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Fresh snow but zero visibility at Le Tour

Low cloud and snowfall make for challenging conditions

Featured in:

Alison Shayler | Chamonix Reporter | Published: 24 Feb 2017


Fresh snow but zero visibility at Le Tour

After days and days of back-to-back sunshine, the weather finally turned and some of that white stuff that usually characterises winter in a ski resort began to fall from the sky.

We woke up this morning to rain down in the valley and low cloud, through which you could just about to make out the snowline across the mountains. A quick glance at the lift status revealed that all seemed to be open at Le Tour, so off we went, the sun seeming to be forcing its way through the clouds at that end of the valley.


Heading up in the gondola didn’t look too promising, rising up into swirling white mist. We didn’t fare much better on the Autannes chairlift but our plan was to head over to the Vallorcine side of the Domaine du Balme, where the trees would give us some visibility.

Tootling round the Liaison Balme cat track to the Evettes piste was a good test of balance; the visibility was so poor that as soon as you lost sight of any point of reference, you had no idea where you were going. I could have been hurtling along like a runaway train or skiing at a geriatric snail’s pace for all I knew.


Just before we got to the top of the Vallorcine gondola we swerved left towards the start of the Variante Evettes; a short steep slope that brings you down an alternative route to rejoin the main piste. All of a sudden… we could see! And better still, it was completely untouched. Granted, it wasn’t epic powder but there was a good 15cm of fresh snow to catch a few freshies in. The snow all the way down to the Tete de Balme chairlift was pretty good; light and soft with pockets of powder at the sides of the piste. Good enough that we were happy to lap it a few times; but the weather had other plans and as the chairlift rose above the tree line we were blasted by a fierce northerly wind that was apparently strong enough to force a lift closure. So without the option of staying amongst the trees we had to head back over to the swirling white gloom of the front side.


Hey-ho, these things happen, but at least we skiing somewhere that we know like the back of our hands… right? Within minutes of heading down the Solonges piste we were utterly lost. We couldn’t see the piste markers, we couldn’t see the lay of the land, we could barely see each other. My ski buddy didn’t have his glasses on and flat light makes my head go all spinny, so it was literally a case of the blind leading the blind. After a fair bit of blundering about on blue ice, windblown snow and the tops of bushes we found ourselves in a little gully full of fresh powder - which would have been lovely in other circumstances. Then, out of the gloom came a vision in red… a ski instructor leading a group of beginners back down the mountain. We slipped and scrambled back onto the piste and tagged on behind them.

Once we got back to Charamillon we whizzed down the home run and was surprised to find it in reasonably good condition; a bit heavy towards the bottom but well covered with no rocks or icy bits lurking beneath the surface.


Today’s lesson was that even a bad ski day has it’s merits and dodgy conditions only contribute to making you a better skier. Also, never forget to check the webcams before heading merrily up the mountain. The skies are due to clear over the weekend, so the next few days are looking good for fresh snow and sunshine, with the possibility of more snow by the middle of next week.