THE SKI BLOG: JANUARY

THE SKI BLOG FEATURING (ALMOST) DAILY UPDATES FROM THE MOUNTAINS WITH OUR EDITOR AND TECH EDITOR AND THOSE OTHER RENOWNED POWDER HOUNDS, THE RANDO CHIENS. CATCH OUR RESORT CRUISING, OFF-PISTE, BACKCOUNTRY, SLACKCOUNTRY, TOURING AND EXPLORING NEW DESTINATIONS WITH REPORTS ON CONDITIONS, DESCRIPTIONS OF ROUTES AND IMAGES.

It can turn Arctic in January in the Alps. But there's also a good chance of snow. But conditions can vary from perfect powder to windblown crud to downright dangerous.

The Ski Blog, January 2015

SATURDAY, 31st JANUARY 12.30  0C BLUEBIRD

Words: Elaine Deed

Bluebird morning!  But cold - -13C first thing though without the wind chill of yesterday.  First lifts from Chantemerle and I was wearing five layers including puffa and outer jacket; three pairs of gloves (two inners) and two pairs of socks. Still freezing until around 10.30am. We hardly touched the pistes, which began to get crowded. Although it is changeover day, more people were obviously driving up for the weekend having seen the fresh snow and today's promised bluebird.

 

Mission accomplished for us, finding new routes through the trees from Chantemerle rather than our home turf of the Frejus sector. We skied the off-piste from the top of the long Bois des Coqs and the Grand Serre chair a few times although it was quite chopped up powder. Then much of the tree pow was tracked from yesterday afternoon when the viz improved. But we found a new way back to Chantemerle via the trees and a disused draglift. Cover was sketchy lower down. It looked good, but there were roots and rocks not far below, lurking ready to bite!

 

Yesterday, we were skiing from the Crete drag, at the top of the Frejus gondola. Here's a pic - it's a bit of a blur but that's because the camera was having probs with the bad viz and, of course, Gav was skiing sooo fast!

 

FRIDAY, 30th JANUARY  08.00  -4C WIND

Words: Elaine Deed

Good news is that we've had around 20cm of fresh; bad news, the wind! But then it IS January! Back to the trees, this morning, like yesterday.

 

Car park nearly empty at 13.00 yesterday, when it started to snow significantly.

 

MONDAY, 26th JANUARY

Words: Elaine Deed

Off-piste is either non existant (rocks and roots) or damned dangerous. See our News On The Hill for yet another fatal avalanche in the French Alps. Good for ice circuit racing, though, here in Serre Che!

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 24th

Words: Elaine Deed

In view of the wind and lack of (safe) off piste we left the fat skis at home and cruised the piste which was hardpacked and fast with a sprinkling of windblown. 

 

Slides are happening everywhere in the Southern Alps, in popular backcountry routes.  The avalanche fatalities up from Galibier and, last week, in the family resort of Puy St Vincent are particularly shocking as they involved a guide AND are so close to home in Serre Che. Read more here...

FRIDAY, 23rd JANUARY. GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS

 

So the good news?  It was a bluebird day. After a week of cloud and some snow (though not enough) it was great to see the sun again. So the plan was to do Glaibier with Rando Chiens (our  two Jack Russells) especially as Gavin claimed it was the best day of the season, last Sunday, with perfect powder. We, also, decided to shoot Rando Chiens, the movie, in homage to two very tough little Jacks.

 

We left at 9am, on schedule and arrived at the roadside just down from the Col du Lautaret where there were already a dozen cars/vans parked up. The Jacks were raring to go, leaping around in the snow as we skinned up. I found my new SCOTT Crus'Airs and Celeste touring boots with Diamir Vipec 12 tech bindings, so much lighter than my old touring kit.  So much less effort going up than with heavy weights on my feet. My  20L ABS (yes, we've tested it) though is quite heavy with avy rescue equipment but, hey, if it could save my life I'm willing to carry the weight.

 

We climbed right to the Col du Galibier, a total of  3.5K and 675m in around two hours - had a quick break (it was cold and fingers were freezing), took the skins off and headed down.

And now the bad news. The snow was windblown with a top crust. Hard to turn with any cool style (well, it was for me!) and I did one oopsy daisy but landed with skis still on and down the hill, ready to go.  And Gav dropped a bit of a slab in front of me which  I managed to avoid, but just around the ridge there was a whole slab avalanche. 

 
 

The Rando Chiens were less impressed by the descent, too. Beanie, the hairier one, had snowballs around her eyes, whiskers, tummy and paws. At one stage, I saw her slide down on her belly over the crud, like a polar bear.

