the Vierge with the French normal route & icefall Left hand exit. There are good conditions on the Italian right hand icefall exit as well as on the fine, sustained & steep north facing slopes of the Combe Noir & Periades.

Teams skiing the Pas de Chevre who took the final direct couloir through the Moraine slopes were having a bit of bother - as usual it is currently easier to shuffle back up the terrace, hard skiers left to the base of the main icefall and ski the couloir down to the huge boulder.

Over in the Aiguilles Rouges another High Mountain Guides team had great conditions ski touring to the Col de Dard from the Flegere lifts.

23rd February 2014, Powder & Blue Skies On Monte Bianco

A busy day at Hellbronner on the Italian side of Mont Blanc is still a quiet day compared to the Midi! Lots of teams were ascending the lift to the Torino Hut today and there were very appealing tracks - everywhere. Loads of teams skied the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche, lots more were in the Glacier de Toule. Tracks also led round to the Marbrees Couloir and across to the Combe Noire.

With mild & sunny conditions in the valley - the snow low down was quickly transforming but high on the northern slopes of the Vallee Blanche it was still light, fine & powdery and still unruffled by the wind. Tomorrow should be another classic sunny late winter ski day...

22nd February 2014, Superb Ski Conditions in the Vallee Blanche

An extremely enjoyable Saturday morning ski from the Aiguille du Midi before the forecast clouds rolled in from the North West this afternoon. Yesterday's snow had left a deep, smooth coating of superb velvet powder throughout the whole of the Vallee Blanche, from the Midi to Chamonix! We skied an excellent variant of the Petit Envers Glacier but teams were skiing nearly all variations including the Noire on the Italian side.

Teams were also touring up towards the Col Capucin & Puiseuax via the powder loaded North facing Glacier Periades.

More snow is forecast tonight (10cms at 2000m) and then a couple of days of bright, cold & sunny weather. Awesome winter mountain ski conditions.

Bon Weekend & Profitez!

17th February 2014, Blue Skies & Deep Powder. Great Ski Conditions in the Mt Blanc Massif

One of those days where the powder was sparkling velvet white & deep with little wind effect - lower down at least - and classic winter blue sky weather. Lots of teams out enjoying great conditions for off piste skiing in the Chamonix Valley. Lots of fresh tracks at Les Grands Montets, awesome snow reports from Courmayeur on the Italian side & we ski toured just over the Swiss border near the Col de la Forclaz.

Pointe Ronde is an impressive 2700m peaks with a strategic position and awesome central view of the Swiss Bernese Oberland & Valais, Grand Combin, Mont Blanc range & across to the Aiguille Rouges and Swiss Chablais etc.

Great views & great snow but a physical ascent from 'La Caffe' on the Martigny - Col de la Forclaz road. 1500m of pure powder trail breaking. Good physical work but worth every grunt factor for the views & quality & fun of the turns on the way down. A great days Chamonix Ski Touring on the Swiss side of the range.

14th February 2014, Splitboard Touring in the Graian Alps, Val d'Aosta

Another day of semi shut down / melt down with wild feohn winds & very warm winter temperatures in the Chamonix Valley. We headed south east to colder climes and toured on the South side of the Aosta valley in the foothills of the impressive Grivola.

The Pointe de la Pierre (2653m) provided a great ski tour for the conditions with a steady 1200m skinning ascent & more direct fall line skiing down the West Flank. The snow remained cool enough to keep the powder light until well down in to the woods & last few turns towards Ozein. Another enjoyable ski tour in the Val d'Aosta with good terrain & fantastic views.

More snow due tomorrow night & a return to cooler & brighter conditions from Sunday.

13th February 2014, Massive Snowfalls & High Avalanche Risk in Mont Blanc Range

A wild day in Chamonix with all the major lifts shut down due to high winds, big snowfalls & high avalanche risk. The situation was similar in the Val d'Aosta but with a much lower freezing level giving a very wintery feel - a powder day on the Motorway!

We enjoyed some fantastic powder skiing at Courmayeur, sticking mainly to previously skier compacted snow which was now deep in light north facing powder. Some great runs in to the Val Veny.

With more snow on the way tonight the Val Feret is now closed due to avalanche risk at least until early next week.

12th February 2014, Petit Envers Vallee Blanche & Good Snow Down to Chamonix

A glorious mountain day despite the roaring NW winds up high. Good descent of the VB via the Petit Envers, all the current info on our ski Vallee Blanche conditions page.

