Chamonix Ski & Snow Reports 2014/15
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 now just grass and the lower Gorner glacier is stripped back to ice & rock.
Even though I go every year I am always surprised again just how brilliant the Monte Rosa Hut is. It's remarkable and, when I said to the guardian that there weren't many huts in the Alps like this one, he replied 'just one, this one!' He's right, it's a great base camp for the multitude of high altitude spring ski itineraries around the Monte Rosa Massif.
After an 0300 breakfast, we headed up the long glaciated northern flank of the mountain and wound an intricate route through the upper crevasses to reach the Silber Sattel at 4500m+. A brilliant journey enabling a lovely direct ski back to the hut. The onward & downward journey is more complicated as, not being able to ski the lower Gorner Glacier to Furi, the glacier is traversed and then exited via newly engineered paths, bridges & a ladder to reach the steadily ascending path back to Rotenboden.
Carrying full ski mountaineering gear whilst wearing traininers on a summery path at the end of a 2000m+ day in Mid May....with the Matterhorn & Zermatt Skyline all round, seemed like a fitting end to the 2015 ski season....
Have a great summer & we hope to ski with you next winter, Rob
12th May 2015 - Ski Mt Blanc & Gran Paradiso Summits
Good high mountain weather & stable snow conditions saw both our Ski Mt Blanc & Ski Gran Paradiso teams summit today.
Whilst the Paradiso Huts had just shut for the inter season we enjoyed a great night in the brilliant Chabod Hut winter room. A crackling fire, starry sky and excellent heart cuisine....although i say so myself! Titti, the Chabod Hut Guardian had left us a big chocolate cake which was despatched in quick style to celebrate our arrival after an excellent morning ski mountaineering around Punta Hellbroner & climbing the north ridge of the Petit Flambeau.
The snow line has rocketed up the mountainside in all the recent warm rains and we had a good 500m walk up the summer path before the skinning started at C.2400m. Likewise above the hut, the moraine has made a very rapid apprearance and the approach to the glacier was a bit more fiddly than in recent weeks.
Higher up the mountain the glacier was really well filled in and we enjoyed a swiftish ascent with only 1 other team on the summit ridge for a pleasant change...one of the great benefits of the huts being closed!
After the initial rough windblown slopes the descent was great - lovely smooth spring snow all the way to C2600m with it turning very soft below that by 1200.
Over on Mont Blanc, Ben & Francois summited from the Grand Mulets after a very early start this morning and arrived at the Plan de l'Aiguille a gruelling 13 hours later!
30th April 2015 - Ski Gran Paradiso, 3 Day Tour
The heavy snow on Sunday & Monday had given around half a metre of fresh snow high in the Paradiso area, with various spontaneous avalanches, especially on Northerly aspects, visible once the clouds cleared. Also revealed was some super powder snow - between about 2800 and 3400m. Above that the snow was wind affected with sastrugi and a light wind crust. Below there remained good spring snow.
We enjoyed a ski Gran Paradiso summit from the Chabod hut but with 2 fine additional touring days either side.
Check out our Ski Gran Paradiso conditions update for all the details.
In the meantime - there is very heavy precipitation forecast from tomorrow and over the weekend, with snow falling above C. 2400m
27th April 2015 - Ski Mountaineering Training & Grands Montets Ski Conditions
There was some really good snow at the Grands Montets today - not the best of the season, but good. There was also plenty of really bad snow - definitely the worst of the season!
As things softened up the pistes became good soft fun with the marked exception of the marked runs from the Montets summit which were an impressively unpleasant mix of crust, lumps & crud! However the powder on the North Face of the Petite Aiguille Verte was good and well worth the skin up to the bergschrund for a fun run of fresh powder turns back to the base of the Montets summit stairs / col.
The descent to the Argentiere Glacier was an unpleasant mix of crusty sastrugi which had been skied in softer conditions yesterday and then lightly refrozen. Yuck! The narrow & more heavily skied passage skiers left down the normal Argentiere Glacier exit was in fine conditions however. Soft fun snow with a good cover and some excellent spring snow on the easier angled glacier pitches lower down.
Snow flakes were falling at the top of the Bochard (2765m) late afternoon with up to half a metre of fresh snow on the way at 4000m tonight on stiff northerly winds. After that the weather looks better until Thursday afternoon with more snow forecast down to around 1700m.
17th April 2015 - Mont Blanc Massif & Oberland - Ski Touring Conditions
Today sees the first precipitation in weeks for the Northern Alps. Overnight snow has deposited C.15cms at The Chabod Hut on the Gran Paradiso at 2700m in the Italian Val d'Aosta with less here in Chamonix and on the North side of Mont Blanc. Ski Gran Paradiso conditions have been fine. Reasonable cover with great weather but some scoured patches & wind lashed snow higher up.
This last week of continuing perfect weather has seen many teams enjoying classic spring high ski mountaineering objectives. Great weather and decent snow cover but with snow conditions ranging from good spring snow to varied to tricky!
Our Bernese Oberland touring course finishes today back in the Chamonix Valley after a successful hut to hut tour in this magnificent, almost Arctic like area. For a round up on ski conditions there check our latest mini report here Bernese Oberland Ski Touring Conditions.
A good 100 or so teams have been skiing Mont Blanc over the last couple of weeks. The guardian at the Grands Mulets hut this morning confirmed conditions were generally ok but that the snow wasn't great - generally quite hard and rough, so today's fresh snow on light to moderate winds will help a bit in the long run. Teams have also been making the ski descent via a Heli-drop starting on the Italian side of the range and mountaineering to the summit from there. Saving a day and a night in the hut!
In more classic touring news - various teams have just completed the ski Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt in good style and again, aided by the great weather and snow cover allowing the final descent to be made all the way to the streets of Zermatt.
On the steeper tours many teams have been up at the Conscrits & Tre la Tete Huts above the Contamines Valley and enjoying quality ski mountaineering days on Mont Tondu, the Domes Des Miage and descent of the famous Armancette Glacier. Many teams had made the descent of the latter with reasonable cover but not actually great snow for skiing.
