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Conquering the Slopes: How to Overcome Fear and Enjoy Skiing

Introduction: Conquering the Slopes: How to Overcome Fear and Enjoy Skiing- 8 Tips

Skiing can be an exhilarating and enjoyable winter activity. For many people, fear can be a significant obstacle to overcome. Whether it’s the fear of speed, losing control, or the possibility of injuries, these concerns can dampen your skiing experience. However, with the right mindset and some helpful strategies, you can conquer your fears and embrace the thrill of skiing. In this blog post, we will explore effective techniques to help you conquer the slopes and how to overcome fear and enjoy skiing.

Conquering Fear in the Backcountry
  1. Understand and acknowledge your fears:
    The first step in overcoming fear is identifying and understanding what specifically frightens you about skiing. Is it the fear of falling? The sensation of speed? Or perhaps the fear of the unknown? By acknowledging your fears, you can begin to address them more effectively.
  2. Take professional ski lessons:
    Enrolling in ski lessons with a qualified instructor is a valuable investment, especially for beginners or those struggling with fear. A professional coach or instructor can guide you through the fundamentals of skiing. They can teach you proper techniques, and provide a supportive and safe environment. Their expertise and encouragement will help build your confidence and gradually diminish your fears.
  3. Start with beginner-friendly slopes:
    When starting out or overcoming fear, choose ski slopes that match your skill level. Beginning on gentler slopes allows you to gradually acclimate to the sport, build your skills, and gain confidence. You can slowly progress to more challenging terrain as you become more comfortable.
  4. Visualize success and positive outcomes:
    Visualization is a powerful tool for overcoming fear. Before hitting the slopes, take a few moments to close your eyes and imagine yourself skiing confidently. Feel the wind on your face, and experiencing the joy of gliding effortlessly. Visualizing positive outcomes can help reprogram your mind to focus on success rather than fear.
  5. Practice relaxation and breathing techniques: Fear often leads to tense muscles and shallow breathing, which can hinder your skiing performance. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or meditation to calm your mind and body. By consciously relaxing your muscles and maintaining a steady breath, you can enhance your focus, reduce anxiety, and improve your skiing ability.
  6. Set realistic goals and take them at your own pace:
    Set achievable goals for yourself and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate each milestone you reach, no matter how small. By taking the process at your own pace, you can gradually build your confidence and skills without overwhelming yourself.
  7. Surround yourself with supportive companions:
    Having supportive friends or family members who understand your fears can make a significant difference in overcoming them. Skiing with people who encourage and cheer you on will boost your confidence and create a positive skiing experience.
  8. Challenge yourself gradually: As you gain confidence, challenge yourself by gradually increasing the difficulty level of the slopes you tackle. Pushing your boundaries in a controlled and progressive manner will help you expand your comfort zone and overcome your fears step by step.

Conclusion: Overcoming fear while skiing is a personal journey that requires patience, determination, and a positive mindset. By understanding your fears, seeking professional instruction, starting with beginner slopes, practising relaxation techniques, setting realistic goals, and gradually pushing your boundaries, you can conquer your fears and fully embrace the thrill and joy of skiing. If you would Remember, fear is just an obstacle waiting to be overcome. With perseverance, you can unlock the true exhilaration that skiing has to offer. So, gear up, hit the slopes, and let go of your fears as you glide down the mountains with confidence and excitement.

If you would like to book online coaching and ski coaching to help you move forwards then step forwards and email: [email protected] or book a discovery call.

Watch the video below to give you tips to overcome ski fear.

FAST TRACK INTRO TO SKI TOURING

FREEFLO is offering a unique 3 Full day Fast Track Introduction To Ski Touring Course in Tignes and Val D’Isere, France.
Created and designed for intermediate skiers who have skied off-piste with little or no ski touring experience and want to be sat tracked into the new world of ski touring. If you are limited in time then this is the perfect course for you. Be led and guided whilst learning essential skills needed in the backcountry, building on your existing skills and confidence.  

Escape from the crowds and enjoy the peace, tranquillity and beauty of the backcountry whilst having fun and learning how to be safe when skiing in the mountains.

Date: Feb 21st-23rd 2023
Course Fee: €587.00 (Max group size 6)
Duration: 3x Full Days
Location: Tignes, Espace Killy, France 

Package includes

• €485 Ski Touring Kickstarter Digital Online Course 

• Free Membership in the Ski Motivation Hub 

• 3 Full Days of British backcountry ski coaching with Floss 

• Avalanche and transceiver workshop

• Photos & film of your week

What the course fee doesn’t include:
– Insurance
– Lift pass
– Lunch and snacks
– Equipment

What will you learn?
– Essential ski touring techniques
– Snow awareness, avalanche training
– Route selection
– Making better decisions in avalanche terrain
– How to improve your off-piste skiing
– How to use your ski touring equipment

What level of fitness do you need?
Level 1 fitness is needed for this course. You need to be able to ski all day with short stops for food and drink. You can ski off-piste all day and back-to-back days. You can ski tour uphill for a maximum of 2 hours at altitude. 

What level of ski ability do you need?
You must be able to ski red and black pisted runs with no problem and you can deal with some different snow conditions. You have confidence ability in skiing off-piste terrain and are able to link turns and control your speed using different radius turns up to 35 degrees. You are happy to ski in an open simple off-piste terrain.

What level of ski touring do you need?
This course is perfect if you have no or little ski touring experience. The pace is relaxed and a great introduction to touring. The maximum you will tour per day will be up to 500M.

Visit the backcountry of Tignes and Val DÌsere

Meet the Coach: FREEFLO
Floss Cockle is a BASI British International Ski Teacher L4 ISTD which is the highest teaching qualification available to a British coach anywhere in the world. She has the French Carte de Professional which allows her to work in France. With her great passion for teaching and being in the mountains, she has a wealth of experience and has coached skiing for twenty-five years. One of her biggest achievements is climbing and skiing the highest mountain in the Alps Mont Blanc 4810M as well as skiing the volcanoes of Patagonia.

Floss is a videographer and has her own youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/FreeFloFloss. Due to these digital times, she is also the creator of ski touring kickstarter which is an online ski touring course that teaches you how to get prepare successfully to get into ski touring.

Floss is also a Summer Mountain Leader and guides people in the UK Mountains. In the summer she is an adventure coach who helps people to reach their goals and dreams whether it is running a 10k to climbing famous peaks. If you are interested in online coaching book a free discovery call.

Insurance:
Getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue is highly recommended. FREEFLO will not be liable for injuries or accidents on the mountain. Ensure that your insurance covers your skiing off-piste beyond the ski boundary with a guide or an instructor. Buying a Carte de Neige with your lift pass in the resort or online is recommended as it will cover any mountain rescue without payment. 

You can purchase the carte de Neige in the resort with your lift pass for around €3 euros a day or you can purchase it online to beat the queues for a year at http://www2.ffs.fr/carteneige .

Kit list:
Skis:
Ideally an all-mountain ski with a ski touring binding that is 85-95cm underfoot. The length of the ski shouldn’t be too long (as it makes kick turns harder) and the ski tips of the skis should be between your chin and your eyes when standing.

Touring Bindings:
There are three types of bindings on the market:
1) Diamir Fritschi:
2) Marker Tour
3) Pin Bindings
Pin bindings and boots are lighter and easier to use for kick turns and going uphill but they do compromise in ski performance going downhill. We do recommend that you rent or have the lightest equipment possible for the backcountry course. Diamir and Marker bindings (where you use a regular downhill ski boot with walk mode) are heavier and don’t have the ankle flex for touring uphill, however the ski performance downhill is better. 

Skins:
Ideally, skins should be a mixture of mohair and nylon and must have a nose and tail clip. The skins should cover the whole ski and be only 2mm free from the edges.  Skins should be hung to dry after use but not over extreme heat after use.

Boots:
If you haven’t got your own ski touring boots you can rent them or use your downhill boots if they have a walk mode. Ski touring boots are highly recommended as they are light have a ski touring mode.

Poles:
Telescopic ski poles with a powder basket are essential.

Clothing:
Spring Touring:
Wear thin light breathable layers with a Gore-tex shell
Ski Trousers should have a zip on the outside of the leg for ventilation
Light synthetic mid-layer for the summit or a lightweight down layer.
A neck buff is always essential for ski touring in Spring and in Winter.

Winter Touring: In addition to the above add warm breathable layers and a down mid-layer jacket.
Gloves:
Inner liners and light but warm and waterproof gloves.

Accessories:
Suncream 50+, buff, googles with good and bad weather lenses, sunglasses, light beanie, headband (optional), cap to protect you from the sun, camera, go pro, cash, insurance cards, credit card, charged telephone, spare batteries for transceiver, battery charging pack, duck tape, penknife.  Helmet is optional but recommended.
First Aid Kit:
Ensure that you have a small first aid kit which includes; paracetamol, ibuprofen, plasters, bandages, compeed etc, so you can deal with first aid if you have to. Purchasing a blizzard blanket is recommended www.blizzardblanket.com
Avalanche Equipment:
A transceiver with three antennae and multiple search victim mode is recommended, 2m probe or longer and a steel shovel.
Water bottle, flask and snacks, packed lunch: For day tours please make sure you have a minimum of 1litre of water and a packed lunch. Nuts, dried fruit, energy bars and energy drinks for slow release energy instead just chocolate (but chocolate is always nice too!) Jelly babies for the coaches.
Backpack:
35-45 litre backpack ideally a top loader which sits comfortably on your back.
Map, Compass, GPS: (optional but good to have)
A silva expedition compass and maps are optional but very good to have, especially if you want to improve on your navigation skills. (Maps: Carte de Randonnee 3633T and 3532T for Val D’Isere, Tignes and St Foy. You can purchase the maps at the Tabac in Tignes.
Lift Pass: Please purchase an Espace Killy lift pass or a Forfait Rando pass at the STGM lift office in Le Lac or Val Claret on or before the first day of the course ahead of the introduction meeting. The lift pass office opens at 8.30am.
NB: All skis and equipment can be rented in resort at: Mountain Story in Le Lac Tignes

Rough Itinerary:
This is an example of the 3 Day backcountry adventure itinerary. An average day will be 9am – 4pm. The itinerary is likely to change due to individual and group goals and the weather.

Day 1: Introduction meeting.  Introduction to the use of avalanche equipment, ski touring equipment and techniques on lower pisted slopes. Warm up to find our ski legs on the piste with a technical focus on balance and other fundamental elements. Depending on weather conditions 200-300m ascent ski tour. Practice ski touring techniques, packing your ski touring bag and technical focus off piste skiing
Day 2: Technical focus on route selection, weather and decision-making in avalanche terrain.
Day 3: Technical focus on ski touring a longer route and leadership skills. 

Depending on weather conditions 200-500m ascent ski tour

Please let us know if you are interested in this course and if you know of anyone else that would by emailing Floss at [email protected]. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.  

I will look forward to skiing with you and giving you the skills.

Floss 

FREEFLOSKI

[email protected] 

www.freefloski.com

Ski Touring Kickstarter Online Course: Save Money and Time

Tips and Hacks To Improve Your Skiing

Adventure Coaching: Book Free Call 

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#1 Ski Touring Route This Winter 2020/21- Rocher De La Davie, Tignes area, 3159M

With no ski lifts open this winter in France due to Covid 19 the only way to make some turns is earning them and ski touring uphill. The ski touring route to Rocher De La Davie is not only a beautiful touring route of wilderness and sheer beauty. But it is also a special route for me.

Rarely I get the chance to climb over 3000m. It must have been a couple of years ago before my leg was broken that I ski toured up such a height. Then lockdown with Covid stopped everything. So being up here on La Rocher De La Davie 3159m last weekend meant a lot to me. It was my first big vertical tour in a long time. Determination and grit are the reasons why I got here!!

If you put your mind to something you can achieve it!!! So I wanted to share this journey with you because whatever goal you have you can do it! You can succeed even if the journey is hard, difficult and will take a long time. This blog is the proof!

ski touring summit rocher de la davie
On the Summit Rocher De La Davie 3159M

This route is such a beautiful and stunning route with breathtaking views all around. It is a route where timing is everything. If you tour up in the springtime then make sure you leave early to reduce avalanche risk as lot of the faces are west and southerly aspects.

Watch the youtube video: Please LIKE and SUBSCRIBE

Directions: You start by parking your car on the side of the road below the village. Then you walk up to the village and tour up follow the signs Orsiere village. Continue through the forest and before you get to Orsiere the forest will start to thin out and go east onto a wide and open face of Plan Du Geniviere. Work your way up until it starts to get steep then contour round to ridgeline and up to spot height 2819m. Then descend and a slight climb to the weather station. Once at the weather station contour round and the summit is in view in the background.

The view at summit de la davie
View at the summit of La Davie

Route: Le Villaret Des Brevieres to Rocher De La Davie
Off Piste skiing between: 1832m -3159m E/SE/S/W
Max Gradient: 38 degrees
Uphill: With good fitness 4.5 to 5 hours
Total Return Route time: 5.5/6hrs
Skiers Level: Intermediate/Advanced off piste
Ski Touring Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Start: From the road below the village Villaret Des Brevieres
Finish: Villaret Des Brevieres
Map needed: 3532ET

Powder Skiing Of La Rocher De La Davies, Tignes area
Powder Skiing Of La Rocher De La Davies, Tignes area

COMING SOON: If you want to get into ski touring and you don’t know how. Or if you have done ski touring a few times and you want to learn more then consider purchasing the Ski Touring Kickstarter digital course. Save time and money by making the right decisions and learn at your own pace. It is a lifetime course that you can always refer back to. For more info please email [email protected].

Ski Touring Kickstarter Course
Ski Touring Kickstarter Course

How my ski dream turned to reality- My Story Freefloski

‘Ski teaching is not a proper job… Get a proper job…’ is what everyone would tell me.

My story is different from most other stories. The majority of ski instructors come from a ski racing background. They are people who are born in the mountains and on skis. Just like you, I was an ordinary British person who was born in England where there was no snow or large mountains to ski down. A career of being a ski teacher was not recognised as being a proper job.

My first ski experience:

I will never forget my first ski experience. I was on holiday at nine years old with my family. We started skiing in a small resort in Spain and the whole week was a total disaster and a bad memory for me. I hated every moment of it, carrying my skis, wearing heavy and uncomfortable boots and being cold.

My instructor didn’t speak any English and had very little patience. To make matters worse, my brother picked skiing quickly up and was zooming effortlessly down the mountain. Next was my sister, with a full face of make-up, who adopted the perfect ski technique. I was a total disaster. I couldn’t turn left, I couldn’t turn right and I couldn’t get up to the top of the slope on a lift. It was a real struggle and not easy. I was scared and I didn’t understand anything. I didn’t know the ‘How to ski..’

skiing
Mastering the technique of falling over at 10 years old

At the end of my first week of skiing, the instructor did manage a sentence in English. He said to my parents, “Skiing is not for your daughter. ” Hearing that sentence just destroyed me and gave me no confidence at all. 

However, my Dad had other ideas. I wasn’t allowed to give up. Through his eyes giving up was a failure. Because of my Dad, I was back skiing again with the family on the next winter holiday.

A few years past, like millions of other people I found myself going down the path of getting a proper job. I finished my GCSE’s then my A’levels and started University in Nottingham. But I wasn’t motivated, fulfilled or happy and I knew deep down that something was missing.

After University:

After one teaching term, against my parent’s wishes, I left University. I started the next winter as a chalet girl in the ski resort of Courmayeur in Italy with Ski Inghams. The drinking and party culture of being a chalet girl had completely influenced me. One Sunday I was hungover and sitting on the chairlift in resort when I found myself talking to a stranger. The stranger’s name was Brian Fern. At the time he was a ski trainer for BASI which is the British Association of Ski Instructors. I remember thinking WOW, how cool is that he skies for a living. ! Working your passion.  I then saw him ski for the first time and I thought to myself that he was a SKI GOD…because he was amazing and made every turn with no effort. I was in love!

off piste skiing
European Mountain Safety in Chamonix     2007

That was the beginning of a fourteen winter struggle through the ski instructors system. I gave up everything and followed my dreams. I was a ski bum in pursuit of a ski teaching career in France! It wasn’t easy. Most summers I was working two jobs to finance the winter training and exams. I slept on some floors to save accommodation costs and sometimes I would sleep in my car. 

I remember starting my APC Level 3 Ski Coach course in a pair of twin tips skis and baggy pants. At the time I couldn’t afford the race skis and a nice shiny lycra race suit.

The ISTD level 4  is the last level out of the four levels of the system. It was the hardest and took me five winters to complete. The training and exams took their toll financially and physically. I remember the start of my 30’s being the broken years. I had encountered so many injuries, several broken bones, a couple of dislocations, torn tendons, concussion and a fused c8 vertebrae. Despite all the injuries and lack of funds I still had the drive and determination to finish the diploma. I didn’t want to be old in my rocking chair and have any regrets about life.

The turning point:

What was a turning point for me in this difficult time? I looked into how to improve different parts of my skiing. With research and speaking to others, I tested new strategies.  I developed ways of becoming a better ski athlete. I listened and made the changes and improved my skiing. From the inspiration of reading the book the Inner Game to Skiing and later the Inner Game to Tennis I also started to train my mind and to improve my mindset and as a result, my skiing and understanding went to the next level. I still coach these methods today and you can read another post on the Here and now in skiing that I have written.

It was the difference between night and day and in December 2012 with bib number 75 in Alpe D’huez I passed my euro test. I was the fastest girl in the race and .92 of a second inside the time. This achievement was the passport to my career in teaching skiing in France. I was so thrilled and overjoyed!!!! I was the 37th British woman to have ever passed this particular ski race. 

Today:

Now I teach people all the lessons I have learnt. The lessons. The mistakes. The secrets. The ski adventures. The ‘How’ …

If you’d like me to take a look at your skiing or give you some invaluable ski holiday advice drop me an email to [email protected].I have some free available one to one call sessions available.

I will look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best

Floss

P.S: For more skiing advice and tips subscribe and like us on youtube.

Ski Touring
Jocelyn Cockle, Director of FREEFLOSKI

P.S.S: Further reading that I recommend to help you to control your mindset is The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. It is a fantastic read which can help you in your day to day routines.

Freefloski Featured in the Ultimate List of Best Ski Schools in France

Ridestore Magazine Press Realease, 29th November 2019.
Jocelyn Cockle (Floss) of Freefloski in Tignes has been featured as one of the best ski schools in Tignes by Ridestore Magazine. Ridestore complied a mega ulitmate list of the best ski schools in France for the 2019/20 season, after all, the countdown is on to many of us ski and snowboard lovers, hitting the slopes! The team at Ridestore thought it was time someone put together a list of all the ski schools in the best and busiest resorts in France to make life a little easier for those that are frantically googling.

Ski Touring Tignes
Ski Touring Tignes

This list was created to try and take a little bit of stress out of selecting the right ski school for you. It doesn’t matter wether you are a first time skier, an intermediate looking to get rid of bad habits or a season rider who loved to learn the latest tricks and tips, its vital to find the right fit for you. Brits have been supporting French ski schools both big and small, always looking for the right tutiton that offers value for money and quality and experienced instructors; Just like Floss!

This ultimate list of the best schools rewards the schools who put their best foot (or ski boot) forward at all times to ensure first time and novice skiers and snowboarders, well riders of all levels have a fantastic experience on and off the slopes. The right ski school experience can make or break a trip after all and our annual (or if your lucky, bi-annual) ski trip is sacred and maxuimising your time is essential.

” Searching for a ski school, particularly in France where there are so many in each resort, can be a little stressful, only adding to the to-do-list further when booking a mountain adventure. Then if you want to advance your skills, in off-piste, touring or more specific niches, finding the right fit ski scholl wise, can be a challenge. Therefore, Freefloski was an outstanding candidiate for such specialised training in Tignes and was rightfully included in our ultimate list. I will have to message Floss when I am next in Tignes! “ stated Angelica Skykes from Ridgestore Magazine.

“There are lots of things to consider when booking a ski holiday, and choosing the right ski school is one that always proves challenging. Therefore, with this list we wanted to make the booking process taht bit easier, so you cna get on with the planning the rest of your trip” continued Angelica Sykes

Jocelyn Cockle, Director of Freefloski stated ” Its a competitive landscape in Tignes for ski schools, with plenty of instructors and schools offering the service but Ridestore Magazine gave us a honourable mention as providing something unique. We are able to give our clients the best possible touring and backcounty ski experience with passion at the forefront. Ensuring a relaxed and easygoing enviornment in which to your skills, push your spirits nad techique to the next level.”

FREEFLO Ski Touring Ski Courses in Tignes, Val D'Isere and St Foy
FREEFLO Ski Touring Ski Courses in Tignes, Val D’Isere and St Foy

To read the full entry about Freeflo Ski School, please visit Ridestore Magazine

Ski Touring Decision Making-Tignes 20th Nov 2019

The Preparation:
Always a good day ski touring in the mountains takes some sort of preparation. The night before I checked three weather forecasts one included my favourite snow-forecast.com. I decided that the conditions for ski touring were good for two days. In the morning I reaccessed the forecast. I packed my bag with enough food and equipment that gave me optionality, as I wasn’t certain how long we would be touring for. The plan of attack was to start touring up a piste called Palafour from Tignes Le Lac. The slope is south-east facing and we could stay warm in the sun. We would then decide where to go on route. We had no other concrete plans to arrive at a summit or to achieve a particular route.

On Route:
I decided to break trail off-piste as there were workers on the piste half way up.  Once we arrived at Chardonnet Bowl, we could really start seeing the mountain and reading the signs. Routes in Chardonnet bowl had been skied and two skiers were skiing down and not making it look easy. The wind affected certain summits and cols.  There was one group of 6 or 7 skiers or splitboarders going up a route called Grapillion Des Merles. The snowpack looked thin, the snow was uneven, there were sasturgi and plumes of snow. The group still decided to go up even if the route wasn’t inviting?

We decided to continue upon the piste to the snow park on Grattalu after discussing what we saw and how we felt. Our aim was to ski tour gentle and it was our second ski tour of the season. Two other ski tourers were happy to chat and to share some of their knowledge. They had told us that their friends had ski toured up Grapillion a few days ago and they found that the snow was dangerous, thin with lots of rocks. That news reinforced the decision that we made earlier not to follow the group. They also told us that they saw avalanche activity on west facing slopes and to be aware of the weak layers in the snowpack. We thanked them for their news and headed to the Col Du Palet taking on board what we knew and what we could see.

Knowing the routes into the col and knowing what I knew about the terrain, I decided to keep low and take a new flat touring line into the col to avoid rocks. Above we could see a man skiing on the ridgeline struggling with the lack of snow. So we kept our eyes on him and made sure we weren’t underneath him.

Col Du Palet 20th November

Reading the mountain for the ski down:
Once we arrived at the Col Du Palet we could read the mountain and the evidence of where was the best powder route down. We looked on to the back of Chardonnet bowl and notice a slab avalanche on the west face on route to diamond couloir. At lower altitude the fresh snow had been cross loaded to north-east slopes and gullies. With this info and what we could see, we then decided to handrail clockwise to a north-east gullie and enjoyed making fresh powder turns on a gentle slope.

https://youtu.be/2o2u0Ok4xkE

Ski Touring out:
Enjoying the fresh powder by ourselves, we soon arrived at lake Grattalu.  I had noticed that the lake hadn’t been frozen so it was best to stop before continuing any further. We then choose the easiest and most efficient route to get back to the col.  Once we reached the col, temperatures had risen and we were tired. To be on the safe side of caution, as I was coming back from a ski collision. We decided to take our own skinning track back onto the piste and headed home.  Another great day in the mountains. We were very happy with our decisions, we found the best snow, was safe and had a great day skiing powder with no one around.

I will be delivering mountain respect workshops throughout the winter. If you are interested please get in touch:  www.freefloski.com 

Happy Skiing 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Map showing the route to refuge de Leisse, Tignes
IGN Map showing the route to refuge de Leisse, Tignes

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.

Weather: How to read mountain weather for a ski touring or mountain adventure

Nowhere are we more vulnerable to the weather than on a mountain top or when we are traveling in the mountains. 

Reading mountain weather is a vital skill to ensure that you take the safest route in the mountains. I have taught skiing and lead groups in the mountains in summer and winter for over eighteen years. With my knowledge and experience here are some valid tips and some of my insights to weather.

Before you plan your adventure:
Before planning a trip or adventure read two or three weather forecasts the night before. Work out if all weather forecasts are telling you the same story. You can also look at weather charts to assess low and high-pressure fronts and where they have come from. Reassess the forecasts in the morning to see if there have been any changes. One of the forecasts that I use is snow-forecast. I can access a nine-day forecast which allows me to see what the weather is doing further away. This is a good tool to have and helps when planning a two or three-day ski touring expedition.

Assess before you start your ski or mountain adventure:
Assess the weather where you are. These are the questions that you need to be asking yourself. What altitude are you at? Is there any wind? What is the visibility? Are there any clouds in the sky? What is the temperature? Is the weather matching to the forecasts that you have seen? In most ski resorts there will be an information center where you can find out the forecast. Also at some ski lifts the weather and temperature are displayed. On my PEPS inclinometer, I have a temperature gauge so I can read the temperature throughout my journey. This also helps with the decision making in avalanche terrain.

Blue skies and no weather fronts in vision on the horizon

Assess on the route:
This is where most people go wrong and get into danger whether it’s in an avalanche or they get caught in bad weather. NEVER have tunnel vision and solely focus on one goal, one summit or one route. You have to be flexible and adapt your journey to the weather you have and predict the weather that is coming. Assess the conditions where you are and ask yourself similar questions. What altitude are you at? Has the wind increased or decreased? What is the visibility? Is the weather changing for better or for the worst? What is the temperature doing? On average the temperature cools down one degree for every 100 meters that you climb. Is that happening? What are your exits? What is your plan B if the weather comes in?

In the French alps you can get weather forecasts in the mountain refuges if they are open. Some satellite phones and trackers allow you to receive forecasts whilst you are traveling. Check on the GTC website for which trackers or satellite phones to carry on your backcountry adventure.

For weather prediction get to know different cloud types and what they predict. For example, cirrus clouds are high altitude clouds which indicate a change in fronts. Get to know the altitude and what direction mountain peaks are around you. Is there any snow wind drift coming off the summits which indicate high altitude winds?

Cirrus clouds which indicate a change of weather

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In the winter I run mountain respect workshops if you would like more info drop me an email at [email protected]

FREEFLO specializes in progressive on and off-piste ski instruction, backcountry ski touring and women-specific ski courses. We offer personal British ski instruction for skiers of all abilities. Our primary objective is helping competent skiers to improve their technique on and off-piste and in the backcountry. Our intuitive coach approach will help you to progress, have fun and enjoy the full freedom of the mountains in a safe and confident manner.

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Ski Touring Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere, France

Ski Touring Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere:
This is a simple ski touring route that you can build your skills and confidence on. It is good physical training at high altitude as you start going uphill at 2700m to 3200m.

Ski Touring up to Col de Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere

Route: Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire 3229m, Val D’Isere, France
Off-Piste skiing between 2700m -3229m W/NW
Max Gradient: 36 degrees
Uphill: 2.5-3hours
Total Route time from Fornet lift: 4-5hrs
Total Return Route time from Tignes:3.5/4hrs
Skiers Level: Intermediate
Ski Touring Level: Beginner/some touring experience
Start: 9 am Fornet Cable Car, Midpoint back at Col De I’Iseran  12.50pm
Finish: 2 pm at Fornet Cable Car 
Lift pass needed: Val D’Isere
Map needed: 3633ET

Why did I choose this ski touring route? 
The snow conditions this winter are different compared to last winter. The snowfalls have been far and few between and have brought warm temperatures and high winds. At the beginning of December, it rained up to 2900m and last Monday it rained up to 2400m which affected our snowpack.

Knowing the history of the snowpack in the ski area that you want to ski in is crucial to making the right decisions and finding the good snow.  I knew that the area of the Fornet and the Col De I’Iseran had more snow than any other area in the Tarentaise Valley. Looking at the weather forecast the night before and reassessing in the morning, I made the decision to ski tour Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire in Val D’Isere. I could keep at high altitude and find the good snow in the gullies. It is a smaller route on simple terrain with navigation points that I could use if the weather got worst. The temperatures in the day would stay warm and consistent which meant that the summits and ridges wouldn’t be too icy.  I was really happy with my decision and with good route finding, we managed to find some good snow and reach the Col de I’Ouille Noire.

