Haute Route- Chamonix to Zermatt

Back to back Haute Routes! On day one, Marnie and I went from the Grand Montets, over the Col du Passon, across the Tour Glacier, through the col superior du Tour, down the Trient Glacier, up through the Col des Ecandies, then down the Arpette valley to Champex. We spent the night in Verbier, then skied corn the next morning on the Marlene, corn off the SE face of Mont Fort, then on to the Prafleuri Hut. Then we did Dix, Pigne d’Arolla, Arolla, Bertol and down to Zermatt. What perfect conditions we had! The snow was brand new, super white crystals, laid down from the previous four day’s snow storm.  Living in Whistler certainly prepared Marnie for some of the hight gain each day, but I was happy to see her impressed with the vastness we live in here. Seeing the steep couloirs and faces to climb, her untrained eye was at first intimidated, but she soon felt comfortable once she had crampons on her feet and was in the thick of it. Hut life was super pleasant, meeting only a handful of people each evening, sharing the same desire to relax and travel up over these peaks and passes. Then I did a fun variant the past 4 days, traveling from the Valsorey Hut to Chanrion and then up and down to Arolla. The wildness of our own upper Val du Bagnes always impresses me and feeds that yearning to discover more of its nooks and crannies. Here are a few shots from the last few days…

Spring Steeps in Verbier

After lots of snow and high winds, these Alps are coated with a new white blanket of sparkling cream. It had gotten real dry, going from great spring skiing mid-April, to blackening snow and opening crevasses.

We skied off the summit of the other Bec yesterday, in strong NW winds. The north face was filled in like 20 years ago with spongey, grippy snow, making the steep and exposed upper slopes real playful. Alex and Roman started to grin ear to ear after they’d come to terms with the 300 meters of exposure, letting the skis ride over the fresh snow.

This is high time in the Alps for ski touring, safari, and haute route, and conditions are primed for some of the best in quite some time. The forecast is for beautiful blue skies and cool north east air for the next 2 weeks! I have one trip with space still available April 18-23. We will go to where conditions are best. The cost is 1’080.00 including guide fees and hut costs. Then Greenland again, April 28 – May 14 for the best skiing on the planet!

Here’s a few shots of yesterday’s two steep lines…

Discovery New and Old

Days and days of skiing, another line, another resort, another peak, and another valley. The challenge for me changes, with old clients down new wild lines I’ve never skied, and with wonderful new clients, down old lines I know and love.

After a superb 6 day trip into the Val d’Aoste, heliskiing in the Valgrisenche, then in the Freeride Paradise of the Monterosa area, I met 4 tough Englishmen who followed me up a peak in a storm. It should have been an easy skin, their first, but turned out to be so wild, as a fresh sou’wester blew in deep, fresh snow. They’d never done a kick turn, but survived the odysse with smiles, floating down deep powder on the calm, lee side. Then day two, after a suggestion to get high quickly with a heli, we dropped into one of my favourite couloirs above Verbier, coated with 45cm of excellent sponge. The joy I have, of taking such wonderful people to places they’ve never dreamed of, is something tough to describe. The challenge I have, to take a small group of friends into terrain they’ve never seen, is immensely rewarding, as I see them struggle at first, with the first turns of a narrow 45 degree couloir, then watch and see them adapt to their new environment, allowing gravity to do its thang, draw their skis in wide open arcs, effortlessly riding down the mountain, with huge grins of wonder on their faces. So fun!

After 20 plus years together, Rob and Jane again pushed me to find lines I’d never done before.  Our ski safari last week took us back into the Monterosa Ski area, between Alagna and Gressoney. We climbed through little cols and rode into big valleys. New views, so fresh for our eyes, stopped us in wonder as we gazed around us at the magical valley of Otro. We took the advice of local alpine guide Marco Zaninetti to find a high line in, skiing fresh powder down this seemingly endless valley. The day before, rappelling into the Malfatta, I teamed up with local guide Fabio, me down below, he above, helping our clients wiggle and rappel into a new couloir, into a new valley. So fun, all this discovery, with old friends and new.

From April 18, I’ll host another 5 day ski adventure and am looking for a few more to join us. The location will depend on conditions and people’s desires. The price will be around 1’080.00 including all guide fees, accommodation and lifts. The Haute Route is a bit crowded this time of year, though leaving out of sync from Chamonix could still make this a fun trip. The Bernese/Jungfrau area could be super nice, as could a romp through the Italian Grand Paradiso, drinking cappuccinos and eating fine Italian cuisine. So many options. Please contact me here to join in the fun adventure.

Powder in Verbier’s Hidden Forest

It’s a funny season this. A slow start when I think, that in good years, I could have skied deep powder for 2 months by now. But funny indeed when I think about all the wonderful skiing we have done whilst the media writes we have no snow. Verbier is at 90% average snowfall at this point in the season. Everything is relative. So while we are used to deep powder runs of over 1500 meters on a daily basis, now we “only” get 1000. Bummer! ;-)

average snow hight

90% of normal snow hight today in Verbier

We have not been confronted with a massive high pressure system this early winter. Low pressure systems have swept over us on a regular basis. Conditions change rapidly as temperatures fluctuate wildly, winds blow 20cm snowfalls into 50cm cavities in the couloirs, making for exciting zone and scene choices each morning. Sometimes the weather forecast helps, but mostly I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants and point my browser to current conditions rather than forecasted ones.

If you’re following local politics, you may have heard about the new laws prohibiting professional ski instructors to take their clients into some of the Verbier classics like the Attelas couloirs, the lovely NW face of Mt.Gele and Back Side. Due to their lack of training in avalanche and glaciated terrain, they are restricted to slopes below 29 degrees when the forecasted risk level is at 3 (most of the winter when powder is everywhere) and any glaciers (our Heliskiing terrain). In addition to being a professional, Swiss trained mountain guide, I’m also a certified Swiss ski instructor and love to help you improve your technique. Since I wear both hats, I can take you into these classics, plus lots more! And using years of proven techniques, I help you appreciate the joys of movement over these creamy hills, couloirs and faces in and around Verbier.

Here’re a few shots of the past few days showing those rapidly changing conditions. Have a fine day outside!