Friday, 6 March 2015

Dear Chamonix...It's not me, it's you...

The winds still haven't died down and so we've been forced to seek skiing elsewhere. We headed to Courmayeur on Thursday but like with Cham, the top bin was closed because of the wind. But still, we had the sun. Not really knowing what else there was off piste wise, we started to spot interesting little lines from the chair lifts. We did a few laps down a steep slope under the Bertolini chair which consisted of chalky snow and moguls which was good practice for steep skiing and a lot of fun, then headed over to the Aretu chair where we spied the remains of a small avalanche so went to investigate.

We skied down, following the line of the chair until we arrived above the crown wall. It was only about half a meter high so hopped over it to the slope below. We all have a common interest in avalanches and how they happen so took time to look at some of the factors that caused this one. Obviously we couldn't determine the weather conditions before and during the slide or the trigger (whether it was natural or an applied weight) but we could have a clear look at the snow pack, the weak layer and bed layer that the snow slid on, the slope aspect and the angle. It was an old slide as it had slipped over the piste and was then bashed over, but a majority of the debris was still visible. The slope was (from memory) 40 degrees and a NE aspect and the crown wall was about 50m long. The weak layer was a layer of fine 'ball bearings' on top of hard pack snow. So it was easy to see how the avalanche happened and gave us an insight into why it slid. Every day is a learning day and it was good to see evidence like that first hand.
The rest of the day was spent int he Plande la Gabba area skiing trees and wind blown snow, which was interesting.
Wind blown snow coming off the Chamonix Aiguilles

Examining a crown wall in Courmyeur

Friday, yet again, was another day cheating on Cham. This time in Les Contamine. Neither of us had been here before so it was nice to get to know a new area and see what it had to offer. In a nutshell, it has a lot to offer, but the conditions we found it in were hard. Lots of sastrugi, hard crust and hard pack snow. It took 5 lifts to finally reach the top of the Aig. Croche and from there we made a long traverse towards the Velery before we then headed down off piste of hard pack snow before rejoining the piste. It really wasn't worth the time for the skiing in these conditions. We skied around on piste for a bit, looking for new lines and discovered a nice short, steep section from the top of the Signal lift down to the Jonction lift. However I did manage to snap a ski pole in a fall when I broke through a patch of crust and unexpectedly got thrown foreward and face planted the snow. Not a good morning. But looking at it on the bright side, skiing off piste with no poles was a good exercise to adjust stance and technique in body position without relying on poles! but it was hard, and took time getting used to it! We stopped for lunch, then headed down a few gullies before sacking it in and headed back down to the lift.
Skiing off the Aig. Croche
Hard pack snow in Les Contamines, it was practically a piste

Broken pole brought interesting skiing for the remainder of the day

Not just a broken pole!

I wasn't really taken with Les Contamine. Maybe if the conditions had been better, and if we had more time to explore the other side, then It'd be worth heading back, but i feel as if no where around the Cham area has to offer what Chamonix does. She is unique, and I feel guilty I had to go behind her back and seek out other resorts.

There's ALWAYS stuff to do on the GM!

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