After the driest December for over 100 years the Chamonix valley, and most of the Alps, were desperately waiting for some snow to fall in the new year.
The first week of January was not too promising but then once it started it didn’t stop. The first large snowfall brought with it a much needed top up to the whole ski area, both on and off piste.
This first snow fall did mean that people started venturing off piste and the skins came back out of the cupboard in the search for the best skiing. On the 11th I headed up the Aiguille du Midi with Ben Briggs and Jesper Petersson with our sights set on the Grand Envers variation of the Vallee Blanche. The arête doesn’t have the rope installed at the moment, so this means you have to ski out of the ice cave, but as soon as we were down this first slope we found deep cold snow and it felt like winter for the first time this year! After skiing over 1000m vertical of cold winter powder, we started to hit the rocks that had yet to be covered by this season's base. This made the exit to Montenvers on the Mer de Glace interesting to say the least.
This sunny day was short lived and before we knew it the storm clouds rolled in again. The weekend saw 30/40cm fall in the valley and even more up high. When the lifts opened on Sunday morning, the sun was shining and the crowds were rushing to get the elusive first chair. The snow was good at Brevent and despite the Cornu and Brevent lift not opening, there was good off piste skiing to be had in the couloirs back down to the valley floor. The Aiguille du Midi mid-station was also skiing very well with enough snow to make it back to the lift with your skis on and in one piece.
The high pressure set back in and the next two days were spent lapping good powder from the top of Brevent, Flegere, Grand Montets and the Aiguille du Midi. Most areas were skiing very well and the high winds didn’t seem to have much effect on the snow condition and thankfully the avalanche risk also dropped which gave us the confidence to go and explore more of the terrain.
Ski touring has resumed in the Aiguille Rouges, Wednesday saw almost all of the classic tours being skied from the Crochues-Berard traverse to the Belvedere. The skiing was superb in the Berard Valley and the exit has plenty of snow to allow smooth skiing back to the road.
This high pressure is set to stick around for a little while now, so it’s a good time to get out and stretch the legs and make good of those new years resolutions!
Joel is a Ski-mountaineer/ Salomon ambassador. Keep up to date with more of his adventures.
NB: Off piste skiing and mountaineering are dangerous. The opinions expressed in these articles are very much time and condition specific and the content is not intended in any way to be a substitute for hiring a mountain guide, undergoing professional mountaineering training and/or the individual's own back country decision making.