Val d'Isere / Tignes: January 21-31, 2024

ChrisC

Well-known member
I was not supposed to leave for my trip to Val d'Isere until January 26th, but given a big storm system in the Northern Alps (50-100cm) over January 15-17 and an expected warm-up for my scheduled week - my partner and I decided to pull the trigger and leave a week early. We can work remotely from the Alps - ski all day, and start a West Coast job 5/6 pm European time. So I found a last-minute apartment in the La Daille section of Val d'Isere, and off we went. Airfare changes were easy schedule-wise and not too difficult price-wise. Moved to our scheduled hotel for week 2.

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A short summary of the week:
  • Sunday, January 21 - Beautiful sunny day. Played in easy-to-find powder in Bellevarde sectors: Spatule, La Banane, Tommueses Chair. Made a detour to Tignes/Grand Motte Glacier in the afternoon.
  • Monday, January 22 - Still sunny. Hired guide for half a day. He recommended Tignes over Val d'Isere since the snow was less wind-impacted. We did some off-piste skiing off Borsat Chair in the Col de Fresse (easy, fun), Chardonnet Couloir (favorite) and the highlight being the Vallon de la Sachette from the Aguille Percee to Brévières/Tignes 1550 (excellent snow, huge remote expanse). Finished on La Familiale (Tovière to La Daille). Did late lunch and apres-ski at Folie Deuce. Weather moved in, and it started to dump. Even downloaded La Daille Gondola.
  • Tuesday, January 23. Woke to 50cm new in Tignes to 25 new in Val d'Isere. Had hired a guide for half a day. Met guide at Le Fornet Cable Car and made our way to Les Grands Vallons and then Pasaillas Glacier to ski my favorite areas at Val d'Isere: Col Pers and Pays Desert. Superb snow. Also, we skied Le Lavancher on our way back to Val d'Isere. For the final run, the guide offered to take me up to Charvet to ski the Face of Chavert - Another top day at Val d'Isere. The afternoon was a bit tired and mellow, played on the slopes above Solaise with some off-piste lines off Cuganai and Manchet lifts.
  • Wednesday, January 24. It was a lazier day; it started to warm a bit - we did the downhill course "Face", laps off the Funival, and then did the off-piste Tour de Chavert (easier than Face of Charvet), but had to dodge some avalanches on the return traverse - nice corn. Great inexpensive lunch at Les Marmottes Restaurant - best ski hill bargain I have seen in a while.
  • Thursday, January 25. Warmer but a bit windier. Lots of lift closures. We skied mostly areas in Tignes, we had not been to yet.
  • Friday, January 26. Off.
To be continued.
 
Welcome back to @ChrisC from his FTO sabbatical. At least someone here scored fresh snow in the Alps on this trip. Similar to what I did in December trading the Cottonwoods for eastern Switzerland, being nimble and flexible with travel plans (even long-haul destination trips) is the way to go, when feasible.

Great that I can now follow along with Val d'Isere trip reports and have an idea about the various terrain/sector references. You mention Charvet and Chavert -- is the latter a typo?
 
Tour de Charvet was our ill timed tour. Note that ChrisC did several Funival laps before goimg there to let the corn set up.
 
Overall, I did not take as many photos on this trip as usual. This was done to maximize guide time, laziness, and a group reminder that I am not an Internet Influencer.
Day 2 - Tignes - 1/22/2024. First day with 1/2 Day Guide. He recommended we ski Tignes since it had received more snow from recent storms and areas at Val d'Isere were more wind-impacted. Zones we skied in orange:
  • Col de Fresse (easy, fun),
  • Chardonnet Couloir (favorite),
  • Vallon de la Sachette from the Aguille Percee to Brévières/Tignes 1550 (excellent snow, huge remote expanse) and
  • finished on La Familiale (Tovière to La Daille)
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The most memorable itineraries were the Chardonnet Couloir (5-10 minute hike), Chardonnet Bowl, and Vallon de La Sachette (Aguille du Percee to Les Brevieres - 4,000+ vertical feet). On previous visits, I had avoided these areas since I did not have a guide, so these were all new runs for me. Supposedly, the Chardonnet sector of Tignes is the snowiest area in the entire Val d'Isere-Tignes complex.

