4 Days of Powder Fun

A nice trip report from Chris Button, from last week skiing in Chamonix and the usual excellent pics from Rich Bloomfield – thanks again!

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Many thanks to Jon Bracey for an amazing and varied 4 days, and to Alpine Guides for sorting it all out in the first place.  Each day was so totally different…

Day 1, Courmayeur
Too much snow for skinning so it was off to Courmayeur. Even more snow had fallen on the Italian side of the tunnel and the sun was shining….what perfect conditions! Surprisingly, the piste basher was buried as it “surfed” its way down where the piste was due to go.  Jon found us some amazingly snow…if only our ski skills were up to the task. The descents through the trees were through perfect deep powder.  Embarrassingly we fell over and lost our skis way too often…and every time Jon came to our rescue.

Day 2, Through trees and pastures 
Just gorgeous!  Big avalanche risks and big winds blowing, so a perfect opportunity to indulge in some tree skiing.  Beautiful skinning up through a magic forest, sheltered from the wind, followed by the most powdery of descents.  Then back up for another go, and a variation in the pastures.  On the way back up there were wildlife footprints crossing our tracks, with 4-legged friends watching us from the trees. We picnicked in a cow barn, perfectly sheltered and then went back up for more –  just like when we were little and not wanting to go home from our favourite sledging slope, hurrying back up for another go (but on a much bigger scale).

Day 3, Arolla to Dix Hut, with an ascent of La Luette
After much research by Jon and many options later we set off for a two day traverse of the Pigne d’Arolla. An easy start up the long Arolla button lift gave us a head start.  Then on up the valley and gentle skin track, surrounded by the most amazing ridges and rocky mountain ridge.  At the Col we had the excitement of descending via 2 ladders that didn’t quite meet in the middle and we were greeted by the very friendly guardien of the hut coming up.  On to the Dix Hut for a quick coffee, and we shed any spare kit before heading up to La Luette.  A nice skin up to the ridge line, taking shelter under a big lump of rock to layer up, but regretting how we’d left our goggles in the hut!  We boot-kicked our way up the ridge to the top, before dropping back down to our skies and the most amazing powder turns that were over way too fast.  All followed by a very hospitable evening, thanks to the welcome from the hut team.

Day 4, Dix Hut to Pigne d’Arolla and descent to Arolla
Good early start, with big hopes for the blue sky winning over the clouds.  We skinned up past the huge glaciers, with a real sense of how little we were.  As we reached a plateau the clag was coming in and out, with hints of the sun from beyond the clouds.  We perfected the “penguin dance” to keep warm whilst we waited to see if the weather would clear, or if we would need to turn back. Fortunately after half an hour or so the clag cleared enough for us to see further afield and we went on to skin up the glacier, very glad of our ski crampons.  A bit of boot kicking led onto the plateau and we skinned up to the top with fantastic views across the Alps once the clouds cleared.  The descent was the best ever, 1700m of north facing powder slopes all the way back to Arolla with perfect snow making for a fast, fun filled run down – so special!