At the opposite (Eastern) end of the Mont Blanc range at least one hardy team made the traverse of Mont Dolent, climbing the steep north face at the head of the Argentiere basin, traversing the summit ridge and skiing back down in to Switzerland to arrive at La Fouly. A great journey but with the snow a bit over transformed at the end due to the lateness of the hour!
In the heart of the massif teams have also been enjoying the classic traverse of the Breche Puiseaux and ski descent of the superb Mont Mallet glacier, this time, happily, with some great turns!
11th April 2015 - Ski Touring Conditions Round Up
Continuing perfect weather has seen lots of teams touring high in the mountains although the best snow was not always related to the higher areas due to very strong winds experienced at the start of the week. Our teams ski touring in the Paradiso National Park enjoyed good touring conditions but did not summit on the Paradiso! The high winds and then heavily wind smashed or scoured snow suggested that a traversing tour in the upper Valsavarenche gave better conditions and this was the case with good touring up to the Col Grand Etret and then good snow cover all the way to the road head at Pont.
Conditions in the Argentiere Basin were similar with some heavy sastrugi, crusty snow and the idea that better conditions would be restored with a return to spring condition after last weekends fresh snow. Conditions in the Vallee Blanche remain pretty good with reasonable cover down to the Salle a Manger and quite lean below that with a few rocks poking out on the approach to the Montenvers train station for the final descent, by rail!
18th March 2015 - Vallee Blanche & 3 Day Haute Route
Much calmer & sunnier conditions prevailed today in the Mont Blanc range with good skiing on fresh snow at Courmayeur, the Glacier de Toule and Italian side of the Vallee Blanche.
On the french side there were some nice pockets of windblown powder and lower down some nice soft spring snow. In places there are also some pretty wild sastrugi as a testimony to yesterdays strong winds.
The Vallee Blanche normal route was in good condition although we traversed left from the Requin Hut and the final bowl on that descent had glacial ice debris and sastrugi, not a good combination and the Salle a Manger may provide a more preferable exit at the moment.
Ben & Paul, our 3 day Haute Route team reached Arolla today on day 2 and with promising weather tomorrow will hopefully reach Zermatt after another long & tough day touring. Hopefully the reward will be an awesome ski down the Stockli glacier, under the Matterhorn North Face & Into Zermatt.
17th March 2015 - Grands Montets & 3 Day Haute Route
A wild SE wind kept the Aiguille du Midi lift shut this morning and the Mer de Glace telecabine was also shut making a Vallee Blanche difficult. The weather did not sound much more promising on the Italian side so we ascended the Grands Montets telecabine instead. A pretty wild wind was blowing up there also with some impressively unpleasant sastrugi forming on the descent towards the glacier. With this in mind we sought the relative shelter of the Grand Mur where lots of wind blown shallow soft snow had accumulated on the underlying firm pack.
This gave beautiful creamy turns spraying a wide curtain of arcing soft snow. So good, we did it again straight away!
Paul & Ben also set sail from the Grands Montets en route across the Trient Plateau, down the Val d'Arpette and taxied across to Verbier to enjoy a comfortable Base Camp for the night in the Mont Fort Hut. All being well with the weather & snow conditions their onward journey will take them to Arolla and then Zermatt. Bon route and fingers crossed for the weather - currently looking pretty good.
Over in Italy decent off piste conditions were reported from Courmayeur where there has been a little fresh snow.
13th March 2015 - Classic Steep Spring Skiing at Chamonix Brevent & Le Tour II
Yesterday was so good - we decided to do the same today! Brevent again delivered on cue mid morning fine spring snow for stable steep skiing. We skied the Hotel Face, Col Brevent Direct & Bellin Couloir again. The lower track is getting leaner & leaner and it may soon be preferable to skin back to the Plan Praz up the zig zag track.
Le Tour was catching a cool NW breeze this afternoon and along with a thinly veiled sun this made for a firmer snow pack than would have been ideal.
Lower down in the Vormaine bowl and on sunnier aspects there was good spring snow but the Posettes was not as good as Yesterday for those reasons.
Looks like the snow this weekend will be more on the South side of Mont Blanc with the Italian Val d'Aosta getting a reasonable dose. Snow due in Chamonix early next week. Bon Weekend, I'm going climbing tomorrow!
12th March 2015 - Classic Steep Spring Skiing at Chamonix Brevent & Le Tour
A leisurely warm up of skiing and cafe can be enjoyed for tackling the spring steeps on the south facing side of the Chamonix valley. Many of the South & SE facing lines are bullet hard early in the morning and too soft by lunch time. Yesterday there was a sweet spot of less than a couple of hours between about 1030 and 1145 where the snow was juicy, firm and a pleasure to ski.
We started on the classic Hotel face at Brevent. At 1030 it was still a little early at the top but had softened nicely for the lovely middle and lower sections. Then the Col du Brevent was good and done quickly leaving plenty of time for an extremely enjoyable descent of the steep Bellin Couloir under the superb imposing cliffs of the Brevent South Face. A very scenic and sustained run all the way down back to Chamonix....with a bit of bush whacking and a couple of walking sections at the bottom. Still worth it for the great ski high up - but the lower track is falling fast!
After a quick transfer up the valley for lunch at Le Tour we were back on the steeps but this time on the shadier Vallorcine side of the Valley. The Posettes couloir was pretty good, especially lower down where the snow had transformed more. The back bowls, accessed from the Tete de Balme, were then enjoyed with not a single other team around and the northern couloir of L'Arollette provided a fitting climax to a great day of Chamonix steep classics.
10th March 2015 - Heli Ski La Thuile - Rutor & Mont Freduaz
A quick heli lift to the summit of Rutor was a bracing and fast start to this morning. All of a sudden we were soaking up the magnificent alpine panorama from nearly 3500m on the summit of the Test del Rutor. A magnificent & huge glaciated massif between La Thuile, Valgrisenche & La Roserie.
