For skiing its still really pre-season here in the Alps. So far there have been a number of storms off the Mediterranean depositing snow to the South of the main divide of Mont Blanc and the Pennine Valais Alps. Tignes, Aosta, Cervinia have good early coverage with Gressoney reporting 1-2 m. The next storm is about to roll in off the Med and I’ll be trying to hit Gressoney mid week once it clears.
Yesterday I went for a ski tour with fellow British Mountain Guide Jon Bracey to border of Italy and Switzerland thinking we could catch the fall out of the storms. I’d say we definitely scored a ‘win’ with about 40-50 cm of powder in our 500 m 40/45 degree couloir but it’s very hit or miss and the mountain one valley was bare. So it’s good if you choose location carefully but for the moment Chamonix, Arolla, Zermatt, St Anton still await the big northerly storms. With all the southerly Foehn storms I’m sure there is a lot of snow in the Valley Blanche and even the North Face of the Midi is pretty white but the snowline stops at the foot of the Chamonix Aiguilles and doesn’t cross the valley. Wepowder have hinted Andermatt caught the snow from the south but I haven’t checked this.
If you are holding on to book a last minute Christmas ski holiday then I would choose your resort based on current snow conditions and not just hope it will come to your favourite resort.
The Indian summer in the Alps came to an abrupt end overnight with the arrival of a monumental storm of the Med that battered the Ligurian coast, washed out roads, left many stranded without vehicles and sadly killed 10 or so people. I was away visiting my sister in Basel but was keeping a close eye on how much snow it would bring to the Alps south of the divide with Wepowder forecasting over 2 m. My friend Chipie who came on my last Baffin expedition was in Tignes and he keeping tabs on the snowfall as the storm progressed. Late Thursday night he sent me a note in the form of a photo of himself shredding powder – it took me about 3 seconds to text him back that I would be there in the morning. I spent the rest of the night feverishly searching for all my ski kit and packing the car, went to bed as excited as a kid the night before Christmas, got a few hours sleep and hit the road at 6am to make the 3 hour drive.
Arriving in Tignes there was certainly a couple of feet roadside but the visibility was poor and we spent the morning doing a very humid skin about 400 m vertical out of town. Once back in Tignes there was signs of the sun coming out and we decided to be positive about it and go up the Grands Motte. The clouds parted, the sun came out and so it began, with a little taste of the magic, hooning down the glacier whooping with delight, blowing up cold smoke behind us.
We were back the next day for more and found some good turns but strong wind was starting to do its dirty work on the powder and strip the glacier back to bare ice. The pistes up there have great corduroy and were perfect for carving turns, race training and getting the glutes back in shape. Hopefully this week will see more snow arrive from the south and build on whats there.
It’s great to get some preseason skiing in to see where the body is at and have a chance to work on the ski fitness before the season proper begins. It also reminds me what kit works and what I need going forward. This year I am proud to have the additional sponsorship from the specialist online ski and snowboard shop snowcountry.eu who will plug my gear gaps and the Sapaudia Brewing Company for rehydration matters!