February brings with it the dreaded school holidays. A time of year when the resorts become a minefield of punters. ESF instructors with 30 kids behind them snaking their way down the mountain using every available piece of the white stuff.
Waiting in a lift line now becomes an event where only the strongest will survive, casual elbows being though to gain an extra half a metre of space.
What was once was a nice quiet coffee (beer) at our favourite cafe after a day snowboarding is now a pointless effort to get served. As you can see, its not my favourite time of year but it is a perfect time to work, especially in ski rental and servicing its especially busy........and this year worked out pretty good as it snowed just as all the holiday makers were leaving, perfect for us.
We had a good amount of snow over new years (70cm fell in one day, which caused chaos on the roads as it was every ones dreaded day.......transfer day)
This meant that i had 4 weeks of amazing snowboarding, we were out everyday all day constantly finding fresh snow and drops. I had also treated myself to a new big mountain board, a 164 Rossignol Krypto. This is probably the best board I've ridden, its so stable at speed and landing drops, it seems to just want to push you the whole time.
You can see most of the photos in the 'Media' section...but even they don't do it justice. The snow was deep, soft and perfect for landings which gave us the confidence to go bigger.
We also managed to get a run down the 'North Face of the Bellcotte' in La Plagne. The north face is well know for being a steep gnarly face that has high consequences especially after new snow. There are a lot of different routes down the face, we opted for the easier one as it was safer. It was a good run down with new snow...until the bottom which is a traverse out through a forest. This section definitely needed more snow, at one point having to take of ski's and snowboard to walk part of the route........but its all part of the adventure right?
The best bit was probably the route we took getting to the north face...shown in the photo below. Good snow and real technical run down.
We have a few 'go to' places in les arcs which were all on in these 4 weeks. Namely the bowl where the Red Bull Linecatcher is held and the Grand Col chair lift are both super fun after a dump of snow.
After a slow start to the season things have defiantly stepped up a gear.
The Tarantaise Valley has tons of touring routes that start from designated car parks, making it easy to go on day tours.
I was desperate to try out my new split board, a Voile Artisan, and i knew of a fairly good route to test it out on. The route was to the top of Mont Rosset which is in the Boufontain part of the alps, its directly opposite La Plagne.
The tour to Mont Rosset is great as its fairly mellow, the terrain is a mix of trees, open plateaus and steep ridge lines all accompanied by the most spectacular mountain views. You really feel like you in the heart of the mountains away from all the crowds (apart from the old french guys who although they look fat and old....they will definitely blow past you) To make it better, once you reach the top you are treated to views of the Pierra Menta, A mountain that looks a lot like a tooth and never has snow on it. It can be seen from Les Arcs and then also from the other side towards Megeve.
Dan and i set out at around 5.30am, the plan was to get to an opening in the trees so that we can watch the sunrise over Mont Pourri, before making our way to the top.
After parking up the car, picking our way through the trees and fixing dans BCA Tracker bindings we made it to the opening. There something so rewarding about using your own energy and effort to achieve a goal, the same definitely applies on skis or split board.....maybe even more so. The sun rose perfectly over the summit of Mont Pourri, it was one of those moments that was good for the soul.....as would be the whole tour.
We had some food, packed up and set off, there was a long way to go, around 1200 vertical feet. Along the way we were treated to amazing views of some gnarly mountains with even gnarlier lines down them. It always amazes me that the people that come out and hit these lines are just locals, who probably head home or off to work after doing something you would normally see in a ski film.
It took us around 3 hours to skin up to the top, we took a few breaks as muscles we didn't even know we had started to ache.....all the while being passed by locals who didn't even look out of breath!
Once at the top we were treated to the view of Pierra Menta, it really does look impressive. We were both tired but felt great after putting in so much effort and had the way down to look forward too. The route basically followed the valley around which meant we had effectively done a big loop to get back to the car. The first part of the decent looked good, it was in the shade enough for the snow to still be fresh. So after a drink, photos and a good faff we set off.
Straight away we pass a guy skinning up with his dog, and then we shared fresh snow with a Chamois (a type of mountain goat) which was one of the most surreal moments I've had.
We reached the refuge which serves as a base to further explore the area but that would be for another time, we had to follow the east side of the valley all the way to the car. This second part wasn't so nice, the heat from the sun was almost unbearable and there was a lot of avalanche debris in the area so we didn't want to stick around too long.
After about 20 minutes we made it back to the forrest track and back to the car where we ditched the ski gear as quickly as possible and sat down...legs burning.
We bumped into the same french guys who were at the top when we were, so we all shared some smiles and nods of approval at a stunning day.
The downside......i had to get back to work which was not fun, but after a day like that nothing can dampen the mood.
Heres an edit that Dan made from the tour