The upper reaches of the glacier had had some wind which had swept away most of the powder but left a smooth & firm surface which was fun to ski. Lower down out the wind & above the melt freeze level there was some lovely powder pitches down towards the Lakes at C. 2500m
From here a fun & scenic tour accessed a side valley to give a heli touring element to the day and a fun descent of broad couloirs with some lovely juicy spring snow down to beneath the Rifugio Deffeyes at 2472m. Pushing across the lower flat lakes was hot work but accessed the enjoyable narrow couloirs and final long open pitches down to the Plan de la Liere at 2100m. Good skiing!
A second heli pick up then avoids the full combat of the lower slopes and a very quick fun transfer to near the summit of Mont Freduaz at C 2800m. Fine open glacier bowls of firm smooth snow led down to a brilliant steep north facing wide couloir and the valley below the glaciers of Mont Valaisan. From here you could skin up to the summit another c. 300m above....or you could equally ski the fun lower slopes back to the cafes of La Thuile, and today, we chose the latter!
9th March 2015 - Sunny Ski Touring & Soft Pistes In Chamonix
There was about a million teams ski touring up towards the Col Crouches this morning. We joined various other teams sidling around the Floria bowl to start skinning up towards Lac Blanc and on towards the Col de Belvedere etc. Teams were both going over the back to the Northerly aspects and down the Berade Valley and skiing back down the South face to the Felgere lift system. We did the latter, at about 1130 which was about right on the plum south aspects, a little soft on SE and still firmish on SW.
Other teams reported good conditions on the Vallee Blanche and were still skiing all the way down to Chamonix sans problem. Reasonable conditions on the Col du Tour Noir with good spring snow lower down.
More good weather forecast forecast for much of the rest of the week with snow inbound Friday night & Saturday.
8th March 2015 - Ski Safaris In Les Contamines & Les Aravis
Glorious mountain weather continues across the Northern Alps & Mont Blanc Range giving lovely late winter conditions. The snow has been ravaged by the wind higher up but there remains some good bowls of powder on shady northern aspects and increasingly fine spring snow conditions on the sunnier slopes.
We have enjoyed 2 good days of mixed lift accessed ski touring, off piste and piste skiing around the resorts of Les Contamines and Praz Sur Arly. Many teams were touring from Les Contamines with lots of tracks going in to the Contamines classic tours both down to the Roman Road and over on the Hauteluce side. Good conditions reported on both the Col de Cicle & Col du Bonnehomme.
Mont de Vores was also popular from Praz sur Arly and both tours had excellent snow cover all the way down to the car at 1100-1300m.
The weather looks set fair for the week ahead with wall to wall sunshine, cool nights and mild afternoons.
The avalanche risk is also steadily decreasing with category 2 above 2000m forecast from tomorrow and 1 becoming 2 below 2000m although with a significant risk of very sunny & steeper slopes going full depth to slippery grassy bases from late morning onwards.
28th February 2015 - Mont Blanc Unlimited @ Brevent, Plan de l'Aiguille & Midi.
Strong clients today in the form of 7 top level (4) BASI ski instructors! We started on the steep slopes of the South Face of the Brevent but the cloud was a lot thicker and longer lasting than forecast. At the top of the Cornu chairlift a few teams were heading up to the Col Cornu and on to the Pourrie or Col de la Glierre but the visibility was not favourable, so we skied all the way down the pistes back to Brevent and switched valley side. The cloud was lighter on the South side of the valley and we enjoyed superb light north facing powder snow on the upper Pre de Rocher before more 'Sanglier' terrain through the trees lower down. All good fun though.
It was thus mid afternoon before we enjoyed a superb sidle along the Midi - Plan snow ridge, with great snow, on the approach to the first steep pitch of the Col du Plan / Grand Envers variation on the Vallee Blanche. Early teams had triggered a few soft slab slides here earlier in the day but now what remained was pleasant grippy tracked snow on the several steep pitches and some lovely untracked powder on the wider sections. There was the odd section which was less perfect and had some wind effect on the surface layer also.
We skied the left hand bowl way too the left of the Requin Hut and lower glacier all the way to the Buvette and decent conditions on the James Bond track with the obvious exception of the steep & rocky first hair pin!
As well as all other variants on the Vallee Blanche, ther teams had skied the Glacier Ronde, and lots of steep good north facing lines on the South side of the Valley like the Combe Noire, Vierge and steep lines down the Periades glacier and moraine walls opposite the Requin Hut.
Lots more snow on the way over the next few days with a rain snow limit just above Chamonix Valley floor level.
27th February 2015 - Ski Combloux & Ski Plan de l'Aiguille, Chamonix
C. 15cms of fresh snow at the top of the Chirstomet lift at Combloux today at 1850m and a reported 20cms at the Plan de l'Aiguille at 2300m on the north facing slopes above Chamonix. Poor visibillity gave a day for skiing lower down around the trees today, but the snow line creeped down the mountain side and there were some great turns to be had, especially on shady aspects.
It was the last day of our off piste coaching & ski mountain skills training course. The team were feeling 5 days of skiing in their legs so we cruised around some nice powder snow at Combloux, did some avalanche training and a mini ski tour and drank some cafe! Another enjoyable, rewarding and full course. There is now just one place left for our late March advanced course, otherwise dates for winter 2016 tbc soon.
Sunny tomorrow with more snow Sunday & Monday.
26th February 2015 - High Mountain Ski Conditions Around the Vallee Blanche
Great weather and lots of very good snow still left from yesterday gave a classic high mountain ski day in the Mt Blanc range. Lots of teams skied all the main variants on the French side of the Vallee Blanche (with the possible exception of the Vrai) with lots of teams also skiing the Combes Noir & Vierge on the Italian side with decent north facing snow.
On the South side of the range reasonable conditions were found on the Glacier de Toule down to the Pavillon / Hellbronner mid station and various teams were touring up towards the Col Capucin and Breche Puiseuax and skiing the fine sustained north facing slopes back down. These look a little less wind effected than more exposed routes.
The classic route was in good condition although the main pitches below the Gros Rognon a bit wind effected with better, more sheltered snow found by pushing a bit further round the traverse before skiing the fall line in to the classic route.
