I have been in the Chamonix valley for just over a week and thought I would record my skiing and other experiences. Just before we arrived, there was a generous snowfall and our car park was about 30cm (a foot) deep in snow on the 28th December. But it seems that prior to that there had been very little snow and it had been “spring-like”, to quote a neighbour. Since then, there has been another foot or so of snow high up, at about 1800m and above, but rain lower down. This happened over last weekend and since then the weather has been very cold at night with clear skies, and sunny just about all day. This would have made for great skiing but there is a chronic shortage of snow and the sun has started a thaw/freeze cycle on the lower pistes.
In the valley, only 2 kms of ski de fond tracks are surviving with snow makers, and staff in the Chamonix ski de fond foyer say these are the worst conditions for at least 25 years.
So, what have I done ski-wise? Over the New Year period I visited Les Houches 3 times and battled with the crowds. On the 30/12 and 1/1 the conditions were reasonable and while some runs, like the Col de Voza, were wearing there were good runs to be had. However, by the end of the day on 2nd January there were serious brown patches on several runs and the bottom runs were icy early on and slushy later. I have not been back since but heard that the runs are now icy throughout and you can see from the valley the large brown patches on pistes.
After the weekend, on the 5th, it was much quieter, and I went to Brevent Flegere and had the best day of skiing so far. There were some icy patches on the blue runs and stones here and there but the snow higher up was great and I had excellent runs down Cornu, Charlanon and Charles Bozon. The Flegere runs were less good – more stones and earth – and Floria was not open.
Next day I went to Vallorcine and was astonished to find no snow at all in the area outside the ticket office at the bottom of the lift. The Esserts run was pretty dire, very icy and stony. On the Le Tour side, the Reines, Col and Aiguillette button lifts were shut, which limited skiing somewhat. The runs were in quite good condition and the piste down to the village was very enjoyable when I did it around lunch time.
Conditions at the top of Grands Montets were good. I had a great ride down Pylones, virtually on my own. But before I reached Lognan, the off piste became hard and icy and I joined a piste to find stones and ice patches. The blue runs were similar and all told it was not very pleasant.
Now I am hoping for some more snow and it cannot come soon enough!