10th February 2014, Mont Paglietta, Between Aosta & Gran S. Bernado & Below Mont Velan

Snow conditions are currently so good we had the luxury of choosing where the weather was going to be best today and to actually avoid a bit more fresh snow as there was so much already! The drive SE down the Aosta Valley paid off and we emerged from one of the long tunnels on the Aosta motorway to blue skies....and very white hills.

Touring on the South side of the Gran St Bernard Pass is a special place with a fascinating array of touring options from lovely easy meadows, open larch forests, classic ski touring cols & peaks right through to massive mountain faces & couloirs. We picked our way up the snowy roads off the Aosta - Gr s. Bernado motorway to Prailles & very much enjoyed the 940m of steady skinning ascent, with stunning views, to the summit of Paglietta.

There are various options for the descent and we chose the steep but quite open Larch forests on the Mendouve Valley side of the South ridge. Great skiing in awesome snow with only a few other tracks around and with the ever present bulk of Mont Velan South Face watching over proceedings. The final meadows of Prailles were pure velvet powder delight and then just an easy schuss remains down the Mendouve snow track back to Prailles and on to the cafe bars of Aosta. A great days ski touring Italian winter style

8th February 2014, Mont Blanc Unlimited - Grands Montets & Courmayeur

After a slow start the snow just keeps coming and it feels like every day is a powder day at the moment! Deep powder off all the 'normal' runs from the Montets top telecabine & great off piste conditions in Courmayeur also.

6th February 2014, Vallee Blanche & Pre de Rocher

Superb powder conditions for a middle Envers glacier descent of the Vallee Blanche & reasonable conditions all the way down the Mer de Glace, James Bond track & down through the woods to Chamonix. Excellent North facing powder for another quick run from the Plan de l'Aiguille and improving conditions through the lower woods & tracks.

4th February 2014, Powder Touring on Punte Croce, Val d'Aosta

Exactly as per the weather forecast, there was a lot more snow in the hills as you travelled SE down the Aosta Valley. More snow but still not very good weather or visibillity so we took to the Larch forests above the ski de fond tracks & hamlet of Arpy bound for Punte Croce. Pristine snow conditions & not another person or track to be seen.....not much else to be seen either as the mist was pretty thick. However the skiing in the trees was good and we left the top couple of hundred metres of the mountain inviolate as a gesture to the weather gods. We sacrificed ourselves by leaving the upper slopes untracked & skiing superb powder all the way back to the Panini & Cafe of the excellent Arpy YHA cafe!

1st February 2014, Ski Touring & Quick Vallee Blanche Before Heavy Snow Arrives From Italy

A feisty descent of the Midi snow arete was experienced this morning as sharp southerly winds whipped up ice crystals across the ridge. The weather was clearly on it's way for the heavy snow fall forecast for this evening. Enjoyable creamy smooth windblown snow led us down the Middle Envers Glacier and out of the strong winds. Teams were skiing most variants including the Col du Plan / Grand Envers. We crossed the Salle a Manger and some teams retreated from the traverse of the Requin Couloirs reporting steep firm snow & tricky rock steps. Reasonable if slightly rocky conditions for the continuation descent to Chamonix.

Over on the Brevent the ENSA couloir was skied & further east in the Aiguille Rouges teams were ski touring on the Col des Dards & Col Beaugeant. In the Contamines Valley teams were skiing the Col des Chasseurs & Col de la Cicle with windblown snow, powder in places. The Roman road is starting to get icy towards the base.

31st January 2014, Atmospheric Vallee Blanche & Chamonix Steeps

Enjoyable creamy powder in the Vallee Blanche classic route this morning. Our ski tour over to the Italian side was cut short by descending clouds & light snow. We skied all the way to the valley - via the Salle a Manger and a recently pisted James Bond Track! A little rocky at the lower end of the Mer de Glace and lower track before the railway crossing.

Several teams had skied the Couloir Poubelle from the Grands Montets Bochard lift and negotiated the skiers right (classic) Pas de Chevre descent to the Mer de Glace.

30th January 2014, Excellent Powder Ski Touring Conditions in the Italian Val Feret

Light southerly winds brought the feohn wind to the Mt Blanc Massif & the result was steady light snowfall all day in the Italian Val Feret & a dry grey day in the Chamonix Valley. On day 4 of our full Chamonix Off Piste & Ski Mountain Skills course we made the most of the fresh snow in Italy by visiting the deserted Val Feret.