Both the French & Italian icefalls exits looked to be in good condition.
More snow for tomorrow, Friday, to top things up for a fine day on Saturday followed by several more snowy days by the look of it.
25th February 2015 - Good Snow & Fine Weather All Around the Mont Blanc Massif
We had teams skiing the 2700m Pt. Ronde just over the Swiss border on the East side of the Mont Blanc range today. They reported good conditions as did a team ski touring on the Croisse Baulet above Combloux / Megeve in the Aravis on the West side of Mt Blanc. In the heart of the massif we also had a team doing a couple of laps on the Vallee Blanche & our client, Evan, described it as the best days skiing of his life. He was a really good skier too so it must have been pretty good!
Our off piste & mountain skills team were at Le Tour with Alison and skied some great powder but stayed away from the steeper slopes in the back bowls above Vallorcine where various skier triggered avalanches were noted.
More of the same tomorrow but with a cold northerly wind and then more snow on Friday!
24th February 2015 - The Return of Winter to Aravis & Mont Blanc
The amount of fresh snow which had arrived overnight was heavily related to the altitude. Below 1650m there was a rain crust offering fairly unpleasant off piste skiing. Above about 2300m the weather in the Aravis was pretty much blizzard conditions. In-between there was some great powder skiing to be had.
A good day using the lifts of St. Gervais, Megeve & St. Nicholas de Veroce with a bit of mini ski touring & avalanche training thrown in as well as a welcome warm up brew in the Porcherey Refuge...which has an impressive igloo outside at the moment!
Other teams in Chamonix reported some great powder higher up at Brevent, Le Tour & Les Grands Montets. A couple of good weather days follow now before more fresh snow on Friday.
23rd February 2015 - Aosta Ski Touring
As per the forecast the weather became a lot cooler, drier and clearer on the south easterly descent of the Val d'Aoste. As the weather tracked in from the West we had atmospheric views of it's arrival - but the views remained good from the Pointe de la Pierre between Pila and the Cogne valley. The summit ascent from Ozein is already a not inconsiderable 1250m but as the snow was so good on the northern descent towards Pila we did a 2nd lap to give a good physical 1700m day of touring.
The snow arrived late & light but we drove back in to more past Morgex and Courmayeur. In Chamonix the mild weather was giving fairy uninspiring rain and mist but at least there should be another good 20cms or so of fresh for tomorrow.
Teams in Les Contamines reported steady snow fall all afternoon with a good 10cms of fresh by the end of play.
19th February 2015 - Aravis Split Board Touring - Pointe De La Carmelite (2477m)
Continuing superb mountain weather, great visibility, moderate avalanche risk and good snow lasting well on shady aspects pointed towards a great day of split board touring in the Aravis and the Pointe de la Carmelite did not dissapoint. The 1400m skin is not to be taken lightly and includes many kick turns and lots of steep terrain where the board crampons came in very handy.
We enjoyed the classic traverse via the Combe de l'Outellaz and down via the magnificent north facing comb NW of the summit. This gives a great circuit and there were lots of good turns in fresh snow up to around 35 degrees on the descent despite the recent good weather & lack of fresh snow.
Other teams had skied some impressive steep lines on Bella Cha - Triangle du Reposoir North West Face.
18th February 2015 - Vacances De Ski Season At Le Tour, Chamonix
Yes, the lifts of Chamonix were also inevitably busy during this half term 'Vacances de Ski' week or 3, however the sun shone and the snow on the shady side of Le Tour, Cote Vallorcine & Trient remained good. We found some powder above the Lac near the Tete de Balme chair which was well worth the walk back to the chair lift, although some of the team may disagree! The Nant Noire run down to Trient was in good grippy skied condition with still a couple of pitches of lovely powder at the top.
In short - lots of good skied snow and still some lovely untracked snow, but not much and quite hard work to get to it without skins!
This week looks full of more sunny weather with a big change on Saturday and plenty more fresh snow in to next week.
16th February 2015 - Chablais Ski Touring I
Inevitably busy in Morzine today being half term 'Vacances de Ski' holidays - but a great atmosphere and lovely late winter weather. Warm in the sun but cool in the shade and cool powder snow hanging on nicely on the north aspects.
We ski toured up to the Col de Cou above Morzine on the Swiss border and with great views across to the Dents du Midi. The Col had good snow cover with the option of skiing shay powder on the descent skiers left or sunny spring snow on the right. The slopes high on the South faces were mainly stripped down to grass with a couple of avalanches seen running down later in the day. Cover on the higher & shady north facing side of the valley was good.
Good weather looks like the pattern for the rest of the week so the best options may be to seek north facing powder a little higher up or pick your time to ski softening spring snow on the sunnier aspects.
14th February 2015 - Aravis Ski Touring II - Atmospheric Weather & Fresh Snow
A snowy drive up the Col de la Columbiere road this morning gave an amospheric approach to our chosen ski tour for the day and the promise of some good powder touring. We certainly were not dissapointed. As yesterdays conditions report suggested, snow conditions are still very good to very low altitudes where not trashed by sun, wind or tracks. 10cms of fresh powder on top of this only improved things and there were some good turns to be had above & below the tree line on the North side of the Tete d'Auferrand.
We did not continue all the way to the summit due to the cloud & stiff winds but found some great meadows for powder turns and enjoyed the highly atmospheric and expansive views of the surrounding Aravis and excellent final ski back down the valley from the Col de la Columbiere.
An excellent day proving that cols and summits are not as integral to a good days touring as making the most of the terrain to find the best snow for skiing & skinning. We also had the mountain to ourselves on one of the busiest transfer days of the ski season. A real Aravis ski touring pleasure.
A little more fresh snow on the way tomorrow Sunday as well. Bon ski weekend!
13th February 2015 - Aravis Ski Touring - Variable Snow Pack...
A week after the last snow fall there still remains some superb light powder snow, even at low altitudes as low as 1100m. However these are becoming less frequent once the effects of wind up high, sunny on most aspects other than north and others skiers tracks have been factored in!
