Snow & weather reports

Ski areas open in Chamonix this Christmas

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Ok, like the rest of the Alps, it’s not been the most snowy start to the season which has meant some people have had to wait a little longer than hoped to try out the new gondola at Argentiere.  Yesterday CMB updated the routes open for pisted skiing and have opened other routes for sight seeing only.  It currently strongly advises that off-piste skiing is avoided due to thin snow layers.

So the current areas open for skiing are:

Domaine des Grands Montets (Argentiere) for skiers

  • New Plan Joran gondola, Argentière – Lognan & Lognan – Grands Montets cable-cars, Bochard gondola, Marmottons & Tabé chair-lifts.
  • Ski sur les pistes suivantes : Bochard, Marmottons et une variante des Grands-Montets « départ 3300m en direction de la piste de Bochard par le col des Rachasses »
  • Skiing on the following trails : Bochard, Marmottons, Grands Montets variante (Departure at 3 300 m via Col des Rachasses to rejoin the Bochard trail).

Domaine de la Flégère for sightseers & weak skiers

  • La Flégère cable-car & Les Evettes chair-lift.
  • Skiing on the Evettes trail.

Domaine de Balme (Le Tour) for sightseers & skiers

  • Charamillon & Vallorcine gondolas, Autannes chair-lift.
  • Skiing on the Caisets trail (return trail from Charamillon to Le Tour).

And for sight seeing and excursions only you have:

  • Domaine du Brévent for sightseers ONLY.
  • Domaine des Houches for sightseers ONLY
  • Bellevue cable-car & Prarion gondola.
  • Aiguille du Midi, Montenvers Mer de Glace and Tramway du Mont-Blanc.Planpraz gondola & Brévent cable-car.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be be any imminent dump alerts, but it looks as though snow is forecast from 27th Dec onwards, so fingers crossed for more lift opening soon.  Little solace if you are there already perhaps, but fortunately Chamonix does have a range of non-skiing activities to keep you entertained when poor snow stops play.  You may need to look at the specific winter opening times, but here are a few ideas.

Happy holidays!!

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Grand Montets opens early

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Grand Montets opens early

The official opening of the the mountain is 7th of December, but they just couldn’t help themselves.

No April fools here: Les Houches great late skiing

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What a different bag of weather this Easter holiday is compared to previous years. 170cm of snow at Les Houches today and pretty much all the lifts open (14/16), and lovely sun to top it all. There was even snow at La Balme today apparently, so all of it’s lifts are open. Even the baby slopes at Les Planards report to be open!

As is the case in celebrating such lovely spring snow and sunshine, a barbeque had to be fired up this evening. 🙂

Fresh tracks even Fresh tracks even

Maybe it’s because we have an early Easter this year that pretty much everything is open.  Or alternatively, its because we’ve had such a cold, long winter back in the UK the snow just keeps hanging on in here (and there!)? Nevertheless, its great to get out here and know you aren’t going to be funneled into the top of Grands Montets with all the other Easter holiday makers, as has been the case for the last few years. So much so, it’s almost been embarrassing to hand the place over to guests as we leave.  Ironically, of course, no one follows us out to stay in Barrats A this year…

The continuation of good snow has pushed back the date of ‘spring snow’ classification though, so lift passes are still full winter prices until 13th April which we hadn’t quite bargained for, but at least we will be here to join in with the celebrations of Grand Montents 50 anniversary party.  This itself is 50% lift pass discount, plus DJs, treasure hunts, rafffles, late opening and even a gymkhana – can’t wait to see horses with skis on 🙂

Anyway here’s to a few more bonus skiing weeks, even if we did come out to do some DIY.

9 things to do when there is too much snow

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So there is such as thing as too much snow then. Typically I’m only drawn to comment on Chamonix’s weather conditions if it either affects me directly or it seems pretty extreme. Well the latter seems to be happening.

I’ve been keeping an interested eye on the various tweets flying about and lots of unusual occurences seem to be happening….

Blimey the weather must be bad if they closed #LesHouches6969 early this afternoon in #Chamonix6969 almost unheard of!”

“#Chamonix expecting 70cm #dump6969 of fresh #snow6969 above 2000m tomorrow. Lift closures inevitable. NB – EXTREME CAUTION REQD – SKI SAFE !!”

