Behind the scenes of the Refuge De Leisse: Ski Touring and Skiing Off Piste Tignes and Val D’Isere
The Refuge De Leisse is behind the Grand Motte glacier in Tignes and can be accessed by many different routes. After my second season of ski teaching and guiding in the Espace Killy I am still amazed as to what this area has to offer. There are so many good off piste and ski touring routes beyond your dreams. I know instructors and people that have lived in Tignes and Val D’Isere for years and they have never seen the places that I have been too, the places that I have fallen in love with and places that I am still discovering. I get so excited when I have spare time which I spend hiking, touring and skiing these routes.
Beyond the pistes of Tignes and Val D’Isere holds the wilderness and natural beauty of the Vanoise National Park. In the parks in France and around the world there are mountain refuges. The best way to describe a refuge is that they are very similar to lodges. Many of these refuges are on hiking or ski touring routes so you can actually travel refuge to refuge, hut to hut. A lot of refuges are not manned for the main part of the winter and they are left as a winter room where you can stay for shelter. End of March to mid May dependant on snow and conditions these refuges are open and offer food and accommodation. The guardian of the refuge often ski tours in the winter or hikes in the summer into them which can take hours and sometimes days, just to start work. Each refuge is self suffcient as there are no supermarkets or corner shops nearby, the water supply is often a mountain stream which is diverted to the refuge. The water from the trough of the Refuge De La Leisse is the best I have ever drunk. Most food and supples are heli dropped once every couple of weeks. Most refuges are ran by solar power and the light switches are on a timer, you also don’t have internet access or any phone signal.
The easier route is skiing off piste from the Genepy piste around the back of the Leisse chairlift and then over the frozen marshlands. If you wanted to embark a more difficult route you can drop into 35 Glacier couloir and get to the refuge. You also can also arrive to the refuge by the Col De Sana, Refuge De La Femma, Col De Vanoise, the list is endless. Celine Terryn is the guardian of the refuge de Leisse. She will welcome you with open arms and make sure that your stay is as comfortable as she can.
Celine can tell you many good stories, ‘ One day I was ski touring alone to the refuge and the weather came in. I ended up touring in circles as I couldn’t see anything. It took me hours to get to the refuge as the only ski tracks I could follow was mine and they were going in circles.’ I asked her what happens when the weather gets really bad. She replied ‘This season the weather has been very up and down, when the winds get very strong I often stay in a room which is underground.’ The word brave entered my head. Like most of us doing seasonal work we have many strings to our bow and have many passions. Celine is a chartered physiotherapist when she isn’t working at the refuge and she surfs when she can. She is living the dream.
For more information visit the website of the refuge de Leisse.