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.
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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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
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. .
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Do you run out of ideas of how to keep your kids entertained in the school holidays? Make this October Half Term special and sign up to the Tignes Junior Freeski Academy. FREEFLO has joined together with MountainSun holidays to present a unique package of adventure for intermediate skiers from nine to seventeen years old. The camp takes place on the Grand Motte glacier in Tignes which is one of the largest skiable glaciers in the world. Sharpen your freeski skills, learn new tricks and have fun with passionate experienced British coaches at a great price.
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]