Spring snow at the Sachette

Hiking up to Col de la Sachette
Hiking up to Col de la Sachette

There was a lot less snow on the hike up to the Col de la Sachette today than a few days ago, but at least we could see where we were going and the sun came out too. Surprisingly, there was some lovely untracked – wind-blown – powder. On our way back, Andreas took us over to the Aiguille Percée, along the corniche, and down to Tignes again on transformed spring snow – a few times.

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Sunshine and powder at the Col Pers

Chris making fresh tracks in Pays Desert
Chris making fresh tracks in Pays Desert

Last week’s snow falls seem a long time ago but there is still some powder to be had if you’re prepared to get up early and break a bit of sweat on skins. This morning, Chris took us to the further reaches of the Pays Desert before hiking over to the Col Pers and across to the Lechoir for some fantastic skiing.

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Down Vallon du Clou to Le Monal

Vallon du Clou and its abandoned hamlet
Vallon du Clou and its abandoned hamlet

Le Monal is a magical site in the spring. On a sunny winter’s day, it’s an almost unreal wonderland. Last week I walked to the UNESCO-listed site from Sainte Foy following the last-minute cancellation of a planned ski tour to the hamlet.

Today I am back on skis with local guide Nicolas Borrel who took a small group of us to Le Monal via the upper part of the vallon du Clou – the stream that flows down from the small lake of the same name, through Le Monal and eventually into the river Isère 1,000m below.

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An infinite variety of trees: skiing the Laisinant forest

Laisinant forest: tall trees, steep slopes, soft snow
Laisinant forest: tall trees, steep slopes, soft snow

Powder. Lots of it. It was the news everybody in Val d’Isère had been waiting for after ten days of near-continuous sunshine and mild temperatures. Overnight, snow clouds drifting over from the Italian side of the mountain – known locally as the ‘retour d’Est’ – has deposited 15 cm of fresh stuff on the hill and 50cm on the Pisaillas glacier. But as snow hounds were reaching for their fat planks, further news came through: residual high winds meant the lifts on the upper parts of the resort would not open today and the glacier would remain shut. Perfect day, then, to rediscover nearby off-piste areas that had become tracked out and icy beyond skiable – and where else to go other than the magnificent Laisinant forest.

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