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Part 1: Ski touring Col Des Fours, Val D’Isere

Part 1: Ski Touring the Col Des Fours in Val D’Isere

Ski touring the Col Des Fours in Val D’Isere is part 1 of my top five classic ski tours in the Tarentaise Valley in the Northern French Alps. It is also part one of the series Best Ski Touring Routes on my Freefloski youtube channel

Its a low intermediate ski tour with only a 480m of ascent. For your efforts, you are rewarded with amazing views and over 1000m of vertical off-piste descent into the Vallon Des Fours. It is a great introductory tour for skiers who have some experience in ski touring already. But it is a tour where your timing is everything! You need to make sure that you have big enough weather window and that you time the last traverse to perfection.

Ski touring Col Des Fours

Route: Fornet, Val D’Isere- Col Des Fours- Fornet, Val D’Isere
Off-Piste skiing: 2976m -1915m W/NW/N
Max Ski Gradient: 38 degrees
Uphill: 480m 1.5 to 2hrs
Total Route time from Fornet: 5-6hrs 
Skiers Level: Intermediate off-piste skier
Ski Touring Level: Low Intermediate
Start: Fornet cable car
Finish: Fornet cable car
Lift pass needed: Val D’Isere
Map needed: 3633ET

Depending on your size of the group and the speed of the group this tour in the winter you can actually start in Tignes and ski over to Fornet and ski back depending on your size of the group and the speed of the group. In springtime when the snowpack is warming I would advise you to start in Fornet in Val D’Isere so you aren’t depending on a ski lift home.

You start on the Col D’Iseran and ski down southwest to Pont de la Neige. At the bridge, you will find a flat area so you can transition to uphill skiing. From there you climb 480m to the col. If you are careful with your line you don’t need to be able to do a kick turn. The last two hundred metres of the tour is the most difficult and its when the timing is everything.  It’s a 200m traverse which is slightly exposed and often icy. As the pitch above the traverse is southeast facing it has the sun on it early and the snowpack warms and often releases some slides.

At the Col des Fours, Val d’Isere

After you reach the col you have endless options of skiing different lines to the Refuge Des Fours. Choosing your ski down after the refuge becomes a little bit more tricky as you are in more complication terrain. Depending on snow conditions you can then decide to keep left or right of the river des fours back and then back to the Manchet chairlift.

For more ski touring tips see blog:  5 Ski and Snowboard Touring Technique Tips

Ski tour in comfort and performance; I choose nothing but the best and highly recommend the backcountry selection from Floâ Sports,’ Jocelyn Cockle (Floss) Director of Freefloski

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.

5 Ski and Snowboard Touring Technique Tips

5 Ski and Snowboard Touring Technique Tips, courtesy off FREEFLO SKI

The volume of riders heading into the backcountry have dramatically increased over the last decade. Today a large number of riders are heading for the backcountry in search for fresh tracks and the ultimate adventure.  Many of them are inexperienced when it is comes to skinning uphill. To boost your touring skills here are 5 Ski and Snowboard Touring Techniques from us  Freeflo ski who are based in the French Alps.

Katie, Pat, Naomi and Kerry exploring the backcountry of Tignes on the FREEFLO Womens Touring Course

by Jocelyn Cockle (Floss) 

Ski touring in the backcountry is my biggest and favourite winter sport and passion with or without clients. I just love being in the wilderness away from the hustle and bustle of the ski resort or everyday stresses and life.  Moving efficiently uphill and safely in the mountains is a highly mastered skill set which is often overlooked. Here are 5 uphill tips to improve your uphill performance.

  1. Manage your clothing
    It is important to control your temperature through your clothing if you want to be efficient. Depending on the weather, length, and type of tour I will take off clothing layers at the very start. Keep to thin and breathable layers. Designed for adventure I highly recommend high performance base layers from Floã sports.  If you know it will be windy at the top I will keep a windproof layer close to hand around my waist or on top of my rucksack. It is important to keep to a consistent pace that you are not sweating and can hold for a long period of time.
  2. Keep your head up and stay alert
    Keeping your head up keeps your upper body upright.  Having your body upright keeps you looking ahead and more efficient. Looking and taking the correct uphill track will save time and energy.
  3. Line
    You save more energy and time if you use an existing gentle uphill track only if it takes you to the same destination through safe terrain.
  4. Keep your skis or board on the snow
    One of the most common mistakes that skiers and snowboarders make is that they lift their feet whilst moving forwards. Keeping your feet on the snow and slide your equipment on the surface takes less energy and is a faster technique.

