Thursday 9 February 2012

Les Contamines

Although we've had a huge amount of snow this year, there have also been almost constant high winds, meaning that the good snow is not always that simple to find. In the last week it's got even tougher as the winds have begun to move around, and I've heard reports of bad snow where I was really expecting good stuff. This meant that our criteria for skiing yesterday was - low down (less wind), not tracked out (it hasn't snowed for a week or so), not too much uphill (obviously), no terrain traps, and interesting skiing. 

We decided to go for Les Contamines and ended up having a great day, albeit with only a bit of powder but plenty of fun. We were intending to do a tour from the top of the lifts, but with the pistes deserted we took the unusual step of skiing the corduroy for a few runs, and we all agreed that skiing the pistes at high speed is truly terrifying if you really go for it. I think steep skiing is pretty tame compared to the thought of catching an edge doing 50 mph on a piste!

We then skinned up off a lift for an hour or so in search of a good couloir but were rewarded with some terrible crust so we retired back to the pistes to reconsider. Our original idea for a tour was facing the same aspect as the little couloir we skied (North East), and the approach looked a bit avalanche prone, so we opted to just drop into the trees below the resort and find a way out. Expecting a bit of adventure we actually ended up with some of the best tree skiing I've done all winter and some superb powder, making us all wish that we'd just skied the trees all day! You live and learn.

Conditions seem very strange right now, and there was a huge amount of avalanche activity in Contamines, primarily on SE facing slopes, but the avalanche forecast is saying that all aspects are of equal risk right now. The winds have also returned with a vengeance up high, so after ruling out various ski options, as well as an alpine route (I tend to leave climbing in high winds and minus 30 to other, tougher people), we're actually going ice climbing. I was hoping to make it through a whole winter without doing a water ice route, so I'm slightly ashamed, but there are 5 of us going so there should be plenty of banter. Wish me luck!

Matt earning his crust turns, with the Domes des Miages behind.

Me at the top of Les Contamines lift system. "This is miles better than ice climbing!!"

Me in the trees low down. Photo Matt "Oil and Gas, Baby!" Livingstone