Big Mountain Ski Touring 3 Day Adventure, Espace Killy

Normally I am very good at starting and finishing blogs but this time it is totally different as I don’t know where to start. Most people start from the beginning and finish at the end. I am going to start with the words mind blowing, exceptional and amazing. Even for me when I have been ski coaching for 16 years this three day hut to hut big mountain ski touring adventure in the Espace Killy is up there with the best. Nothing was set in stone, plans weren’t rigid or even completed. I knew I had three days off work and I wanted to escape and to explore the backcountry and I choose three companions to join me, Steve, Jerry and the adventurer Squash Falconer. I had decided that the first day was about my goal. The second day was to conquer Steve’s goal and the third to conquer Squash’s goal which was to ski tour up Pointe De La Sanna the third largest peak in the Vanoise National Park.

Day 1: Val Claret to Pointe Vallasionnay 3020m to Col De Croix and Col du Palet to refuge Leisse, 16th April 2016
With heavy snow falling in the village of Val Claret it was uncertain what the day or how the day would plan out. With Jerry out of the adventure due to a broken collar bone Squash, Steve and I pushed for the summit.  To Summit the Pointe de Vallasionay has always been a goal of mine in which I have tried twice to accomplish and hadn’t succeeded due to weather and the lack of skill and fitness of my companion. With a weather window this time it was possible.  We were surrounded by pure beauty and silence of the backcountry until the French Ski Touring military was on our same route who we lost as we scrambled over the back of the pointe and made our own solitary ski tracks in unknown territory. The sense of freedom was overwhelming and with noone in sight. Once we skied to the valley floor, we then skinned up and around Aiguille Noire back to Palet then into Val Claret with a race against time to get the last chairlift to the top of the glacier then a skate to the refuge Leisse. We arrived at the refuge closer to 6pm with a hunger in our stomaches and a sense of achievement.

Route: Pointe Vallasionannay
Off Piste skiing between: 
Max Gradient: 38-40 degrees
Uphill: 2 hr 15mins to Pointe 2 hrs to col du palet
Total Route time : 6.5/7 hrs
Total Return Route time from Tignes: 4hrs +
Skiers Level: Intermediate/Advanced off piste
Ski Touring Level: Intermediate/Advanced need to be able to kick turn on 38 degree slope
Start: Tichot Chairlift in Val Claret
Finish: At refuge De Leisse
Lift pass needed: Tignes
Map needed: 3633ET


Day 2: Refuge De La Leisse to Refuge Femma 17th April 2016
Waking up to silence and beauty with no social media allowed our batteries to be recharged   and our minds to think freely. Without Steve on Day 2 and with Squashes physical fitness, mind set and with my mountain skills our thought process and plan changed completely. We knew that we could ski tour up Pointe De La Sana anytime but I wanted to tick of a bigger challenge. A peak that is more unknown which stands out from the rest, the peak of Mean Martin 3330m which is on the far edge of Vanoise National Park. It was a peak that could only be achieved by getting to Refuge Femma. With only 400m vertical to climb and a 7km distance I knew it wouldn’t be a big day on the hill but it would take on a totally different challenge. The challenge of navigation in poor visability on a unknown route.  With a clearer weather window the following day we both knew that it would be achievable to reach Mean Martin if we could get to refuge Femma.  We decided to go for it. From the refuge de Leisse at 2487m we headed South touring up the steep slope of Cotes De Leisse dessus in a ‘Un Jour blanc’ (white day) to the french, the English call it a white out. With low visibility and seeing only a maximum of 15 m at a time we were navigating point to point. Feeling the terrain putting it to the map and using bearings with escape routes if necessary. Its one thing knowing where you are but it is also so important to know your escape routes and how to get out and get home. We were welcomed with a break in the clouds at Col De Pierre Blanche 2842m. Skiing down down from the Col was relaxing as we started to take the itinerary route down to refuge de la Femma with only 5km to travel and a vertical drop of 380m we were then engulfed in thick fog. It was a temperature inversion and I knew it wouldn’t lift till the next day. Keeping in a bandwidth of 100m heading east our visibility went to nul. I wasn’t able to see two ski lengths away not alone Squash 4m away. With a cliff drop below and a rock band above, we then had to find the steep gully to take us to the back of the refuge. I knew that the consequences of getting the route wrong was lethal at this time. I had to think quick on my feet and think instinctively and we needed a change of tactic. Working together as a team and with trust we changed direction and headed South and found the river Genervrey which we followed all the way down to the valley floor. We called it Relief River as we were both relieved to be able to see as we skied to the valley floor and then continued East to the refuge de la Femma.