Our guide Andreas was a Swede who happened to work with Henry Schniewind of Henry's Avalanche Talk fame and was even best man at his wedding. In fact, Henry had a cancellation for the next day, January 22, which would have been incredibly educational, but we had committed to another guide/guide outfit. Almost.


Chardonnet Couloir - a Tignes classic.

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Vallon del La Sachette. Definitely a Tignes Classic!

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We were losing sun as the next storm system started moving in.
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Did a late lunch at La Folie Douce. We missed the lunchtime acrobatics / 'Cirque du Soleil'-esque show but caught the start of Apres-Ski and table dancing. Cloudy Monday afternoons definitely have low crowds compared to most days.

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Finished with cruisers into La Daille.
 
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A guide took me and others in a group to Chardonnet area in January last year. I was out of my depth. I assume there is another entry because we did not ski that couloir??
Looks like you had a great time.
That col de Fresse area description of easy and fun seems like it would be more my style. I’m due to be there in early April. I’m guessing that low pitch area would not hold good snow in usual April conditions?

On a related topic those long green groomers off the Borsat chair must be up there with the best long runs for novices on the planet in fine weather.
 
Tuesday, January 23. Woke to 50cm new in Tignes (La Grand Motte) to 25 new in Val d'Isere. We hired a guide - Cedric - for half a day to focus on Val d'Isere.

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Met guide at Le Fornet Cable Car and made our way to first ski Les Grands Vallons and then up to the Pasaillas Glacier to Col Pers and Pays Desert - some of my favorite areas at Val d'Isere due to snow conditions and vertical drop. Our guided routes were as follows (orange areas on piste map):
  • Les Grands Vallons.
  • Col Pers.
  • Pays Desert. There was superb snow on all three freeride itineraries.
  • Le Lavancher - on our way back to Val d'Isere.
  • For the final run, the guide offered to take me up to Rocher du Charvet to ski the Face of Chavert (steeper, more exposed face than Tour du Charvet)
In the afternoon (a bit tired and mellow), we returned to Les Grands Vallons and played on the slopes above Solaise, including some off-piste lines off the Cuganai and Manchet lifts.

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Les Grands Vallons
Since access is relatively easy, Grands Vallons is the first off-piste zone one should ski in the Fornet sector of Val d'Isere. There are about two significant lines through Les Grand Vallons - maybe three, if you include the center. You need to be careful about rollovers and getting trapped in a gully.

Typically, we would ski some trees all the way down to the Fornet Cable Car and not lap it directly since you lose significant open snow areas. Did center and skier's right/looker's left.

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Some photos from the afternoon exploration.

Signal Poma Lift
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Looking into the Grands Vallons zone
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Looking over to Val d'Isere
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Bottom of Grands Vallons. There are lots of tracks to look right - so you can lap the run more quickly, but there is lots of good snow below. The center was still untouched mid-afternoon.
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Le Fornet Village Excellente tree skiing under its cable car.
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Col Pers - My favorite freeride zone in Val d'Isere:
  • 4000+ vertical ft
  • It's a vast area that never gets skied out. You can always traverse skier's right for fresh snow.
  • Away from everyone. Need to ride three lifts to get there and enter through a non-obvious pass. Cannot see from below/lifts.
  • Snow is kept cold and fresh due to altitude and due north exposure.
  • The basin is decently wind-protected.
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Just head east for fresh snow, right on the border with Italy.
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Pays Desert

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To be continued.
 

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A guide took me and others in a group to Chardonnet area in January last year. I was out of my depth. I assume there is another entry because we did not ski that couloir??

Yes. There is a more popular entry into the Chardonnet Bowl a little further down and take a left (no hiking, no couloir). The snow was quite good in this area, so we did a second, easier lap in the bowl.

