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Season draws to slushy conclusion in Chamonix

Get the your last turns in before May 5th

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Graham Pinkerton | Chamonix Reporter | Published: 24 Apr 2019

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Season draws to slushy conclusion in Chamonix

Dotted around the pistes are the signs "Warning, slushy snow". Warning? Surely it should say "Woop, slushy snow" or even "Get over here! Slushy snow". Powder's great and all, but being honest, it's generally pretty cold. And it does get into every gap of your clothing if you fall. Slush on the other hand only comes out when the temperatures are balmy, the sun is in the sky, and there's no wind.

OK, so there's an exception to that rule which is when the foehn wind blows. A meteorological phenomena which in the Chamonix area generally means heavy precipitation on the Italian side of the massif and a warm dry wind, often disruptively strong, on the French side. And that's what we've had several days this week.

No matter, there's been plenty to get going at as the ski areas of the Alps wind down for their spring break before summer activities kick in. As of Easter Monday the only piste skiing in Chamonix is up at Grands Montets. Brevent and Le Tour had their final fling on the 22nd. If you were up in the last few days you'll know how many slushy moguls were to be found below the Parsa chairlift at Brevent, or how much fun the various gullies on the front face of Le Tour were in the softened snow. If you weren't you'll have to wait until December for your next chance.

At Grands Montets the good news from Good Friday was that the Bochard telecabine was back in service. After a couple of weeks whilst repairs were carried out, the lift is back in action. Whilst this makes access into the Lavancher bowl much easier, the closure for the end of season of the Pendant Retour chairlift makes getting out of the bowl slightly more complicated. In saying that, the snow was rapidly disappearing near the base of the chairlift, and it's not too hard to traverse back over in time to make it round to the Tabe chairlift instead.

Indeed, the biggest issue at Grands Montets on Tuesday wasn't lift related but wind related. Whilst the foehn wind was hardly noticeable in the Lavancher bowl or around the Bochard lift, anyone trying to go for a short tour over the Col des Rachasses and onto the Argentiere Glacier was made all too aware of how strong it was as they got above the Herse chairlift. As ever, there's a silver lining to all conditions in the mountains and that same warm dry wind was helping to smooth out the slopes lower down. There are other options if you want to ski resort before April 28th, but fancy a change from Grands Montets. If you have a Mont Blanc Unlimited pass for six or more days then you can head over to Verbier for a days riding there. Season pass holders can go one better and check out their booklet of free day passes to other Haute Savoie ski areas.

That's what we did on Monday with a trip over to La Clusaz. Followers of skiing social media will be well aware of La Clusaz as the home of Candide Thovex, and venue for his "one of those days" edits. Skiing there helps you live out your dreams of being just like Candide, with lots of playful natural terrain to hop, skip and jump your way around. There's even some massive kickers if you want to see what that headcam footage looks like first person. Or you can just sit back in the sun and watch the locals.

What's the weather going to do? Undecided is the professional forecasting opinion. Sunshine and showers with occasional warm foehn wind seems the consensus through until the end of Thursday. Colder with showers and probably a bit less wind Friday through to Sunday. The interesting bit of the forecast is those colder showers later in the week. Could we have a return to powder for the final week of the season? Time will tell, but if not, I'm happy with sunshine and slush.