Blue sky powder day in the 3V

19th December 2012, by Chris Gill

Our guide du jour Julia on the closed Roc de Tougne black above Mottaret

Our guide du jour Julia on the closed Roc de Tougne black above Mottaret

I’ve been in the Trois Vallées for exactly a week, and today (Wednesday) the weather finally broke. Over breakfast we saw the sun start to touch the peaks to the west, and the day quickly developed into a cracker - some high cloud, but not enough to spoil the day.

The intermittent snowfall of the previous week has produced fabulous conditions - for only the second time in my long skiing career I actually enjoyed the normally miserable red piste from La Saulire down to Méribel-Mottaret, which gives you some idea of how good things are: truly exceptional.

Mind you, it’s easy to get carried away with this early snowfall. Yes, the conditions on most pistes are near-perfect. But one or two runs are now showing wear in places, and that’s with virtually no one here to scrape and batter the snow. Quite a few snow guns are in operation, and quite right too - there will probably be some patching to do next week.

There is some fabulous off-piste to be had. But there has been wind, and the depth of snow is still not enough to reliably cover all the rocks off-piste. And the avalanche risk, although reduced, is not negligible. You need to know what you are doing.

I hooked up with my old chum Julia, who runs a lovely chalet in Courchevel 1650 (let me have a link, Julia!) to cream around the three valleys. We met at Bel Air, and there were signs that the top drags above 1650 were about to be opened, giving access to vast quantities of untouched, gentle off-piste. But the plan was to do lunch at the good-value Grand Lac above Les Menuires, so off we went.

Highlights of the day included the black beside the Roc de Tougne drags, which was not marked out and was essentially safe off-piste, with shin-deep powder; the more heavily skied but still deep black Pylones on Vizelle; and the David Douillet red above Menuires, which I had not skied before - great views at the top.

There are still an irritating number of closed lifts around the area, no doubt to be rectified on Saturday. Grooming seems to be going well on the still-closed Mont Vallon at the head of the Méribel valley.

Meanwhile, back at the cosy living room of Ski Amis’ chalet Elliot, my position as champion player of Bananagram has been, er, challenged. That is, destroyed. But I do claim victory in the concluding mega-round, which is the really tricky bit. Sorry, Oliver.

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