The snow pack in the Aravis is pretty respectable snow volume wise with decent cover all the way down to the parking above Le Reposoir at C. 1050m. Even the shady meadows just above the parking gave some lovely easy skiing in smooth light powder.
The Track in to the Combe Oulettaz was in good shape, well covered and a bit icy in the morning but well softened by early afternoon. Higher up in the Combe Marto the snow was really good where it had not been trashed by wind, sun or skiers!
Lots of other good interesting lines had been skied in the big north facing Vallons between the Combe Marto & the Col de l'Outellaz. Some fun spring snow was found on the descent on sunnier aspects and with some more snowy weather inbound this weekend snow conditions look set to improve over the next few days once things have settled down a bit.
11th February 2015 - Glacier Des Amethystes - Spring Ski Touring!
A very chilly frosty morning gave way to a beaatiful calm & sunny afternoon. Hot even for the skinning ascent of the Glacier Des Amethystes en route to the Col du Tour Noire, C.3500m. Whilst the snow pack had been hammered by the wind, this generally left a pleasant and easy firm pack surface to ski. The descent to the Glacier d'Argentiere from the Grands Montets had large sastrugi but there was a good route through where the tracks had bashed a way through!
The left hand skiers exit to the Glacier d'Argentiere was in good shape and teams were seen ascending to the Col d'Argentiere and tracks on the ascent to the Col du Passon.
8th February 2015 - La Thuile Powder Touring
A beautiful cold morning in the upper Val d'Aosta and brisk skin up towards Mont Valaizan from La Thuile. We skinned up one of the new mountain biking tracks through the woods above La Joux, near La Thuile. This was a pleasant powder tour at that time - but by the close of play it would be somewhat trashed once the Sunday crowds off the lifts found the tracks!
Lovely powder remained from Valley floor level up to around 2500m where the snow started to become effected by the very strong winds in evidence up high. Due to the recent fresh snow & strong winds we avoided the final summit slopes on Mont Valaisan and skinned to a pleasant intermediate summit on the skinners right hand skyline. Lots of lovely velvet powder then paved the descent route all the way back to the valley - but the snow cover is still not high in this part of the Alps, neither in the middle mountains and certainly not for the descent back through the woods.
7th February 2015 - Brevent - Col Cornu - Aiguilles Rouges, Good Steeps / Ski Touring Conditions
A springlike atmoshpere pervaded the south facing slopes of the Brevent today, whilst lower down in the Chamonix Valley winter remained under a thick blanket of valley cloud. Perfect visibility and shady snow on the North side of the Col Cornu gave some good touring conditions and many teams were making the hike up the Aiguille Pourrie to ski its famous steep face down to the Combe Gliere.
Across the Chamonix Valley many teams were skiing the Vallee Blanche and tracks could also be seen high on the Pas de Chèvre.
6th February 2015 - Skins, Lifts & Buses. Le Tour - Trient. Cold, Sunny & Windy
Half of Le Tour had been hammered by the wind today leaving sastrugied snow. Many other parts had remained well sheltered and the cold temperatures certainly preserved the snow well. Velvet smooth shallow powder & great skiing, where the snow had not been skied or wind effected. Great snow for a mini tour was found on the Swiss side of the Col de Balme and the onward descent to Trient was in good shape with cold, grippy snow all the way down the impressive main couloir line.
Other teams had skied some of the steeper lines on the Aiguille de Van & reported decent conditions. Many teams were heading in to ski the Possettes Couloirs.
Teams in the Vallee Blanche reported pretty wild winds on the snow ridge but some good snow down behind the Requin Hut, a slightly rocky exit from the glacier and a James Bond track through the woods in pretty good shape!
4th February 2015 - Piste, Powder & Good Steep Skiing at Chamonix Brevent Flegere
Even over on the steep South Facing slopes of the Brevent the snow was well preserved and great fun to ski. Lots of teams were profiting from the suddenly excellent conditions and enjoying the steeper Brevent classics like the Hotel Face, Col du Brevent and Ensa Couloir as well as fun side country in and around the pistes. Lower down the snow got a bit heavier but there were still excellent tracks in fresh snow to be had over at the Eastern end of the resort via the liaison to Flegere and traversing the Crochues bowl. Even the classic fiery Black Brevent Home run was in good condition!
Other teams reported reasonable conditions skiing the Petit Envers variation on the Vallee Blanche and crossed the Salle a Manger section of the descent (roped) before skiing all the way to the valley via the James Bond Track.
On the ski touring front - numerous teams looked to be enjoying the descent from the Brevent and subsequent skin over to the Aiguillette des Houches with the good snow lasting all the way to Coupeau apparently. There was also a skinning track heading up through the steep soft snow to the Col Crouches.
2nd February 2015 - Ski Touring on the Pointe De Le Pierre (2653m), Aosta, Italian Alps
We left the snow & heavy clouds of the Chamonix Valley to be greeted by sunshine & blue skies lower down the Valle d'Aosta. Whilst the sunny weather was pleasant and gave an enjoyable days touring - the contrast with the North side of the Mont Blanc was stark - there is still very little base of snow lower down the Valle d'Aoste where there is now about metre of fresh on top of a decent base further North.
Most of the new snow has arrived on W-N winds and mainly dumped on the Aravis, Chablais & Mont Blanc range - with some spill over in to the NW Valle d'Aosta but down near the city of Aosta itself it felt pretty sunny & dry! So whilst this 1200m ascent gave a fine journey, nice ski tour loop and great skiing down to just below 2000m, the lower section through the trees was pretty lean & without much proper snow base over the grass.
The views however were superb and dominated by the Grivola, Mont Emilius on the this South side of Aosta and the Grand Combin, Mont Velan, Castor, Liskamm, Pollux and the Briethorn over on the North side. Monte Bianco was now poking out of the clouds to the NW and looking stunning & pristine white!
30th January 2015 - Ski Les Houches, With Most of the Chamonix Valley!
