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Sun & clouds in Chamonix this week

Getting lost in the clouds, but it makes the times where you can see where you're going all the better

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Graham Pinkerton | Chamonix Reporter | Published: 21 Mar 2018


Sun & clouds in Chamonix this week

It's a wonderful thing technology... Back in the dim and distant past of a decade ago if you wanted to know what the weather was doing on the hill beyond what you could see out of the window you had to go and look for yourself. Now, with the wonders of webcams and 4G, you can just check your phone.

So on a cloudy Monday morning, we eschewed looking out the window for a quick flick through the webcams. Mostly shades of grey but there, on the Brevent cam, was a hint of a break in the clouds. We hotfooted it over to Plan Praz then on up, through more cloud, to the very top of Brevent. The light was still flat, but we could see all the way to the Arve valley. If that gap in the clouds kept coming our way, well, we'd hit the jackpot. Heading round the traverse to the Hotel Face the visibility continued to improve and we were congratulating ourselves on our wiley mountain sense and abilities at reading the conditions.

We arrived at the top of Hotel Face. The clouds completely closed in. The snow on the descent was, sans doute, excellent. Unfortunately when we could hardly see the tips of our skis it was difficult to fully appreciate the quality as had been predicted so pithily by the Meteo France Avalanche Risk Bulletin.

We finally got back to the piste and enjoyed that round to the Sources Chairlift which we took en-route to running away to Flegere. There wasn't much more of a window in the cloud over in Flegere, but off the Evettes Chairlift we could at least happily ski the trees. This area is one of the many Chamonix anomalies. Some days you can ski here in excellent powder and hardly see another soul, other days almost everything is tracked. Monday was closer to the latter, however with some creative traversing and a little side stepping there were still plenty of fun bits of untouched snow and terrain to play in. 

A lap off the Index chair into the Lachenal bowl didn't provide us with the usual stunning view of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Aigullies towering over the town, but the piste was fairly smooth and by staying skiers left of the bowl we could score more turns through lightly tracked powder snow.

On Monday evening, Tuesday's forecast was for a cracking alpine day of blue sky and cool temperatures. A perfect day for high altitude skiing off the Midi or Grands Montets lifts, but as we didn't fancy the crowds we headed in the opposite direction to Les Contamines where you can usually enjoy the mellow off piste in between the excellently groomed pistes, and as a predominantly family resort, all without the powder day stress that can sometime hit Chamonix.

Tuesday morning's weather didn't quite fit the previous evening's forecast, but a quick look at our trusty webcams saw the cloud burning off from the highest points of Les Contamines, so off we trotted. 

If Monday's visibility had been bad, then I don't know what you could call Tuesdays. It took three attempts to find the piste as we exited the Signal Cablecar! Indeed, I can confirm that the visibility was less than 28m, because we passed a sign saying "disembark, 28m" before we could see the top station of the chairlift.

Fortunately the cloud was coming and going, so between guddling about in the murk we had short spells of great visibility, where you could make the most of the conditions.

As ever with Les Contamines, it was no struggle at all to find untouched snow just next to the perfectly groomed pistes. It was just a shame that the windows to enjoy it were so short. We persevered, trying laps over into the Hauteluc sector as well as the front face of the resort, but to no avail. By lunchtime we'd had enough and bailed back to Chamonix, which was also still in the cloud for the most part. Just to change our Fear Of Missing Out to Knowing We Were Missing Out we looked at the Courmayeur webcams. A perfect sunny day. As the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Based on the above story of poor judgement, make of the following predictions for the week ahead what you will, but it would seem that we'll make it to the weekend with mostly sunny weather combined with some low cloud (sound familiar...?) and temperatures below the seasonal average. Forecast reliability tails off significantly at the weekend and we might be looking at light to moderate precipitation, or it might be much the same as during the week. 

After the weekend and through to the end of the month there looks to be a shift in the weather back to yet more snow and temperatures a touch below the seasonal average. In particular the last half of next week sees some big figures being bandied about for snowfall, but then again, as the saying was famously re-appropriated, "Fool me once, shame on-shame on you. Fool me-you can't get fooled again..." I'm not sure if George Bush Jr is much of a skier though.