CR #290 (2016/2017)


A great deal of snow has finally landed on Chamonix, even right down to the valley floor, and there is much more promised during the week to come.

Schneelage

As much as 10-15cm of snow fell in the valley, and sufficient snow landed up high for the Compagnie du Mont Blanc to consider opening many more of the lifts and pistes from Wednesday onwards. The summit cable car of the Grands Montets, closed to piste skiers (but still open for alpinists) for over a week now, is slated to be open once again, as soon as they have shovelled enough snow into a slightly-open bergschrund near the top of the piste. Piste basher lights are visible all over Brevent and Flegere, so there is great hope for many of the runs on the sunny side of the valley to be open soon too.

The Pierra a Ric and Caisets pistes, the home runs for the Grands Montets and Le Tour, have been open for a couple of days now thanks to a surge in artificial snow making. The home runs at Brevent and Flegere will not be opening any time soon, though.

Over in the Vallon de Berard, there is still a walk of about 3km to get either up or down the valley, depending on much you like your skies, before you get to snow consistent enough to skin or ski on, but above 2000m, snow cover is total. The same can be said for areas such as Loriaz and Emosson... great snow coverage up high and much more on the way, but trainers are still a good idea for the lower trails.

Schneequalität

In basic numbers, around 10cm of snow has fallen during two different occasions down in the valley, around 20cm at 2000m, and upwards of 30cm above 3000m. Relatively low winds have left us a decent blanket of soft, predictable snow, and thanks to fairly stable cold temperatures during the six week drought, many sharks are still buried deep enough under the old layer of snow to not be too much of a worry. The real problem, now, are the piranhas lurking between 2000m and the valley floor, but hopefully, with around 15cm of snow predicted on Tuesday-Wednesday, and another 60cm in total over the weekend, many of the more ski-hungry rocks will be buried good and deep until the spring.

Lawinensituation

Not surprisingly, the official avalanche forecast below 2000m is still given as 1/5, on account of there being barely enough snow to cover the brittle alpenrose and the rotting raspberry plants, but above 2000m there is a warning of 2/5, and that is definitely set to raise by Thursday when the next big storm is supposed to arrive with 60cm of snow, and the winds are due to get much stronger, shifting from northerlies to north-west.

Wednesday, with slightly better weather after another small dump of snow on Tuesday, is most likely going to be the final day for a while where you'll get away with a relatively blasé attitude to the avalanche forecast, with not much new snow on an incredibly-stable base, but from Thursday onwards, things are going to start getting a little real, so let's look lively.

Gesamteindruck

Today, my dog and I decided to wander up the Berard Valley in search of some of this new snow that everyone's been excited about for the last couple of days. We started skinning after a 3km walk, and seeing as we were pretty much the only people there, decided that we didn't have the legs to break trail all the way to the summit of Mont Buet, at 3100m, so we aimed for the Col des Cochons, 2500m, instead. We found between 15 and 25cm of fresh snow from the col until just below the level of the Refuge Pierre a Berard, and switched back to walking at around the level of the treeline. A long walk for not much skiing, but some great skiing all the same, after such a horrific period of drought.

A few people made their way over from the Flegere lifts, a team of five farming eights down from the Col de Berard, followed by a team of four, having first skied the Col de la Floria. They said that the snow there wasn't quite as good as in the Berard Valley. A single skier opened the north face of the Col du Belvedere, one of the finest descents in the Aiguilles Rouges, stopping halfway down the glacier to look back up and admire his tracks. It looked to be in great condition.


 

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