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Chamonix enjoys a winter without end

Just when you think spring's in charge, winter marches back in again

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Graham Pinkerton | Chamonix Reporter | Published: 29 Mar 2018


Chamonix enjoys a winter without end

This winter is really not letting go! It briefly looked like spring had got its foot in the door there, but no, winter bursts back into the room with its fist in the air shouting "and another thing..."

Even though the sun was splitting the sky on Sunday at Le Tour, the slight north wind and cool air temperatures were stopping the off-piste snow from transforming into lovely spring corn snow. Skiing around the snowpark, the groomed snow was a perfect (for me) combination of slightly too soft for full speed into the jumps but slightly too firm on the landings to risk trying anything that might result in crashing. Still, the park crew have been really busy creating new features and there's all manner of snow and man made modules and kickers to play about on. Elsewhere on the hill, the pistes were skiing nicely and the firmness was just enough to stop them getting too bumpy or slushy where they'd been groomed.

Monday saw winter start to reassert itself. The day began still quite sunny and, even though there wasn't much left untracked up at Grands Montets, there was plenty of great chalky snow and the bumps are starting to form up nicely in the usual spots below the Herse chairlift and into the Lavancher bowl. None of the bump runs are fully going yet but, hopefully, that's coming in the next few weeks. As in the day before at Le Tour, the pistes were staying smooth, verging on a little firm in a few places and the red home run Pierre a Ric was (as usual) great value earlier in the day before it got busier.

By Wednesday, though, all that lovely chalky mogulled fun was buried under fresh snow. Whilst a fair bit of snow had come down overnight and at the start of the day, temperatures were rising rapidly through the day and, by lunchtime, the snow below about 2300m was very humid and heavy and the new snow coming down wasn't particularly light or fluffy. Earlier in the year, I'd spin that by saying it's great for building the base for the rest of the season but, as we near April with over 3 meters of snowpack at Logon, I think we're pretty good for a base and... could we just have powder or sunshine, please?!

The good news is that, higher up the hill, and at Grands Montets there's almost 1000m of vertical above 2300m altitude, the snow was light. What's more, thanks to the poor weather the queue for the top télécabine was virtually non-existent and, if you knew how to navigate through the murk, then there were lots of fresh tracks to be had.

That's what's happened this week but, what's happening in the next few days? Is Good Friday going to be a good Friday? Will April be sunny? Will winter ever end? Kind of, at some point and hopefully would be the best answers to those questions. 

The next few days look like giving a mixture of sunshine and showers, probably with strengthening winds at altitude as the weekend progresses, Friday will likely be the sunniest day. As we move into April, and indeed for the first full half of April, the weather models are giving no clear indication of the weather other than "unsettled". There's every chance that those forecasts can evolve to a more settled outlook, but that's not what the supercomputers are churning out at the moment. Unsettled weather in Chamonix isn't a bad thing. Regular refreshes of new snow keep both the pistes and the off-piste nicely topped up and, combined with skiing available from 1000 to 3800m altitude plus extended opening dates for the lifts at Brevent, Flegere and Le Tour mean April is shaping up to have lots of great skiing. See you on the slopes!

Exploring beyond the ski resort boundaries is an amazing experience for anyone who's physically fit and has mastered the pistes well enough. There are, however, risks associated with venturing outside the safety of the marked/patrolled ski area, including awareness of your actions on those below you on the slopes. Mountain guides are professionally qualified and have extensive knowledge of the local terrain to provide you with the safest and most enjoyable possible experience in the mountains; as a visitor here we highly recommend you hire one. Many ski schools, and also mountain guides, provide instruction in off-piste skiing, avalanche safety and mountaineering techniques. Make your time in the mountains unforgettable for the right reasons, ski safe!