Ski Chamonix 2012 / 2013
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 Montets and the Grand Envers variations on the Vallee Blanche. Both were excellent and very quiet so easy to get lovely fresh tracks although the latter took a bit of patience to wait for the clouds to clear.
Other teams were skinning up to the Col du Passon, enjoying good creamy powder in the back bowls of Le Tour and many parties had enjoyed superb looking snow & Fresh tracks on the North Facing slopes on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche.
A few teams had skied the Pas de Chevre which at first glance looked like a bad idea since the big thaw last week had stripped the moraine walls above the Mer de Glace back to rocky rubble. On closer inspection some snow remained in the main exit couloir and the teams descended ok, although it does still look 'a bit scrappy'.
Good ski conditions should persist until Friday when the winds pick up.
20th February 2013 - High Mountain Powder in the Mont Blanc Massif
Despite the long period since the last snowfall (well, only long for this winter - a week!) high mountain snow conditions remain superb. We skied the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche today in great conditions and many teams came down all the variations (including the Vrai Vallee Blanche) on the French side too.
Many teams were also skinning up the Glacier des Periades and enjoying superb runs back in to the Vallee Blanche - various different lines possible including some fairly steep couloirs.
A lot of tracks were seen on the excellent ski down from the Col de la Buche between the Aiguille de l'M and Petit Charmoz. This is a fine couloir running out on to the lovely high meadows beneath the North Face of the Grand Charmoz. Descending the loose moraine banks to join the Vallee Blanche is a key passage on this descent and most teams had opted for the 'normal' hard skiers right option. This has a steep down climbing section at the end where the ladders for the Envers Hut are reached (well snowed up at the moment). Some teams had also descended a wide central couloir which can be a horror show - see video below! - but does not currently look too bad, although stone fall still a hazard.
9th February 2013 - Skiing the Glacier des Rognons...or was it the Siberian Front?
Very chilly conditions this morning at the top of the Grands Montets and that was without any wind. This cold, calm period is really conserving the great snow and we enjoyed skiing fresh tracks on the Glacier des Rognons down to join the left bank of the Argentiere Glacier. This is pretty well filled in and can be skied ok without taking the common side stepping option up left - it just has a bit of a 'half-pipe' pitch!
We also skied the lower section of the Argentiere Glacier which had some great snow but is also well filled with debris giving the occasional awkward pitch with some icy blocks and the usual slither down below the ice climbs at the Cremerie.
Various teams were heading up the Argentiere Glacier on to the Amethystes towards the Col du Tour Noir.
Numerous teams were also skinning up to the Col de Passon which has a fantastic build up of snow across the lower moraine approach slopes and would have no doubt given a great ski down to Le Tour.
8th February 2013 - A White Magic Carpet Ride - Pristine Conditions in the Vallee Blanche
As we came through the Mont Blanc Tunnel this morning I gave us a 70:30 chance of not being able to ski the Vallee Blanche today. The clouds were gathering as fast as our odds were dwindling. We went for 'a look' on the firm understanding we would most likely be coming back down the lift. As we shuffled across from the Torino Hut to the Col de Flambeux Hermoz's nose went a very waxy shade of white. A very rapid onset of minor frost bite reminding all that this was a high alpine environment....in deep mid-winter.
And then, as we shuffled, the clouds started to thin out. In a fit of optimism I turned our 70:30 odds on their head and the game was on.
We cruised utterly pristine velvet powder with no one else around. Not a single sign of old tracks - and the mountains & glacier looked truly stunning in their full post storm garb. What a pleasure and privilege to witness the high alpine mountains like this in mid-winter.
Lower down we joined the routes coming in from the French side and lots of teams enjoying the superb snow & brilliant conditions.
What, a winter!
More info on Vallee Blanche Conditions.
