The Ski Blog December 2017

Time to make use of those amazing ski resort inventions. Ski lifts! Reports live from Serre Chevalier in the Hautes Alpes with an (almost) daily ski blog reporting conditions on and off piste...

Comparanoia. Is it snowing more there than here? It's December snow paranoia Or comparanoia - the fear of having not enough snow for the season and of other resorts having more..

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ANTOHER SNOWMAGEDDON?

col du Lautaret
 

Crazy weather. In the last 36 hours we've had well over 50cm, the majority of that falling from dusk yesterday.

However this morning we had a sharp thaw, or so we thought  as here at 1400m (as per forecast) temps were the wrong side of zero and snow pack was consolidating fast.

We drove down to Briancon 1250m with temps here +0.5C and raining which was surprising in itself, and in our small parking area puddles were 10cm deep.

As we drove towards Briancon I commented how they seemed to have more snow. By the time we were in the centre it was really snowing heavily and -2.00C.

Coming back out I witnessed a number of crazy happenings on the road with the snow puking down and a km from where we live it turned back to rain and the temperature started to rise!

The Col du Lautaret shut early yesterday evening and will probably be closed for a couple of days.

And elsewhere across France especially around Chamonix and Bourg there were horror stories of gridlocked roads.

And it seems it's not just the mountains. Today we've heard from friends driving out today who have been stuck south of Calais for two hours - and have their sandwiches and sleeping bags ready in the car just in case they're there for the night!

YOU KNOW IT'S COLD...

Serre Chevalier December
 

...When you're at the top of the Foret lift, yesterday (above) wearing a thermal top, one mid-layer, one fleece hoodie, Paramo jacket, Buff, bandana under helmet, goggles, two pairs of ski socks, two pairs of gloves, thermal leggings, Volcom ski pants and you're STILL freezing in a biting cold wind. Last night, the thermometer hit -12C outside our apartment at 1400m,

But, hey, we're in the mountains and it's December; it's the sort of weather you expect and better than unseasonal warm temperatures. AND it's now been snowing all day! How lucky we are to be in the mountains in the snow with the prospect of cold pow rather than sliding on the M25 during Snow Bomb Sunday in the UK.

Cold but happy days.

GOOD FOR THE BASE BUT NOT FOR THE SKIS

ski in powder
 

Some good riding was had yesterday in the 10-15cms of fresh and we skied quite a few pistes that were closed but as ever at this time of year it is a lottery as to whether the depth of the snow is adequate, and for some unfortunately that was the case (see Ken and his Faction ski above).

Weather Gods have more snow in the pipeline next week but freezing level could well mean rain in the valley!

WHITE CHRISTMAS!

 serre chevalier snow
 

So we're no longer just dreaming of a white Christmas. This morning we awoke to the sound of snow ploughs and the resort has become Christmas card perfect. And there's more snow due over the next few days. Here and in the rest of the Alps.

May all your Christmases be white!

CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Serre Chevalier December
 

 This is 11am on the piste above the Bivouac Restaurant today. Empty. The pistes are in incredible condition thanks to the cold temperatures and snow cannons, freshly pisted, hard and fast, with no one yet here for the Crhistmas holidays. Yep with the sun shining it's the calm before the storm, both before the official opening with theholiday hordes next weekend and, literally, before the snow storms due to hit the Alps over the next few days!

Snow Gods willing...

MORE SNOW IN ABRIES

ski touring Abries

 

If gazing at Christmas card pictures of snowy resorts in the Northern Alps is giving you comparanoia (worrying if other ski resorts have more snow than you - or your holiday ski destination) then these images of our road trip, yesterday, to Abries mght just tip you over the edge and heading straight for the Queyras.

Yep the small commune of Abries has benefited once again from Retour d'Est, the low pressure sitting over Genoa that constantly returns with snow from the east. The resort isn't opening until the week before Christmas which is even better news for powder hounds.

dogs ski touring

Our powder hounds, the Rando Chiens, were super excited to be out on the snow. The sun was shining, the cold powder glistening as Gav, Ken and I arrived and parked up by the road. The piste basher had just groomed the piste down from the chair so we aimed for Manchester (the corduroy) at around 12 noon. Although the outside temperature in the mountain shadows as we drove there were saying -9C, it soon warmed up in the sun and climbing up the relatively steep gradient of the piste.

Half a dozen other tourers passed us skiing down the piste. Yes the piste. Don't ask me why they hiked all the way up to do the piste! We went passed the top of the chair and up another 100m or so for around 600m of vertical. Then back down through the trees and under the chairlift in untracked (see Ken below) with some combat skiing avoiding gorges, tree stumps, branches and sudden dips not yet covered by snow, then survival style down a very narrow steep little path.

skiing Abries
 

The snow was perfect cold pow at the top, transforming to grippier stuff half way that stuck to the bottoms of the skis and, finally, crust at the bottom. The Rando Chiens managed to stay in our tracks but Beanie, who is hairier needed a rub down with a towel back at the van.

ski touring with dogs
 

It was a good test for the kit early in the season and before going to Japan in January. Both Gav and I are very happy with our latest all mountain ski set ups - I have the new Nordica Santa Ana's (110 wide) and Gav has the Black Crow Atris (108 wide), both with the new Diamir Tecton bindings, which are absolute game changers with easy tech cliips in and the alpine- like heel bindings.

Only trouble is that I was using Gav's skins from his Scott Cascades, also 110s, as he now only has one ski, losing the other in an avalanche last winter. They seemed to fit perfectly, modifying the clips onto the tails rather than the holes as on the Cascades. Sadly, though, they slipped off the tails whenever the going got steep and I had to traverse, leaving me sliding backwards. So off today to buy new ones!

CADGING A LIFT

snow cannons
 

Back using those amazing mountains inventions, ski lifts! It's been a while since the lifts in resort were last open - and, meanwhile, in the late spring and early winter any skiing has meant hiking up on skis and skins.

Today,Saturday, part of Serre Chevalier opened earlier than scheduled just for this weekend so, even though the weather was pretty grim and grey, minus 5C at 8am, it seemed rude not to don thermals and inner gloves to go up and ski what's open.

It was worth it to ski the empty pistes and sidecountry cms of powder for a few laps joining the locals and keen Brits who live here for a social couple of hours. If we wanted to fuel the 'comparanoia' created by worrying that other ski resorts have more snow, we'd exclaim the 'snow was epic' and the 'pow was awesome'. Just look at the snow laden trees behind Ken and Gav in the image above!