White and gold: autumn days and first snowfalls in Val d’Isère

Above the Piste L in the Laisinant
Above the Piste L in the Laisinant

Val d’Isère, Oct. 2015 — We’ve been walking up the trail above the L piste towards the Ouillette lake, just up from the Laisinant, for nearly two hours. On a summer’s day, this takes no longer than an hour. But the snow that fell for nearly 24 hours yesterday is making our progress much slower on this Autumn afternoon.

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Round the Mont Roup

Walking across towards the Sana
Walking past the Sana towards Mont Roup

Just further on from the Val d’Isere classic Tour du Charvet, the Tour du Mont Roup has been on my list of short treks since the beginning of the season – for several seasons, in fact. I got close a few times but weather conditions and other circumstances kept getting in the way, until yesterday, when guide Chris said the words: “Right, today we’re going to the Mont Roup”.

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Returning from Cugnai: ferme de l'Arcelle

From couloir du Mont Blanc to Cugnai

Returning from Cugnai: ferme de l'Arcelle
Returning from Cugnai: ferme de l’Arsellaz

Yesterday’s miles of skinning are already a distant memory. Today, we’re skiing; just skiing. After a less than auspicious start –  from the top of Bellevarde down the Super-Santons on yet-untransformed snow and amid brown grassy patches – we headed back up the hill, then through the jardins de Borsat, across to the Charvet and down a depleted but good couloir du Mont Blanc. Once again, with snow being in limited supply, guide Chris ushered us about the mountain in an attempt to avoid crowds, and mostly, as usual, he succeeded .

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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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