We had reserved guides from 3 different outfits Saturday-Monday, but the warmup Friday severely limited any remaining powder. Saturday’s guides were reluctant so we have pushed that reservation forward. We also cancelled Monday, which was predicted to be overcast but no snow. Then it is supposed to snow quite a bit, so we are extending our stay to check out Saturday instead of Thursday. Friday and Saturday rate to be the clearing powder days if the weather forecast holds up, though in fairness the locals here are even more skeptical than North American skiers about forecasts more than about 48 hours in advance. The storm is coming from the Mediterranean and the heaviest snowfall is expected along the French-Italian border extending from here south to the areas James skied in January.
So Saturday we were on our own again and decided to survey the Val d’Isere side. A few people thought the weather might start to deteriorate Saturday, but it was just as warm with a very few scattered clouds and a light breeze in the most exposed locations.
We ascended the Solaise lift into the main learning area of Val d’Isere. The area served by the Madeleine, Datcha and Glacier lifts might be a bit of a challenge for a first timer, but overall it’s mellow terrain. The immediate exit from the Solaise gondola was frozen solid at 9:30AM but the pistes served by those lifts were well maintained. Here’s the view of extensive off piste west from the top of Madeleine.
There are long fall lines down to Le Manchet. We did not even ski the piste to Le Manchet as it also faces west and rated to be bulletproof that early.
The highest lift Cugnai had been groomed to packed powder and here’s the view off the back of that.
This probably leads to Le Manchet also.
We next rode the Lessieres transport lift into the Le Fornet drainage. The descending part is not for the acrophobic.
It was warm enough that we decided to take a chance on skiing to the Le Fornet base. Just below the tram/gondola mid station is an enticing lower bowl, with views continuing to Le Fornet and then down valley to Val d’Isere.
The snow on the Morgard and Cognan pistes was a bit firm but probably only an hour short of being decent corn. The lower off piste was well covered but almost no one was skiing it due to the unconsolidated surface.
View up from Le Fornet base:
After ascending that tram and the long and very old Vallon gondola, we arrived at Col d’Iseran with this view of the Pissaillas Glacier.
This glacier is open only to mid-July so Patrick missed it in 2011. Grand Motte is open all summer.
We first skied a piste with views all the way down to the dam near Tignes 1800.
Riding the chair I spotted these enticing tracks and decided to go out there.
From the Montet poma it was a long schlep through difficult snow, just getting started here:
All of this was NW facing and crusty with the mellow pitch and yesterday’s sun. There was then a valley to cross and you had to bootpack up the other side to reach the north facing untracked in the second picture above. Liz passed on the bootpack and skied from about halfway down where it was more tracked. The bootpack was maybe 10-15 minutes but not steep so I stuck with it.
By the time I was skiing it was 1:15 and most of the tracks I made were sun affected though fortunately not crusty. There were a few powder turns near the bottom where it was steeper. I bailed skier’s right to get to the Pays Desert poma. The tracks farthest looker’s right in the picture go lower and require a hike out.
We skied back to Lessieres. View riding that lift up:
From there we skied down to the Le Laisinant base. There are two pistes but the one in the valley floor was roped off for avalanche danger. Here’s why:
The wet slide crosses Piste L below.
The Germain Mattis piste we skied was in perfect corn mode at 2PM with minimal skier traffic. There’s a very nice bowl below this piste too.
It is very evident from terrain like this why ChrisC’s powder day Jan. 27 likely surpassed ours in Cervinia the same day.
Our slog from the Pissaillas Glacier had worn both of us down, so Liz took the bus back to the hotel from Le Laisinant. I wanted to check out one last sector of Val d’Isere. I rode the chair from there, skied Table d’Orientation and rode the Pyramides chair and Signal poma to about 9,500 feet. There’s vast amount of open terrain under these lifts, but the view off the backside into Les Grands Vallons is even more impressive.
This is probably a sector ChrisC skied on Jan. 27. I was content to ski 3 pistes down to Le Fornet, arriving 3PM with 18,000 vertical for the day. I had a short lunch and took the bus back to our hotel.