28th January 2013 - Brilliant Off-Piste Powder Day at St.Gervais
Last nights fresh snow down to 500m gave a good start to a day of constant fresh tracks in deep powder, starting with the simple run from Le Bettex down to the ski car park in St.Gervais. Spreading out around the resort gave constantly varied terrain and great skiing - be it on the open slopes of Mont Joly (Megeve & Contamines sides), North Face of La Croix du Christ or wooded glades of St. Nicholas. It was all good, and with very quiet slopes, the fresh tracks kept coming all day. A pleasant contrast to the bumps of Les Grands Montets.
There will be a bit of a thaw tomorrow and over the next couple of days with the zero degree isotherm steadily creeping as far up the hill as the 3000m contour which will not do much for the sustainability of the present lovely light powder but will at least, in the long run, settle the snow pack down again.
25th January 2013 - Pas de Chevre & Ski Touring Season Kicks off in Chamonix
Another cold day in the Chamonix Valley helping to keep the snow in good shape and, even down to valley level, where snow has not been skied or wind affected, powder remains. Being Chamonix - most things have been skied!
We enjoyed a bit weak January sun on the West facing slopes of the Pas de Chevre. Conditions are pretty good albeit well skied and a bit wind affected on the entrance pitches. The best exit couloir on to the Mer de Glace (way over on the skiers left and under the large icefall) is generally well filled in but has a narrow icy pitch best avoided on the right before reaching it. This is just below the very obvious huge boulder on the right bank of the couloir.
Teams skiing the Rectiligne couloir reported good conditions and numerous teams had skied the steep Chamonix classic from the top of the Grands Montets Boachard lift - The 'Poubelles' Couloir.
On the other side of the Argentiere Glacier many teams had skinned up to the Col de Passon and across the Chamonix Valley many teams were putting in skinning tracks to most of the classic cols in the Aiguilles Rouges.
More snow coming Sunday / Monday.
Bon Ski Weekend...
23rd January 2013 - Combe Vierge & Glacier de Toule, Mt Blanc Massif - Italian Side
A cold & breezy morning ensured 'full-on' 'mid-winter' conditions high in the Mont Blanc massif today. Just being up there was not for the faint hearted but for those willing to wrap up and batton down the hatches the rewards were great. Brilliant light, cold powder and an incredible hard winter mountain atmosphere.
We skied the Combe Vierge from Punta Helbronner. The Combe felt very well filled in compared to previous years and the high north facing snow was excellent. Miles Smart & team skied the Combe Noire and Italian side of the Vallee Blanche but we traversed left and skinned back up the upper Vallee Blanche to the Col de Toule. By this time all teams had cleared out and we had great fresh tracks on the sustained south facing descent most of the way back to the 'Pavillon' mid-station.
When you can literally leave a spoon standing in the middle of your cup of Hot Chocolate you know you are in a good Italian café. It was so good we ordered another..and discussed a third!
The descent from Pavillion down to the Val Feret remained good all the way with soft but generally well tracked snow - a bit icy at the top where it has had a lot of traffic.
Many teams were seen across on the French side of the Vallee Blanche enjoying the generally excellent conditions.
22nd January 2013 - Brilliant Ski Conditions at St. Gervais...And pretty much everywhere else!
This morning cooked up the skiers holy grail combination of a dump of overnight powder served on a deep base of existing snow with cold temperatures throughout and blue skies all round by mid morning. Oh yes and the avalanche risk was not too high either. The inevitable result was - reports from teams enjoying great skiing throughout the Arve & Chamonix Valleys. At St. Gervais I have never seen so many interesting tracks taking different steep routes off Mont Joly. Our intro off-piste day traveled over much more mellow and lower terrain but conditions were still excellent be it on the open meadows or in the trees.
15th January 2013 - Cold, Great Snow & Very Quiet at Courmayeur
Great day of off-piste skiing at Courmayeur today. Good snow in and out of the trees, especially in the remoter corners of the 'resort' where there weren't any old tracks. The clouds were swirling in and out with light snow during the day but there were enough clearings to allow a couple of runs off the Arp lift in to both the Val Veny and Vallone d'Arp, cutting back to the Dollone lift at the bottom. A fine full days off-piste skiing with lots of training in avalanche awareness, emergency procedures and hunting out the best snow.