Teams were more organised in their response to the heavy snow, high avalanche risk and closed lifts in the Chamonix Valley - go to Les Houches! More great skiing with deep light powder in fairly mellow terrain. There were a lot of teams enjoying but plenty of fresh tracks to go around and when it got a bit busy we headed out of the resort on the St. Gervais side for some great easy pitches through wide rides in the forest before skinning back up in to the resort on the easy skinning trails.
More showery & cool weather ahead but with some sunny clearings should give some great conditions for skiing lots of touring accessed fresh tracks - but, with the avalanche forecast remaining high to considerable, in fairly mellow places. As the last 2 days have shown - you can have good fun skiing without getting on to big & steep faces & couloirs.
29th January 2015 - Powder Skiing Season Kicked Off At St. Gervais
Heavy overnight snow across the Mont Blanc Massif gave a high avalanche hazard today and meant most of the Chamonix lifts were shut for the day. Lower down the in Arve Valley at St. Gervais there was a great fun celebration of skiing fresh tracks in powder all day as the more mellow terrain contained the avalanche risk and the lower altitude & trees gave reasonable visibility.
With around 40cms of fresh snow at 2000m fallen on a generally decent and much improved base - this felt like the first classic big powder day of the season. Late, but worth waiting for! With another 70cms now forecast at 2000m overnight and continuous heavy snow throughout the day tomorrow it looks like the next few days will all be big powder days. Bon ski & keep it safe - with huge snow volumes and strong winds up high the avalanche forecast is staying at 4 for the moment but, according to Meteo France this evening, is not far off hitting a 5.
28th January 2015 - Argentiere Glacier Skiing Training Day
Still some enjoyable light, soft & untracked snow on the Glacier des Rognons and Argentiere Glacier today. Good winter weather & clear visibility providing the final day of relative calm before the big storms forecast to arrive tonight and last through in to early next week with large quantities of fresh snow on the way on Northerly winds.
Despite their extensive skiing & climbing backgrounds a team of Chamonix 'locals' and seasonaires wanted a glacier training day and we found good conditions for doing this on the Argentiere Glacier. The day covers a lot more than just crevasse rescue and follows the general theme of hazard awareness in the mountains and avoidance being more useful than emergency procedures!
Thus there was much discussion about route finding, skiing strategy & the discipline of maintaining good glacier protocols before, later in the day, we looked at someone who fell in to a crevasse roped, whilst skinning as well as a skier fallen in to a crevasse unroped.
27th January 2015 - Fresh Powder But Dark Clouds at Les Contamines
A little more overnight snow than forecast along with a good forecast for clear skies later on today promised a lot for off piste skiers & tourers at Les Contamines today on the West side of Mont Blanc. Whilst the snow was excellent, especially above about 1700m, the weather had other ideas and thick grey clouds shrouded the Contamines - Hauteluce watershed ridge for the whole day. Slightly better visibility was found on the Hauteluce side of the range with some great skiing on the meadows at the base of the North Ridge of the Rochers des Enclaves which we skinned up through. Reports of similarly poor viz with good snow came in from St. Gervais and much of the Chamonix Valley as well. Much better weather tomorrow before a really decent amount of snow arrives Thurs night and right through the weekend. Lots of full winter powder days on the way!
23rd January 2015 - Col d'Argentiere 3552m
The heavy cloud inversion around 2000m today meant that it was a day to go high in the mountains!
Beautiful sunny winter weather prevailed high on the glaciers. Cold in the shade and relatively warm in the sun & out the wind. There were many teams out enjoying the weather and, sometimes, the snow as well. Snow quality varied from lovely light powder to heavy wind crust and chunky sastrugi. We made the sustained & physical 1000m ascent to the Col d'Argentiere and found some good snow on the SW facing descent of the Tour Noire Glacier - although there were quite a few wonky tracks in the wind crust as well!
Other teams skinned up the Amethysts Glacier to Col Tour Noir, up to the Col du Passon and even to the Col du Chardonnet which looked pretty steep & lean.
The descent of the Argentiere Glacier left bank - normal exit from the Grands Montets top bin was in good shape - well skied but grippy cold snow and fun skiing. Many lines had been taken down through the exit couloirs above this section although the off piste around in the resort had been pretty well hammered in general - which should give a good firm & chopped up base for the snow forecast for next week. The more the merrier! Bon weekend!
22nd January 2015 - Winter Powder Ski Touring on Punte Croce, Val d'Aosta
The weather cleared up as forecast for the South side of the Monte Bianco Massif and we enjoyed some highly atmospheric views through the shifting & swirling clouds around the Val d'Aosta. We parked in the deserted hamlet of Arpy and cruised along the pristine untouched ski de fond track to commence the 800m climb to Punte Croce. Very good snow was found in the trees - and the trees go pretty high on Punte Croce! At 2300m are these the biggest high altitude Larch trees in the Northern Alps?
The slopes below the summit were not well filled in so whilst the snow was good there were some hidden rocks to be wary off. Lower down in the open Larch forests the skiing improved in quality and confidence and superb smooth powder turns were lapped up down to the lower track - which is bordered by much denser bushes than usual due to the lean snow cover and lack of wet & sticky late autumn snow.
On returning to Monte Bianco - the mountains looked stunning, plastered white but glowing in the late afternoon light. A few tracks could be seen cutting back to the Hellbroner mid station from the Glacier de Toule.
20th January 2015 - Winter Powder Ski Touring in Les Contamines
Another windy, rosy cheeked, winter powder ski touring adventure this time in the upper Contamines Valley on the West side of the Mt Blanc Massif.
Whilst visibility was much better than forecast this morning there was also a lot of fresh snow blowing around on stiff southerly winds. This was drifting heavily and accumulating on the lee ward slopes with some pretty impressivley delicate and long fracture lines appearing on the small scoops at the start of the tour. This all discouraged us from continuing over the Col de Cicle and instead took a safe and more circuitous line over to the Rochers D'Enclaves. This gave some tricky windscoured snow in the upper third but dreamy powder below that where sheltered from the wind and all the way down to the Hauteluce side of the Contamines resort.
