Kicking off February with a massive dump on both sides of the Mt Blanc mountain range – we got epic conditions for powder skiing! For 2 weeks now we have had amazing off-piste skiing in the Chamonix valley and our neighboring resorts in Switzerland and Italy. Chamonix powder report continues…
Tree Skiing in Courmayeur
Getting about 60cm of snow 4-5 Feb, we hit the trees in Courmayeur while it was dumping. The steep couliors and playful forest terrain there is perfect to ski on bad visibility days when is it snowing hard. Shorter tree-runs are found through out this quite confusing lift system, in-between the chair lifts. When it’s time to dry up a bit, there are many good choices of restaurants offering great Italian food and coffee to good prices.
The sunny days to follow opened up off-piste skiing in the high mountains and the possibilities to venture further away from the lift systems.
Punta Helbronner – Toula Glacier
The lift from the Italian side of Mt Blanc up to Punta Helbronner gives us access to so much skiing on wide, open glaciers as well as steeper faces and couloirs (I know we have mentioned this before, but we just love the place). Fast and easy access from the cable car enables a few laps of 1500-2500m vertical before the sun warms up these south facing slopes in the afternoon.
Also on snowy days, the bottom half of the mountain offers steep tree-skiing, spines and couloirs, where you can ski in low visibility.
The calm ambience here on the “other side” of the Mont Blanc is a nice get away from the powder-race in Chamonix. The last little bin to the summit, taking only 8 persons, is more than enough to handle all its visitors – never any queuing.
Coming up in the morning looking out over a perfectly smoth, untracked Glacier de Toule is like standing on a deserted island looking out over a calm sea. Just that the the sea is white and tilted 30-35 degrees. Then your pulse rises to about 180 and the legs starts trembling with excitement and impatience to conquer the lines in front of you. A very nice feeling.
You really don’t need that doppio cappuccino to speed you up on days like this, but you have it anyway because it is just too good. After all we are in Italy, which makes it obligatory to enjoy the taste of food and coffee made with love. We return the next day to ski some more lines that need an extra day to settle to be safe to ski, such as the Marbree and Aiguille d’Entrève.
There are several possible entrance coulouirs from Punta Helbronner down to the glacier, including a ladder that makes it possible to avoid the first steeper part on the runs. Using the ladders, it is a suitable place to ski for intermediate off-piste skiers when conditions are as good on the glacier. The the coiloirs and the runs going under the cables of the lift are steeper and more exposed, but amazing free-ride terrain for advanced big-mountain skiers.
Within a short window of both good visibility and cold temperatures, you can get powder skiing top to bottom from Punta Helbronner back to Palud. The variations are many, the timing is everything!
Le Tour, offering family and beginners piste skiing on the front side, has big mountain off-piste characteristics on its backside towards Vallorcine and Switzerland. Here we ski big open bowls, narrow couloirs and spines with perfectly spaced trees. Off piste skiing in Le Tour involves a large, wide spread area that can be difficult to navigate and often the avalanche risk is high. Very dangerous terrain is easily reached from the lifts and the accidents are frequent here. But on a good day in Le Tour you have the possibility to ski first tracks all day in interesting and variable terrain.
On the 6 Feb it was extraordinary conditions, but Le Tour has probably been our favorite place to ski during these whole two weeks. Knowing this non-obvious off-piste paradise very well, we can ski long, interesting runs in untracked powder for many days after the last snow fall. Crossing the border ridges and skiing into Switzerland, landing in various charming mountain villages, adds an extra touch of adventure to the ski day.
15cm of light snow, falling on the 10 Feb, and very cold temperatures refreshed the winter landscape ones again. That bit of light snow on a still soft base gave us a few more amazing ski days in Le Tour on the 11-13 of February. Right now, despite having way to cold toes most of the time, I wish the spring will never come…
Many of our guests have had the chance to ski the Vallee Blanche, “the most panoramic off-piste run in the world”, thanks to the clear weather days. Seriously deep powder we had on the 7 Feb, but really, with or without powder conditions the Vallee Blanche is a wonderful experience. The spectacular mountain and glacier scenery alone is a reason to go there, you do not find it anywhere else.
Ski Touring to Glacier de Bron
On the 13 Feb we climbed to Pointe de Bron to ski the sheltered Glacier de Bron, which we suspected was spared from the wind that had affected many other north facing slopes the day before. Rightly we found 1800m vertical of soft powder, all the way down to Trient in Switzerland.
The tour invloves both skinning and climbing with the skis on your backpack. The 200m boot-pack in 1m deep sugary snow was a real endurance and patience test, like walking 2 hours in quicksand. Luckily we had strong mentality and good teamwork in our Swedish group of 5.
Another 800m up on skins. Skiing down on shaky legs we surely had deserved every one of those nice turns!