How Much Fresh? Ask Our Powder Hound
SKI TOURING IN POWDER WITH OUR DOG, ULLRFinally! After weeks of being teased by social media reminders of the ski tours we were doing by this time in past years, the snow arrived on Sunday evening...
We woke up, yesterday, to a picture postcard ski resort - and an almost audible sigh of relief from the Serre Che tourist office.
But as we've had only a sprinkling of snow before the 30cms overnight, it was debatable as to where to go, the trees, for instance, being potential hazards of barely-covered stumps and fallen branches.
THE LAUTARET DELIVERS
The Lautaret seemed the safest bet as the road takes us up to 2000m before having to climb and, therefore, potentially more snow.
We decided to take Ullr, our snow-loving young Husky-cross with boundless energy but leave Beanie, the Jack Russell, as early season powder is always a challenge for her because she is a) only shin height and b) hairy so the snow sticks to her underbelly. Kiki, our other Jack, is now 13 years old, retired from touring, her spirit still willing but her little legs less so.
We took our favourite route, the one which always delivers whether for mid-winter pow or spring snow. Although it was 10.30am, the area was completely untouched, with no other ski tourer in sight. Although this is dreamy for me, Gav had the pleasure of having to break trail all the way.
The idea was that we could add some paw-power on the steep bits from Ullr, as his Husky background means pulling is his natural instinct (hence he's known as Ullr the Puller). But from the start he was struggling in what was chest-deep powder for him, even though we made him follow in our skinning tracks where the snow was flattened by our skis. At one stage I had to go back to pull him as he got himself into a snow hole.
It wasn't that the snow was heavy, just that there was no base so he was sinking through. You could feel the snow settling as we climbed up with several mini whomphs beneath our skis. The avalanche risk was suprisingly high.
There was no way we could go far with him using up all his energy to wade through the snow, so when we reached the snow-covered Galibier road, just a 350m climb, we abandoned plans to go higher and transitioned to ski down
The ffffffrp of the skins ripping off the skis, the zipzipzip doing your backpack up, the click of your boots into downhill mode and the clickclick into each binding, these are the familiar sounds that make your heart beat a little faster in anticipation of the ski down. And Ullr hears every sound from the snow nest he's made to curl up in Husky-style, while we are transitioning. He soon leaps up, accompanying us as we set off with yelps of excitement.
And then there it is, that moment as you gaze down at the pristine whiteness below, untouched by any tracks, there for you to carve your pattern of turns on the landscape.
Nothing else matters as you drop into the descent and feel the skis float through the powder, quickly dispelling that first run of the season notion that you've forgotten how to turn.
Gav goes ahead with Ullr dancing down around his skis so I watch his first three turns before I follow. Unlike our wise little Jack Russells, though, Ullr hasn't yet learnt to stick to our tracks going down, as well as up. His dancing slows as he takes short cuts rather than following our turns, getting himself into deep snow again.
But, too quickly for us, though not for Ullr, we're back at the van. It may be one of our shortest ski tours but it was definitely among the sweetest, being the first of the season, with the mountain all to ourselves.
So Ullr has a sick note today to say he is off games even though he's hooning around our patio and ready for our next ski adventure #agelessadventuring