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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Route: Val ClaretTignes/Pointe De Pramecou/Val Claret Off Piste skiing between: 3054m to 2107m NE/NW Max Gradient: 48 degrees Uphill: 3hrs 12 mins Total Route time from Val Claret: 5hrs Skiers Level:Advanced off piste Ski Touring Level: Intermediate Start: Bottom of Lanches Chairlift Finish: At bottom Tichot chairlift Map needed: 3633ET Grade: 2.1 Exposure: E2
I just love Spring time. Its warmer, the snow pack is more stable and I have more time to go on adventures. Last year touring up and skiing down the 48 degree North Face of the Pramecou on the 9th May 2016 with adventurer and good friend Squash Falconer was one of my vivd memories of 2015/16. From that day onwards we came up with the idea of running backcountry adventures together to inspire, to teach and to motivate people to adventure into the back country. With one of the largest winter store retailers Snow & Rock behind us, in a few days time I am looking forward joining up with Squash and to leading the Snow and Rock Back Country 5 day Backcountry Adventure in Tignes and Val D’Isere.
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
Tignes and Val D’Isere together is one of the largest ski areas in Europe. Behind the ski slopes you have the wilderness and tranquillity of the Vanoise National Park which offers amazing off piste skiing routes and ski tours. This is a short video of skiing off piste to the refuge de Leisse and ski touring back to Tignes which can be achieved on a day.
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]