Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Stand out Mellow Day Ski Tour

Looking from Summit of the Bec Ronde.

 Charlie Mike  joined me for a second time this season.  This time they were joined by their friend Di .We had a couple of days ski touring. One at La Flegere where we found  some good spring snow above Lac Blanc plus we found ourselves skiing through some unique terrain with marvellous back drops:

Mt Blanc in the background.

Yet, then a second day which was exceptionally good- Charlie said it was one of the best ever.

It started by driving to Switzerland- to a village called Liddes which is on the main road to the St Bernard tunnel.  Liddes is the unlikely capital of the world Cow Fighting championships. A pecuilar and unfathaomable  passion of this part of the alps "Les Bataille des Reins."

Yet tragically this only takes place in the late summer.  Instead we were there because Liddes has its own "ski resort."  The lift system can be used to catapult you on your ski tour by depositing you on a ridge line which gives the most jaw-dropping views in every direction.  

Nevertheless when we arrived the depart wasn't somwhat inauspicious...

Where's the snow?

Yet a mellow ride on  an  old chair-lift followed by an equally old T -Bar  put us at the top of the resort.

Our goal was the Bec Ronde- about an hour and halfs mellow skin from the top lift.

Bec Ronde seen from the top drag lift.

Di arriving at the summit with the back drop of Lac Leman in the far background

Lunch was taken on the summit, with hardly a breath of wind.

After which we enjoyed some exceptional skiing back towards the lift system.

We stopped for a beer and soaked up the view , before surviving the chair lift back to the car park.

The Bec Ronde is a really fanatstic day tour.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Good Conditions in La Thuile

Lago d'Arpy.

 The call came through with the question:  " If we can carve out  two days to ski together where would be an unusual -yet great place to ski?"

The above paragraph needs context - The question was coming from someone who lives in Geneva who has skied a lot. 

"Lets try La Thuile" I suggested .

" Okay lets do it."  came the reply.

Mark Daniels & his friend Till Aull  picked me up in Chamonix and we drove through the Mt Blanc tunnel and arrived at the Chalet Hotel Eden in La Thuile.  

The weather was cloudy and mixed, it was straining to snow but this fizzled out.  The next morning the trees were dusted with snow. As we ascended in  the cable car we could see that there had been some fresh snow.

Yet bizzarely as we got higher there was no fresh snow .  Just inpenitrable fog. It was not looking good.  We skied about and manoeuvred ourseleves into what I hoped would be a good off-piste run.  It was horrible: The skiing was excatly like skiing on a corrugated tin roof that stretched for eternity, made more challenging by seeing absoultley nothing.

We needed a change of aspect and a change of altitude .  We headed for the lower north facing slopes where we found blissful snow.  A couple of laps through the trees was followed by a fabulous descent down to the Maison de La Neige hotel for  lunch.

After which we repeated the same descent - agian it was fabulous.  

A second night was spent at the hotel.  The next day was beautiful.  Instead of skiing in the resort we elecetd to go ski touring and headed to Arpy.  Our goal was to climb Punte Crocce - the classic ski tour of the area.

The ski tour leaves from the road head by a cross country ski area and winds its way up through a forest to the beautiful lake Arpy

From where the route climbs to the summit of Punte Crocce .

From the summit we skied back pretty much the same way, stopped at the bar where we had left the car, then travelled back to Chamonix .

Friday, March 10, 2023

Inspirational skiers.


Mt Collon and the Arolla valley.

I have known Peter Folkman for well over thirty years. In fact he was one of my first ever clients when I became a Guide.  We have enjoyed some incredible journeys together and he is the only client I have actually climbed Mt Blanc twice with.  Each time on skis.

This time he was back with his very good friend Robert Pattullo.  Our plan this time was to go on a road trip and return to some of the western alps esoteric ski areas.

We warmed up by skiing off the back of Le Tour and heading over the border and down  into Switzerland.  
As ever we were always on a set up of good off piste skis with a touring bindings.  This allowed Robert to experince his first ski tour.  Despite having enjoyed a life time of off-piste skiing , he had left it to his 80th year to take up this part of the sport.

Robert at the top of his 1st ski tour.

Looking towards the Valais up the Rhone Valley.

After we finished skiing we set off and drove around to Arolla- Now Arolla[ in my opinion] could well be a contender for the best ski resort in the world:

1    It is not easy to get to - therefore few people.

2    The village is at 2000meters- so has reliable snow. 

3    By a quirk it has the highest tree line in the alps - beautiful "Arolla Pine" trees  which not only add to the majesty but also provide wonderful tree skiing which on bad weather powder days mean you can see where your going.

