Tag Archives: Off Piste Skiing

Opportunities present in a dry December

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.

Early winter roundup

Oh my! How time flies! December and January have flown by. It’s time again for Kashmir Curry Powder- and I have not even written about the 40 days skiing I have done since my last update. The 3 rain events we had early winter have played a major role in route decision this early winter. The Avalanche danger was at level 3 until last week. And it’s not like those weak faceted layers have gone away or anything. They are just being bridged by a thicker layer on top and/or have gotten so general that a collapse in the snow pack would mean a slide of loose facets rather than a slab. It sounds like a bit what is going on in Gulmarg right now.

But it has meant that I have searched for higher elevations. That rain left the valley floors quite dry, and the summits caked with a thick layer of powder. Mt.Fort summit was left to the guides for weeks, since the front slid and left the piste with bare ice. That was kind of nice, not being chased by a group of helmeted freeloading “Freeriders” everywhere I went. We skied into the Val d’Heremence several times, Fionnay, Hidden Valley while it was still hidden, and recently been re-discovering the fine cappuccinos the Italians can do.

The people I have been skiing with have been outrageously open for adventure and we have come home fully satiated with emotions of outdoors. The snow at higher elevations has now been battered by the North, South, East and West winds. But the mid-elevations are still offering up fine pow for those willing to climb for it. Here are a few of the shots…

Avalanche Course

We had a fun day in the snow Saturday. A snow pit analysis on the slopes of Mt.Gele revealed lots of facets under the Sahara sand from the foehn event before this last snow fall. We skied some powder lines on soft grass, and even dipped into the lovely Vallon D’Arbi. As the sun set, we buried a few transceivers, highlighting the difficulties of searching and skiing in the dark!

It is raining now in Verbier, snowing from 2200 meters (Ruinettes). The forcast calls for colder temperatures tonight, then snow to the valley floors tomorrow. It does not look like we will get much fresh, but this rain may be a good thing for us, creating a real solid base for the coming winter. Wednesday could be a superb day for skiing, before the next front moves in Wednesday evening.

Sunset skin over Col des Mines

Sunset skin over Col des Mines

Powder Time

The Foehn stopped and it dumped. How lucky we were. The winds turn out of the North West and gave us a good dose of the White Gold. It snowed 35 then 20 overnight. The north slopes in Lac des Vaux ski real nice with little damage to the p-tex. Skied down the initial wall of Chassoure and missed all the rocks! Skinned back up and did a fun run out Col des Mines. Nice pow on smooth grass. Seems like there are some good options out there for skiing now. How nice. Winter is here.