Well over a meter of snow has fallen in this western part of Switzerland. Winter in Verbier has started with the biggest snowfall we have seen in years. The ground is now well insulated from the cold air. This will encourage a healthy snowpack for the rest of the winter. A shallow snowpack does not insulate the relatively warm ground from the cold air at higher elevations. This high “temperature gradient” promotes a rapid growth of faceted crystals, seriously weakening that layer’s ability to support the new snow on top. This is one of the most common origins of avalanches.
The avalanche danger level for the past two days has been at 4. That is quite rare to see. It dropped to level 3 today. Because we have had so much snow at once, the avalanche level increases to a high level quickly. But because there is so much weight, that danger comes down quickly. If we don’t get much wind this next week, the level may drop quite quickly to level 2.
I created a short video showing the conditions we have this weekend.
It’s been over a month since my last post. My annual ski trip to India has come and gone. The snow on the ground in these Alps has gone from 3-D to 2-D in lots of places. Spring skiing was de rigueur for much of February. But that has changed with fresh snow on the south side of the main alpine ridge and the light snow falling outside my window now. The forecast calls for light snow through the week. Some bright spells in the Vallais, then clear weather for the weekend.
I flew to Delhi January 28 and was skiing at 4000 meters the next day. Reports from Gulmarg stated lack of snow and lots of rocks. Well, coming from the Alps, that was all relative! I found powder on all aspects. Though the main ridge was heavily tracked, I found untouched terrain skinning North and South from the top of the lift. I teamed up with Wild Bill, helping to guide his team of Australian ski patrollers across this beautiful alpine ridge above the Kashmir valley of Srinigar.
A week later, my team of gung-ho skiers arrived and the adventure began. After a few days in Gulmarg, we skied down to Tangmarg in a blizzard, drove to Dal Lake and spent the night on a house boat. Local merchants passed through our door until the wee morning hours. The next morning before our flight to Manali, we slipped over Dal Lake, enjoying the serenity of the sights, and fought off more merchants! We landed in Kulu and drove an hour to Manali for a week of heliskiing. The blizzard of Tangmarg arrived in the form of 1.5 meters of fresh snow over 48 hours, allowing us plenty of time to enjoy Manali and all it is known for! 4 days of non-stop heliskiing left us weary legged and overwhelmed from curry other local dishes. I slept all the way back to my sleepy village of Verbier which awoke with a start three days later. Vivre la vie d’aujourd’ui! Planes trains and powder snow… Sign-up now! January 30 – February 15, 2012
What is it about skiing that unites, so intensely, such a large group of skiers from all walks of life? At least for me, I feel connected to people in a way that bonds us all so closely together. The PDG was one example of that. Sure, many folks don’t like the crowds and media generated by such an event. But to see coming together, all the different people from all over the world, from all different backgrounds and beliefs, really shows what a closely knit group of people we are. And talk about different ways of experiencing the thang we call skiing! From skiing a steep North Face in Spring, to floating through a winter forest while it’s absolutely dumping, from cruising perfect corn down Creblet, to touring up an isolated valley, nothing can really match the splendor and magic of skiing with friends.
I’m off to Greenland for my 10th season, to play in the glaciers and fjords along the West Coast near Maniitsoq. The helis are in place, the fuel cached, the boats are organized, and the volcano in Iceland has stopped erupting. So it looks like we might pull it off again! Have a look at Greenland Heliskiing where I hope to send a few updates over the next 3 weeks.
With Verbier’s winter season coming to an end, I already miss my gorgeous community of clients and friends. I hope we get to experience more wonderful adventures in the hills soon again.
It was one of those perfect, blue bird days again. I felt like putting on my Sheriff’s badge and being a real goof ball. First lift up, standing at the top of Mt.Fort, surrounded by a bunch of local skiers and guides, no one appeared to listen to my commands of “Wait for me. I’m not ready yet…” Allan snarled at his client that she was the reason they were not first off the Back Side. I joked at Fiona as to the whereabouts her guide was, since this was obviously a guided only descent.
We then proceeded to skip down Mt. Fort, two times, on this highly charged and crowded day. And what a day it was! With 40cm of fresh up high, and cold temps providing cold smoke on all aspects, we packed 3 days into one. Jane, Rob and Nick were excellent ski companions, skiing the steep with respect, allowing us to push ourselves into a truly memorable Easter Friday. Barry’s Bowl and the “Hot Chocolate” couloir were a couple of added bonuses to our “only” 3 run day.
The forecast calls for good weather for the next 2 days. It should warm up considerably Tuesday, then another front will move through Thursday.