The Warm welcome at the Rifugio Bonatti was accompanied by the always excellent soup & cafe. After some avalanche emergency procedure & trasnceiver training we skinned up another 400m in atmosperic shifting light before whooping back down through light north facing 'hero powder' all the way back to the valley ski de fond track.

An excellent January ski touring journey.

28th January 2014, Great Ski Touring in the Aravis & Steep & Deep in Chamonix

Despite a light wind crust near the higher ridges in the Aravis today conditions were good with stunning mountain weather. The snow lower down below the tree line was superb! Over in the Chamonix valley lots of handy keen teams were taking advantage of the fresh snow & stable weather to ski the Couloir Cosmiques, Glacier Rond & Grand Envers Vallee Blanche.

27th January 2014, Chamonix Powder....Right to the Valley Floor....

30cms of fresh powder snow fell at 1800m in the Chamonix Valley over the weekend and of course many of the Chamonix locals were out making the most of it. As a notable change from the rest of the winter it was possible to ski to the valley floor and teams were skiing the Vallee Blanche & down the James Bond track. Down the lower slopes from Brevent - Planpraz and there were much better conditions all the way on the Plan de l'Aiguille run the 'Pre de Rocher' which had previously been good up high & "rank" lower down!

25th January 2014, Sun, Soft Snow & Skiers - A Classic Mid Winter Vallee Blanche Descent....

After around 40cms of fresh snow, the strong winds of yesterday and more snow due tomorrow, today was always going to be 'The Day' for the VB and indeed, half of Chamonix had turned out to recognise this!. There was plenty of powder to go round though and busy at this time of year is still pretty quiet compared to the big days of Feb. Teams were skiing most variations with the exception of the Vrai. The passage left of the Geant Icefall is in decent condition and the traverse of the Salle a Manger was ok, but there are holes close to the track.
A tough team was making headway trailbreaking up the Periades which looked hard work in all the fresh snow - but they should been rewarded with a great ski down. We descended via the train although a few teams did continue towards the glacier snout & James Bond track which is reported as passable but rough! With more snow on the way to well below Chamonix level, things should improve there quite quickly....

24th January 2014, Aravis Ski Touring on Les Croisse Baulet

25cms of fresh snow and mid winter temperatures (-6C) in the car park at Combloux gave a wintery, narnia like feel to the day and some great powder skiing. The skies cleared as per the forecast enabling our group from the Eagles Ski club to continue from the Petit to the Grand Croisse Baulet and enjoy an excellent descent down the classic central face back towards the Petit. There was some good snow in & out of the trees from the lifts of Combloux but the volume is distinctively low compared to this time last year.

20th January 2014, Very Quiet & Varied Off Piste Skiing Conditions at Les Grands Montets, Chamonix

Less snow arrived than forecast last night but there was continuous light snow fall at the end of the afternoon. Whilst there were some very atmospheric clearings whilst skiing down to the Argentiere Glacier this morning, the day was mainly characterised by thick Scots Mist! Snow conditions were good on the front (North) face of the Montets summit and a bit windblown & crusty on the glacier face. Lunch in the Cremerie was it's normal enjoyable consumption of Savoyarde Larde!

18th January 2014, Midi Snow Ridge Now Equipped

The famous mountaineering exit from the Midi station is now equipped in order to aid the descent of teams of skiers. Whilst the big Z is not yet in place the central ridge has metal stakes and a fixed rope in place. This is still pretty steep & exposed and can be icy. So using crampons on ski boots and fixing skis to a backpack will make the descent more secure.

More snow on the forecast for next week and, with some sunny spells too, there could be some great skiing to be had in the Vallee Blanche.

18th January 2014, Fresh Tracks at Brevent / Flegere, Chamonix

Good off piste skiing today at Brevent / Flegere. Lots of fresh tracks off the Floria lift at Flegere and great snow on the famous steep 'Hotel' face at Brevent.

17th January 2014, Winter 2014 Powder Season is Ramping up at Courmayeur

Despite the slow start, snow levels are now steadily building and the skiing is getting better & better on both sides of the Mont Blanc Range. Great powder all over the lower mountain at Courmayeur today. The Youla & Arp lifts were shut for avalanche control but the lower mountain provided plenty of great turns through the trees on deep, light, north facing Val Veny powder. This was washed down with the biggest ski lunch I have ever experienced in Checcio's above Plan Chercuit. Possibly a bit on the decadent side for my humble tastes but an experience nonetheless!