12th January 2013 - Dump Alert! The Powder Returns to Chamonix
Suddenly, after the feast of good skiing during the Christmas Holidays, the hills became quiet again and, although the sun remained, much of the easy accessed high mountain snow was wind & skier battered. For the first time this season a few murmurings were heard…’When will the next dump of powder arrive?’
Almost as a response, from the winter that keeps giving, on Thursday night, it started snowing again, big flakes, coming down hard and fast. Friday morning was then characterized by traffic chaos and shut lifts. Fair enough, avalanche control takes a while I would imagine after half a metre of fresh snow on strong winds. As is often the case, the joker on these wild card days was Les Houches with voices heard in the side country murmuring, ‘blimey – I didn’t know you could have this much fun in the Houches forests.’
And today, just another, ‘business as usual’ (brilliant) days Chamonix off-piste skiing at Les Grands Montets. The top Telecabine started from the off and the two skiers down first, viewed by pretty much the whole resort, looked to be having a VERY GOOD time. Their tracks looked amazing and we were not far behind. The avalanche hazard had been forecast to be high but the new snow seemed to have generally bonded well with the old pack, especially where it was previously well skied, and we did not see many signs of instability today.
The cool showery & mixed weather week ahead should develop the fine mid-winter conditions even further and may include both stormy powder in the trees and glacier cruising under blue skies. Whatever it brings, good skiing & see you out there, Rob
6th January 2013 - Chamonix Powder Getting Hammered But Great Snow Cover in the Mountains
Another Good Vallee Blanche today although with not such 'blower' powder as recent descents as much of it had blown away. The Italian side looked better and many many teams were enjoying great looking fresh tracks on the Italian side of the Icefall and over on the Periades Glacier. Loads of teams were heading in to ski the Mont Mallet Glacier and, by the look of it, from the Col Capucin. The foecast for the week ahead includes perfect sunny weather until the weekend when more snow looks to be on the way. Bon Ski.
4th January 2013 - Tutto è Bene - Ski Italian Mont Blanc Massif Conditions
The café at the foot of the Punta Hellebronner lift on the Italian side of Mont Blanc is always a welcome pit stop. Providing a friendly welcome, good cheap café and mountain conditions info. This morning we were assured that all was well on the high ski routes - Toule - Brenva - Marbrées. We chose the latter and were not dissapointed. The scenic approach skin sets the scene and a strategic promontory gives a clear view of the Couloir entrance and main run. Things looked good so we proceeded with the initial steep traverse and then enjoyable sustained turns on grippy hard pack snow. Conditions were very mild low down and we were glad to get in to the shady & mellow larch forest leading back down the Val Feret.
After another welcome pitstop at the café we relocated to the top of the Grands Montets & skied the Glacier Argentiere. Reasonable early season conditions on the normal icefall left skiers exit although it is necessary to take your skis off at one point.
Several teams had skinned up to the Col de Passon.
Check out the < 1 min video below showing ski conditions on the Marbrees Couloir today:
3rd January 2013 - Brilliant Skiing From the Aiguille du Midi
A vintage day with way more powder snow than expected, superb mountain weather and only a moderate avalanche risk. We skied a Grand Envers variation on the Vallée Blanche & hugely enjoyed the almost constant powder turns from station to glacier snout. Other teams were skiing the Italian side of the ice fall and skinning up the Periades Glacier.
Both the Cosmiques Couloir and Glacier rond were also skied. Conditions on the former were reported as chalky / grippy hard pack. Good, but scary!