    Pat and Kerry skinning out of refuge de Palet, Tignes on the FREEFLO Womens Touring Course 2019
  5. Position in the Line
    As a rule the first person in the group in an existing uphill track or making a new uphill track will exert more energy when compared to the last person in the group. I am constantly assessing individuals energy and will change the order of the group when ski touring.

          Most importantly be safe and enjoy the mountains 

 

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.

How to book a night in Refuge Turia, Les Arcs

Getaway from the hustle and bustle of a ski resort or your nine to five job in the city and visit Refuge Turia.  Be overwhelmed with the epic mountain views that surround you. Find yourself relaxing with the peace and tranquillity of the mountains.

Refuge Turia, picture taken from the moraines of Lac Riondaz 

In a dormitory room the refuge can accommodate up to a maximum of nineteen people per night. The refuge is looked after by a guardian from June to September. Prices start from €17.50 to €55 euros full board. The good news is that the refuge is open all year round with or without a guardian. Payment for your stay is taken in cash. When the refuge is not guarded you can pay for your stay into an honesty box called the Tronc. 

When to go?
The best time to visit refuge Turia and to explore the surroundings is to avoid french and UK holidays. A good tip is to phone up the refuge and ask how many people have reserved the night you want to go. Once you have decided when to go and have booked by telephone then the next step is to plan your route depending on your fitness and ability. 

An eco loo with a view!!! Mount Blanc 4810m in the background 

How to Book?
To book your overnight stay visit Refuge Turia website.  If you are looking for a winter adventure Freefloski can ski and guide you there or teach you skills for you to get there. To start your adventure send an email and get in touch with Freefloski.

For summer guiding to the refuge and around get in contact with Delphine Julliard

Read more about Refuge De Leisse

 

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

Read more blogs and follow our adventures on Facebook and Instagram

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.

Free Flo

Val D’Isere re-opens 3rd June 2018 for spring skiing

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. 
Refuge Du Palet, Tignes March 2018
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.
17th May Ski touring around the Col De Ves Tignes
 
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.

 

Ski Touring – Womens FREEFLO Introduction Tignes

Sefie at the Col De LaTourne
Sefie at the Col De LaTourne

For the third year running I have just finished leading the FREEFLO Womens Introduction to ski touring Course in Tignes and Val D’Isere. I love and enjoy running this two day adventure as it allows me to pass on skills and twenty years of winter mountain experience to people that have never experienced ski touring in the backcountry before. I have just had an amazing time with four special people.

Day one ski touring

On the first morning we met up in Planks Coffee Shop which is relaxing place to start any course whilst drinking good coffee. I spent the first forty minutes getting to know everyone and to find to each persons expectations and goals for the course. I then discussed the weather, the snow conditions and current situation of the snowpack and taught everyone where to find this valuable information. We then checked our gear and kit list and made sure we carried everything we needed. I gave a rough outline of a plan for the two days before heading outside on the piste for a skills session. I then taught everyone essential ski touring skills. This included how to put skins on and off, how to change their bindings and boots to uphill and down hill mode, different turns, route selection etc:

Breaking trail back to Tignes
Breaking trail back to Tignes

To gauge ski ability and to brush on technique before heading into the backcountry we skied a small section of off piste . The snow was great and as soon as the clouds broke and the blue skies arrived I took the opportunity and lead the group into the wilderness of the backcountry. Virgin untracked snow as far as the eye could see was our view as we crossed the Col De Palet. No one was around as skiers were skiing fresh powder in the resort. It was perfect timing as we made our own tracks in the powder as a group of five. Once we had arrived at the lake we tucked into a well deserved snack and drink. After ski touring for fifty five minutes we then arrive to the refuge de palet and enjoyed tucking into a three course meal.

Day two ski touring

The next morning was clear and no one was in sight. We took full advantage and skied the powder on the north facing slopes to lake Grattalu and then broke tracks uphill making our way through the valley of La Tourne. The valley La Tourne is one of my favourite ski touring itineraries. Its gentle and has breathtaking views especially when come out of the Col de Tourne and overlooking Tignes. It was an amazing two day adventure with great company and one that I will never forget.

