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Sunny skiing throughout the Chamonix valley and beyond

Warm weather and clear skies for now but more snow is on its way

Featured in:

Graham Pinkerton | Chamonix Reporter | Published: 31 Jan 2018


Sunny skiing throughout the Chamonix valley and beyond

Do you remember watching TV game shows in your youth where crestfallen competitors, having failed to correctly guess the 4th most popular legume in Europe, would be shown a selection of jetskis and cuddly toys along with the phrase "and here's what you could have won"? Well, that's kind of how I feel writing this. A report on the lovely sunny weather we've been enjoying for the last few days whilst knowing it's all going to change on Wednesday.

How's it been anyways? Well, the pistes have been great! Through the Mont Blanc tunnel, in Courmayeur, there was a 20-30cm snowfall on Friday which gave the slopes a good freshen up and, combined with the top rate piste grooming, makes for probably the best piste skiing on the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass right now. Off-piste in Italy conditions are good, with north facing slopes still holding light powder snow. However, the weekend's crowds have harvested most of the easily assessed snow leaving only the more hidden patches or the areas that require a bit of legwork to get there.

In the Chamonix valley, we didn't get that extra little snowfall on Friday but by following the conditions around through the day there's still great piste skiing to be found. The warmer temperatures and strengthening sun mean lower altitude and east, south or west-facing slopes are quite firm first thing, and need the sun to soften off the snow. Leave it too late, though, and things are quite slushy and soft. The exceptional snowfall of this season means that all slopes have great cover and any piste closures (such as the Lachenal piste at Flegere) are due to the risk of avalanche.

Off-piste, the re-opening of Grand Montets top lift and the lifting of the pedestrian-only period on the Brevent top lift have vastly increased the available off-piste terrain. Unfortunately, at Brevent the combination of heat and sun has meant that there are only small areas of the Hotel Face still holding good snow. Still, the cover is great and ready for the next top up. Generally, at higher altitudes north through to east aspects are still holding good snow, whilst lower altitudes have spring snow on south to west aspects, AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME OF DAY only.

Up at the Aiguille du Midi, the ropes are in place on the arete and skiers have been enjoying exceptional snow cover for late January. The avalanche debris over the run from the Buvette back to Planards has all had paths cut through them making the return ski to Chamonix even simpler. It's not all good news. The first pitch of the Grand Envers variation has seen a large avalanche which makes accessing the route difficult and the PGHM have been performing frequent rescues on the Vallee Blanche too so, if you're unsure if you should be skiing there, speak to a guide.

Of course, such good conditions make the Midi even busier than usual, so we took advantage of the "super" moon to make a moonlit descent of the Vallee Blanche. With only five other people on the mountain, it certainly felt quieter than usual but my toes were missing the warmth of the daytime!

So, that's what you could have won but in this game of Chamonix Fortunes, nobody goes home empty handed! As a consolation prize, we've got several days with snowfall down to lower altitudes than the last few storms have brought us. Thursday and Sunday look like having the most precipitation, whilst Friday and Saturday are likely the coldest days. There's very low confidence in the forecast just now, though, so it's probably best to just look out the window in the morning and make a call from there. Further ahead, the indications are that it will remain unsettled and cold until Wednesday next week but there's a fair chance that'll change.

Good game, good game, have fun out there!

Ski safely off-piste

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!