“Chamonix currently being punished by biblical tempest…monsoon low, 1m snow @ 2000m, screaming wind, THE SNOW GODS ARE ANGRY.”

“#Chamonix #Avalanche6969 #Risk6969 6Jan. 5/5-4/5! 1m snow at 2000m may cause spont releases on all aspects and altitudes! Risk reducing pm.X CAUTION”

“Winds of up to 100km/h in #Chamonix6969 this morning, so lots of lifts are shut. If you’re going out on the slopes, wrap up warm!”

Of course these kind of conditions seem to have hit the whole of the Alps with avalanches in Alp d’Huez, Zermatt, Val d’Isere and so on. In Les Arcs preventative avalanche blasting will took place closing off roads between Arc 1800 and Arc 2000, same for the the Mont Blanc tunnel etc..

There have also been incredible statistics being banded about. On the 7th January, “60% of reports last saw snow on 6th January (Ski club of Great Britain)” which is no mean feat.  There is stuff about one resort having had more snow this season already than the whole of its two previous seasons combined (can’t remember where though).  And check out this photo of the road to St Anton last week – courtesy of Snow Finders!

So if there is too much snow, what do you do?

A couple of tips I’ve gleaned:

  1. Check out the immediate meto.

  2. Think about the weather for the coming week.  The Ski Club of Great Britain offer a great overview.

  3. Keep an eye on the potential avalanche risks

  4. Check out the lift opening status with the state of the domains and have a lie in if things are closed.

  5. Consider taking the bus to the lifts once they reopen, as it will be a right bun fight in the car park when skiing opportunities are reduced.

  6. Be flexible on your prefered slopes.  Just going the other side of the mountain can have tremendously different conditions.

  7. Think about taking some training, such as the free sessions being offered by Avalanche Academy

  8. Wrap up warm of course.

  9. If all else fails, hit the bar.

Stay safe and enjoy!!!

Avalanche Academy launches its free lectures in La Terrasse Bar, Chamonix

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Lots of excitement in town, apparently there hasn’t been a bigger snow dump in December for many many years! All very encouraging for the opening of the season this weekend.

However given the size of the snow dumps over recent days, often accompanied by gales it can lead to great instabilities.  For example the risk of avalanche is forecast to be high, so be careful. It’s forecast to be a 5 tomorrow.

Up-to-date avalanche forecasts can be obtained from France Meteo.

Although I don’t mean to scare monger, four years ago there was a large avalanche in Le Tour with a number of fatalities.  I’m not saying that that is going to happen at the moment, but it’s sobering to be reminded of how powerful the natural environment is.  The clip below is the UK news coverage of the event.

personally, I prefer to watch them from the comfort of the flat window.  So presumably they are pretty big, and potentially lethal if you can see them happening on Mont Blanc from the town!

Help is at hand for spotting what to look for while in the high mountains though.  Avalanche Academy, based in Chamonix runs a series of courses aimed at different knowledge and experience levels.  So keen are they to share their knowledge and reduce risk to the adventurous folks that they are also offering free lectures in La Terrasse bar in the market square from 7pm on Monday nights, starting 19th December and running to the 26th March.

We wish them luck with this venture and lookforward to hearing reviews.

Snow in Chamonix town by Monday, but why no cannnons?

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Woke up this morning to much excitement about the white stuff that had arrived last night. Currently the rain-snow limit is towards 1400 m, rising up towards 1800 m, but by Monday it should be down to 900m with temperatures barly above freezing. Excellent, snow at last.  Was starting to worry!

You can check out the ever changing webcams here.

Those in Chamonix are currently taking the 112km trip to Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta valley in Italy.  However, things are now looking promising, particularly as Les Grand-Montets first open day was yesterday.  The rest of the resort is due to open on the 17th December.

Roll on more ‘natural snow’, not only as its far better for the environment, but also due to the difficulty of creating snow in the warm temperatures created by temperature inversion, resulting in the town actually being cooler than the slopes.  Once temperatures are down to 3.5 on the sloped though the cannons can begin.  So we should be ok soon 🙂

First snow of the Chamonix season

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Chamonix reported 20cm of snow right down to 1200m (just above resort level) over the weekend of October 8th/9th. This was part of a widespread snowfall across the Alps bringing up to 80cm of new snow to some already-open glacier ski areas.