Route: Refuge Leisse to Refuge Femma
Off Piste skiing between: 2842m to 2352m
Max Gradient: 25-35 degrees
Uphill: 2 hr 15mins to Col in poor vis
Total Route time : 4.5hrs in poor vis
Skiers Level: Intermediate off piste
Ski Touring Level: Intermediate
Start: Refuge Leisse
Finish: At refuge De La Femma
Map needed: 3633ET

Day 3: Refuge De La Femma to Pointe de Martin back to Tignes, 18th April 2016
Keeping an eye on weather outside of the window from the refuge I was getting excited about the adventure ahead and after a rested and peaceful night which included a shower  we were head of schedule being on our skis at 7.26am with a 4hr tour in front of us to the pointe and being chased down by a new weather front which was following us. With the fresh snow there was no tracks in sight just vastness of white snow and endless route opportunities. The peacefulness and the beauty of the backcountry was overwhelming and exhilarating. We were miles from anyone and with no sighting of human activity. We we three ridge lines and 5.5hrs of skinning uphill away from our home in Tignes. I just love the feeling of being closer to nature and the solitariness of the mountains and the immense freedom that you get being in the backcountry.

Once again ahead of schedule we were pleased to reach the summit of Mean Martin 3330m just after 11am after 3hrs 27mins of touring uphill. Leaving our mark on the mountain we skied fresh snow off the pointe and headed for Plan Des Fours where we ski toured up and dropped into a famous popular ski touring route Col De Fours. Stopping for refreshments in a solitary mountain restaurant off cugnei we then returned into the hustle and bustle of the Manchet Valley which took us into Val D’Isere and then back on the pistes to Tignes. What an adventure and finally a few goals ticked off.

Watch the amazing video of the ski down from Pointe De Mean Martin 3330m. 

Route: Refuge De La Femma to Pointe de Martin back to Tignes
Off Piste skiing between: 3330m to 1650m
Max Gradient: 45 degree
3hrs 27mins to pointe Mean Martin, 1hr 17mins to plan des fours
Total Route time : 
8.5 hrs 
Skiers Level: 
Intermediate/Advanced off piste
Ski Touring Level: 
Intermediate/Advanced need to be able to kick turn on 42 degree slope
Refuge De La Femma
Tignes Les Boisses 1800m
Lift pass needed: 
Espace Killy 
Map needed: 

So I will finish this blog with the words that I started with mind blowing, exceptional and amazing adventure and now I am looking forward to the next one.

If you would like to ski this route or another route similar please get in contact with FREEFLO. FREEFLO specialises in progressive on and off piste skiing, backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses in Tignes, Val D’Isere, St Foy and La Grave. Please visit our site: www.freefloski.com  and join our newsletter for free. Like us on Facebook and Instagram and we will keep you up to date on posts, photos and videos for free. Check out more adventures with Squash at squashfalconer.com.

Author: iwood.web
Categories: Uncategorized

Step into your next adventure

New Year, New Start and New Courses

Winter 2015/16 has definitely arrived and its exciting times for FREEFLO. I have rebranded from JCSkiing to FREEFLO with a focused offer of progressive on and off piste skiing, backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses.

Our brand new website has had a facelift and we’d love you to follow us on social media for updates and news. For full effect, check out the new Instagram account which allows you to share the passion without even being here!

As I start my 16th season of teaching, and my third season in the Espace Killy, my passion and skiing and coaching has never been stronger. There are always more mountains to explore and new routes to find.