There is more snow due over the weekend and in to next week in Val d'Aoste with a lot less on the Chamonix side.

Bon ski weekend....

16th January 2014, 'Jour Blanc' Conditions Kept the Grands Montets Quiet - But Good Snow

Good skiing from the top of the Grands Montets this morning - before the top lift closed due to wind. Good fresh tracks in knee deep + powder on both the front face & Grand Mur. Good snow all the way down to the mid station - where it had not been skied. The descent from the Lognan refuge down to the Pierre a Ric is pretty steep & bumpy at the moment though! Enjoyable quick (well, not that quick!) back skin up the Pierre a Ric at closing time to get the full work out!

15th January 2014, Good Powder Skiing on Both Sides of the Mt Blanc Massif....

Enjoyable skiing in Courmayeur today and incredibly quiet on the lifts, slopes & restaurants. We skied off the Youla and into the North facing bowls above the Val Veny with several skinning excursions to make the best of the good snow there - before the main couloirs started. Lots of teams were skiing the Dollone Canal / Valley. There was still good snow too lower down in the trees where it had not been skied.

Reports from the Grands Montets today were of excellent powder skiing from the top telecabine with various runs down to the Glacier, Grand Mur & Lavancher bowl. Good snow although still the odd rock showing through.

The return of the Foehn will bring an inclement & windy day in the valley tomorrow but with more fresh snow inbound from tomorrow evening.

14th January 2014, The Return of Winter brings Powder & Great Skiing Back to the Mt Blanc Massif

A good alternative to the higher Chamonix Ski resorts in heavy snow &stormy weather

More snow than forecast has fallen (C. 40cms @ 1800m) and down to lower levels (around 400m in the Arve Valley). Lots of teams out enjoying the goodsnow at the Grands Montets today. Lots of fresh to be had even before the top station opened. The cover in the Dream Forest is still not great though. Good skiing was also reported in the trees at Le Tour, Les Houches and further down the valley at St. Gervais. Teams ski touring on the Croise Baulet reported good touring conditions and a great powder descent.

12th January 2014, Fine Spring Weather Gives Enjoyable Ski Touring & Glacier Skiing

Relatively mild weather and dry snow conditions are not what January is about for most skiers but, as with all trips to the mountains, a degree of opportunism is required. The huge powder days of last January are not around at the moment but in it's place there has been the option to tour a bit higher in to the range. There were lots of teams profiting from the lovely weather on the Col d'Argentiere from the Grands Montets lift today. A fine ski tour with variable snow conditions!

High on the Vallee Blanche there were reports of excellent snow & skiing down towards the REquin Hut. Below that things are thin and rocky to the skiers left or thin & icy in the Salle a Manger. The exit from the glacier to Montenvers is not as straightforward as last year at the moment either.

5th January 2014, Great Powder Ski Touring & Off Piste in Val Veny / Courmayeur

After yesterdays major snow falls across the Mt Blanc Massif - the sun came out today and promised a classic mountain ski day. No one was disappointed and the combination of a massive wintery south face of Monte Bianco with superb light & deep powder snow gave a great days off piste & ski touring. All the lifts of Courmayeur opened up and teams were skiing most of the classic off piste variations including the Canale della Rete on the North Face of the Youla. It looked a bit rocky at the entrance but superb open slopes below.

Teams were also skiing on the big South facing slopes from Hellbronner & Pavillon and there were lots of good looking tracks negotiating the steep slopes skiers left from La Pavillon.

3rd January 2014, Powder Ski Touring in the Italian Val d'Aosta

Fresh powder snow, cool temperatures and decent weather gave an enjoyable couple of days ski touring from a base in Aosta. The Comba Citrin on the south side of the Grand St Bernard road offers a lovely lower and upper meadow approach to the 2484m North East facing Col de Citrin. However the central section consists of quite an intricate summer path section. This provides an interesting skinning ascent but snow cover was still a little thin to ski comfortably back down this or the more open wooded gully to its west. However this is good touring area with lots of possible link ups of valleys and accessing high north facing cols & summits.

Today we climbed the popular Aosta ski peak of the Pointe de la Pierre (2653m). Many teams were enjoying the good snow & conditions on the longer ascent from Ozein but we were the only team to use a little mechanical assistance and start the tour from the Pila lift system. This gives a great shortish tour of around 700m of ascent with lots of additional options for off piste & skinning options using the Pila lifts.