As usual, the slopes of the Grands Montets will be the first to open in the Chamonix Valley ( The official opening date is the first weekend in December, but the area will open for the last two weekends of November if there is sufficient snow.

Ah, think about getting those skis dusted off 🙂

What to do if the snow isn’t great….

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We’re very much looking forward to our last trip to Chamonix for ski season 10/11.  However, given how late Easter falls this year, and the fact that the weather is so mild, the snow ain’t great.  According to the Chamonix Daily Dump Snow Report 31st March, there is no snow base below 2,000m and it was raining at Montenvers.

fortunately for us, we’re happy to take it easy on the skiing front, because we know we’ll be going back again.  However we still want to make the most of our holiday and keep the kids amused.  The hunch is it’ll be lessons in the morning then other things in the afternoon.

So here are a couple of things we might be doing again:

  • The ice grotto at the top of the Montenvers Railway.  The kids had great fun last year, and I understand there is even a geocache up there 🙂  La Grotte de Glace, so that would be a nice bonus find while we’re up there, particularly given how few finds its had.
  • Swimming at the indoor pool of the Richard Bozon Sports Centre.

And here are somethings we haven’t tried yet that sound a good idea

  • A drawing and painting lessons for beginners and improvers.  A local artist Catherine Kartal, a renowned painter and art teacher who will bring out your hidden talents I gather. Apparently the lessons are either in the open air or in her studio, both of which seem to be in the centre of Chamonix.
  • Photographic exhibition in the central library.  Photos are from the South of India and may well make you think of warmer climbs. Entrance is free.
  • And I’m also wondering if we might improve our French by listening to the story telling sessions in the libraries dotted around the valley.  Some how the kids don’t seem to keen ……

And I suppose there are always some of the summer activities we found to do in the area when it was raining in the summer, such as the museum, mini golf or bowling.

The Compagnie du Mont Blanc have also been thinking about what else we might want to do is mud stops play. For every on-line purchase of a MONT BLANC Unlimited lift-pass from 3 days or more at the promotional price from 4th to 15th April 2011, ladies you can exclusively enjoy activities that have been specially selected for them at a highly preferential price. …. Link to their ladies week suggesting spas, culture, nature etc.

I’ve got the same eyes for a shot as Seb……

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Keeping a watch out for Seb Montaz’s videos I was amused to see that Seb has the same eye for a good shot as me, or is it that I have the same eye for a good shot as him? … 🙂

You may have seen in my earlier post in August with Ingrid and Jelena slacklining across the Arve prior to the Adventure Film Festival, the girls were doing some amazing stuff.  Seb has just posted as short file of the promotion event too.   And look, it’s my photo!  Ok, so yes, he was there the same time as me, but perhaps I have a future in film hey 🙂  And what’s even nicer is that he has called his little ditty ‘I’ve got talent‘.  How kind 😛

At the same time, he also posted his 5th snow report of the year on Christmas Eve.  It’s sounding deep out there!!!!  enjoy….

Seb says that skiing conditions could be good until the end of May!

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Well, for those of us that sometimes feel the ski season is too short, it seems you are in luck this year.  Seb Montaz’s latest Chamonix snow report (22nd April 2010) says that the snow “for this time of year is incredible.”  He reckons that we should be able to ski up until the end of May this year, wow!

Seb then goes on to show us what all the fuss is about with some fantastic shots of his friends descending vertical drops on the back of Brevent, having gone up La Floria. There are even some fresh tracks shots. – Snow conditions are still safe on the Valley Blanche and Grand Montets areas.

Seb of course is well placed  to offer advice, given that he is a highly experienced summer and winter mountain guide. His snow reports have been fantastic all season, but this is probably one of his last snow videos this year.  Shame, but roll on warm weather for the cycling etc.

We even get some insight into his favourite music.  The track to accompany his possibly penultimate snow report is Brad Sucks – dropping out of school.

And if you like Seb’s video’s don’t forget to come back again in June to check out our own personal video filmed by the man himself.  Don’t worry it’ll be on the boy’s Mont Blanc assent rather than cleaning the flat or something dull like that.