That col de Fresse area description of easy and fun seems like it would be more my style. I’m due to be there in early April. I’m guessing that low pitch area would not hold good snow in usual April conditions?

It's quite high and has good northern exposure. There is a slight 2-5 minute hike above the chairlift. It should be good in April still.

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For the first run in this zone, we skied some of the bowls under the Borsat chairlift over to the Fresse Peak, where we hiked 5 minutes to a lower entrance into 'The Fridge.'

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No pics since the guide was moving quite fast.
 
To be continued.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024 continued.

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Le Lavancher
There are no photos due to tree skiing in parts and decently high avalanche potential.

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Face de Charvet
A hanging snowfield above a wall of cliffs. Most ski around them to the skier's left, but the guide debated taking me through the couloir at the skier's right. The line from above was not apparent to me. We changed course when it became obvious the couloir had slid.

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Photos looking back across the valley from the Manchet Express. There are no photos due to the cliff band below the Face de Charvet.
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It looks like the avalanche was skier-triggered.
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Sunshine Bowl.
It is a big open bowl with fresh snow on the skier's left/looker's right until mid/late afternoon.

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Marmottes/Manchet Zone

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Cugnai

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Looking into the Cugnai Zone from the Cugnai lift
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:icon-mrgreen::icon-mrgreen::icon-mrgreen::icon-mrgreen::icon-mrgreen:
We were in the Jungfrau and Dijon while ChrisC was enjoying these conditions. By the time we started skiing Val d'Isere Jan. 27 anything off piste below ~2,400 meters had some melt/freeze in the warm weather and a fair amount higher up was wind affected.
Col de Fresse (easy, fun),
Liz and I skied this on our own via a direct traverse in April 2018. The next day I skied a longer line after a 5 minute bootpack from top of Borsat.
Chardonnet Couloir (favorite),
I think I knew where to look back up at that from below on Jan. 29.
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This is a good example of scale in the Alps. I had no idea whether that was beyond my pay grade without a hike and inspection from the top. As I had started off this Alps trip not skiing well at all and I had Liz with me, the Aiguille Percée was the obvious place in that sector for us to be on that warm and sunny afternoon. From Chris' description I would have loved it in 2018. Now I would need ideal soft snow conditions to consider it.

Vallon de la Sachette from the Aguille Percee to Brévières/Tignes 1550 (excellent snow, huge remote expanse)
Liz and I did that on our first guided day in April 2018 and again on our own on the last day of the trip. In both cases we bailed to the piste for the lower 2,000 vertical as it had sloppy wet snow in the spring.
finished on La Familiale
I think I skied the upper part of that with guides in 2018.

Les Grands Vallons.
Still good chalky snow down to traverse out to the Vallons gondola Jan. 30. It was a shame Liz and James missed that as it was definitely within their comfort zone.
Pays Desert.
is what we skied with the iSKI guide Jan. 27. Liz and I poked around in there on our own the first day in 2018.
Col Pers.
The iSKI guide was contemplating that for our second run.....until he watched us ski the first run in Pays Desert. Col Pers commits you to ski to the valley floor. By Jan. 27 the lower half of that would have had tedious snow conditions. Our final guided run on April 13, 2018 was in Vallonet, the drainage between Grands Vallons and Col Pers, also committed to the valley floor, not a problem with the all time conditions that day, aside from the avalanche exposure.
Face of Chavert
Even before I saw ChrisC's picture I knew that one was beyond me even during my peak days of early retirement.

Sbooker will definitely enjoy Col de Fresse, Pays Desert, Grands Vallons and Vallon de la Sachette. Col Pers needs the snow to be good top to bottom for 4,000 vertical, which takes a bit of luck.
 
