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.
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.
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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:
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
“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
“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
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 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
Relating the ‘Here and Now’ of coaching from the book ‘Inner game of Tennis by W. Timothy: Galloway’ to Steep Couloir skiing was a great insight and made me realise how more of a ski coach I am compared to a ski instructor. After 17 seasons of ski teaching I didn’t realise how many techniques of the inner game of tennis I use in relation to my own ski coaching.
Steep skiing in couloirs is one of my passions and one of the many sides of skiing that I enjoy and coach in. For myself just being in a couloir and skiing in challenging and exposed environments naturally focuses my mind and attention. For many other skiers it is a different story as they become nervous, frightened and feel threatened with the exposure. Skiing on steep off piste 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.
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 not the past.
Concentrate your focus on here and NOW, in 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. Especially for women that are lacking self confidence. 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 practise as there is no other way. Every time your mind starts to leak away, simply bring it gently back.
The next time you are in a couloir or on challenging terrain have 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. For more tips on skiing follow our blog
Improve your inner game and your steep skills with private coaching or on the three day Steep Skiing course with FREEFLO.
Get in touch and email: [email protected] Visit our website: www.freefloski.com
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.
Route: Tignes/Pisteurs Couloir/Tignes Off Piste skiing between: 2770m-2441mN Max Gradient: 43/45 degrees Uphill: 25 to40 mins boot hike dependant on conditions Total Return Route time from Tignes:3.5/4hrs Skiers Level: Advanced off piste Start: From the top of the Grand Pre Chairlift Finish: At bottom Fontaine Froide Lift pass needed: Espace Killy Map needed: 3633ET Grade: 3:1 Exposure: E3
The north face of the Charvet is a super classic route reserved for skiers experienced in committing terrain. It is not route for the faint hearted. From the top the Grand pre chairlift you hike up to the rocher de Charvet . Continue along the ridge line to the end. The far right entrance normally avalanche prone so its better to access from the top different route opportunities on the way down. Hire a British instructor to take you to these amazing secrets to improve your off piste skiing and increase your route knowledge using fatmap.
FREEFLOSKIoffers Elite British Ski Coaching in the snowsure 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. Step into your next adventure with FREEFLOSKIwww.freefloski.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Winter 2015/16 has definitely arrived and its exciting times for FREEFLO. I have rebranded from JCSkiing to FREEFLO with a focused offer of progressive on and off piste skiing, backcountry ski touring and women specific ski courses.
Our brand new website has had a facelift and we’d love you to follow us on social media for updates and news. For full effect, check out the new Instagram account which allows you to share the passion without even being here!
As I start my 16th season of teaching, and my third season in the Espace Killy, my passion and skiing and coaching has never been stronger. There are always more mountains to explore and new routes to find.
This season I’m returning to the off piste mecca of La Grave in the Southern French Alps to deliver my Off-Piste Experience course. Unfortunately both courses are fully booked, however, I’m sure I’ll be heading back there in the future, I love La Grave!
With excellent feedback from last season’s courses FREEFLO has partnered up with Mountain Sun and the Melezes Hotel where the staff are so friendly and the food is so good. FREEFLO is offering a Womens Introduction to Ski Touring Weekend, which is made by women, for women! You can be relaxed and be yourself whilst skiing at your own pace and learning and making like minded friends on the way. For all you women out there step into your next adventure and come and join us. Get in touch via [email protected]
To finish our season with a bang we are offering an Off piste and Ski touring course for the intermediate skier who has had experience skiing off piste and a small amount of ski touring. This course is all about the search of good snow and stepping a bit further away from the pistes. You will stay in a comfortable 4* chalet where you will be fed and look after a great day on the hill. What could be more appealing?
With a focus on holistic performance, for all our courses we have a new partnership with Etixx UK, to offer complimentary elite nutrition to fuel your days on the hill and offers against future purchases. We are also kindly supported by Fatmap, Ember Gloves, Snow-Forecast and Tignes Spirit.
Great memories and adventures are up for grabs. Start your 2016 on a high and we will 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].