Snow conditions were great for skiing with deep & light north facing powder all the way. However lower down at around 2000m on a northerly aspect there were some impressive 'whoomphing' noises and collapsing snow packs encouraging only further the general strategy of avoiding any steep open slopes.

With the 2nd Christmas / New Year week now finished the ski resorts & touring areas should revert to a quieter state until the February 'vacances de ski'. With another 50cms of fresh snow forecast for tomorrow (at 4000m) and sunny weather after that - snow conditions look promising although the avalanche hazard will remain considerable or high.

27th December 2013, Argentiere Glacier Powder Ski

The long run down the Argentiere Glacier from the Grand Montets this morning more than compensated for the long lift queues. Higher up around 3000m and around the Montets itself the snow was soft but wind effected and several small slab avalanches were triggered by teams taking steep lines down towards the glacier. We skied a normal 'Rognon Right' run down and then the classic skiers left exit to the Argentiere Glacier which was in reasonable condition. There was some great light & fluffy snow all the way down to the junction with the Piere a Ric piste where the wind or other skiers had not already effected the snow.

One hardy team were breaking trail up the Argentiere Glacier to tour on either the Amethystes or Tour Noir Glaciers (to reach the Col Argentiere or Tour Noir) which no doubt had some good snow on the descent.

Various teams were also skiing from the Aiguille du Midi with reports of some very deep powder snow up high!

There has been a good amount of snow fallen over the Christmas period in the Mt Blanc Massif - 30cms at 1800m. However other resorts further south & east are providing some massive snow fall stats - like 163cm in Tessin and nearly 1m in Zermatt / Saas Fee.

25th & 26th December 2013, A Very White & Powdery Christmas at Courmayeur

Good light powder reported from Courmayeur on Christmas day, perhaps the best of the winter so far and a base starting to develop in the trees of the Val Veny. Teams who returned on Boxing day found it to be not quite so good and a bit heavy & tracked from the previous day. Whilst just before Christmas it snowed a lot more on the South side of Mt Blanc - just after Christmas it was the opposite and teams reported great snow & skiing at the Grands Montets on Boxing day, when they could see something!

22nd December 2013, Good Powder in Pila, Aosta & First Forays Down the Vallee Blanche

The recent snow brought more snow to the neighboring Val d'Aosta than the Chamonix Valley. We enjoyed lots of light powder today on the high & shady north facing slopes of Pila nestling high on the South side of the Val d'Aosta above the town of Aosta itself. Fantastic panoramic views of the Grivola, Mont Blanc, Grand Combin & giants of the Swiss Valais. The base is variable and higher up there were still rocks well in evidence under the powder. Lower down the off piste is generally more grassy and we skied some lovely filled in gullies on a firm base.

See our mini film below to get an idea of the current conditions and superb views...

Ski Pila, Val d'Aosta, Christmas 2013 from High Mountain Guides on Vimeo.

Several Mountain Guides skied the Vallee Blanche today reporting good snow on the upper Envers Glacier and pretty poor think & rocky conditions lower down having exited skiers left of the Requin Hut.

Plenty more snow is now forecast for Christmas Day and in the days afterwards which should hopefully improve conditions considerably.

15th December 2013, Ski Touring in the Aravis. Snow Due Later This Week....

Whilst it still has not snowed since the 22nd November the continuing stable weather has preserved reasonable snow conditions on sheltered & shaded aspects. The base for ski touring below about 1800m is not great but lots of teams have been out enjoying mountain ski journeys in perfect weather!

The impressive couloir of L'Etale, Coillu à Bordel in the Chauchefoin has been skied with an early season blend of powder, hard snow & rocks not far away!

Likewise the Combe à Marion above the Col des Aravis & Trous de la Mouche above La Clusaz had reasonable snow cover up high but rather sparse lower down and are not in the sort of condition to take your best new skis!

7th December 2013, High Pressure System Continues & Mammut Pulse Transceiver Upgrade (4.0)

Cool, sunny stable weather continues in the Mt Blanc Massif. The cold dry air means that snow has not transformed very much and therefore where it has been sheltered from the wind & sun there is still some lovely light powder to be had above about 1800m.

Teams have been out ski touring in the Aiguilles Rouges & Aravis and reporting good snow in places but lacking a decent base and lots of potential to hit rocks.