4    Next it has a perfect ski area which fundamentally has two main Poma lifts [nothing so advanced as a chair lift] Yet critically the second Poma lift spits you out at 3000 meters, where there are manicured pistes where  if you see another person you say hello to them.  Yet for our purposes the drag puts you in a position to ski vast areas of off piste skiing. Plus its the starting point for day tours.

5    Added to which there is the most wonderful hotel from which to base your self.  The Kurhaus .  This is one is  in Swiss Historic Hotels group.  It is perfect. As you walk in you are greeted by a big log fire and afternoon tea . What's more the food is marvellous.

So everything was set up well the plan was going well - but as the saying goes; the first casuality of the war is the plan.  Peter turned up at breakfast with full blown lurgy - which in this day and age could be a variety of ailments...

Suddenly all the all the adavantages of Arolla being so remote, became its big problem.  The main one being the nearest doctor was several hundred meters lower down the valley.    Yet Switzerland is not Brexit-Britain [with all its promises of a reinvigated NHS.]  Instead we turned up at the surgery, where we were greeted by a delightful nurse who offered Robert & I a coffee while Peter was seen immediately.  

Twenty minutes later, complete with results of a comprehensive blood test   Peter was told that death wasn't yet iminent, and he had good old fashioned Flu. He was packed off with a bag full of medcines and told to go back to bed.  

Meanwhile Robert and I went to explore the vast ski area which Arolla has to offer.
Looking towards the Arolla metropolis. 

By the time we returned from skiing Peter's health had dramatically improved.  Yet the weather forecast was the contraire: we were looking at a situation where so much snow was predicted  that there was a reasonable chance we would get stuck in Arolla- snow bound.

So in the morning  we returned to Chamonix.

The next day there was too much snow and the resort was shut.  Fortunately there is the Mt Blanc tunnel which allowed us to visit  "another parallel universe" of blue skies and untracked powder- We ended up in La Thuile.

This was to be our stand out day

La Thuile at its very best.


Peter feeling better.

Yet we were not the only ones to be taking advantage of this wonderful resort - albeit eveyone else was skiing on the piste .  We did hit an enormous queue .
As good as any reason to ski with a Guide.

Which could have been a disaster - but being able to use the Mountain Professionals priority lane made me popular with Peter and Robert - but undoubtedly less so with hundreds of others.

On our final day Chamonix was still closed - so we returned through the Mt Blanc tunnel , this time to Courmayeur - although my intial smugness of escaping Chamonix's bad weather backfired because Courmayeur too was experiencing very high winds which limited what lifts were open.  We skied as much as we could but had to content ourselves with Cappuccino stops and eventually an excellent lunch.
Peter & Robert : Very determined characters.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

A hotel in a perfect time capsule : Hotel Weisshorn

 The Weisshorn Hotel situated above and to the side of the ski village of St Luc in the Zinal valley. It  is magical for many reasons ; not least its position.  It is perched on a hill top which over looks the valley with views  towards Crans Montana.

Plus only essential changes have been made to the place since it was opened in 1882.  It still has all its original decor.

Catherine, Bella and I arrived via a beautiful off-piste run from the summit of the St Luc followed by an hours skin.  

As we were taking our skins off, one of the staff came out and immediately asked if they could get us anything to drink.  Soon afterwards we were sitting on the terrace drinking beer.  

Dinner was a set menu-which was excellent, with a good selection of Valasian wines.

The next morning we headed out after  breakfast.  The weather was beautiful and we had the whole mountain to ourselves.

Our goal was to climb the summit of the rather strangely named Omen Rossi 3031meters.
Summit Omen Rossi .

The views in every direction were magnificent - especially the view towards the mighty Weisshorn.

The ski back down was good too.
Screen shot of the descent from Fat Map.

We arrived back at the hotel and immediatly commenced rehydration therapy, followed by showers, followed by pre dinner drinks followed by another excellent dinner.

The  next morning it was snowing lightly and it was not condusive to ski touring. Instead we said our 
good-byes to the delightful staff, skied down the track, which joins the piste [which was in perfect condition] all the way to the bottom.
Bella & Catherine looking for the car park

We then jumped in the car and went to explore Grimentz ski area- where we were somewhat caught out by the dramatic drop in temperature and decided a good lunch was preferable to frostbite.