This is what the team thought

“I love skiing, but getting a introduction to the awe inspiring backcountry of Tignes, gave me a new level of appreciation of why we ski. Nature is even more beautiful, impressive and so much more powerful than us out there beyond the ski area boundaries. Still, we can be part of it and enjoy it if we work together, breaking track, reading the snow conditions and finally huddling together in front of a fire in the cosy Col du Palet refuge. A truly unforgettable introduction to touring.” Leizel Cloke

Leizel enjoying the uphill of ski touring
Leizel enjoying the uphill of ski touring

“Such an adventure to be pushed safely right out of my comfort zone, experiencing an enemies depth of powder surrounded with such stunning scenery and Flo providing us with a photographic life time memory to share..thanks FREEFLO..amazing amazing.” Sally Coates

Sally skiing the powder
Sally skiing the powder

“The two day tour exceeded all my expectations from the glorious weather, the bouncy snow and the sunny scenery to the delicious refuge dinner and the comfy beds. It was a magical couple of days and Flossie inspired confidence by creating a safe and fun learning environment for all of us touring rookies…I am so please I booked it was my best two days of the week.” Amy Cardale

Amy having fun in the powder
Amy having fun in the powder

FREEFLO specialises in progressive on and off piste ski instruction, backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses. We offer personal British ski lessons 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

FREEFLO Mountain Respect Workshops in Tignes for 2017/18

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

IMG_2743

FREEFLO Avalanche Transceiver Training Workshop
12th Dec 2017
13th March 2018

Avalanche training Womens
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…..

Floss

BASI ISTD International Ski Teacher
APC Race coach Level 2
Mountain Leader MTA

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How to improve your skiing on steeper terrain

How to improve your mindset when skiing in steeper terrain is a good place to start

If you are reading this there is a fair chance that you are interested in improving your steep skiing. You may be struggling to get to the next level. You might be feeling nervous when the gradient of the slope gets steeper. You might be worried and have a lack of confidence and focus or you might just be stuck in how to improve.

I know how this feels. I have been there myself. It was me when I first started skiing and doing winter seasons. I was terrible at it. I couldn’t link turns and be in control on steeper terrain on the piste and off the piste.

So I developed new skills and tactical strategies. I improved my fitness and my head game. With the right coaching and practise I got better and today I love it especially when I get the chance to ski in steep couloirs. It one of my passions and one of the many sides of skiing that I enjoy and coach in. .

Relating the ‘Here and Now’ of coaching from the book ‘Inner game of Tennis by W. Timothy: Galloway

What really improved my mindset on steep slopes was reading and the famous book the Inner Game to Tennis by W Timothy Galloway. Skiing on steep offpiste and in narrow unknown corridors which are often surrounded by rock is where focus, skill and belief is vital for a good and safe decent.

Rich skiing Pisteurs Couloir Val D I'sere
Rich skiing Pisteurs couloir in Tignes/Val D’sere

Learning to focus your attention is a master skill that has unlimited application. When skiing in a threatening environment where your skills are being pushed you need to learn to focus awareness in the NOW. It means tuning in to what is happening in the present and not in the past. It also means to be in the present and not in the future.

Tip 1: FOCUS
Don’t let your concentration and thoughts drift. Concentrate your focus on here and the NOW. Be in the present time and in the present space. Most accidents and falls happen when we lapse in concentration as we allow our mind to think about what is about to happen or to dwell whats has already happened in the past.

Tip 2: BELIEVE IN YOUR ABILITY
Especially for people who are lacking confidence don’t let your doubts in your mind take over and self 1 come into play. Don’t let your mind absorb itself in the world of “what if’s” “What if I fall over” “What if I can’t make that turn” and then let your mind wander away to “this happened to me last year and this is how I injured my knee” or something totally irrelevant “I can’t believe what that Facebook post said about me”. Since the mind has a will of its own and tends to wander, how can one learn to keep it in the present? The answer is by practice as there is no other way. Every time your mind starts to leak away, simply bring it gently back and be in the Here and the now.

Tip 3: TAKE ACTION
The next time you are in a couloir or on challenging terrain take this action plan. Focus your mind on the present, see and accept the environment that you are in and then ski it with one tactical or technical focus to block out any nervousness. Subconsciously believe in yourself and ability and you will be able to ski stronger and more effectively.

Have a look at the video below. When I was skiing this couloir I was blocking my thoughts out and my focus was on linking turns whilst being balanced. I was in the here and now. That’s where you should be when skiing steeper terrain.

For more skiing advice and tips please subscribe and like us on youtube.

I will look forward to skiing with you soon.

Take Care

Floss

Ski Touring
Director of FREFLOSKI

 

 

Ski Touring North Face of the Pramecou, Tignes

Route: Val Claret Tignes/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.

Fresh Ski tracks on the North Face of the Pramecou
Fresh Ski tracks on the North Face of the Pramecou
Celebrating the fresh powder tracks on a 48 degree North Face
Celebrating the fresh powder tracks on a 48 degree North Face
Ski touring up to the Pointe De Pramecou
Ski touring up to the Pointe De Pramecou

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.