As Mammut have now released their 4.0 firmware upgrade to their ever popular Pulse transceiver we thought we would upgrade our stock of Pulses and do some testing, training & reviewing. Here is an extract from our Avalanche Training Notes and a little mountain training film where the upgrade is used & reviewed:

Reviewing many avalanche emergency responses highlighted several recurring areas where time can be unnecessarily lost during the search. Perhaps the classic way of this happening is when people searching on the debris fail to stop their transceivers transmitting and thus confuse the search for the actual buried victim. Another problem area occurs during the fine search where the decision to transfer from the transceiver fine search to starting a pinpoint search with a probe. To address this last point Mammut changed the way their Pulse transceivers give instructions in this final phase of the transceiver search. The arrows are more directive and an actual indication instructs you to start probing. The other two stated benefits of the upgrade are an expanded first signal display and a more efficient course search. In testing we found genuine benefits to all three aspects of the upgrade and you can watch our short video below to infrorm yourself of the changes - and then get practicing yourself!

Mammut Pulse Transceiver Firmware 4.0 from High Mountain Guides on Vimeo.

4th December 2013, Piste, Powder & Crust @ Courmayeur

Hats off to the resort of Courmayeur for getting things up and running early this season. It was very quiet on the slopes and with perfect weather & stunning views it was a great day to be skiing in the mountains. Some of the lower lifts & pistes have not opened yet due to the snow line not having crept far enough down the hill. Thus the Val Veny cable car & Zerotta are still shut. There is lots of good and very quiet piste skiing to enjoy though and variable off-piste including lovely light powder, some wind crust and, lower down, a grassy base!

The base in the trees is present but limited and the best snow seemed to be in the meadows around the woods where there had been sufficient build up but without much wind.

Some good skiing off the Youla with some of the steeper couloirs being skied. This 30 second film clip on our Facebook Mountain Conditions page shows some of the pleasant untracked terrain that was easily accessed close to the lifts....and how not to use a Go Pro camera whilst skiing!

2nd December 2013, Early Season Ski Touring In the Aravis, Megeve

Enjoyable short tour from 1400m above Megeve today on to the West side of Mont Joly. Limited base untill around 1650m and some fun light powder on a firm base above that. Sparse in the trees, a bit wind affected on the ridges but lovely in some of the meadows. Loads of impressively large surface hoar crystals on the surface although, based on this weeks forecast, these may melt before they get buried by the next snow fall - lower down the hill at least.

See below for the 1 minute film setting the scene for current mountain snow & ski touring conditions.

Other teams were active on some steep couloirs from Punta Hellbronner on the Italian side of the Mt Blanc range today. Great early season sport. Still quite mild up high, some decent snow & no one around!

Early Season Ski Touring in Les Aravis, French Alps from High Mountain Guides on Vimeo.< /p>

28th November 2013, Beau Temps, Shallow Snow Packs & Update of Avalanche Training Notes

Continuing clear and cold weather in the Mt Blanc Massif is giving great mountain weather conditions and lots of teams have been out ski touring in the lower hills. The shallow snow packs & stable weather are currently giving relatively low avalanche hazard levels - check for the latest Haute Savoie Avalanche Bulletin. However the early season recipe of shallow snow pack & sustained freezing temperatures is not a good one for long term snow pack stabillity as it can lead to the growth of depth hoar cyrstals which can present a significant 'weak layer' within the snow pack. This will be an interesting situation to monitor as lifts open and more teams venture higher in to the mountains and hopefully dig some pits & analyse the profiles.

Having recently spent an informative & thought provoking couple of days avalanche training in Tignes with French Guide & avalanche expert 'Alain Duclos' we have updated our Avalanche Training page with some thoughts & issues arising from the mountain & classroom discussions:

Avalanche Training Notes

In the ever evolving world of snow science & avalanche theory the pragmatic skier & mountaineer needs to identify the salient points & make pragmatic decisions accordingly. This is easier said than done and... more>

25th November 2013, Early Winter Ski Touring on Mont Joly, St Gervais

Strong NE winds up high and thick stratus clouds between 1900m & 2300m gave a real winter feel to our ascent of the North Ridge of Mont Joly as an early season ski mountaineering training sortie. There were lots of teams out around the resort of St. Gervais working on the lifts & avalanche control, so hopefully, with some more early season snow, we will get an early opening date. Various teams were also out skinning and enjoying some pretty good snow above around 1700m. Obviously the base is a bit limited but we enjoyed some fine creamy powder turns on a firm base - interspersed with more grassy sections!

