Chamonix and other towns above around 900m in the Mont Blanc Massif woke up to a fine blanket of fresh snow this morning, with plenty more having fallen higher in the mountains. The early season conditions in the high mountains have rapidly improved in the last couple of wet weeks although there is still limited snow and no base below about 1200m.
Lots of teams were out ski touring in the Aravis enjoying the lower snow line and fresh tracks. We started from an altitude of around 1200m above the village of Cordon in the Arve Valley and enjoyed the great little tour to the Cabane du Petit Pâtre at 1919m (thanks to Jonny Baird for the good local tip!). The snow was a bit thin on the lower track but very nice in the lovely open meadows sheltered from the wind. Another team carried on up the north facing triangle slope above the hut and below the Grande Croise Baulet, 2236m.
Teams were also skiing the Grande & Petit Croisse Baulet from both the Megeve, La Giettaz and Cordon sides as well as ski rando training teams doing their training ascents of Mont Joly! There has been plenty of general touring activity in the Aravis, from the Pointe d’Andey above Solaison, to the high Combs of La Clusaz – but also a number of significant avalanches of which some details are available on the Date Avalanche site.
In Les Contamines one strong team crossed the Col de la Fenetre, from the Gorge (twice!) before skiing an excellent couloir accessed from higher up the ridge above the Fenetre. Then they skied the Col de la Cicle in good powder conditions. The descent of the Roman Road was fine albeit with only a shallow base of snow. If it now rains and re-freezes it will not be so good!
The forecast for the next few days looks impressively wet with a rain snow limit around 1800m which will again leave loads of snow in the high mountains, but at the detriment of the snow stripping rain at lower altitudes. Good for the touring later in the season but not for the winter powder touring over Christmas! There are already warnings that the heavy snow / rain fall combined with warmer weather will produce an unstable snow pack and high avalanche risk in places.
In better news, the Aiguille du Midi is finally re-opening this weekend after being shut since August this year. Most of the other lifts in the Chamonix Valley and wider Mont Blanc Massif are also opening this weekend ready for the Christmas Holidays.
Merry Christmas et Bon Ski!