Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Skiing Conditions were perfect then along came the dreaded Foehn wind

Towards the end of 2016 the skiing conditions low down in the classic resorts of Megeve were perfect. On 29th December , as they have done for the 10 years Stephen Yeates and Steve Trantum joined me. It was wonderfully cold and crisp -15c. The snow was light and fluffy and it hadn't been destroyed by the wind , [which was the case in the higher resorts.] We skied in St Gervais.
Then the weather changed. Overnight there was a 20c increase. The temperature shot up and it rained. Once the rain stopped the clouds parted and it froze hard. This had the effect of creating a crust. A crust which was akin to skiing through broken paving slabs. In places it was horrendous because it was impossible to stay on the surface and you would break through and the crust would then cut into your shins. Despite this we did manage to climb to the top of le Petit Croisse Baulet high above Combloux where the view didn't disappoint.
Happy New Year 2018. On New Years Eve it snowed and got cold again. On News Years Day I was joined by Peter Whelan, for what turned out to be the "Perfect Storm of conditions. It set us up with fabulous skiing. Firstly not being hung over is good , although not as important as 30 cm of cold snow overnight. New years day is always quiet. Once we were up on the slopes the lift from the bottom broke down effectively meaning we were in our own private ski resort with all the lifts running and 30 cm of powder. The skiing in the comb Lachanel was sublime. The photo might encapsulate the saying "Life is timing?"
The day was so good that I persuaded Peter that he should delay going back to the UK. We skied in Courmayeur in conditions which were only quite good , relative to New Years Day. AND THAT WAS THAT. Next day it rained and rained and rained All the snow was trashed , the foehn kicked in , there was flooding in Chamonix and the roads were grid locked and the avalanche risk shot up to maximum 5. Even walking the dog became a potentially deadly experience
All skiing pretty much stopped , what was open wasn't really worth doing - it was like going through the motions . The Foehn continued to strip all the snow in Chamonix , not unlike last year. The only chance in these conditions is to go through the Mt Blanc tunnel and ski in Courmayeur. Charles Sherwood and I left Chamonix with an air temperature of 10c. Through the tunnel it was 0c. In just 12 km, Plus it was snowing. The skiing was okay , nothing exceptional but a thousand times better than anything in France. Mind you I have often wondered why the track down the Val Veni is not an official piste. The answer awaited us at the end of the day: A massive avalanche blocked the route and took quite a while to negotiate.

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