We also enjoyed a scenic short ski tour from the Plan de l'Aiguille to the base of the North Faces of the Aiguilles. Some excellent powder turns were enjoyed from here down to the tree line before the usual scratchy bumps of the 'Pre de Rocher' exit through the forest was encountered. A grand end to a great days Chamonix off-piste skiing.
2nd January 2013 - High Mountain Ski Journeys from the lifts of Courmayeur
Whilst the car parks, lifts and pistes of Courmayeur were rammed today, the superb back country valleys accessed from the high lifts were almost deserted. 10cms of fresh overnight snow gave a pristine look to the hills and fresh snow crystals sparkling in the Italian Alpine sun. Powder remains soft and fun to ski in the trees down to around 1800m with a breakable crusty base below that. We skied off the Arp & Youla lifts down in to the Val Veny & Dollone valleys. A great days skiing.
Teams skiing from the Aiguille du Midi reported brilliant conditions in the Vallee Blanche.
New Years Eve 2012 - Ski Touring & Off-Piste at Le Tour / Trient
Once the large queues for the lifts had been exchanged for the quiet backcountry there was some fun off-piste and decent ski touring conditions to be had around the Tete de Balme and above the Chatelard / Trient Valleys. Pockets of powder remain above about 1800m where the snow has not been affected by either wind or sun. This does narrow it down a bit but there were some fun turns to be had both in and out of the trees. Teams had skied both the Posettes & Vormaine Couloirs and another team had skinned up the North Facing slopes below the Col de Passon.
29th December 2012 - Great Skiing in the Vallée Blanche
Lots of great snow and only a few teams enjoying it on the Vallee Blanche today. Skied the Gros Rognon variation all the way back to Chamonix. Teams were also skiing the Petit & Grand Envers variation. There were also quite a few folk skiing the Pas de Chevre from the Grands Montets. A few teams had their skis off in the exit couloir and may have been better taking the easier couloir that cuts through the large moraine bank further South. More details of current Vallee Blanche conditions.
A 30 second video giving a feel for riding the powder in the Vallee Blanche today:
The Glacier Rond was also skied from the Aiguille du Midi lift today.
28th December 2012 - Riders on (Yesterday's) Storm at Les Grands Montets
Miles of fresh tracks in deep creamy snow was the reward for the queuing faithful at the Grands Montets this morning. The delay in opening the lifts seemed reasonable considering the large amount of fresh snow deposited on stiff westerly winds yesterday & throughout the night. This seemed even more 'reasonable' on inspecting the 1m+ crown wall sweeping across the whole of the upper Italian Bowl / Combe Rachasses (C. 2450m on NE aspect). Hopefully this was triggered by the GASEX release & not a skier! Later when the top Grands Montets lift opened there was a 'feeding frenzy' of powder skiing and, with only a few lifts running during the afternoon, there should be plenty of fresh tracks left to enjoy in the sun tomorrow.
Bon Ski Week-end, Rob.
27th December - The Wild Westerlies Bear Snow Across the North Western Alps
Fun skiing at the Grands Montets today with just enough fresh snow (C.25cms @ 2000m) to pad the old melt freeze crust and rattly tracks. Once up above the tree line however the story was about the very stiff Westerly winds blowing that rapidly shut down all the high lifts and, later on, pretty much everything else too. Lots of little wind slab snow pockets were shearing off near to ridge crests above 1900m. These were very shallow slabs of around 15cms but gave an indication of what must be happening on a much larger scale higher up. With around half a metre of snow forecast at 1800m today and tonight there will be some great fresh tracks to be had once the lifts open tomorrow. There will also be a considerable avalanche risk. Check the Meteo France Mont Blanc Avalanche Bulletin here.
26th December 2012 - Chamonix High Mountain Skiing Season Started Today
Teams out skiing from both the Aiguille du Midi and Grands Montets top lifts today which were both open for the first time this season. Reports wereof good powder skiing from both high lifts although caution is required as ever with early season skiing on the glaciers. A day of thick clouds with 40cms of fresh snow (at 1800m) is forecast tomorrow with strong NW winds. This will put any high glacier skiing off limits for Thursday but Friday and Saturday both look considerably more promising. Go steady, see you on the slopes.
