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Bitter cold hits Chamonix

But it's all going to change in a few days

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Graham Pinkerton | Chamonix Reporter | Published: 28 Feb 2018

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Bitter cold hits Chamonix

It's cold out. It might not have hit the 'Day After Tomorrow' apocalyptic temperatures that some forecasts were suggesting this week but it's not exactly been warm either. The cold temps have combined with some intermittent cloud to give some intermittent light snow between the intermittent sunny spells but, otherwise, it's been a largely dry and calm week in the Chamonix mountains. Just as well, really, with these temperatures, even the 20 to 30kph winds we've had can cause damage to exposed skin very quickly.

Still, cold weather kind of goes with the territory if you want to go skiing, so riders have been donning all their clothes and heading up the slopes. There are a few wee extra things you can do to help keep you warm and enjoying the skiing that needn't involve buying the latest and most expensive bit of kit from the shops though. Layering isn't just about putting on as many t-shirts as you can. A cheap thin balaclava beneath your helmet or hat makes a big difference and can be pulled up over the mouth and nose to help keep the face warm, and a second hat helps even more too. 

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Cheap thin gloves only cost a few euros but give a welcome boost to the warmth of your gloves. Even better, if you snip part way through the glove at roughly the first joint of your index finger you can pull the tip of the glove over your finger and use your phone or camera without exposing too much skin to the elements. Or just stump up the extra few euros for a touchscreen-compatible glove. Cold toes are no fun in ski boots. Usually the problem is down to the circulation of blood to the toes being restricted so, instead of wearing several pairs of socks and leaving the buckles clamped down, try opening up all the buckles whilst waiting about and on the lifts and maybe not tightening the boot quite so hard so that blood can easily get to your frozen toes. It's also good to remember that all the main ski lift buildings have a 'salle hors sac'. A nice warm room where you can go and eat your packed lunch, sit near a radiator and warm up your body.

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In the hope of absorbing some of the sun's warming rays, we took a trip up to Brevent and Flegere on Tuesday. The sun might well have been bumping up the temperature, but it still felt pretty darn frigid to me. The cloud was coming and going around the hill so much of the time was spent aiming for the clear areas to get better visibility for the skiing, and to stay out of the fine snow that was falling from the cloud.

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The skiing itself was fairly good. The pistes are on the whole in good condition but when the warning signs tell you that you're approaching a section of hard, firm piste, they mean it, sharp edges were a definite bonus! At least if you're wearing every jumper you own you're pretty well padded for impact. Off the pistes, conditions weren't the most inspiring. The old snow has been skied and then frozen, then had about 10cm of fresh snow on top of it. If you could find some smooth unskied snow or well hidden north-facing snow above about 2400m, then there were good turns to be had. Otherwise, there was a lot of getting rattled about.

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Up L'Aiguille du Midi for a short tour a few days ago, snow conditions were good everywhere except in direct sunshine. The cold has preserved the snow quality well with only south-east to west aspects having a sun crust to deal with. It really was very cold though, so we turned back before our objective for fear of real damage to toes and fingers.

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Where's the weather taking conditions next? The good news is that it's going to get warmer. Starting from Wednesday night, temperatures should head back towards the seasonal average and stay around there into the second week of March. The more mixed news is that there will be a series of more unsettled spells as a number of periods of snowfall pass through Chamonix. Currently, Friday looks like being the snowiest day, but next Monday is showing some potential too. Holders of the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass might want to keep an eye on the weather through in Courmayeur where there's potential for more frequent and stronger snowfalls.

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