This season I’m returning to the off piste mecca of La Grave in the Southern French Alps to deliver my Off-Piste Experience course. Unfortunately both courses are fully booked, however, I’m sure I’ll be heading back there in the future, I love La Grave!

With excellent feedback from last season’s courses FREEFLO has partnered up with Mountain Sun and the Melezes Hotel  where the staff are so friendly and the food is so good. FREEFLO is offering a Womens Introduction to Ski Touring Weekend, which is made by women, for women! You can be relaxed and be yourself whilst skiing at your own pace and learning and making like minded friends on the way. For all you women out there step into your next adventure and come and join us. Get in touch via [email protected]

Womens Intro Ski Touring Weekend

To finish our season with a bang we are offering an Off piste and Ski touring course for the intermediate skier who has had experience skiing off piste and a small amount of ski touring. This course is all about the search of good snow and stepping a bit further away from the pistes. You will stay in a comfortable 4* chalet where you will be fed and look after a great day on the hill. What could be more appealing?

Step into your next adventure

With a focus on holistic performance, for all our courses we have a new partnership with Etixx UK, to offer complimentary elite nutrition to fuel your days on the hill and offers against future purchases. We are also kindly supported by FatmapEmber GlovesSnow-Forecast and Tignes Spirit.

Great memories and adventures are up for grabs. Start your 2016 on a high and we will look forward to skiing with you.

Jocelyn Cockle (Floss)
Director of FREEFLO

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Author: iwood.web
Categories: backcountry, basi, british female instructor, british ski instructor, off piste courses, scarpa boots, ski courses, Uncategorized

What are Skins?

The History and info about Skins:

Often when I am talking to clients about ski touring which involves going uphill I am confronted with their puzzled and confused face and the question of HOW? The answer is that we put skins on and go uphill which makes the client even more confused then before.

By most accounts skis and skins have been around for thousands of years. For a long time skiing was called ‘skilaufren’ (ski walking). The term for ski riding and downhill skiing wasn’t born until the 1920’s and 30’s. With technology advancing so much during the first world war and the postwar revitalisation programs in Austria and Germany led to the first Gondolas which along with ski lifts changed the face of skiing forever and was then called ‘skifahren’ ski riding.

Before lift-assisted skiing, the masses earned their turns by attaching skins to their skis for traction. At the time mammal skins were used and the cheaper option some people strapped fur twigs under their skis. The seal skin was a popular material because it fulfilled two contradictory purposes, gliding properties to go forward and to provide as much traction as possible to stop you from gliding backwards.

Skins contain three parts: 

  • The Plush
  • The Backing
  • The Attachment

The Plush:

In these modern times in Europe we often use mohair (goat hair) daily due to tradition where as synthetic skins are used more worldwide. Synthetic skins will last longer compared to natural fibre skins. You can have a combination of both. However, mohair skins have better gliding properties in colder snow compared to the nylon skins which last longer and are better in warmer conditions.

The Backing:

The Backing is what the Plush adheres to on one side and the adhesive to on the other which is generally made of nylon. Over there last couple of year recent technology has produced vacum base skins which don’t use adhesive.

The Attachments:

For a long time a leather strap around the skis was used to secure the skins onto the skis which caused a lot of problems on the traverse. The Swiss Army come over this problem by drilling holes in the skis and bolting the skins onto the base of the ski. Nowadays we have more elaborated tail and tip attachments which secure the skins.

Step into your next adventure and experience ski touring and the backcountry: www.freefloski.com


Freeflo png

Author: iwood.web
Categories: activities, backcountry, basi, british ski instructor, Espace Killy, fatmap, France, horsdpiste, maps, navigation, off piste, off piste courses, off piste skiing, offpiste skiing, scarpa boots, ski, ski courses, Ski guiding and teaching, ski instruction, Uncategorized

Ski Season 2014-15 Starts Now in the Espace Killy!In the great resorts of Tignes and Val D’Isere

After the summer in the UK its great to get back into the mountains and to start getting fit by doing some ski touring! In the Espace Killy you can find the best ski touring.What a great way to start the 2014/15 season.