This is a good area to ski tour in early season, before the lifts open but the pistes offer a better chance of avoiding rocks on the lower slopes than wilder country! Having said that - lots of teams have also been out touring around the Aravis. Generally finding some good snow, and a few rocks!

It looks like a sunny, cool & stable week ahead with more snow currently forecast for Saturday.

10th November 2013, Large Snowfalls Across the Alps

Very strong to gale force NNW winds with cool temperatures are bringing in extensive & heavy snowfalls across the Alps with snow settling down to 800m this afternoon and with up to half a metre of fresh windblow snow at 2000. This is all in addition to other recent heavy snow fall events above 2000m.

Here in the Mt Blanc Massif fresh snow is evident well down the pistes of Les Houches, St. Gervais, Megeve & Combloux with further heavy precipitation forecast until tonight.

By contrast the forecast for next week looks generally good with lots of bright & sunny weather with lighter winds & temperatures around the seasonal average. We have teams on the hill next week attempting the Gran Paradiso and doing some Antarctic mountaineering training - so stay tuned for a snow conditions update then.

7th November 2013, Mont Blanc Massif Snow Conditions & Lift Opening Dates

Our reports are starting early this year thanks to the superb snow conditions of last winter. The very high snowfall meant the glaciers were never stripped back to the very lean autumn conditions of recent previous years. This combined with another cool & showery autumn means the snow levels are already accumulating well above 2000m. Of course this could all still be easily stripped back on the grassy / rocky lower slopes with a warm & sunny spell but this is less likely in the high mountains and hopefully, in the absence of strong eroding winds, the high mountain & glacial snow pack will continue to build progressively through to the imminent winter season.

There has already been considerable ski activity in the upper Vallee Blanche area prior to the closure of the Midi & Hellbronner lifts earlier this month. The first tracks of the autumn were seen on the Gros Rognon variation of the Vallee Blanche back in September!

To help with your early season ski planning - information & inspiration - you can check the links below for info on the planned dates for resort lift openings, review the many highlights of last years superb ski season, check availabillity on all our open ski courses & make a comment to share conditions info from a recent ski foray in to the mountains.

Looking ahead to the imminent arrival of the 2013 / 2014 ski season, here is a quick review of when the ski areas are planning to open their lifts this year:

Ski Chamonix

  • Chamonix Grand Montets: Partial opening at weekends according to snow conditions. Then partial opening from 7th December & full opening from the 21st December.
  • Ski Aiguille du Midi: December 21st
  • Les Houches: December 7th
  • Ski Le Tour / Balme: December 14th (according to snow conditions - then fully from December 21st)
  • Ski Brevent Flegere: December 14th (according to snow conditions - then fully from December 21st)
  • Chamonix Montenvers: OPEN now & throughout winter / spring
  • General Chamonix Ski Lift Info

Ski Aravis

  • Great Ski Areas - just hard to find out when they are actually going to open! More details to follow...
  • Ski St. Gervais:
  • Ski Megeve
  • Ski Contamines

Ski Italian Val d'Aosta

Ski Swiss Valais

Throughout the 2013/14 ski season, in addition to all our usual private guiding services, we offer a variety of scheduled open days for off-piste skiing, ski touring, Vallee Blanche descents & our super popular Chamonix Off-Piste & Ski Mountain Skills 5 day course (almost full already). You can keep an eye on the current availability all on this page:

 

Take the time now to review some of the many many highlights of last years superb ski season. It started snowing in November and, well, just kept snowing. Certainly a year to have FAT skis! You can browse all our reports, photos & videos from last year via the link below:

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 Grands... more>

Skiing in Chamonix

Chamonix is a world mecca for off-piste skiing and ski mountaineering. With a huge vertical height interval between the high mountain lifts and the valley, skiing on all aspects and massive potential for mount... more>

Chamonix Off-Piste Skiing

Off-piste skiing photos from the big resorts of the Chamonix Valley and others accessed easily in a day from Chamonix including the Rhone Valley and Val d'Aosta.

Chamonix Ski Touring / Mountaineering

A collection of galleries giving an insight in to the superb variety of ski touring both in the Chamonix Valley itself and the equally excellent surrounding areas of the Aravis, Italian Val d'Aosta and Swiss Rhone Valley. A ski touring dream!

Comment

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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