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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.

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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www.freefloski.com

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://www.freefloski.com.  For further information please don’t hesitate to get in contact and email: [email protected].

Ski and Tour Refuge De Leisse- Backcountry of Tignes and Val D’Isere

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.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyU2XBvncko

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]

www.freefloski.com
www.freefloski.com

Tignes and Val’ D’Isere’ FATMAP- The world’s most detailed 3D ski map.

Tignes and Val D’Isere FATMAP put to the Test by FREEFLO:                                                            Off Piste Tignes/Val D’Isere

I have a great passion for the off piste and backcountry. I work and live in the ski resorts of Tignes and Val D’Isere as a British Ski Teacher which is why I was very eager to put the FATMAP of the Espace Killy to test.

I put the ULTRA-HIGH RESOLUTION 3D MAPPING Fatmap through its paces and completed the ski tour Col Du Fours in the Espace Killy in poor visibility last Monday on my Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. I solely used the fat map and my friend only used the OS map for navigation so we could compare notes. Being a ski enthusiast and not a huge computer fan (I only started to use a touch screen phone last year), I found the map easy to use and it gave me further support and confidence to navigate a new route in poor conditions. One of the main advantages of the map is that it doesn’t rely on internet signal and once downloaded you can use it anywhere on the mountain.

I used the 3D Fly-Through many times to ensure I was on the right track. It would have been easier if there was a setting that you could use to pause and to re-start the 3D Fly-Through to save time and battery, instead of starting from the beginning each time. Also if the dotted line on the 3D was illustrated in a different colour showing the uphill ski touring route, it would make it clearer to see the route in a uphill and downhill version. These are comments I have already forwarded to the active FATMAP team by using the Slack app. The description of the tour then backs up the 3D Fly-Throughs so it is even harder to take the wrong route. I accessed valuable information quicker and easier using the FATMAP about the route and found out the gradient, aspect, crevasse zones etc; without getting the OS map and compass out. With that information and knowing the weather, avalanche bulletin, history and with my mountain awareness and experience, I could navigate the ski tour and ski down the route safely.

Conclusion: FATMAP is the friend that you can fit in your back pocket. It is the most detailed 3D ski map that I have seen and used. I think that this is a great tool which will support your navigation while skiing off piste. Why wouldn’t you have it in your back pocket as you carry your phone anyway?

I will look forward to putting the FATMAP through its paces further and working with the FATMAP team to add new routes and improvements.

The FATMAP Story:
OUR FIRST 3D MAP
Dave has had a lifelong passion for maps, he made his first 3D map at the age of eleven. A few years ago, he became obsessed with the idea of creating the ultimate map for skiing. Scholarships to Oxford and Cranfield and 15 years as a software engineer have created the perfect storm.
Misha had a mis-spent youth with computers. In between games of Elite he wrote his first computer programme on his Commodore 64 at the age of five. Since then he has been busy building and running successful technology companies in the UK and skiing in his free time. Waiting out a storm on a remote ski expedition to Albania, the idea of FATMAP was born. The idea to use the latest mobile and gaming technology to create true to life 3D models of mountains and the information you really want to know as a skier; all on a device that you can carry in your pocket.

Main features include:
ULTRA-HIGH RESOLUTION 3D MAPPING:
3D FLY-THROUGHS
PISTE MAPPING AND PROFILING
INTERACTIVE RESORT INFORMATION
SKI TRACKING, STATS AND SOCIAL SHARING

For more information on FATMAP please visit www.fatmap.com

www.freefloski.com
www.freefloski.com

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]

Off Piste and Ski Touring Tignes: Montee La Tourne

Ski Touring montee la Tourne is a very accessible and a short ski touring route if you haven’t got a high level of fitness or a long time to complete. This tour also allows some great off piste skiing in the backcountry of Tignes. Towards the end of the tour when you head to the col is where you can see some exciting off steep piste skiing routes in the North facing Couloirs of La Tourne. However, this ski tour is quite a technical route as there is a 100m steep pitch where you need to be able to kick turn on which is 32-37 degrees.

This tour is one of the many ski tours that starts near the Refuge Du Palet which allows you to do some good off piste skiing as well as touring. Its a backcountry paradise where you can get away from the hustle and bustle of the ski resort and be in the peaceful backcountry where you often don’t see anyone.

Route: Itinerary route Montee La Tourne
Difficulty: Blue/Red
Gradient: 26-37 degrees
Uphill: 60mins
Total Route time: 2.5 to 3hrs
Skiers Level: Intermediate off piste
Lift: Col Du Palet
Lift pass needed: Tignes
Map needed: 3353T

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]

www.freefloski.com
www.freefloski.com

Steep Off Piste Skiing- Alaska Couloir Tignes 11th April 2015

Alaska (the name that the Brits have given) couloir is an impressive couloir which is rarely skied as it is difficult steep off piste skiing and difficult to get to. It stands out and is visible from the Palafour chairlift which runs from Le Lac in Tignes. It is for the Advance/Expert skier. There are two possible entrances which are both achievable in the right conditions which involve some ski touring and boot packing up. A friend had climbed from the left side and skied into it the day before. Conditions were said to be stable.

We had decided to attempt the classic route and to boot pack up from the back of the couloir which is North facing and then to ski down the south facing pitch in the race against time before the snow conditions deteriorate, We had estimated to be skiing down at the latest 11.45am. Due to the lack of snow on the obvious ridge line to go to Alaska we were forced to take a different route. On the top of Aiguille Piercee chairlift we hiked up to the ridge and skied down on a high traverse at the top of the Sache as far as we could then skinned up the flat to the shadow of the Alaska Couloir. The skinning up was more challenging without crampons as there was a hard layer and underneath the surface, snow was breaking away. As the slope increased to more 35 degrees it was getting a lot harder to kick turn. We then we booted up for an hour breaking tracks vertically to the summit. We were behind time and in a race against time. As we boot packed up the snow was changing all the time from stable conditions to layers of depth hoar which was hard to make a foot hold in as you were sinking down to the bed surface. 5m from the summit I was confronted by a an iced corniced and without crampons and ice axe the risk was doubled. With this difficulty and behind time I decided to go on no further and to ski down the same route that we had climbed. Alaska will be there for another 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]

www.freefloski.com
www.freefloski.com

La Grave la Meije – Freeride weekend

I am always pleased and excited to be back in the magical place of La Grave. Having lived in the area for 7 years it feels like my home and there is no place like it. The off piste in La Grave consists of vast areas, open bowls, couloirs, steeps, trees where you can express yourself and freeride the whole mountain.

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lJvdIuIO-g

Skiing off piste in the magical place of La Grave
Skiing off piste in the magical place of La Grave
www.freefloski.com
www.freefloski.com

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]

The British Alpine Championships Tignes 28th March 2015

Watching the ski racers doing their warm ups in lycra in the British Championships last Saturday brought me back to my racing days when I was training for the euro test to finish my ISTD International Ski Teacher Diploma. Different to most my ski racing started at the age of 27years in twin tips and baggy pants as I didn’t have any money to invest in proper gear. But what I did have was a great feel for the edge and I wastn’t scared to go fast.

British Champs Tignes 2015

British Champs Tignes 2015

British Champs Tignes 2015

Tignes British Champs
In the Espace Killy ski instructors can pay for their seasonal lift pass or you can opt for community service. I opted for the community service which involved gate control on the most sunniest day of the season on the British Men and Womens GS race. For four hours I watched closely a section of the course in the sunshine monitoring each racers line. For four hours I saw some amazing talent and great images. One picture was the amazing Cara Brown who completely dominated the field.

http://www.britishalpinechamps.com

I was inspired, maybe I should dust of my GS skis and go for some big angles?

www.freefloski.com
www.freefloski.com

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]