 

Anyway all down safe and sound. I have to admit to taking a perverse pleasure in skiing tricky snow. But I wouldn't mind some perfect powder next time...

Here's  the Hollywood premiere of Rando Dogs..

SUNDAY, 18th JANUARY

Words: Gavin Baylis

So good it needed a separate blog!

Ski Tour Galibier with Rando Dogs

SATURDAY, 17th JANUARY FRESH SNOW

Words: Gavin Baylis

First lifts and yesterday's rain in resort was fresh snow from about 1,800m. Being Satuday meant far few people and groups for the first couple of hours and I had the Vallons off piste nigh on all to myself for three or four laps.

About 30-40cm of fresh, though we still need a lot lower down!

As more people started to venture off piste and with more groups arriving I went further away from the hordes and had three very pleasant descents finishing off in the trees above Frejus.

Called it a day when snow lower down starting to get heavy with warmer temps.

Have played around with the images as light was quite flat.

 

 
 
 
 

FRIDAY 16th JANUARY  HOW TO MAKE IT SNOW?

Words: Gavin Baylis

With the recent snow conditions I have been musing about trying to exchange a pair of off piste skis with touring bindings that I have which are surplus to requirements. Yesterday, I went down to Riquet Sports here in Villeneuve to discuss options, and we settled on some White Doctor Piste skis which would add nicely to my quiver of existing White Doctors.

For those that don't know White Doctor Skis is a brand that was born in Serre Chevalier and Bob (ex top honcho designer at Rossignol) had his first shop very close to where we live. Athough I think they are now based in Anecy, Bob often comes back to Serre and has demo days here.

And when I turned up in Riquet this morning who was there ?

 

So I went up the hill in a howling gale (gondolas shut) on a chair in torrential rain (lucky I was wearing totally waterproof Paramo) and eventually the rain started turning to snow at 1900. Viz at times was diablolical and here I was using some piste orientated skis when I should have been on my Fat TwinTips.

Interesting in that the skis did well with their wide tips, though it was hard on the legs. Once out of the fresh snow and on the piste they came into their own.

So I have another model to test, though somehow think that Saturday will see me back on the TwinTips!

WEDNESDAY, 14th JANUARY

Words: Gavin Baylis

We had all of 5 - 10cm of fresh on a hard icy base, but I was able to find some nice stashes.

 
 
 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 10th

Words: Elaine Deed

We deployed our ABS bags following the product recall. See On The Hill. Two of them worked perfectly - the other has a faulty trigger so it was just as well we tested as it would not have worked in an avalanche. The idea was to buy new carbon cartridges at the local ski shop, Riquet Sports, while awaiting replacements from ABS - but we have discovered that they have sent back all their stock of ABS bags and have no cartridges.  But they did have a new trigger for 20 euros. So, at least, we now have one tested bag, one unused carbon cartridge and a trigger ie a complete set-up while awaiting cartridges to test the third bag. Also we're getting another from SCOTT back in the UK, next week.

So now just need the powder.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 9th ROAD TRIP DAY 2 

Words; Gavin Baylis

We left Val Cenis and headed all the way up the valley to Bonneval sur Arc. Only around five lifts, with the highest at 3,000m. As we suspected quite hard core and huge potential but it had been skied out far more than Val Frejus, yesterday. From the top you can see the lifts on the Iseran above Val D'Isere.

We still skied off piste for 70% of the time only rejoining the piste to get back to the lifts and go all the way back down. We did find stashes, along with a lot of crud so it was challenging.

There was plenty of avalanche activity and at one point it was pretty scary. Then we came across one that had happened in a gully where we had skied only an hour or so earlier.

 

The day before we went to Valfrejus, yesterday, on a road trip to find powder...See News On the Hill here

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 9th

Words: Elaine Deed

It was a tour with Rando Chiens from Le Laus just up from Cervieres to Le Col Perdu at 2250m over the ridge from the Refuge Napoleon. Total of 500m and just over 8K. A few good turns at the top, then combat skiing down icy tracks and road avoiding the rocks, with the Rando dogs chasing like bats out of hell.

 

Three hours of up and downhill, taking in scenery and showing you can still enjoy the mountains!

SATURDAY, 3rd JANUARY

Words: Gavin Baylis

La Grave day. Now there's just the one lift going up to P3 and not enough cover to ride below P2 but skinning is an alternative to find softer snow. And, going down, you can ski, snowboard - or, if you're unfortunate, go by heli. See On The Hill news.

 

If you're waiting for the snow...watch this Late video from Salomon Freeski TV  here: