Winter 2020 Chamonix & Alpine Early Season Ski & Mountaineering Conditions 

Courmayeur Off Piste Skiing

20 December 2019, The Return To Winter After The Foehn…

A week of warm and windy weather in Chamonix has not improved the snow conditions!  The very warm foehn effect of Southerly winds pouring down in to Chamonix from the Italian side has stripped a lot of snow from the valley and lower resort areas.   The wind has also had a significant effect in battering the higher slopes…Happily the foehn should have now run its course for this episode and it’s going to snow again with over 30cms at 1800m over Friday and Saturday and possibly more than this again on Sunday.

Fun fresh tracks with decent early season snow volume in the Val Veny Forest, Courmayeur, Dec 20th 2019

We swapped the wet and pretty wild weather in Chamonix this morning for the also wet, but cooler and less windy weather in Courmayeur.  By the top of the Val Veny cable car it was snowing and higher in the forests of Val Veny there were some fun fresh tracks to be had.   Despite the recent thaw, the pre-Christmas snow volume is impressive and it was great to cruise all round the lower resort with decent cover and some fun skiing in the trees.  The Youla & Arp lifts were both shut and there was considerable snow falling during the day with some wind higher up in the resort and the avalanche hazard shifting to considerable, 3/5 across the whole of Val d’Aosta with again more snow forecast for Saturday night & Sunday.

Ski Guide Chamonix Courmayeur
Enjoying the fresh tracks in the Val Veny Forest, Courmayeur, late December 2019

Our Ice climbing team in Cogne yesterday found wet and pretty poor conditions with much of the Cascade Lillaz ice area having melted away down the river, which was in full force!  There is ice higher up in the Valleys like in the Patri area but it was warm and wet yesterday and the return to cooler conditions will be welcome.

Most of the resorts around the Mont Blanc Massif will be open from tomorrow for the rest of the season and the Aiguille du Midi opened yesterday although it has had a couple of tough wild days to contest with initially!  There has been some decent skiing at the Grands Montets despite the Foehn effects although apparantly the high winds whistling down the Argentiere Glacier ripped most of the snow out of the classic skiers Left hand exit from the glacier back in to the resort…so that needs a top up++!

Bon ski weekend and best wishes for a very merry Christmas and great 2020 ski season.  We hope to ski with you this season and please check the base of this page for remaining ski course places availability….

Superb ski touring terrain above the Lammeren Hut on our West Oberland long weekend.

13 December 2019, Big Snow Falls – Great Early Season Conditions – But High Avalanche Risk

It’s full on dumping early winter conditions in Chamonix and around the Mont Blanc & Aravis Massifs with major snowfalls over the last week continuing through today and contributing even further to the already impressive early season snow volume.   Lots of teams have been out enjoying fresh tracks & excellent start to the season both for ski touring and from the increasing list of open lifts.   The Meteo France avalanche bulletin started giving its hazard rating today, for the first time this season, and weighed straight in to High Risk 4 out of 5.  See the impressive extracts from the weather and avalanche forecasts below.

Teams have been enjoying the powder off the lifts at the Grands Montets with some decent conditions and fresh tracks albeit still with plenty of rocks!  On the more grassy slopes around the Aravis there were big smiles from teams touring around the closed pistes of St. Gervais, Megeve and Combloux and then touring further afield, and finding some good conditions more off the beaten track on the Montagne de Sulens, La Tournette and Trous de la Mouche.

Les Contamines Ski Touring With Mont Charvin & La Tournette in the Aravis beyond

6 December 2019, Some Great Early Ski Conditions Around The Mont Blanc Massif & Val d’Aosta

Many teams have been out early season touring enjoying the good weather this week combined with, in places, superb snow.   Teams skiing at Courmayeur and touring in the upper Val d’Aosta reported some great conditions earlier this week with very good pistes at Courmayeur, powder in the side country and some beautiful snow reported from those touring.

Many teams have also been out touring above Chamonix including Le Tour at the head of the valley, with some nice soft snow on the shady sides from the Posettes and Tete de Balme and from the Grands Montets lift system which opens this weekend for the winter.  The snow on the glacier side was reported this afternoon as having a slightly funky wind edge to it but cover is decent for the time of year on the north side of Mont Blanc and good on the South side of Monte Bianco.

Ski touring in the Aravis has also seen plenty of activity with teams using the big north facing bowls above Les Confins, La Clusaz.  The Tete Polouse (2493m) gave a reasonable outing yesterday with lots of soft snow albeit not hero snow!  Teams were also skiing in the Combe de Tardevant and, at the junction between Aravis – Beaufortain – Mont Blanc Massif, various teams have been skinning through the domaine of St. Nicholas de Veroce en route to Mont Joly North Ridge.

Various resorts are now partially open, like Verbier, La Thuile, Cervinia and, from today, the Grands Montets (until 3rd May!) as well as the Skyway Monte Bianco lift above Courmayeur.  It looks like a lot more snow is on the way to the Northern Alps on Monday with a forecast snow:rain limit at or below the Chamonix Valley floor level.  Good news!  Bon ski, bon weekend.

Fun early season turns in shady soft snow – before the lifts open – Ski Evasion Area

28 November 2019, Petit Croise Baulet 2009m, Combloux, Snowy Snow Shoe Ascent

For each section of the day the weather forecast for the Aravis and Mont Blanc Massifs gave a 100% probability of precipitation, it wasn’t wrong!  It rained all day in the valley and it took a determined approach to leave the ski car parks of Combloux in the 2C and driving rain, but it wasn’t long before the snow was reached, both in the air and on the ground.

Snow Shoe Croise Baulet
Snowy snow shoe ascent of the Cruise Baulet from Col de Jaillet and Combloux. Good snowy conditions in late Nov 2019

We plodded up increasingly snowy forest paths and pistes to a deserted Sommet de Salles and then only had a solitary Tetras for company on an impressively snowy ascent of the Croise Baulet from the Col de Jaillet.  The snow was falling thick and fast and there was more than half a metre of fresh snow in places with plenty more blowing in on a steady W wind.  The near white out conditions on the summit did not inspire us to continue over the Grand Croise Baulet, but we did get a fleeting glimpse of it during the descent, looking impressively snowy and white.

Tanya & John on the summit of Petit Croise Baulet after an enjoyable but physical snow shoe ascent from Combloux. Good expedition training for Denali next year!

The trail breaking was pretty physical but made for an enjoyable ascent and provided Tanya and John with some good expedition training for Denali next year.  Good luck with that.  Lots more snow forecast for tomorrow and Sunday with slightly cooler temperatures so roll on a good start to winter 2020 hopefully!

Snowy Couloir Climbing Above Le Tour At The Eastern End Of The Chamonix Valley

26 November 2019, Pt Ronde, Col de la Forclaz, Snow Shoe Expedition Training

There were not many queues on the Pointe Ronde today and no problems parking at the Col de la Forclaz!  Despite the good weather forecast for today not only is it very much quiet season in Chamonix the snow conditions are also far from primo, for skiing at least.  They were pretty tough for snow shoeing too and we got plenty of practice breaking a deep trail through some very crusty snow.  Tant pis…hard work = good training!

Chamonix Expedition Training
Improving snow conditions above the col on Pt Ronde in late November.

The snow line has raced back up the hill since early last week with mild temperatures and humid conditions which have wetted the snow pack below 2000m hence a strong but breakable crust on N aspects this morning after a good freeze last night.   The ascent from Forclaz along the walkers path was easy and despite strips of snow and ice in places, did not require crampons.  The snowy forest ride in to the north face was covered in a thin breakable crust over deep & soft heather…we kept going towards the normal route!

Chamonix Mountain Training
Great views down to and across the Rhone Valley during the snow shoe ascent of Pt Ronde. Chamonix Expedition Training late November 2019

The ascent to the Col at just above 2200m on the normal route was fairly gruelling and almost constant trail breaking through thick but breakable crust in snow shoes….one for connoisseurs of trail breaking with lots of patience!   Higher up the wind crust thickened and travel became relatively blissfully efficient again!  We still didn’t quite make the summit but enjoyed a lovely, but physical early winter journey in the hills, and some great expedition training!

Plenty more snow inbound in the forecast for Chamonix tomorrow, Thursday and beyond.

25 November 2019, Tete de Balme, Le Tour, Chamonix Denali Training!

Whilst the storm has been pumping bucket loads of fresh snow on the Southern side of Mont Blanc and the Swiss Italian Alpine border, the Northern side of Mont Blanc has remained pretty much dry, and relatively mild like today above Le Tour at the north eastern end of the Chamonix Valley.  The snow line has crept steadily back up the hill from early last week when people were skiing to the car park at Le Tour, with a bit of sketching!

Snow shoe ascent of the Tete de Balme in late November 2019

We had a bit of sketching through the bushes and mini trees in the Vormaine Valley to access the couloirs at the back for an ascent as part of a mountaineering and snow shoeing day for Tanya & John preparing to climb Denali in Alaska next spring. The SE facing left hand side of the valley is almost completely stripped back to grass whilst the NW right hand side is still snowy but with little depth or base even in the gullies.   We climbed a pleasant steady broad couloir at the back end of the valley and reached the plateau where we snow shoed across to the Col de Balme.

With snow shoe heel raisers we had a really enjoyable steady ascent up on to the Tete de Balme to enjoy the brilliant summit views and a little fixed rope training using the summit trig point and a mini abseil down in to Switzerland!  A pleasant soft snow descent followed back down the pistes of Le Tour which are being groomed in readiness for the impending season…just need more snow now – and there is some forecast from Wednesday and for the rest of the week, but not before another sunny but mild day tomorrow…

22 November 2019 – Good Early Season Ski Conditions In Cervinia

Off Piste Skiing Under The Matterhorn
Great snow on the piste and some powder in the side country at Cervinia November 2019

Light continuous snow only improved the already good early skiing conditions at Cervinia today and provided some fun fresh tracks on the piste and in the side country.  There is lots more forecast for this weekend with some big snowfalls forecast for various resorts around the Alps, especially impressive are the forecasts for tomorrow at Jungfraujoch high in the Bernese Oberland.