Chamonix Christmas 2012 Snow Conditions Update
The heavy thaw over the Christmas period has stripped a lot of snow from the lower valleys but, with a return to colder conditions from the 26th December and for the rest of the week, this should help to stabilise the high mountain snow pack. After a very active period of avalanche activity and poor skiing conditions during the thaw (when the freezing level rocketed to above 3000m), somewhat cooler conditions have reduced the forecast avalanche hazard to moderate. Snow cover for the time of year is still good, despite the large amounts lost during the thaw, and the fresh snow which fell during Christmas night / Boxing Day morning should have notably improved ski conditions above about 1500m. With continuing cooler temperatures and around another 40cms of fresh snow forecast for the 27th this should further help to improve the skiing quality.
21st December - Aravis Ski Touring & 'Le Redoux'
Whilst we enjoyed a lovely little ski tour in the Aravis today above Sallanches, the snow was not what is has been throughout the season so far - deep, cold powder! Instead a substantial rain crust pervaded below 1400m and between there and the 1563m Chalets de Mayers there was some very moist soft "powder!"
This mini tour provides a fun & scenic outing for a short or snowy day when the high mountains are out of condition & up in bad weather. Whilst the Chalet itself is closed in winter the nearby Ferme du Tournieux claims to be open all year and would thus provide an excellent & scenic pitstop for a chocolat chaud.
The forecast for this weekend, when all of Chamonix's resorts are to open is best summarised by the French Meteo headline:
"Redoux - passage d'une perturbation pluvieuse - vent fort en altitude"
In other words, 'Minging', as we used to say in Fort William.
Bon ski anyway but take care in the mountains with the warm temperatures and rain on a winter snowpack.
19th December - Great Early Season Conditions at the Grands Montets
Whilst most of the Chamonix lifts remain closed until this weekend, happily, at least most of the Montets is now open with just the exception of the top telecabine and Pendant Retour. Lots of teams were enjoying the conditions low down on the mountain today by skiing the North facing couloirs from Lognan or the Plan Joran chairlift. We enjoyed descents of the Couloirs Philippe and Jeureumaz which both had steep and scratchy side slipping approaches followed by lovely grippy smooth pack where it had been skied and deep soft powder to the side where it hadn't.
There are obviously acres of pristine powder to be skied as soon as the Montets 'Top Bin' opens. The questions is, when will that be!? In the meantime....there is more snow on the way!
Good Skiing and Profitez from the amazing early season base and fine conditions. See you on the slopes, Rob.
18th December 2012 - Ski Courmayeur, The Early Season Gift That Keeps Giving
Light continuous snow, coolish temperatures and very quiet slopes have created a magical early season atmosphere at Courmayeur. Whilst the cloud and wind have kept the Youla and Arp lifts shut there is enough in the Veny and Dolonne Valleys to satisfy even the keenest of early season powder hounds. We skied constant fresh tracks all across the Val Veny side whilst other teams reported equally great conditions on the Dollone side with some very steep powder couloirs including the 'Couloir of certain divorce!"
8th December 2012 - Powderama in the Italian Val Veny
We joined a number of parties enjoying the great snow off the 'Funivie Monte Bianco' today and, like all the other teams we got off at the 'Pavillon' half way station to avoid the strong winds and high avalanche risk higher up the mountain. We skied 3 good (800m) lines from Pavillon to both the Val Feret and Val Veny before moving across to Courmayeur and skied the brilliant Dolonne Valley south of the main lift area. This gave great terrain and snow but became a lot thinner than expected at the base and provided a rocky combat ski to finish!
