In North America we often chase storms. In the Alps we have so far been running away from them. We landed in Geneva Jan. 18 and drove to the Mont Blanc tunnel in continuous pouring rain. The rain/snow line was just below Les Houches ski area about 3,600 feet on the French side and about 4,200 feet on the Italian side. The storm from the NW was expected to tail off Friday but still be windy and cloudy along the spine of the Alps. We spent the night of the 18th in Aosta and Fraser Wilkin of http://www.weathertoski.co.uk/
" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; suspected that Aosta’s local ski area Pila might be mostly free of clouds Friday, and happily he was correct about that. View from our hotel just after dawn:
Pila has a transport gondola that rises from town at 2,300 feet to the ski area at 5,600.
Pila is shadowed by the spine of the Alps to the NW and thus has a low snow reputation. All of the pistes were lined with snowmaking gear. But we knew that last week’s huge storm had come from the Mediterranean and thus Pila had an abundance of snowpack. Pila is also nearly all north facing so surfaces were soft. Trail map:
Pila may be a “local” area but it must be quite popular with them. There is a lot of on-site lodging and there are 4 high speed chairs and a tram rising to tree line around 7,500 feet. These lifts serve 14 pistes, nearly all mainstream intermediate. Above that are two more chairs Couis 1&2 rising into about 1,000 vertical of advanced high alpine terrain, topping out at 8,700 feet. Unfortunately these lifts were closed due to wind and avalanche danger.
I was a bit surprised about the avalanche closure a week after the big storm as you can see in this picture 3 Gasex installations just below the top of the Couis 2 chair.
We started with 3 laps on Chamole chair. Liz at the top of Chamole with the closed alpine sector in background:
The 1 and 2 pistes were fairly busy but for unknown reasons #3 was empty
This unusual cross was at the top of Chamole.
Given the weather I called it “Crucifixion in the Wind.”
The Alps across the Aosta Valley were often in clouds, but there were occasionally sunny breaks over there.
We then took the tram and skied a ruin on the short Grimod lift. There was a helicopter evacuation when we were riding the lift.
Here I am near the top of the highest open lift Leisse.
There was some ungroomed skiing available from Leisse, but at the top it was wind affected.
Lower down was some good low angle powder.
I’m sure James is not surprised to see this under a high speed lift with many hotels not so far in the background.
There was one steeper pitch with some powder sheltered by scattered trees.
With jet lag we did not get on the hill early, skied from about 11:00 – 3:30 with a total of 17,300 vertical.
Worse weather was predicted for the weekend, so we decided to drive over 6 hours east to the Dolomites to escape most of it. After skiing Friday we drove 4.5 hours to Bolzano, leaving us one hour Saturday morning to the westernmost areas on the Dolomite Superski Pass. We are spending the next 3 nights in Arabba, which was another hour drive after Saturday’s skiing.