Proper snowfall in Paradiski

10th February 2010, by Chris Gill

An ESF instructor displaying complete ignorance of the FIS rules

An ESF instructor displaying complete ignorance of the FIS rules

After a rather messy day’s weather on Tuesday, Wednesday delivered a proper, day-long snowfall – not what you would call a dump, but enough to produce a general improvement in conditions on most pistes in the afternoon. And many pistes needed that improvement.

Our aim was to spend most of the day in La Plagne. Starting from Arc 1600, this meant skiing through Peisey-Vallandry, so we got another opportunity to ski one or two of its excellent, long woodland runs before boarding the cable car across the valley to Montchavin, on the fringes of La Plagne. The red Myrtilles was in adequate condition, the black Ecureuils rather better; both had icy and bare patches, though.

It was on the first that we encountered the ski school class shown above. A classic ESF lesson in how to block a piste by arranging half a dozen snowboards in a row. There is no hope for improving safety on pistes when moniteurs display this level of interest in the FIS rules. (Later in the day we spotted another example of ESF excellence: a moniteur leading a class of 23 infants.)

Like P-V, Montchavin-Les Coches has an excellent area of forest runs immediately above the villages. Given identical snow and traffic, P-V is for most people a better area in a snowstorm than M-C, but this morning M-C had slightly better conditions, and was noticeably less busy – a key factor. It got our vote.

The plan was to do a couple of runs at M-C and then make for Plagne-Centre to check out the new lift and run arrangements above Plagne 1800. So, before long, up the Bijolin fast chair we went, to Dos Rond at 2340m. By the time we got to the top, the plan had changed: above 2000m was a layer of thick cloud. Visibility was something like 30m. Skiing from pole to pole, we returned to the comfort of the forest, and decided to stay there for the day.

We found plenty to amuse us on the pistes, and resisted the obvious attractions of the wooded off-piste – there are plenty of tricky and even dangerous places you can end up in if you don’t know what you are doing. By lunchtime the cloud had dropped further, and it took all our years of accumulated mountain expertise to navigate to the obvious lunch destination – Le Sauget, or Chez Pat.

After a simple lunch we had the compulsory digestif in front of the log fire before venturing out again to check out the two nearby black runs – excellent, with better snow and fewer people than the reds. We finished our time here on the red Coches, on extreme skier’s left of the area, and astonishingly had most of the run entirely to ourselves.

We have strict rules about allowing time for proper digestion of lunch. No, the Moonboots are not ours.

By the time we got back to P-V, interestingly, the snow-quality-ometer had swung back the other way: there was noticeably more fresh snow on the pistes here than back in M-C.

In the whole of a long day’s skiing we encountered no significant queues, and generally skied straight on to the lifts. We made rapid progress back towards Arc 1600, and would have taken a final ride up to mid-mountain from Arc 1800 were it not for that ever-present cloud making life miserable above 2000m.

Back down in Bourg-St-Maurice, there is a few cm of fresh in the car parks, and at 10pm it is still gently snowing. The forecast for tomorrow is cloud am and more snow pm, which is not ideal for our last-day plan of skiing La Rosière and over to La Thuile in Italy. The link is exposed and bleak, and if there is still cloud sitting around 2000m we’re in for a testing and possibly nauseating day.

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