6th December 2012 - Great December Snow & Skiing at Courmayeur
As the Val Veny lifts remain closed, acres of pristine powder remain untouched on this flank of the Courmayeur ski resort. This will all change tomorrow when the lifts open for business. With the Youla, Arp & Dollone lifts also all closed the skiable terrain was limited to the 'front face' around the Maison Vielle Chair. This however did not feel that limited as the perfect first day of the season could be had with a special Italian blend of Blue skies, deep powder snow, quiet slopes and great coffee.
Across on the Italian side of the Mt Blanc Massif a few tracks could be seen descending the Glacier de Toule voie normale. It must have been deep up there! The wind was blowing hard high in the mountains and we witnessed a large avalanche descending the South Face of the Aiguille Noire de Peutery. Quite a few tracks were also visible descending various different lines from Pavillon, the mid-station on the Hellbroner Line.
5th December 2012 - Massive Early Season Snowfalls in Chamonix & Across the Western Alps
The village of Argentiere in the upper Chamonix Valley is currently reporting a snow depth of 100cms. Not bad considering the ski lifts are not even open yet, you could ski down the pavements instead! Lots of teams have been out enjoying great skinning conditions around the valley, mainly at Les Houches and Le Tour. Hard work trail breaking in all the soft powder! We have also enjoyed some early season skinning above Megeve and, this morning, St. Gervais where the car parking at 1100m provides the start of the skinning and end of the skiing. Conditions were good and the snow continues to steadily fall. Fellow Mountain Guide Jonny Baird and myself skinned up through the lovely woods on the lower slopes of Mont Joly and up to around 1900m on the 'Epaule'.
The options for skiing off the lifts are increasing this weekend as the Grands Montets and Les Houches join the already open resorts of Courmayeur, La Thuile, Cervinia & Verbier.
Here is a video of some light & fluffy powder turns on today's descent:
Late October and early November has seen significant snowfall events sweeping across the Western Alps with fresh snow, falling down to valley levels, sending a shiver of early season excitement to skiers eagerly anticipating the arrival of the 2012/13 ski season....
Here in Chamonix a number of ski forays have already been made with teams skiing parts of the upper Vallee Blanche and one adventurous team even skied the Glacier Rond on the Aiguille du Midi North Face. These early season glacial forays are not without hazard as crevasses can be well hidden by fresh snow but not yet well bridged. However as the showery weather continues with fresh snow & strong winds up high the glaciers should be recharging well after the summer melt-down and receiving a welcome boost of snow that was not forthcoming until December last year.
In recognition of these decent early season snow conditions the famous Swiss resort of Verbier has already opened and reports a 30cm base of snow at 2200m. Sparse but not bad for early November and the situation looks set to only improve with consistently showery and cool weather driving through in to early next week across the French, Swiss & Italian Alpine ranges.
Due to their high & glacial nature there are numerous lifts open and early skiing already to be had in Zermatt, Saas Fee, Cervinia and Tignes. Here in Chamonix the Grands Montets lift suggests a partial opening during the weekends of November if conditions are suitable and full opening of this and the other Chamonix resorts during December.
Early season skiing can also often be good in the lower resorts where a grass base is a more welcome base to a shallow snow pack than boulders and early season ski tours are often possible from November onwards from the French Arve Valley resorts of St. Gervais, Megeve and Combloux. Get in touch for more details.
7th November 2012 - Aravis Ski Touring Update
Enjoyable first ski tour of the 2012/13 season yesterday, taking advantage of brilliant cool, clear weather after the recent snow storms. We skinnedfrom the Les Caroz to Flaine road at about 1600m. Cover was reasonable for skinning here and got considerably better up towards 2000m where there were some fun powdery turns to be had on a soft snow or grass base. We skied back to around 1450m but the cover was getting a bit thin for anything other than early season rock skis! Great to be out, doing a few turns and enjoying superb early wintery views in to the Aravis, Port du Soleil, Aiguilles Rouges and across to the Mont Blanc Massif.
Have a great early start to the 2012/13 Ski season....