After fortification in the form of Tarte Myrtille we galvanised for the afternoon crossing of the Col de la Fenetre which had some great snow on both sides of it with various steeper gully lines having been skied around it. We descended the classic route and down the Roman Road with the icy lower section negotiated in crampons.
The snow cover in Les Contamines is good compared to other local resorts and the pistes are in pretty good condition too....and comically quiet!
19th January 2015 - Winter Powder Ski Touring in Les Aravis & Combloux
An overcast but cool day with the superb powder snow being well preserved on all but the sunniest aspects and lowest elevations. We ski toured up the 2300m Aravis peak - The Grande Croisse Baulet - and massively enjoyed the sustained fall line powder skiing in descent. After skinning back over the Petite Croisse Baulet we enjoyed another good descent down to La Giettaz and thus made the interesting ski safari style journey back through the pistes & lifts for the return journey to Combloux.
Generally very good snow, with a base above 2000m. Coverage in the trees is still thin and only the wide lines through the forests have good skiing with some of the normal off piste lines still having some impressively dense bushes still in evidence!
18th January 2015 - Blue Sky Deep Powder Day, Argentiere Glacier
The anticipation was high in the Chamonix Valley as the holy grail for off piste skiing finally arrived....Heavy snow with light winds and then blue skies. The forecast promised much and the reality duly delivered with many teams enjoying superb light, fluffy and deep powder. A lot of other teams also profited from the beau temps and fresh snow and commenced the glacier touring season with attractive skinning lines going up to the Col d'Argentiere, Col Tour Noir & Col du Passon.
Whilst it's still early season for ski touring on glaciers there was the advantage of not having hidden rocks below the fresh snow. Whilst the quality of the fresh snow was superb - it does not yet have the base to match and many of the notorious rocks & boulders of the Montets are lurking close to the surface but hidden under the fresh snow, so care is required.
With a cool showery week ahead there looks like some more top ups on the way to improve the conditions yet with enough sunny spells to enjoy them as well.
Bonne semaine de ski!
16th January 2015 - Les Grands Montets
A dry, mild & windy Chamonix Valley was left via the Mont Blanc tunnel to hit the wall of snow on the South side of Mont Blanc. Steady snow fell all the way down the Val d'Aosta, all day at Pila, even more heavily at Courmayeur on the way back this evening and then back to a still dry Chamonix Valley.
The snow is coming tonight though, throughout the Northern Alps. Sweeping north from Italy but reaching as low as 5-600m tomorrow around Mt Blanc with perhaps still a little more on the Italian side still.
Poor conditions were reported skiing at Le Tour today and indeed the off piste & ski touring conditions were not good either on the high and north facing slopes of Pila above Aosta - either due to only a very thin layer of fresh snow on a soft breakable crust - or just very poor visibility. In the end the best skiing was on the steep black pistes high at Pila with a thin layer of powder on a firm grippy base and with lots of market poles to show the way.
This weekend looks set to improve skiers morale in Chamonix and across the Alps as major snowfalls are accompanied by relatively low winds. Both of these have been a rare commodity so far this winter. With further cold & snow due early next week this winter looks set to take a turn for the better.
Bon weekend & enjoy the powder...
14th January 2015 - Les Grands Montets
Yes, it felt like a good January day at the Montets. Ok, snow cover is still lean - but there was lots of fun powder, some pretty wild winds, spindrift, tree skiing, shut lifts giving powder on the pistes, a skin through the dream forest, avalanche & crevasse rescue training and pretty rosy cheeks at the end of the day. Probably a bit more snow fell than forecast, it was difficult to tell as so much of it was in the air! There were certainly scoured ridge lines & shoulders but moreover most the mini valleys and shallow angled couloirs were well stuffed with creamy powder. The zero degree isotherm was at Montets car park level so whilst much more snow fell higher on the mountain there was also a reasonable carpet of fresh in the valley too.
Hopefully with some generally coolish & showery weather inbound this new snow will help further build the relatively week base to the current snow pack.
12th January 2015 - Les Grands Montets
There was some enjoyable off piste skiing and good fresh tracks to be had today at the Grands Montets. Despite the forecast very strong winds the top bin opened and there were some lovely creamy powder turns in the upper Italian bowl as well as much lower on the mountain, down to around 2100m where the snow had not been tracked. Good to check out the impressive new lift also - a massive improvement on the slow & oily old chairlift!
The dedicated Grands Montets skinning trail however was in less good condition. There are a few sections missing in the first couple of hundred metres of height gain necessitating a few micro ski carries and most of the trail until the last couple of hundred metres is a bit icy with a lot of tree roots showing through. Some of the kick turns on the hair pin corners are also somewhat exposed in these conditions - so it would not be a good place to learn how to skin at the moment. It's a great concept though and well sign posted - giving a much more aesthetic ascent of the lower section of the mountain than skinning up the piste....although perhaps not at this moment!
9th January 2015 - Col De La Fenetre, Les Contamines
Calm before the storm at Les Contamines this morning with very strong winds and fresh snow forecast for both tonight and tomorrow night. The resort was extremely quiet but the pistes are in decent shape and we enjoyed a good mini tour with some fun turns off the Col de la Fenetre which links the Hauteluce side of the Contamines ski area with the Roman Road descent down in to Notre Dame de la Gorge at the head of the Contamines Valley.
There was some good shallow creamy powder on both sides of the Col Fenetre with smooth turns all the way down in to the upper gorge and track that leads down the Roman Road. The lower section of this is however very icy as is often the case and crampons are recommended for skiers coming down this way.
Other teams had skied the Col de Cicle, Bonhomme, steeper lines around the Fenetre but no tracks were seen on the Chasseurs. Considerable snowfall over the next 48 hours although unfortunately the rain snow limit looks to be creeping up above 2000m. So good for the upper slopes and glaciers, less so for the classic powder touring through the trees.
6th January 2015 - La Tournette (2351m), Lac Annecy, Les Aravis
Whilst in general snow volumes in the Aravis & Mont Blanc Massif are low, the major snowfall at Christmas has been consolidated by a week of reasonably cool weather. We started skinning direct from the car at 950m at Les Chappes, South of Thones and made the sustained and uninterrupted ascent to the summit block around 1400m higher. From here a short scramble assisted by crampons, ice axe and in-situ chains & a ladder took us to the gloriously sun bathed summit. The views from here are expansive, both of the surrounding Northern Alps and, most eye catchingly of the glittering Lac Annecy below. An excellent summit climax to quite a long ascent.
The upper snow fields down to around 1800m gave enjoyable smooth firm pack skiing until the refrozen tracks and tighter skiing lower down. Even then, whilst the lower route through the forest is narrow & has plenty of rocks, it was still well frozen and acted as a base and fairly rapid descent back to the shady valley and good cafes of Thones.
2nd January 2015 - Lean Ski Touring Conditions...
Whilst the valleys around the Mont Blanc Massif are universally white this wintery appearance belies a thin cover of snow, especially below 2000m. Cool conditions have prevented the big dump of fresh Christmas snow from melting but finding decent snow, with a base, which has not been ravaged by the wind takes some thought.
Teams have been skiing the usual early season choices for touring like the Croisse Baulet above Combloux / Megeve, albeit still in pretty thin conditions. Reasonable conditions were found above Les Contamines with teams skiing the Rocher des Enclaves and one team reported surprisingly good conditions on the enjoyable steep 'Zubs Couloir' on the North Face of the Tete Nord des Fours. Punte Croce down the Italian Val d'Aosta was skied in reasonable conditions, especially above 2000m and where sheltered from the recent strong Northerly winds.
Just across the Swiss border beyond the Eastern end of the Chamonix Valley one team reported reasonable conditions on the tours marked on the Swiss Ski Touring map for Martigny between Finhault & the Bel Oiseau.
28th December 2014 - First Powder Skiing of the Winter!
Major snowfalls on Christmas & Boxing day have turned the Chamonix Valley & Mt Blanc Massif magically white. Whilst there is still not a base below 2000m there is a lot of fresh snow and some superb skiing to be had higher up where there is lots of fresh snow over the old base. Avalanche conditions are also high as a result of this and care is required with route choice accordingly. Good off piste skiing has been enjoyed at Les Contamines, Pila & Courmayeur in the Val d'Aosta and of the Grands Montets in Chamonix - when it opened today.
Whilst teams have skied both the Vallee Blanche and the Glacier de Toule, and reported great snow higher up, the combination of think & rocky conditions lower down and thin early season cover on the glacier means they are not recommended at the moment!
17th December 2014 - Wintery Conditions At Punta Hellbroner
Fresh snow arrived with cool temperatures and stiff winds giving tough winter mountain conditions on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Various teams were however enjoying good snow and making mid winter skinning journeys around the Col du Geant and upper Vallee Blanche. Several teams skied the Glacier de Toule in very thin looking conditions.
11 - 12th December 2014 - Selected Lifts & Pistes Open At Verbier
Limited opening at Verbier at least gives an opportunity to do some early skiing at the moment. It was not as good as Cervinia last week but provided some early season sport - mainly on piste or very close to it. Not great conditions but a very useful couple of days doing a steep ski technique course with Simon Christy of Off Piste Skiing.
With not a great deal of snow on the forecast for the next week or so - lift opening times will go back a week and will hopefully be open and running before Christmas...
4th December 2014 - Good Powder & Piste at Cervinia
Very enjoyable skiing at Cervinia today despite the thick bands of shifting cloud. There were some great views of the Matterhorn but some pretty foggy skiing too! The resort was very quiet but in good shape with nearly all of the lifts & pisted runs open. We enjoyed a good warm up day to the season trying out new skis (Dynaster Cham 97 High Mountain) and ski mountaineering boots (Dynafit Mercury) which both skied very well.
The wide open and quiet pistes of Cervnia take some beating as a pleasant and easy intro to the season but were superbly complimented today by great powder snow above about 2400m, especially on northerly aspects.
Check out our 40 second ski & snow conditions video below to get a feel for the current good snow conditions at Cervnia at the moment & the famous wide open pistes of the resort....all beneath the Lion Ridge on the Matterhorn.
Other teams have been touring in enjoyable but fairly lean conditions at Les Diablerets and on the Rosablanche above Verbier.
21st November 2014 - Early Season Ski Conditions Report
The build up to this years ski season really started in August when many teams profited from a very stormy end to the summer alpine season which delivered a lot of fresh snow in the high mountains. Great news for recharging the glaciers and despite the 'Indian Summer' conditions have remained good late in to the autumn and this was only improved by more heavy snow falls earlier this month.
The snow arrived on a variety of wind directions giving good early season cover across much of the Northern Alps from the ever reliable early season wide pistes of Cervinia to lower grassy ski tours in the more northerly Chablais & Port du Soleil area. Chamonix being in the middle has done well and conditions are reasonably promising for this very early part of the season with more snow on the forecast for the middle of next week.
Many teams have been out enjoying the November snow at all the usual early season favorites like Zermatt, Verbier, Cervinia and, more recently La Clusaz and the more Southerly resorts of Courcheval, Val Thorens & Alpe d'Huez who also have partial weekend opening from today.
As always choice of terrain for early season ski touring is important especially for lower areas with thin cover. Grassy areas obviously much better than rocky but this means skiing lower down - so striking a good balance takes some thought - or following your mates lead and seeing how they get on!
As well as the usual Chamonix local sorties up towards the Col de Balme from Le Tour, here are some tours which have already been completed this season so far - in reasonable conditions:
- Punte Croce, Val d'Aosta
- Traverse of the Pigne d'Arolla in the Swiss Valais - unusual to be glacier touring so early in the season but decent cover & snow conditions reported.
- Tête de Paccaly, Face Nord-Ouest & Trou de la Mouche - La Clusaz, Aravis.
Previous Season Chamonix Snow Reports
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 escap... 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>
Other Relevant Links
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!
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