Aigullie Noire de Promecou 2977m in the background IMG_3289

Different to any ski school FREEFLO offers intutive British Personal Ski Coaching in the snow-sure resorts of Tignes, Val D’Isere and La Grave. We specialise in all mountain and off piste skiing, plus backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses. Fun and passionate we are highly experienced and fully qualified to work in France. With FREEFLO the quality of your experience, and safety are our priorities. With passion we help people to improve, have fun and to enjoy the freedom of the mountains. For further information please drop an email to: [email protected]


Author: iwood.web
Categories: Uncategorized

Book your Ski holiday in reverse!!!


Speaking with so many people and teaching people to ski on holiday I often hear that people book their ski holiday back to front. First they pick the resort that they want to go in, then they book where they want to stay and then finally they try and get into a ski school at later notice and find themselves disappointed or that the ski school is booked up . When you make that decision to go on a ski holiday you make that important decision to go skiing. Skiing and improving your skiing is the most important part of your holiday and its so important to be taught by good ski schools and good teachers.

So try and book your holiday in reverse you won’t be disappointed.
Research the ski schools and independents and then book ski tuition.
Look at where you want to stay then book the accommodation.
Then book the flights and transfers.

Happy ski holidays


Author: iwood.web
Categories: Uncategorized

Reading the signs: The Cirrus cloud Ci

The weather in the mountains can change so quickly. Often weather forecasts conflict against each other and nothing is for certain. In this case I always look into the sky and read the signs.


A sighting of Cirrus clouds is often a good clue for the deterioration of weather and a new front coming in. They are characterized by thin, wispy strands, giving the type its name from the latin word cirrus meaning a ringlet or curling lock of hair. The strands of cloud sometimes appear in tufts of a distinctive form referred to by the common name of “mares’ tails”. The position of these mares tails often give you the wind direction.

These amazing delicate looking clouds generally appear white or light gray in colour and form in the high atmosphere at altitudes above 5000m. The amazing thing is that they can form on other planets, including Mars,Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, and possibly Neptune. They have even been seen on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. Just beautiful.

Author: iwood.web
Categories: Uncategorized

Fresh powder turns in Sainte Foy 8th of Feb 2014

I woke up to the smell of fresh powder. Seeing fresh snow fall the day and night before of up to 50cm there was no chance I was going to over sleep. I was too excited! It was my day off from teaching in Tignes and Val D’Isere, working independently for myself JCskiing and for Ultimate Snowsports Ski School.  This was my chance to explore and to play in the backcountry. Just a 15 minute drive from Tignes Les Bossies we had arrived in the small gem of the resort of Station of St Foy. Whilst riding the first chairlift the powder opportunities where endless. We took the low traverse from the top of the Marguise chairlift and was confronted to white untracked face of powder. Putting fresh tracks in the untracked snow. It was amazing!!then we cut into the trees for four more runs. It was too good to stop for lunch.

When the high traverse was cut from the Marguise chairlift it was then time to go into the backcountry…of the Vallon de Mercuel. We arrived into the untracked open bowl of deep powder where every right turn I was getting powder in my face known as face shots.IMG_2295                                       IMG_2312

Then we skied into the tree line and cross the river. Then 20/30 minutes of skiing the snow luge run, then the foot path through sleepy closed hamlets onto a road ending up into the pretty village of Le Miroir where we took the public bus back to the Station of Sainte Foy. Amazing!!!and that was just the morning!

Different to any ski school FREEFLO offers intutive British Personal Ski Coaching in the snow-sure resorts of Tignes, Val D’Isere and La Grave. We specialise in all mountain and off piste skiing, plus backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses. Fun and passionate we are highly experienced and fully qualified to work in France. With FREEFLO the quality of your experience, and safety are our priorities. With passion we help people to improve, have fun and to enjoy the freedom of the mountains. For further information please drop an email to: [email protected]


Author: iwood.web
Categories: Uncategorized