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:

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year! + Snow conditions report Savoie New Year 2017

As the last few hours of 2016 roll away and we welcome in 2017 its time to wish all offpisteskiing blog readers a Happy New Year! Here's hoping 2017 is full of cold powder and perfect spring snow...

Further to the last post, I have just finished 3 days in the Haute Tarentaise & Haute Maurienne working alongside IFMGA Guide Andy Nelson and BASI Instructor Dave Meyer with the assembled Chapatte/Schneider clans. With the weather set firmly to 'blue sky' we were able to maximise the potential available with a bit of skinning from Le Fornet, finding some great areas of creamy snow right down to 2200m.

Plenty of snow out towards the Col des Fours:

It was Sam's 30th birthday so we sneaked a bottle of champagne into my rucksack for a surprise party/picnic at the Fond des Fours hut, here Sam is attempting to 'sabre' the champagne with an ice axe - a more traditional opening was eventually used...

A fox hole (or possibly a fox had dug out a shallow marmot hole?) - first time I have seen one of these out in the middle of nowhere:

Good snow in the Montet valley:


Bird's eye view of the Haute Tarentaise:

To sum up current conditions for the French Alps - head for the border ridge, one or two valleys further in and you will find much less snow! Fingers are crossed that 2017 will bring a change to the current weather patterns...

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A quick update from the French Alps

It has been quite quiet here at Offpisteskiing HQ - a busy week of work for the opening week of the 3 Valleys, but last week I had programmed in some family time over Christmas with some fun days skiing with Jr 1 and Jr 2 who both seem to have caught the bug now! Back to 'the office' today in St Foy, working with my good friends Dave Meyer and Andy Nelson - Dave and I go waaaaay back to my first season teaching skiing at Nevis Range back in 95/96!

Conditions are exceptionally lean (no news there) but there is still some fun skiing to be had. Today was our first day with a couple of families who are keen to do some touring, so we had a good 'shakedown' day skinning and skiing the South side of the Foglietta, going over some basic uphill technique tips, and building in a good transceiver/shovel/probe session.

Snow in St Foy is non-existant (barring man-made on the pistes) below 2000m, but up higher there is actually a reasonable covering (for early season) and some nice patches of wind-filled softness.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

...and we're off and running...

Despite a later start than usual due to other work commitments winter 2017 is now off and running!

Yesterday the lifts up in Courchevel opened for the winter so it was time to sneak in a run or two with 'offpisteskiing Jr'

Today I was skiing with Ali, Steve, Sue and Debbie. It is fair to say conditions are about as thin as they can be at this time of year - heading up the lifts from Mottaret the view was quite sobering:

There was a bit of fun stuff to ski up high in Val Thorens though:

It was eye-opening to see the number of skinning tracks all over the place, despite the lack of snow and very rocky terrain. Maybe I am getting old and cautious but given the current thin snowpack I would rate the chances of trashing my skis and/or myself quite highly at the moment (a la Schumacher and many others) - surely there are other ways to get an exercise fix whilst waiting for a base to build up?

Monday, 5 December 2016

2017 course dates and availability

A quick update with spaces available for our off piste coaching and adventure courses this coming winter:

Tarentaise Off Piste Performance 4 - 11 Feb 2017 - 2 spaces left.

Based in Bourg St Maurice, with easy access to the amazing off piste potential of Les Arcs, La Rosiere/La Thuile, St Foy, Espace Killy & La Plagne. This is a week of coaching and exploration, with our valley base allowing us the freedom to seek out the best snow and conditions.

Serre Chevalier Freeride 18 - 25 March 2017 - 2 spaces left

The Hautes Alpes area offers huge potential and variety for off piste skiers. This week is based in Serre Chevalier, with its huge linked lift system giving lots of great options including some amazing tree skiing. Within easy reach we also have the mecca that is La Grave, Montgenevre and the Italian Milky Way ski areas (Sestriere etc), Puy St Vincent, and slightly further away the Queyras ski areas - scene of possibly the best day of powder skiing I have had!

There is also still one space remaining on the legendary Steep Vanoise week running 13 - 17 March.

I will be sharing duties on this with IFMGA guide Dorian Labaeye who joined the team last year for an epic week:

Don't hesitate to get in touch for more details on these weeks