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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]

Ski touring up to Pointe De La Sana 3436m Tignes/Val D’Isere – 1st of May 2014

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I actually saw you last year in February at the top of the Grand Pre chairlift when I took a short day trip to Val D’Isere to visit my family. You stood out from the rest of the peaks in the area with your beauty and your height. All winter I have been admiring your elegance from a far, from chairlifts and pistes whilst I have been teaching and on fairway pistes where I have been giving ski lessons. Since after February 8th I have seen ski tracks up to your summit wishing that they were mine. I never had the time of or the weather window to climb you!Until yesterday, It was now or next season.

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Thanks to Ali and Rab who came with me they made the climb possible. I had calculated the distance of 7.5k = vertical 846m 
= 7.5 x 15 = 113 mins + 90 mins = 203mins = 3.3 hrs to climb up Sana.  It could be nearer four hours if we had to make new tracks so that would be between 1-1.30pm before we would summit, making it late and a race against time as a new front with bad light and snow was beckoning. We traversed off piste from the Borsat chairlift keeping as high as we could into the backcountry with Sana insight. We then put our skins on and started the climb. In no time at all skinning on a flat traverse with a small gradient Sana was getting closer. The most entertaining part was then skiing down in touring mode with skins on our skis for a section of 60m. All style and finess had disappeared where balance and survial turns had to come into play. I did laugh out loud when I saw Rab going over the handle bars and shortly after Ali doing the same thing.

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It was great to be away in the back country again. I feel so alive and lucky to be there, with no crowds,no idoits hurtling pass you or going into you. Just the peacefulness and the beauty with the occasional meet of another ski tourer. 

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After an hour in of the journey we then started to climb this time gaining some vertical height as we were still only the same height of the top of the Borsat chair lift at 2778m. The scenery and vastness was breathtaking. I often stopped to gain my breath and to admire the surroundings. We finally reached the col of La Sana 3047m after 2hrs and 20mins of ski touring. In my head I had always planned to summit in the boys mind the touring up was over.

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With the summit still in view we knew we would have time to conquer it, taking on more fluids and after discussion we pushed towards the summit. Digging deep for energy and strength the final push to the summit took 1hr and 5mins ski touring with kick turns to the top. It was the hardest part of the journey. We made it and summited at 1.22pm on schedule and then it was all about the race to ski down before the weather really came in.

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Now next winter I can smile and admire your beauty and understanding with a sense of achievement.

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