Thursday was supposed be a transitional day between the midweek northern storm and the large storm expected to hit the southern Alps Friday/Saturday. The main weather issue Thursday was wind. Temps were in the 15-20F range.
The connections between the two major resorts Morzine and Avoriaz are surprisingly tedious.
Fraser wrote:There are 4 ways into Avoriaz from Morzine
1. Drive there – pointless (up a bunch of switchbacks).
2. Take the gondola out of Morzine but that is followed by 2 long beginner chairs and takes at least an hour.
3. Drive to Ardent (15 mins away) possible but only really worth-while on peak dates
4. Drive to Prodains (8 mins away) which is what I advise.
Meanwhile at the hotel they said one of those train-face shuttles goes to that Super Morzine gondola (option 2 above) and there is also a bus to Prodains but a 10 minute walk to get to it.
So we got a Portes du Soleil pass at the hotel and drove to Prodains as Fraser recommended at about 10:30AM. The Prodains-to-Avoriaz gondola is a larger version of Squaw’s double cable Funitel, seats 24 plus another 7-8 standing. The Bellevarde lift out of Val d’Isere is similar.
With the break between storms, we hoped to get over to the Swiss side so took the Stade chair in that direction from Avoriaz. We could see snow blowing and that the Choucas chair was closed, but the Chavanette poma was running up to the ridgeline. The poma is not particularly steep, but its launch is abrupt so Liz got some unplanned airtime but managed to hang on without falling. At the top the chair coming up from Switzerland was closed so the piste headed that way was roped off. There was a piste next to the poma, but I decided to traverse left under the Choucas chair, figuring the lift might have a fall line where we wouldn’t get bogged down plus it would provide orientation in the flat light. With the chair closed, the #11 piste next to it had not been groomed, so we had a new Alps experience: powder skiing on piste! Liz put in the first track here.
I’m looking back up from where we joined a groomed piste.
We skied back into Avoriaz with the wind in our faces, then rode the Tour chair. View north from top of Tour:
View over Avoriaz apartments:
We skied down to Les Lindarets as the weather cleared to this view.
There was lots of wide open off piste looker’s right of the lift so we ran two laps through it.
View of Les Lindarets from the off piste powder halfway down:
The most open line veers right from where I took that picture, followed by a traverse left to the lower powder field. But I skied fall line to this choke point.
A bit further down was a short traverse right to a slightly wider opening.
After our third ride on Chaux Fleurie we crossed into Chatel.
There was still plenty of powder skier’s left of the Rochassons chair.
The quality of snow from the Sunday/Monday and Tuesday/Wednesday storms was good enough that this snow skied easily even when chopped some.
View of Chaux des Rosees lift, which services Chatel’s most challenging terrain above Plaine Dranse.
I spotted two off piste bowls between the lift and the #34 piste, beyond the right edge of the picture above. I scouted the one nearest the piste first.
The snow down the middle was smooth windsift being reloaded most of the day.
The opening where it drops through the cliff band was not too steep or constricted so I brought Liz with me for an encore.
The wind picked up as I hit the opening, but I cruised though it as I had just been there and knew the snow below was even deeper windsift. Liz waited for the visibility to improve and then followed.
Snow is still blowing through the opening.
We stayed in the windsift high skier’s right above piste #34 to this view of Plaine Dranse.
There was still some powder going through those scattered boulders and trees below.
We then skied to Les Combes for a thaw break. We continued east up that chair, hoping to ski farther toward Chatel. But the clouds were getting thicker and by 3PM there were other issues.
That’s quite a contrast to the 5 previous pics and as good an illustration as any of the difference between on and off piste skiing at what James calls “industrial ski resorts.” That volume of skiers also generates lots of moguls by mid-afternoon, which can be quite a workout especially in less than ideal light. So we decided to head back, riding the Echo Alpin chair in that picture rather than continuing towards Chatel.
Here we are skiing down by the Combes chair, to skier’s left in the chopped powder rather than on the bumpy piste.
We then skied ungroomed piste #33 and some powder near it to Plaine Dranse and returned to Avoriaz. I had a third run in the off piste skier’s left of Chaux Fleurie, where visibility was decent as it faces SW. We rode the Prolays chair, from which you can ski through Avoriaz and down to Prodains.
I skied 10,400 vertical at Avoriaz and 10,000 at Chatel, with about 9K of powder. The on piste congestion and mogul buildup were surely aggravated by nearly half of Avoriaz’ terrain being closed. But we still had excellent skiing with just enough accessible powder over most of the day.
Driving to Prodains was a very good idea because we got off the mountain at 4:30 but had a 6:45 dinner reservation at Le Clin d'Oeil and were still able to squeeze in some spa time at the hotel. Champs Fleuris had an excellent basement spa very similar to the one at Nira Alpina.
We found out on Wednesday that you will not easily get into the better restaurants in Morzine on short notice. We were lucky to get Le Clin d'Oeil the next day at a somewhat earlier than ideal time. Peak restaurant hour in Morzine seems to be about 8PM. Le Clin d'Oeil has a chef from Dordogne whose specialty is duck. I had the 3 course special of duck breast main preceded by a substantial pan seared foie gras appetizer. Liz had another 3 course option (third course was dessert) and with a bottle of red Burgundy the tab was $145, fairly reasonable for the very high quality.