Northern Mountain Sport / Blog / Christmas and New Year in the Alps

Christmas and New Year in the Alps

The Christmas/New year week in Chamonix is not a highlight for me. The resorts are busy and people tend to ski in a more reckless fashion; they certainly park their cars in an inconsiderate way. My car was blocked in for more than 24 hours over new year which was helpful. I did manage to get over to Cogne though to meet my friends Sarah and Eifion (I had failed the previous year) and we had a great day on the ski de Fond pistes there. There's nothing like strapping a pair of skinny skis to your feet to humble you and put you in your place. The snow has arrived though. Not tons but enough to top up existing cover and perhaps more importantly in terms of assessing risk, enough to bury the faceted layer we have all been talking about.

Avalanche test slope at Megeve from Tim Blakemore on Vimeo.

And it came in with a bad combination of a 'blue sky day' following the storm which statistically is when most avalanche incidents happen (on Cat 3/Considerable). Sadly many people have now died in avalanche incidents this season in both Switzerland and France (I don't know about Italy) and I am afraid this will almost certainly be the trend.

In fact avalanche training is forming a substantial part of my work this year; mainly for Avalanche Academy but also other professional leader organisations (BAIML) and private ski companies (I am booked to go over to the Three Valleys next week) who are perhaps reacting to the worrying statistics this year. I find this work constantly challenging and interesting and it is fair to say I have never the delivered the same product twice! The challenge is making the leap from gaining all the relevant information (which is often missed) to then actually making a pro active decision based upon it - easier said and written than done.

So as well as delivering off piste avalanche courses during catergory 4 days (which in fact is easier than it sounds) I've been touring in the Aravis and Mont Blanc Massif. The Petit Croise Baulet is a really important part of my repetoire as it is a venue that you can go to in a wide variety of conditions. Karen and I went during a nice settled period and actually made the slightly steeper and better quality ski back to the Savoie resort of Gietaz before riding the lifts back to Megeve (where we started). The next day we went higher to the helbronner lift (Italian side of Mont Blanc Massif) and went for a high leverl glacial tour; it's hard to imagine ever tiring of the scenery in this vicinity and just whizzing around then skiining back up is worthwhile. Lastly, I've been delivering crevasse rescue courses but perhaps they should be called crevasse avoidance? I was certainly glad to avoid one coming almost immediately out of the top station at Grand Montets - beware, it's a jungle out there.

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