Most of the lifts were operating in Cervinia with a few still to open and Valtournenche planning to open this weekend.   Zermatt was closed and storm bound today and also looking at a tough windy day with lots of precipitation tomorrow and a significant – high avalanche risk across much of the Southern Swiss & French Alps and into the Val d’Aosta Italian Alps South of the Swiss border.  Swiss & Val d’Aosta avalanche forecasts here.

Good piste skiing and early season snow conditions in Cervinia

21 November 2019 – Chamonix, Aravis, Alpine Ski & Snow Conditions Early Season Round-Up

After an impressively snowy month of November so far, it’s good to see Chamonix’s Grands Montets partial opening this weekend, a few weeks earlier than in many recent years.  The Plan Joran, Bochard & Tabé lifts will be open although note that the famous home run down the red Piere à Ric will be closed.  The Montenvers railway is open and partial opening at Les Houches has also been mentioned for this weekend – 23 November.   The Brevent & Le Tour lifts are planning to open weekend 7th December and Flegere and Aiguille du Midi weekend of the 14th December.   You can check the latest on the Chamonix lift openings here.

Chamonix Intro Ski Touring Course Cruising the Powder Meadows and fresh tracks at the Grands Montets.

The snow cover for Mid November is described, on the Meteo France Snow & Avalanche Bulletin, as quite good, especially above 1500m but without any decent base below 2000m…

Good snow volume in the Mont Blanc Massif after all the storms of November 2019

Lots of teams have been out enjoying some warm up early season touring with the Chamonix faithful skinning up around the Col de Balme from Le Tour and lots of teams also out touring on the grassy pistes of the Ski Evasion resorts like St. Gervais and Megeve.

Very early season ski touring towards Mont Joux, 1964m between St. Gervais and Megeve. Domes de Miage and Aiguille du Bionassay beyond.

Impressive early season snow falls have been recorded in the Southern Alps with some places looking more like February than November and up to 3m of snow already recorded high in some resorts as reported by WeathertoSki here.  Good early season skiing reported from early favourite resorts like Tignes, Zermatt, Val d’Isere and Cervinia:

Good snow and piste skiing in Cervinia in mid November 2019, Photo James Carr

There have already been a number of reported avalanches for this winter season and as well as staying in touch with the evolving snow conditions and avalanche risk via the Meteo France bulletin mentioned above, you can also keep an eye on reported events and receive alerts caused by heavy precipitation, wind and avalanche activity on Alain Duclos’ Data Avalanche site.  Folk wanting to learn more about avalanche rescue and emergency procedures can check out the excellent information on Louis Piguet’s Montagne-Secu site.  We recently did a Guides training day with Louis which was excellent and highly recommended.

Avalanche Awareness Training
Pre-season Avalanche Emergency Procedure Training with Louis Piguet from Mammut in Chamonix

Training with Alain for avalanche awareness and avoidance and with Louis for emergency procedure training is time well spent!  We also provide quality pre and early season training in both vital disciplines so please get in touch if you would like to arrange this.  We also have a number of places on winter 2020 ski touring and off piste courses in Chamonix and the northern Alps so check these out below and contact us for further details and to secure your place.

Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable ski season in 2020 and we hope to ski with you then,

Rob 

 

Ski Touring, Mountaineering & Off Piste Course Places Still Available For Winter 2020…

January 11-12, 2020.  Just 1 place now left on our Intro Ski Touring Weekend…

Chamonix Intro Ski Touring Weekend – January 2020

January 20-24, 2020.  Our Jan Chamonix off piste & mountain skills course is now full but we are considering starting a 2nd group so please get in touch if you would like to join the team on these dates…

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills – Jan 2020

February 3 – February 7, 2020.  One of our favourite courses – ski touring in the Aravis and off piste Ski Evasion resorts, places available…

Ski Evasion Aravis – Feb 2020

February 15-16, 2020.  Places available on our Feb Intro Ski Touring Weekend…

Chamonix Intro Ski Touring Weekend – Feb 2020

February 24-28, 2020.  This late Feb you can choose from either our classic or progression Chamonix off piste & mountain skills / ski touring courses…

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills – Feb 2020

Chamonix Off-Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course – Feb 2020

March 14-15, 2020.  In mid March you can choose from our intro or intermediate ski touring weekend, both with the remarkable base camp of the working Monastery at Grand St. Bernard high on the Swiss Italian alpine border.

Grand St Bernard Intro Ski Touring Weekend – March 2020

Intermediate Ski Touring Weekend Grand St Bernard Monastery – March 2020

March 23-27, 2020.  In late March you can choose from either our classic or progression Chamonix off piste & mountain skills / ski touring courses…

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills – March 2020

Chamonix Off-Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course – March 2020

April 13-17, 2020.  In mid April you can choose from either our classic or progression Chamonix off piste & mountain skills / ski touring courses…

Chamonix Off-Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course – April 2020

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills – April 2020

West Oberland Ski Touring Weekend – April 2020

2020 Spring Ski Summits

2020 Spring Ski Summits & Mont Blanc