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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.

Ski Touring Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere, France

Ski Touring Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere:
This is a simple ski touring route that you can build your skills and confidence on. It is good physical training at high altitude as you start going uphill at 2700m to 3200m.

Ski Touring up to Col de Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere

Route: Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire 3229m, Val D’Isere, France
Off-Piste skiing between 2700m -3229m W/NW
Max Gradient: 36 degrees
Uphill: 2.5-3hours
Total Route time from Fornet lift: 4-5hrs
Total Return Route time from Tignes:3.5/4hrs
Skiers Level: Intermediate
Ski Touring Level: Beginner/some touring experience
Start: 9 am Fornet Cable Car, Midpoint back at Col De I’Iseran  12.50pm
Finish: 2 pm at Fornet Cable Car 
Lift pass needed: Val D’Isere
Map needed: 3633ET

Why did I choose this ski touring route? 
The snow conditions this winter are different compared to last winter. The snowfalls have been far and few between and have brought warm temperatures and high winds. At the beginning of December, it rained up to 2900m and last Monday it rained up to 2400m which affected our snowpack.

Knowing the history of the snowpack in the ski area that you want to ski in is crucial to making the right decisions and finding the good snow.  I knew that the area of the Fornet and the Col De I’Iseran had more snow than any other area in the Tarentaise Valley. Looking at the weather forecast the night before and reassessing in the morning, I made the decision to ski tour Col De I’Iseran to Col de I’Ouille Noire in Val D’Isere. I could keep at high altitude and find the good snow in the gullies. It is a smaller route on simple terrain with navigation points that I could use if the weather got worst. The temperatures in the day would stay warm and consistent which meant that the summits and ridges wouldn’t be too icy.  I was really happy with my decision and with good route finding, we managed to find some good snow and reach the Col de I’Ouille Noire.

Pointe de l’Ouille Noire in background
At Col De l’Ouille Noire, Val D’Isere

 

Improve your mountain skills and get in touch with FREEFLO.
Follow our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and Blog.

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.

The Skiers Guide to Ski Touring the Refuge Frey, Bariloche, Argentina

THE SKIERS GUIDE TO SKI TOURING THE REFUGE FREY, BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA
My dream is becoming a reality. For four years I have been dreaming of leading and creating my own Patagonian adventure. One small part of this adventure includes skiing the granite couloirs and ski touring around the refuge Emilio Frey near Bariloche in Argentina. To have a successfull adventure it is so important to have the right information and make the right decisions.

Refugio Frey, Bariloche, Argentina

Refuge details:
Surrounded by granite towers Refuge Emilio Frey is on the shore of the Toncek lagoon at 1700 meters above sea level. The name is a tribute to the engineer Emilio Frey. The shelter itself is one of the most picturesque in the region. Its a true masterpiece of carved granite lintels, sills, edges and other details of high quality to ensure that the refuge blends into the landscape. The inside is lined with wood and its roof is made of tiles.  On the ground floor is a kitchen and a spacious dining room with a log burner for warmth.

How to make a reservation?
It is only possible to reserve a night in the refuge 3 days before on line as there is no telephone service in the refuge. For three nights in the refuge including food we paid around £25 per day. The refuge only takes US dollars ($) or Argentine Pesos (Ars). For more information you can visit the website  Refugio Frey.

How to access the refuge?
There are two ways to access the refuge in the summer and in the winter.
a) Skiing from the ski station Cerro Catedral: You can hike to the ridgeline Punta Princesa. Traverse west to a col and drop down a valley then ski tour up to the pointed ridgeline. The ski down from there will only take ten minutes to lake Toncek.  At the lake traverse along the plateau to Refugio Frey. Ski touring from Cerro Cathedral will take 4-6 hours.  Make sure you have a good weather window as its difficult to navigate. You will need to pay for a Cerro Catedral lift pass which is around £22 per day.

Sunset at Refuge Frey, Bariloche, Argentina

b) The main walkers route from Cerro Catedral.
Difficulty:
 Medium to Hard depending on snow conditions and how much weight you are carrying in your packs.
Distance : 10 km
Elevation : 700m +\-
Running time : from 4 to 6 hours but the lady from Club Andino will tell you that you can do it in two hours!
Access mode : Cerro Catedral line bus 55 from Bariloche. The bus journey will cost under a pound.  You have to buy a SUBE card which you can buy in the newsagents, no cash accepted on the bus. The bus normally goes every hour and you need to get to the bus stop early to get a seat.

Maps: 
Totally different to the IGN map in France.  Finding a good backcountry map to navigate from is difficult and hard to find. We used the PIXMAP Bariloche y Angostura 1:125. NB: Don’t be fooled by the distance.

Weather Forecasts:
The most reliable weather forecasts we have used have been Snow Forecast and Windyty App

What are the granite spires?
The spires of the refuge are granite and granodiorite towers are intrusive igneous rocks that have slowly cooled deep underground in magma chambers called plutons. This slow cooling process allows easily visible crystals to form. Both rocks are the product of the melting of continental rocks near subduction zones.

Follow us and our adventures on the #theskiersjourney inPatagonia.

The team on #theskiersjourney, Patagonia 2018

Creating, Leading and Sharing Mountain Adventures with FREEFLO

Keep up to date with the FREEFLO Patagonia Ski and Climb Adventure 2018 and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Blog. 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. 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. Step into your next adventure and email: [email protected] or visit www.freefloski.com 

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

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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

Stay connected and like us on:

https://www.facebook.com/freefloski/ 
https://www.instagram.com/freefloski/
https://twitter.com/FREEFLOSKI

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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.

Off Piste Tignes and Ski Tour to Pointe Boussac

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

OS Pointe Boussac, Tignes
OS Pointe Boussac, Tignes

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!

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.

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www.freefloski.com

Step into your next adventure with FREEFLO. We look forward to skiing with you.

Step into your next adventure

New Year, New Start and New Courses

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]

Womens Intro Ski Touring Weekend

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?

Step into your next adventure

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 FatmapEmber GlovesSnow-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.

Jocelyn Cockle (Floss)
Director of FREEFLO

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www.freefloski.com

 

What are Skins?

The History and info about Skins:

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: 

  • The Plush
  • The Backing
  • The Attachment

The Plush:

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:

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.

The Attachments:

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

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A day out with Ski Focus- Touring the Tuff de Grassaz and the 3 Cols, Tignes

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.

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://jamesg134.sg-host.com.  For further information please don’t hesitate to get in contact and email: [email protected].