Would this be the last ski- tour of the season?

Though there's still a lot of snow at altitude - Ski Tour Vallons Roche Noire

This time of year, you never know if this will be the last ski-tour sortie of the Season?

It's so good when a window in the forecast comes good!

The weather these past couple of weeks has not been conducive to ski-touring with it being very dank & overcast, along with snow at altitude.

Indeed, the forecast at the beginning of the week was for snow above 1,850m on Wednesday and then a brief period of sunshine on Thursday morning.

And come Wednesday it was raining hard in Briancon, and chilly at +4.5, so that would point to snow above circa 1,850m.

So to be sure we drove up to the Col du Lautarte to Fred's, Café de la Ferme to see for ourselves, and sure enough it was snowing quite hard at times.

The big question, however, is what would the snowpack be like?

Fred said, though there could be elements of "Lost in Translation" that slides (avalanches) might be a problem and best to stay away from steeps.

Indeed later I spoke to a friend who is a top guide in La Grave and he said much the same, along the lines currently you just can't predict what the snow-pack is like with these massive variances in temperatures.

However, one thing is for sure is that there is so much snow at altitude and he has never been able to ski lines in La Grave that he has been doing, as usually there would be too many sharks (top of rocks) just below the surface.

I'd arranged to touch base with Ken at 07:30 and decide if we had the weather window or not, and even though there was cloud in the valley, the webcams were showing sun & clear conditions above the cloud, so we decided to go for it.

There was only one other car when we parked up at 09:15 and one track. I've never seen the area so devoid of tracks and better still the snow, though not powder would still be good to ski, a mixture of creamy Powder (Crémeuse).

Climbing up the marmots were out and about probably wondering what was going on with the weather, as there was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was doing it's thing and the snow was heating up quickly which did make for some technical issue with snow glopping to my skins, which did cut short our climb as the skis were just too heavy with the amount of snow stuck to my skins; and by the time it happens this bad there's not a lot you can do even though I carry skin wax etc.

snow glopping to ski skins


Once I finally decided enough was enough and we started to transition I noticed the huge cloud inversion behind us, above La Grave and Villar d'Arene, with the Girose Glacier visible above the cloud, centre of pic.

The ski down was very sweet though was a tad technical in places and you had to ski in control, and just maybe we should have climbed up towards the ridge, (two pics above) where the snow would have been colder on the more north-facing aspect?

ullr ski tour vallons roche noire


Below circa 2,100 the snow became very sticky and I noticed various slides , and as we were traversing along the Galibier road I saw a lot of snow across the road ahead that I though had come down from above, so I decided to ski down from where we were, which was not too bad but did get very very sticky!

It was only when I looked back up that I realised that the snow I thought had avalanched, was in fact the work of the snow-plough I'd seen yesterday at the Col du Lautaret which is starting to clear the Col du Galibier road, and had pushed all the snow off the road down the slope!

galibier snow plough

And it was only a couple of days later when I remembered that last season I rode the E-MTB up the Galibier road to 2,300 and ski-toured from there, so maybe it's not time to put the skis away just yet?