Friday, 17 February 2017

Fort William Mountain Festival

This weekend I will be presenting a slideshow/talk on this spring's Baffin Island expedition at the Fort William Mountain Festival on Saturday night (18th Feb). If you are in the area why not come along! Tckets are available here.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Off Piste Perfection Tarentaise

This week I was running the Off Piste Perfection coaching week, a collaboration between www.offpisteskiing.com and Jagged Globe.

Based in Bourg St Maurice this is a mobile week of off piste coaching, and with les Arcs, La Plagne, La Rosiere/La Thuile, St Foy and Val D'Isere/Tignes all within easy reach there is great potential to follow the good snow, weather conditions and pick the best terrain to develop everyone's skiing.

Sunday was forecast snowy and windy, and there are few better places than Les Arcs in those conditions, with lots of open easy tree-skiing to kick the week off:


Stuart checking out some ski heritage at lunchtime in Arcs 1600:


On Monday the forecast was still cloudy and snowy so we headed for the trees of St Foy. Sadly the Marquise and Aiguille chairs didn't open (partly due to a problem with the Gazex avalanche control systems! There is still lots of potential low down though, and we had a very productive day mixing technique and tactics on the lower meadows and tree lines:



On Tuesday we went back to Les Arcs and had a great day in the trees around 1950 and 2000, taking the tactics developed earlier in the week on to steeper angles:




Wednesday saw us heading up to Val D'Isere to make use of the steep terrain for a technically-focussed day which saw everyone making some great changes to their skiing.

The weather forecast was good for Thursday and we headed back up to Les Arcs with a view to finding some untracked snow away from the masses:



Friday was the last day for the team and we chose St Foy as the venue to find some testing snow and slopes to put the week's progress into action:



Thanks to Stuart, Ann and Elaine for their great company through the week, and willingness to make the most of the tricky weather in the first few days!!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Maurienne magic 2017 style.

Of all the parts of the French Alps the Maurienne valley has done particularly well in what has been an otherwise tricky start to the season.

John, Ian, Perry and Phil certainly didn't disagree this week - despite a damp day on Tuesday we had 5 brilliant days of off piste coaching and adventures...

Grey skies and an ever-increasing wind didn't stop us having a great day exploring and developing steep ski technique in the Valfrejus couloirs:



On Friday we were blessed with the perfect weather window - clearing as the sun rose, and closing in as we finished skiing - a top notch powder day!




Once again the off piste skiing in the Maurienne valley proved its worth - versatility, lots of options, and very few people... I am looking forward to getting back down there in 4 weeks time!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

January catch-up - Andermatt, Vanoise, Maurienne

Time for an update after a long absence! - Work, family and flu have combined to keep me away for a while...

A couple of weeks ago I was back in Andermatt for 6 days of off piste coaching. We arrived under heavy snowfall and this really set up the week, with great conditions to be skied both on the Gemstock as well as on the smaller areas nearby. A productive week with Ed, Peter, Kate, Malcolm and Chas:


According to the media there wasn't much snow this January:


Classic Switzerland:


Did I mention the powder?


Alpine lighthouse:


Chas enjoying the powder:


Peter putting his improved powder-mojo to good use:


A cosy coffee stop for the team:


Last week I was back on home turf in the Vanoise coaching IFMGA guide Andy Perkins and friends - a regular slot for a few years now. With snow conditions still quite average we spent a lot of time with a strong technical focus, with some great results. Right now I am in the middle of a week in the Maurienne Valley with Phil, John, Ian and Perry. In a repeat of our week last winter we have managed to hit a week with 'challenging' conditions but managed to find some great smooth chalky snow earlier in the week, and some good powder turns today:


John:


Ian:



On a serious note the snowpack is still very much in 'early season' mode, with a shallow pack and lots of potential weak layers - we witnessed a sizeable slab release today (skier-triggered) which had the potential to have serious consequences. Stay safe out there folks!




Thursday, 19 January 2017

Chamonix Off Piste Coaching

Last week I was based in Chamonix, running 5 days of off piste coaching for Tim, John and Phil. With snow very thin on the ground (or granite) in Chamonix we played the 'lateral thinking' cards and managed to find some reasonable snow to ski on every day with a short drive...

The guys all made great progress throughout the week, with some big changes put in place:





Bonus bumper powder day on the Friday to reward the gang for their perseverance!


Overall conditions remain thin, despite the big fall of snow over the weekend we are effectively now running on a mid-December style snowpack - lots more needed to bring us back towards normal - areas with grass or glacier underneath will still be a good bet until the next snowfall!

Shapes of things to come...

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Its all in the mind(set) - with bonus update!

Last night someone cancelled a day of coaching/guiding we had booked for later this week as 'they had been up and there was obviously nothing worthwhile to ski'.

This attitude seems to be relatively common but misses one big point which is: it is a very rare day (or set of circumstances) that something worthwhile cannot be achieved with the day, we may simply have to adjust our expectations. Yes there is not a whole lot of off-piste options available at the moment in many places, but these are exactly the days when we can pull in a strong technical or tactical focus, and with no 'extraneous distractions' of powder or similar make some real lasting changes in our skiing. One of my best sessions ever happened on a rainy day in Courchevel when I had to cajole the clients out of their hotel on the basis of 'we will ski until we are too wet then call it a day'... Having set off out at 9:20, the last client finally called it quits at 1:30pm, and we had had a brilliant session lapping one button lift and one red run and doing some really good skiing! Possibly not as much fun as skiing powder on a blue sky day, but definitely worthwhile (as backed up by many rebookings from that same group of clients).

I have just finished 2 days coaching an Aspirant Mountain Guide up at the Grands Montets where conditions are the 'bony-est' I have ever seen - super-low tide, but over 2 days John made some lasting changes, and the challenging conditions were perfect for highlighting what was and wasn't working:


** Update 5 Jan 2017 **

Further to the thoughts above today I was running a day of CPD coaching two British Mountain Guides. They were making the drive over from Chamonix for the day, and we were working on a plan of making the best of whatever conditions threw at us... and as it happened it was rather good: