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.
Refuge De La Leisse
Arriving at the refuge de Leisse
Chilling outside the refuge de Leisse
Room with a view at the refuge de le Leisse
Happy days with Celine
Off for a coffee at refuge de Leisse
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.
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.
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?
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.
For the first time, FREEFLO has joined forces with the school operator Activ4 to create a team of independent ski instructors. FREEFLO will provide top quality ski tuition in the famous ski resort of Tignes in France. A small team of experienced, independent, French and English ski instructors has been choosen. This December the team will teach Shrewsbury Private School for girls. Each ski instructor has their own story and shares the same passion for the mountains and for skiing.
MEET THE TEAM OF SKI INSTRUCTORS
Meet Floss from FREEFLO
Hi my name is Floss, I have been ski teaching for 18 years in the Alps and worldwide. My passion for skiing all started when I was a chalet girl at 18 years old. I haven’t stopped since. Three years ago I created FREEFLO to share my passion and experience for the mountains. FREEFLO provides ski lessons, ski touring and women-specific courses in Tignes, Val D’sere, La Grave and St Foy. This year I am excited as it will be my 21st year in the mountains. I am also excited about working with our team of instructors and sharing our great experience and passion for the mountains.
Floss from FREEFLO
Meet JP McCarthy from Aim Snowsports JP McCarthy has been teaching skiing since 2004, he has a wealth of experience gained teaching across the world in the UK, France, Switzerland, Austria, and even Australia. JP has a wide range and a depth of knowledge gained from various ski instruction systems including the British Association of snowsports instructors, the Irish Association of snowsport instructors, Swiss Snowsports, Snowsports England, and Snowsports Scotland. JP loves the variety in teaching all levels of skier and sharing his enthusiasm for enjoying the mountains. He now runs his own ski school AIM Snowsports based in Les Arcs.
Meet Pierre from Pierskival Pierre has a great passion for the mountains and has taught skiing worldwide for over 15 years. He holds the French equivalent to UK Mountain Leader and also guides groups in the summer in the French Alps. He teaches in all resorts of the Tarentaise Valley and in many different languages including English and Deutsch. He also has a great passion for skiing off-piste and touring. On his spare days, you will find him ski touring in the backcountry with his dog Domino.
Meet Sian From Sianski Sian is a BASI qualified Independent Ski Instructor based in Les Arcs and La Plagne. Having lived and skied in the french alps for the past 20 years her knowledge of the local area is extensive. Sian teaches all ages and all levels with emphasis on tailoring the lesson to your particular needs. She also runs regular Women’s courses throughout the winter.
The Arcteryx Norvan trail and approach shoe is the number one choice for Patagonia.
As soon as I put this trail shoe on I wasn’t disappointed. Tested in the French Alps on running trails, snow and climbing crags. I decided that this shoe would be my number one choice of footwear for the FREEFLO Patagonia Ski and Climb Adventure 2018. It would be the shoe that I could run in, scramble in and an approach shoe to refuges and climbing crags. Intelligently designed and created it will be the connection between trail running and alpinism.
With the combination of a Vibram heel and a sticky rubber compound of the Idrogrip the Norvan VT delivers excellent grip on all terrain. With the adjustable 360° support system can you switch from running mode to a scrambling mode very easily. The fixed adaptive Fit Technology wraps around your foot and keeps your foot dry and free of debris.
The Norvan VT is a shoe that gives you confidence and support over technical terrain.
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, though our sweet spot 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
Winter 2017/18 still continues….spring skiing and ski touring in Val D’Isere and Tignes
This winter the snowfall across the French Alps has been phenomenal. Locals of Tignes have said that it has been the best winter for snowfall in twenty years. Out of the my twenty winter seasons it has been one of my biggest snowfall seasons by far. With all the snow Val D’Isère has announced that it will re-open some winter lifts for spring skiing on 3rd June 2018. This will be the first time in 82 years that some of the winter pistes above the resort will re-open in summer. The pistes are planning to re open for summer skiing between 7am-12pm. The lifts that plan to be open is the Furnival and the Marmottes chairlift in Val D’Isere.
The lifts have now closed in Tignes and there still is enough snow to ski tour up to the glacier from Val Claret. All refuge huts are open till the middle to end of May. The guardian of the refuge du Palet believes that there will still be enough snow on the ground till June.
Last Thursday 17th I ski toured 5.5km up and around the Col Des Ves in Tignes with Clare and Dave and skied off piste back into Val Claret in Tignes. I was still amazed at how deep the snowpack was and the snow was still in great condition for May.
FREEFLO SKI specialises in on and off piste ski instruction, ski touring and ski courses in the Tarentaise Valley. See more at www.freefloski.com.
Keep up to date with all year around adventure and follow us on Instagram.
Step up your avalanche game!
This winter we are running avalanche training and snow awareness workshops in Tignes as last winter season, 2016/17 there were more avalanches and incidents than in a normal season. This was a result of an unstable snowpack, caused by variation in temperature, high winds and the type of snow that fell. Out of the19 ski seasons I have done this one had the most avalanche activity I have ever seen.
New ski technology and the fast-growing trend in winter sports means more and more people are venturing into the off piste. They have good equipment but a with a lack of snow awareness and a lack of experience sometimes bad and riskier decisions are being made. The mind-set of getting ‘fresh powder tracks’ is creating a culture that shows little respect for others as groups and individuals are just focused on themselves.
Most of the time people get away with their route selection and decisions. However, it’s a risky game to play and sooner or later it could be you or your friends who get caught out and trigger an avalanche onto someone else, or even be in it yourselves.
This is when you need to be ready.
I have a lot of clients, friends and seasonal workers that ask me how they can be safer in the off piste and backcountry. So, new for this winter, with 16 seasons ski teaching and guiding behind me, I am delighted to be coaching and introducing affordable half day FREEFLO Mountain Respect Workshops in Tignes.
The workshops are designed to help you be safer and make better decisions whilst off piste and in the backcountry. They will give you more snow and avalanche awareness and you will learn the skills that I use to help make the best decisions I can in avalanche terrain.
FREEFLO Making the right decisions in avalanche terrain Workshop 13th Dec 2017
14th March 2018
FREEFLO Avalanche Transceiver Training Workshop 12th Dec 2017
13th March 2018
For more information on the workshops please visit FREEFLO If dates aren’t suitable or work for you drop us an email: [email protected] and we will be able to tailor other dates and workshops for you, your chalet staff, your clients or friends.
BE SAFE OUT THERE…..
BASI ISTD International Ski Teacher
APC Race coach Level 2
Mountain Leader MTA
Teaming up with the Adventurer Squash Falconer FREEFLO is proud and excited to announce being a part of a very special and exclusive Snow & Rock evening ‘Inspiring Your Adventure’on Wednesday 19th October at the Snow+Rock flagship store in Covent Garden in London.
Enjoy drinks and nibbles whilst listening to adventures. Get FREE advice and take full advantage of the generous 15% OFF discount on the new outdoor collection in store. Tickets are only £5 and all proceeds go to the Bowl Cancer UK charity. For further details and bookings please visit: https://inspiringwithsquashandfloss.eventbrite.com
We are also teaming up together with Snow & Rock to run Two Off Piste and Backcountry adventures for next winter on the 8th January and 16th of April 2017 in the Espace Killy. Further details will follow.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Step into your next adventure with FREEFLO and Squash Falconer.
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.
Short uphill for more downhill: Episode 1 Just after or even when it is snowing everyone rushes out on the mountain to ski fresh powder to get the adrenaline rush of skiing lines off piste with that remarkable floating feeling. Often the powder which is accessible by the lifts in big resorts are skied out by the end of the morning. Some days when I am teaching on the hill most places are skied out by 11am, thats when knowing the mountain is to your advantage. With knowledge and understanding you can ski further a field into the backcountry and go to the secret places to find the stash of powder where less people go. I really enjoy this new type of skiing as you have best of both worlds touring up hill and longer lines off piste downhill.
Route: Pointe Boussac Tignes/Val D’Isere Off Piste skiing between: 2407m -3070m NE/NW Max Gradient: 38-40 degrees Uphill: 40 mins Total Route time from funicular: 2.5hrs Total Return Route time from Tignes:3.5/4hrs Skiers Level: Intermediate/Advanced off piste Ski Touring Level: Intermediate/Advanced Start: From the top of the funicular in Val Claret Finish: At bottom Fontaine Froide Lift pass needed: Espace Killy Map needed: 3633ET
This route is a great route that you can achieve in half a day and you feel like you have achieved a bit of everything a summit, steep uphill ascent and a longer time skiing off piste. The difficulty is the last 200m of the accent where it is vertically challenging and you need to be good with your kick turns but if all else fails you can always boot up. The off piste lines off the Pointe Boussac are in abundance and are as varied and challenging as you want them to be!
Last 200m to summit Pointe Boussac
Skiing down from the Col
Enjoying the fresh tracks off the Pointe Boussac
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 and La Grave. Please visit our site: www.freefloski.com . Like us on Facebook and Instagram and we will keep you up to date on posts, photos and videos for free.
Step into your next adventure with FREEFLO. We look forward to skiing with you.
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:
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 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.
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
Time just flies by and every winter season comes round quicker and quicker. At the end of last season I managed to spend a day in the backcountry with Stuart Bernard the Director of Ski Focus. It was a great opportunity to show him some of the beautiful backcountry that is on our door step and a chance to catch up with him after a busy season. The day was perfect for touring with blue skies and no wind and at the end of the season there was no one around. After dropping into the Col Du Palet we only saw two people in the distance all day. Ski touring is a great opportunity to make new friends and build strong relationships as you are away from any distractions and you get the chance to really talk.
Freeriding to lake Grattalu
Getting ready for the uphill
Close to wildlife
The beautiful Grand Caisse
Nice turns from Stu
Cruising off piste
Lunch stop- what a view
Admiring the view
Heading to Col de Froix
After three and half hours of uphill and two hours downhill at the end of the day we returned back to Val Claret to finish a great day with a beer.
Stuart teaches skiing all year round he is based in the Espace Killy for the winter and teaches in the snow domes in the UK in the summer. He runs a number of Gap Ski Courses throughout the year as well coaches and examines people who want to become instructors. For more information and to ski with Stuart please visit: http://www.skifocus.co.uk.
FREEFLO specialises in private instruction, ski courses, off piste and ski touring within the resort of Tignes, Val D’Isere and La Grave. Visit http://www.freefloski.com. For further information please don’t hesitate to get in contact and email: [email protected].