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Sbooker will definitely enjoy Col de Fresse, Pays Desert, Grands Vallons and Vallon de la Sachette. Col Pers needs the snow to be good top to bottom for 4,000 vertical, which takes a bit of luck.
I’ll be going wherever the guide takes me. :) There is no way this gaper is going off piste alone in Europe without a guide. (Side and between pistes excepted).
But yes - those areas sound like they may be suitable.
 
I'm now recalling that sbooker said the April SnowHeads trip was to Val Thorens. Is it to Val d'Isere?
I’m going to have 4 days skiing in Tignes first. I’ve reserved a flat in Tignes anyway. I may change to Val D’Isere yet. I’ll be solo so I don’t have anyone else to consider.
I will be trying to ski the closing day at Saint Foy on the changeover day.
 
Ok. Partner decided we should be in Val d'Isere for 2 weeks next winter. Me - what the f is going on here? What negotiation? Why?

Guess we are going......

I think it's incredible. Feel like walking into a trap.
  • I dig down...he's bored with high-interest rates in real estate
  • I know ...... I have an encyclopedic rate/interest level for everything. (we fight before an investment).
  • Hate it. Should have worked in finance.

You can get chalets with people... I am going to try it. Max 6-10.

I don't like trees anymore. Not paying $$$ to ski between them.
 
Ok. Partner decided we should be in Val d'Isere for 2 weeks next winter. Me - what the f is going on here? What negotiation? Why?

Guess we are going......

I think it's incredible. Feel like walking into a trap.
  • I dig down...he's bored with high-interest rates in real estate
  • I know ...... I have an encyclopedic rate/interest level for everything. (we fight before an investment).
  • Hate it. Should have worked in finance.

You can get chalets with people... I am going to try it. Max 6-10.

I don't like trees anymore. Not paying $$$ to ski between them.
I’m going to sound like a douche old person here but……high interest rates? I bought my first house on 16% rates in 1990.

Are you the senior skier in your partnership? If so pull rank and explain you’re going where you want. 😂
 
Are you the senior skier in your partnership?
I'm sure he's the senior skier in ability. :icon-lol: That may not mean he calls all the shots. Interestingly, Liz has often wondered if we could get a group into La Daille. Is that where the chalet would be? Are you looking for one of those catered chalets I've vaguely heard about?
I bought my first house on 16% rates in 1990.
That was the early 1980's in the US. My first was 11.75% in 1984. It's been refinanced 11 times, hitting its final (I'm quite sure this time!) rock bottom at 2.5% in Dec. 2020. Here's the history. Now new mortgages are just under 7%.
 
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:icon-lol: That may not mean he calls all the shots.
Jokes. It’s not always that the best skier gets to make decisions on destinations. I’m sure Liz takes the lead on those calls often.😂
That was the early 1980's in the US. My first was 11.75% in 1984. It's been refinanced 11 times, hitting its final (I'm quite sure this time!) rock bottom at 2.5% in Dec. 2020. Here's the history. Now new mortgages are just under 7%.
You being an avid record keeper I thought you were going to lead us to a spreadsheet of your mortgage. 🙂
 
Now new mortgages are just under 7%.
This is not terrible in long term historical context. That chart starts in 1975 when the most persistent inflation of my lifetime was just gaining momentum. My parents' 20-year mortgage in 1959 was around 5% and Adam's is 5.75% I think. But that 5.75% was only 18 months after the 2.5% bottom.
 
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He's probably like us, wants some variety and/or new places. I'd go back to Val d'Isere for a week, then leave the other week or two flexible. Some people, perhaps ChrisC's partner being one of them, don't like packing up and moving multiple times during a trip. Liz likes to minimize the one night stands, so I keep than in mind with planning. We still wind up with about one per week on average on our road trips.

I think the unseasonable weather kept us off some of the best off piste that James would have enjoyed (without his injury of course): Manchet, Col Pers, Vallon de Sachette. IMHO we have seen enough of the Alps that like this year I'm inclined to spend part of future trips returning to favorites. We keep waiting for a year when that's possible for Zermatt. This year I made the effort to get in those two days at Verbier when I knew it had a deep snowpack.
 
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