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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]

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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.

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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: Refuge Col Du Palet Tignes 2587m

The Refuge Col Du Palet is a great base camp or lunch spot for ski touring and skiing off piste in the Vanoise National Park in Tignes, which is very accessible from the Grattaleu chairflift and the Col Du Palet drag lift. You would need to hire a guide or instructor to take full advantage of the area as the off piste and ski touring routes to find fresh powder are endless.

After an amazing ski tour summiting to the Col Du Grassaz and skiing fresh powder tracks on our return we arrived to the refuge happy and hungry and were welcomed by Nicolas who is the guardian of the refuge. Nicolas has been the guardian for four summers in the Col Du Palet and has worked four summers in the Refuge De Leisse which is close to the Grande Motte glacier. This winter is his first winter in the Refuge Du Palet which is open Tuesday to Friday every week from the 23rd Dec 2014 to 24th of April 2015. One nights accommodation with breakfast and a delicious geerous three course dinner is very reasonable at €44.50 per head. The refuge sleeps 15 people in the winter which is one large dormitory. Duvets and blankets are provided, however you must bring a sleeping bag liner or you can rent one for €3.50. The rules of the refuge is to take away your own rubbish. The prices for drinks inside the refuge are reasonable with a glass of red wine starting at €3 and a beer at €4. You can bring your own drinks and food to the refuge but that would mean that you would have to ski tour with your supplies all day. Don’t forget to bring some cash as you can’t pay with credit card in the refuge.

Before dinner at 7pm we relaxed next to the wood burner stove discussing our adventures and looking at our photos of the day with an aperitif from the house which was made by Nicolas’s father. It was a perfect way to relax after a great day ski touring and skiing off piste. Pressed du pin which tasted very much like a sweet almond cognac. The first course was spilt pea soup which was accompanied with a slice of Tomme cheese and bread. Nicolas’s grandma Fi Fi’s slow cooked hot pot then followed which consisted potatoes,prunes and bacon which was a winter warmer after spending the day on the mountain. We were then spoilt with homemade chocolate fondant before getting an early night for the next day adventure. Breakfast was continental with homemade jam and a hot drink of your choice. Which was perfect before setting off to ski tour to the Col De Sachette then dropping off-piste into the Sache and ending up in Tignes 1800.

For further information about the refuge see http://www.vanoise-refugedupalet.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]

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Off Piste Skiing Tignes: Tour De Charvet to Val D’Isere

The Tignes off-piste skiing route Tour De Charvet is one of those classic Espace Killy off piste routes where you can really enjoy the skiing in the backcountry with a small calculated avalanche risk. You start the route in Tignes descending of the back of the Grande Pre chairlift and you end up in the beautiful town of Val D’Isere.


After a quick check of our transceivers on the electronic device on the post at the top of the chair lift, Susie, Rich and myself nipped under the rope at the top of Grand Pre to start our off piste route. Knowing the route very well, I anticipated the first pitch to be affected by the wind with little snow so there was no great surprise when I was trying to keep balance on windblown snow with variable depths of crust. Being able to see the ridge wind scoured we kept our height and traversed to the right where we choose to ski down one of the gullies to the river Ruisseau which was gushing with water. Normally the river is frozen so you can ski across it, but not this time! Today with roaring temperatures and unusual lack of snow I choose the safer option of keeping left of the river and using the few ski tracks in front of me to navigate between the rocks and to join the footpath. With the knowledge that the Manchet chair lift was close (normally your escape route out of the area) we kept to the footpath keeping our eyes peeled for any avalanche danger above. We then cruised through the valley floor to the restuarant Clochetons which was a fine coffee stop before winding through the sleepy back streets of Val D’Isere to the famous Les Olympiques cable car.

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]

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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]

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Ski Season 2014-15 Starts Now in the Espace Killy!In the great resorts of Tignes and Val D’Isere

After the summer in the UK its great to get back into the mountains and to start getting fit by doing some ski touring! In the Espace Killy you can find the best ski touring.What a great way to start the 2014/15 season.

Aigullie Noire de Promecou 2977m in the background IMG_3289

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]

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‘What is a marmot?’

Marmot                        marmot on his back legs

The Alpine Marmot- It wasn’t until the end of the season sharing a chairlift with some kids going up to the Tranquil ski area in Tignes was when I was asked a question about marmots that I realised how little I knew about them.

Marmots are large squirrels in the genus of Marmota, of which there are 15 species. Marmots mostly live in mountainous areas, such as the Alps and the northern Rockies. The groundhog of North America is a lowland marmot.

Marmots typically live in burrows often within rockpiles, particularly in the case of the yellow-bellied marmot), and hibernate there through the winter. Most marmots are highly social and use loud whistles to communicate with one another, especially when alarmed.

Marmots mainly eat greens and many types of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots, and flowers.

The etymology of the term “marmot” is uncertain. It may have arisen from the Gallo-Romance prefix marm-, meaning to mumble or murmur. Another possible origin is post-classical Latin, mus montanus, meaning “mountain mouse”.

Beginning in 2010, Alaska celebrates February 2 as “Marmot Day”, a holiday intended to observe the prevalence of marmots in that state and take the place of Groundhog Day.

During the summer, marmots gain weight in order to prepare for hibernation. They usually hibernate all winter and may lose as much as half their body weight by February. 

Russian Marmot A Russian Marmot.

Fresh powder turns in Sainte Foy 8th of Feb 2014

I woke up to the smell of fresh powder. Seeing fresh snow fall the day and night before of up to 50cm there was no chance I was going to over sleep. I was too excited! It was my day off from teaching in Tignes and Val D’Isere, working independently for myself JCskiing and for Ultimate Snowsports Ski School.  This was my chance to explore and to play in the backcountry. Just a 15 minute drive from Tignes Les Bossies we had arrived in the small gem of the resort of Station of St Foy. Whilst riding the first chairlift the powder opportunities where endless. We took the low traverse from the top of the Marguise chairlift and was confronted to white untracked face of powder. Putting fresh tracks in the untracked snow. It was amazing!!then we cut into the trees for four more runs. It was too good to stop for lunch.

When the high traverse was cut from the Marguise chairlift it was then time to go into the backcountry…of the Vallon de Mercuel. We arrived into the untracked open bowl of deep powder where every right turn I was getting powder in my face known as face shots.IMG_2295                                       IMG_2312

Then we skied into the tree line and cross the river. Then 20/30 minutes of skiing the snow luge run, then the foot path through sleepy closed hamlets onto a road ending up into the pretty village of Le Miroir where we took the public bus back to the Station of Sainte Foy. Amazing!!!and that was just the morning!

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]

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