Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Unexpected snow bonus in Portes du Soleil

Jackie skiing on fresh poweder in Avoriaz

We are on our final countdown of 10 days before heading back to the UK and the skilifts, still running in Avoriaz and Chatel, close on Sunday 24th as the ski season in Portes du Soleil finally comes to a close. 

However, no-one has told the weather god as, in between warm spring like weather we’ve had one very cold spell and have another predicted for Saturday through to the middle of next week that has brought and is forecast to bring more fresh snow.

Judith, Cassie, Grandma and Jackie at Montriond lake
It didn’t seem possible last Saturday when we pushed ‘Grandma’ (Si’s grandmother) round Montriond lake with Judith (Si’s mother) and Cassie in glorious warm sunshine, stopping for a coffee outdoors by the lakeside, but the weather forecast foretold it and it came to pass.

Out walking one day up to the Col de L'Ecuelle in Abondance
Arriving in Montriond in heavy snow
Sunday was the most miserable day, constant heavy rain here, but above 1400m it was heavy snow. Monday continued with precipitation but now, at our level, 950m it was just about snowing and we could see very white scenery on the mountain opposite with a very definite snow line at about 1000m, just above our heads, so we headed out.

Poor visibility, but fabulous snow!
Skiing deep powder in Chatel
The Ardent bubble lift leading to the centre of the Chatel/Avoriaz ski area is up and past Montriond lake and, as we drove up there we saw white snow everywhere where only 2 days before we had been in tee shirts, now -1 degree C. The visibility in Chatel was pretty poor it has to be said and at the top of the lifts we were in cloud, but the snow conditions were fantastic and there were very few other people around. It was not an exaggeration to say there was a new fresh powder depth of at least 30cm, in some places just under knee deep and, with few other people about, the fresh lines we could cut were endless. Have a look at this video of Jackie skiing deep powder in Chatel: Jackies off piste skiing. 
Jackie's fall onto the piste. Can you see the 40cm drop? We couldn't!
No pistes had been groomed so on piste skiing was the same as off piste and, quite often it was impossible to tell the difference as white blended into white in the poor vis. Even familiar areas became disorientating and our only concern was to try not to ski off a cliff or at least a rocky edge. On a few occasions we disappeared into unseen dips or fell over on unseen humps, Jackie at one point thinking she was skiing smoothly onto a piste past the edge marker dropped about 40cm over an invisible edge, ending in a heap. Even then the drop was not visible! Anyway, we were careful and had a fabulous time, doing all the off piste we knew in deep forgiving fresh powder, how glad were we that we made the effort!

Next day, beautiful sunshine!
The trouble is, the sun’s been out since and the temperature at 2400m was 11 degrees today, so snow doesn’t last long under those conditions and by pm it turns wet, heavy and, in places like glue so can be quite unpleasant. Get up early, enjoy the hard packed fast pistes and go home about 12:00 midday is the rule now and then the skiing is fabulous.

Outside La Poya restaurant in Avoriaz. Grandma's view while we skied
Lunch at La Poya, Jackie, Judith, Grandma and Cassie
That is until Saturday, when it’s forecast to turn really cold again with lots more snow, so it might be similar conditions. The difference is, after Sunday there will be no more ski lifts running so any skiing will be hard won after putting the skins on our skis and ski touring up. 2 hours up, 15 minutes down. Ah well, at least it will keep us fit! We’ll be here until the very end!

Nordic skiing with Leanne and Drew
A few other things have changed since our last blog entry, written the day after a great evening at Si and Cassies with Leanne and Drew. Si has gone away to Belgium, having got a very lucrative diving job, so is earning the money while Cassie has stayed at home looking after Si’s mum Judith and Grandma, who had arranged to come out to see them both, only to find Si has gone away for a month. Never mind, we’ve been around while Cassie, and occasionally us, has skied with Judith, on her second year of learning to ski and doing pretty well. 
Drew and Leanne looking a bit more professional than us!
We brought Grandma out one day, up on the Prodains lift and dragged her in her wheelchair across the snow to the La Poya piste-side restaurant to sit in the sun and watch the skiing. She does pretty well for 94 years old! Today, after a morning of some really fast on piste skiing with Cassie we had a leisurely afternoon with Judith and Grandma walking through the park next to the river in Morzine, followed by afternoon cake and coffee on the patio at Cassies.

Funny things these Nordic skis. Long poles but very comfy footwear!
Cassie and Jackie today, Montriond lake in the distance
The other thing that’s changed is that Drew has gone away for a week to be assessed for his level 3 ski instructor and Leanne has been away for a first aid course and then lots of dog sitting. It meant that the ski tour day with an overnight in a hut didn’t happen, but we did get out with them on a couple of days Nordic, or cross-country skiing. We’ve never done that before and found it really quite hard, the skis are very narrow with almost no edges and the poles very long. The one saving grace was that the footwear is very, very comfortable. Very grateful to D&L in showing us what to do, even though they are relative novices themselves and after 2 hours we could just about skate along, but we have a very long way to go!

Today at the top of Le Linga, a steep red piste in Chatel. Hard packed, fast, well groomed and flat. Can't wait to set off down it!
Now watch Jackie, in the white jacket and Cassie in black ski down it, both going like a rocket! Jackie and Cassie skiing Le Linga 
Jackie, Judith and Cassie outside in the sun today
So tomorrow Judith and Grandma go home, but we hope to see them again in Blackpool, where they live, if we can find the time, to go Ballroom dancing in the Tower Ballroom! The weather forecast is good for tomorrow, so we will probably go out skiing again, then the weather closes in for the expected heavy falls of snow right up until next Tuesday. If it does we’ll be out playing again, but this time preceded by up-hill ski touring. Then I guess we have to start thinking about packing and the long journey back to the UK.

A couple of photos of the pussy cats. This is 'Peter', sunning himself one afternoon...
and cute little 'Smutts'

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