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The clocks have changed and spring is officially here! Warm days and lighter evenings are great but at this time of year we tread a fine line between skidding over corrugated concrete in the morning or tumbling about in sticky slush in the afternoon - today we got the balance just right.
We got to Le Tour at about 11am, just as the harder pistes were thawing out nicely. Heading straight round the back via the Liaison cat track to the Esserts run, we started with a nice cruise through the forest down to the Tete de Balme chairlift and back up again. The trees keep this run in the shade for much of the day so, while it can be icy first thing in the morning, it doesn’t suffer too much as the day goes on.
While lapping the Esserts a couple of times, we zipped down the Alpages and Bechat pistes on either side of the Plan des Reines drag lift. The Alpages hadn't been groomed but it was easy enough to pick your way down to join the track at the bottom. Although still skiable, they’re both showing a bit of wear and tear now and a bit of weaving is in order to pick your way through the sloshy patches.
Figuring that the snow might be better a bit higher up, we took the long drag lift up to the top of the Aiguillettes piste. This long straight red run starts off quite steeply, allowing you to pick up enough speed to glide up the short uphill bit at the end… usually. Although the snow was OK at the top it was getting quite sticky towards the bottom and my skis were catching on the warm mush - resulting in a graceless duck walk for the last 50m or so. Having said that, they are in dire need of a service at the moment and the underside of them feels like a cat’s tongue, so that probably didn’t help.
Despite looking a bit bruised and battered, the Chatelet piste that runs down beside the Autannes chairlift was in fine fettle and was my favourite run of the day - bouncy but not chopped up or slushy at all and the base stills feels quite solid. It was a different story towards the bottom where the little junction around the Ecuries restaurant is now getting very muddy.
Heavy snow makes for tired legs and an inexplicable urge for pizza, so we did one last lap of the Caisets home run before hopping on the bus back to Chamonix. Despite the warm temperatures, the home run is holding out pretty well and remains well covered all the way to the bottom. The further down we got, the easier it became, as the snow transformed from heavy mush to wet but grainy sugar. If you’re learning to snowboard it’s perfect conditions for tumbling about in!
Today has been warm but compared to the rest of the week it feels overcast and a bit breezy. Unless you're going back country, the off-piste is so skied out that it's pretty much the same conditions as on-piste at the moment. The gathering clouds are hopefully a sign of snow on the horizon, and the weather forecast is predicting precipitation with a rain/snow limit of around 2000m - so we get may get fresh powder yet on the higher slopes! Keep an eye on our regular Chamonix snow reports for the latest updates.