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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.

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]

Ski Touring and Skiing Off Piste Tignes: The 3 Col’s- Col De La Grassez , Col De La Croix, Col Du Palet

Your options ski touring and skiing off piste in Tignes and the Espace Killy are endless. Time, weather,your fitness level and ski ability are the only factors that will restrict your options. Ski touring the 3 Col’s is a quiet and friendly estimated around 6 hour ski tour with some stunning views. It is such a peaceful and gentle ski tour with up to to 3 hours of touring uphill so you have to have a good fitness level but it is gentle so you don’t need to be too skill full at ski touring as kick turns are not needed.

The start of the tour is very accessible from the Grattaleu Chairlift or the Col Du Palet drag in Val Claret in Tignes where you traverse into the Col Du Palet. You then ski untracked snow into the bowl passing the Col Du Palet refuge which on your right hand side. If you keep right you then makes some great off piste turns on slight steeper terrain towards the Lac Du Grattaleu. You then put on your skins once you reach the Plan de Janin. Follow the river floor passing the Chalet des Aimes you then cross over the river and climb up to the Col Du Grassez. This section will take you around 1hr and 10mins. This spot is a great lunch spot with the view of the Grand Caisse in the background.

There are two main options for the ski down from the col. You can follow the itinerary route and ski down more of a gentle pitch in direction of the Chalet du Grand Plan or depending on snow conditions you can keep left close to the Aiguille Noire for more of a steeper off piste route. Both options will lead you to the valley floor where you then ski tour up to the Col De La Croix des Fretes then onto the Col Du Palet which can take up to 1hr 40 mins depending on your energy levels. Once you reach the Col Du Palet it is then a short traverse back onto the piste and then back to Val Claret. A perfect tour for a good level of fitness.

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]

A great start to my Ski Teaching season 2014/15 Tignes/Val D’Isere

The start of this season we haven’t been blessed with snow compared to other seasons. This season does remind me of the poor start of the 2000/01 season which is why I have chosen to live in Tignes in a high altitude resort in the Espace Killy, France. In the Espace Killy we are fortunate and we have the accessibility of two glaciers the Grand Motte 3456m and Glaciers Du Pissaillas 3347m which makes teaching possible early season and in the summer months.

Having a summer off it has been great to get back to Ski Teaching and to kick off my ski lessons with a flying start!!!My first ski lesson was with Jill from Singapore who did extremely well making her first ever turns on the Grand Motte glacier and then skiing in control down to the Vanoise chairlift. Once I straighted a few technical hitches Jill was skiing with more confidence and control.

Jill from Singapore 1st lesson of 2014:15

Then a quick drive over to Val D’Isere to teach some great kids Charlie 9yrs and Millie 7yrs their first turns and after a two hour lesson they were making turns on the green run. Amazing quick progression with good foot steering skills. I wish I was that good when I was their age.

IMG_3345

For two afternoons on the Tignes glacier I have been teaching Tanya who is an intermediate skier but finding it hard work and exhausting!!!A change of stance, posture and turn shape then she was skiing so much better and with ease using much less energy. Great skills!!!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/eDji6cVpIWk]

Job done!

So all in all great people and a great start to my ski teaching season 2014/15. I am on a teaching high despite the difficult conditions. I wander what next week will bring? I plan for more successes and more fun doing the job that I love and being on top of the world.

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