Skiing 2000 meters down wild couloirs to bowls to more couloirs into a tiny primitive village in the middle of their annual celebration with everyone wearing outlandish costumes, was our last day of a 7 day ski Safari.
Staying flexible to location, route and lodging was key again to our excellent little adventure. Not knowing which valley, which town or which isolated village we would arrive in the next day made it all that much more stimulating.
Starting just across the Rhone Valley from Verbier, at Montana Crans, we headed up the wind scoured Wildstrubel, only to get blown off 200 m from the summit. With our tails between our legs, we headed south back into the Valais rather than our intended descent north into the Bernese Oberland. It was obvious the wind was hammering the high peaks, so we decided to had a fun day riding a little lift and skiing beautiful power through the forest on the other side of the Rhone valley. Then into the Loetschental next day, over the north ridge for an all-day-run down a lovely valley surrounded by huge rock walls to Wengen, where we met up with team Telluride who joined us for an epic descent the next day, after skinning then skiing then skinning then skiing then skinning into another remote valley, sliding up to the front door of a four-star hotel, served cheese fondue and then, them, team Telluride, skiing down and away in the dark full of white wine and cheese to make the train back to Zürich. Us three, we woke up to hot expresso and a delicious buffet breakfast, slapped on our skins, and headed to the pass 1'400 m above us. The descent down the other side to Kandersteg was the "valley of cliff bands" needing good route fighting or several hundred meter rappels if you got it wrong. With no rope in my backpack we opted for solid route finding. Not another soul in site, just us and the chamois, skiing powder through the last cliff band onto the Oeschinensee, surrounded by hundred-meter-tall-frozen-waterfalls and then sausage and soup in the restaurant on the other side. We found another cozy hotel in Kandersteg, then hopped on the train the next morning right behind the hotel, taking us back to our car in Loetschental and that fabulous last run into the valley celebration.
My first ski Safari of the season and I want to go again tomorrow!
The driest December in this area since measurements began in 1864 created new challenges for a mountain guide like myself. I could have behaved like Chicken Little and believed the end was near, or rather taken advantage of those conditions. The foehn episode that dried the northern Alps in November, coated the southern Alps with a lovely layer of fresh powder. Living close to that main divide here in Verbier, my clients and I profited from the situation, ski touring and heliskiing in the south, and hiking and climbing in the north.
For those who enjoy being outside no matter the weather and conditions, I've found it so rewarding to share these mini adventures with you. Thank you! The following 20 pictures show some of our days together on skis, skins and foot, enjoying what mother nature provides.
October snows, leading to November snows, leading to December sun! Conditions are excellent at altitude, resembling prime alpine conditions of spring time. A stable snowpack in the high mountains has stuck to many of the icey faces that often don't see snow until spring. Isolated areas, protected from the November Foehn winds, give rise to primo conditons for steep skiing in boot top powder.
For those of you who have heard about the ISTA method of avalanche training, I am a certified ISTA instructor, offering group and private avalanche courses. After spending a few days with me, talking about snow metamorphism and slope analysis, you will feel more capable to understand and analyse the untracked slopes you want ski.
This gorgeous weather is forecasted to be with us for another week, when this high pressure system should weaken, allowing more humidity to make its way onto the continent. Have fun skiing that boot top pow!
Two weeks after our first snowfall, the skiing is still supreme. Conditions are rapidly changing though. The 50-70cm of snow at 2500 has squashed to 30-60, and is powdery only on the north aspects. Some of the wind blown couloirs are even showing fine spring snow. At 2000 meters, it's been around +3. This has lead to a lot of melting on south aspects. The forecast is calling for fine weather for another 6 days, then some models show some snow... The opening of TeleVerbier last Friday offered super fun, lift serviced, freeriding. There was just enough snow on the ground to ski the front face of Attelas to Verbier, and conditions were not far from as-good-as-it-gets. Here are a few photos from the past few days. Hope it's getting snowy now too, in your neck of the woods!