The STYLE ALTITUDE regular ski blog and webcam with daily updates in the winter featuring weather, conditions and riding reports on piste, off piste, sidecountry, slackcountry and backcountry from our HQ in the Southern Alps. Also, regular posts throughout the year with blogs and news from the mountains.
Catch what's happening in the mountains with our ski blog and Live WebCam looking across to the pistes of Serre Chevalier 1400 Villeneuve, France. Check back on our earlier ski blog for February here
I've had two full on winter powder days this week, and yesterday some of the best lines of the season.
Driving up to the Lautaret was a gamble with low cloud in the valley and only the occasional glimpse of sunshine with flat light so it was all about stealth skiing, that is waiting for the break in the cloud so you're skiing back down in good and not flat light.
As I did not have Les Rando Chiens with me (snow too deep) I had other route options, as they are not allowed into the National Park which is on the other side of the road from the Lautaret.
There is something about this area known as the Vallons de Combeynot with it's very grand North facing bowl and couloirs.
Monday was good, though I only climbed to the ridge (420m) as I'd already done a prior ascent to the Galibier road but I was none too happy with the conditions up there and vis was bad.
Then yesterday after yet more overnight snow as I climbed up more cloud rolled in and light was so flat that at times it was difficult to see the skinning track.
I told myself that after I'd done 650m then if light was looking good take the descent rather than climb further. So at around 2720m it looked as if there was a good chance of a clear spell and I quickly went into descent mode.
On the way down I bumped into someone I know and we skied down together, and video shows just how good it was
MAY DAY SNOW DAY
1st May 2017
And, yep, more snow today. See webcam.
30th April 2017
When we parked up just below the Lautaret on Saturday there was a handful of cars with two groups of Italians and French who all headed towards Les Trois-Évêchés about 10 minutes before we set off with the Rando Chiens.
Well, this was like showing the hare to the greyhound for Gavin. Taking a different touring route we caught them up on the Galibier road, then took a higher line keeping in front of both groups as they traversed up the left hand narrower valley. As we headed on the ridge below Montagne de Chaillol we turned around to see both groups totalling around 20 following our tracks. It felt like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being hounded by the sheriff's posse.
Where we stopped below the ridge to put on layers as an icy wind was howling from La Grave making the dogs shiver and ears stand up, they paused right beside putting jackets on, too.
Gav decided he could not go further because a handful had peeled off to cut below us and it would have been darn dangerous for anyone to traverse above on the steep slope and possibly cause an avalanche on top of them. The majority took their skins off exactly where we were.. This is like laying your towels down on a completely empty beach only to have 'foreigners' arrive and put theirs within a foot of yours with all that untouched sand to choose from.
The glorious thing about ski touring is getting away from people, being able to take your own line. Les Trois-Évêchés area is massive with a huge choice of routes to take up (see below) and ways down without sometimes even seeing another person (see our route up below). It's an unspoken etiquette that you give tourers their own space otherwise you might as well be in a chairlift queue.
Of course, the hare was still running for Gav as we set off down only just ahead of the French and Italian tourers. Unfortunately our skis had completely iced up so they wouldn't move even facing 45 degrees downhill on powder - something that only happened to me once before on my snowboard in the Lyngen Alps. Then I had a lovely guide, Per, to help de-ice. This time I had a fuming husband!
In fact the snow varied from powder to sludge on the way down. And, yep, we beat the groups but not before Gav had sworn loudly a couple of times at them as diplomatic as Boris at a EU foreign affairs council.
Aw what's wronga you Brits? Why you no wanna join our group so we all ski together? Huh?
27th April 2017
There's a gloomy canopy of grey cloud, today, although there's a snow line at around 2000m but we'll need a day or two of freeze/thaw before contemplating any more spring touring.
Meanwhile, we have two new ski tour recruits, Dale and Ashley, whom we kitted out with touring boots, skis and skins for a first hike to 2700m with Gavin up at Lautaret on Tuesday. They took to it like a Jack Russell to chasing marmot whistles. The Rando Chiens, of course, didn't disappoint...
JUST WHEN YOU THINK IT'S ALL OVER
26th April 2017
This morning we woke up to a white out (image below). It was tempting to get excited and head for the hill except, of course, as there are no lifts it would mean touring up in very little vis.
So we waited until it stopped snowing at around 11am, did some shopping and then drove to the Col du Lautaret just to see how much had fallen up higher. As we stood throwing wet lumpy snowballs down the hill for the Jacks who ploughed gamely up in the heavy snow that was around their head height (25cms) we could hear the ominous runbling of snow sliding from some great heights. When the cloud cleared we could see that the fresh snow had slithered from nearly every available warm rock surface (see second image).
There's more snow due here, tomorrow, then some inevitable wind. Fingers crossed this will be follwed by freeze/thaw and good ski touring for our final days of the season! Watch this space.