Pointe de l’Ouille Noire in background

At Col De l’Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere

 

Improve your mountain skills and get in touch with FREEFLO.
Follow our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and Blog.

FREEFLO specializes in progressive on and off-piste ski instruction, backcountry ski touring and women-specific ski courses. We offer personal British ski instruction for skiers of all abilities. Our primary objective is helping competent skiers to improve their technique on and off-piste and in the backcountry. Our intuitive coach approach will help you to progress, have fun and enjoy the full freedom of the mountains in a safe and confident manner.

The Skiers Guide to Ski Touring the Refuge Frey, Bariloche, Argentina

THE SKIERS GUIDE TO SKI TOURING THE REFUGE FREY, BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA
My dream is becoming a reality. For four years I have been dreaming of leading and creating my own Patagonian adventure. One small part of this adventure includes skiing the granite couloirs and ski touring around the refuge Emilio Frey near Bariloche in Argentina. To have a successfull adventure it is so important to have the right information and make the right decisions.

Refugio Frey, Bariloche, Argentina

Refuge details:
Surrounded by granite towers Refuge Emilio Frey is on the shore of the Toncek lagoon at 1700 meters above sea level. The name is a tribute to the engineer Emilio Frey. The shelter itself is one of the most picturesque in the region. Its a true masterpiece of carved granite lintels, sills, edges and other details of high quality to ensure that the refuge blends into the landscape. The inside is lined with wood and its roof is made of tiles.  On the ground floor is a kitchen and a spacious dining room with a log burner for warmth.

How to make a reservation?
It is only possible to reserve a night in the refuge 3 days before on line as there is no telephone service in the refuge. For three nights in the refuge including food we paid around £25 per day. The refuge only takes US dollars ($) or Argentine Pesos (Ars). For more information you can visit the website  Refugio Frey.

How to access the refuge?
There are two ways to access the refuge in the summer and in the winter.
a) Skiing from the ski station Cerro Catedral: You can hike to the ridgeline Punta Princesa. Traverse west to a col and drop down a valley then ski tour up to the pointed ridgeline. The ski down from there will only take ten minutes to lake Toncek.  At the lake traverse along the plateau to Refugio Frey. Ski touring from Cerro Cathedral will take 4-6 hours.  Make sure you have a good weather window as its difficult to navigate. You will need to pay for a Cerro Catedral lift pass which is around £22 per day.

Sunset at Refuge Frey, Bariloche, Argentina

b) The main walkers route from Cerro Catedral.
Difficulty:
 Medium to Hard depending on snow conditions and how much weight you are carrying in your packs.
Distance : 10 km
Elevation : 700m +\-
Running time : from 4 to 6 hours but the lady from Club Andino will tell you that you can do it in two hours!
Access mode : Cerro Catedral line bus 55 from Bariloche. The bus journey will cost under a pound.  You have to buy a SUBE card which you can buy in the newsagents, no cash accepted on the bus. The bus normally goes every hour and you need to get to the bus stop early to get a seat.

Maps: 
Totally different to the IGN map in France.  Finding a good backcountry map to navigate from is difficult and hard to find. We used the PIXMAP Bariloche y Angostura 1:125. NB: Don’t be fooled by the distance.

Weather Forecasts:
The most reliable weather forecasts we have used have been Snow Forecast and Windyty App

What are the granite spires?
The spires of the refuge are granite and granodiorite towers are intrusive igneous rocks that have slowly cooled deep underground in magma chambers called plutons. This slow cooling process allows easily visible crystals to form. Both rocks are the product of the melting of continental rocks near subduction zones.

Follow us and our adventures on the #theskiersjourney inPatagonia.

The team on #theskiersjourney, Patagonia 2018

Creating, Leading and Sharing Mountain Adventures with FREEFLO

Keep up to date with the FREEFLO Patagonia Ski and Climb Adventure 2018 and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Blog. FREEFLO specialises in progressive on and off piste ski instruction, backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses. We offer personal British ski instruction for skiers of all abilities. Our primary objective is helping competent skiers to improve their technique on and off piste and in the backcountry. Our intuitive coach-approach will help you to progress, have fun and enjoy the full freedom of the mountains in a safe and confident manner. Step into your next adventure and email: [email protected] or visit www.freefloski.com