PlanetSKI Heads Uphill in the French Alps

Our roving reporter Chris Moran lives year-round in Les3Vallees in France.  As the latest national lockdown lifted he went uphill, but there was danger around and he urges caution.

There were 100s of people ready and willing to head up hill on snowshoes, touring skis or split-boards.

For most these was their first turns made since the French resorts closed back on March 14th.

It seems a lifetime ago.

We were heading from Courchevel 1850 up to the Saulire.

Tracks were in by 9am.

But although the conditions looked to be epic the weather wasn’t ready to play ball: warm winds made the snowpack extremely unstable.

Our walk on snowshoes up to the summit saw two relatively shallow fields compact in front of our eyes, with avalanche cracks appearing even on north-facing snow.

By the time we got to the top of the Suisses piste above Courchevel 1850, the entire top section had just slid.

In the end, we chose to go down the Combes piste given its more northerly aspect and relatively lesser incline.

To be perfectly honest, the snow was very, very heavy.

Les3Vallees, France

Les3Vallees, France. Photo Credit, Chris Moran

Of course, still fun, and certainly better than nothing, but dangerous enough in that it was prone to sliding and, even without the fear of avalanches, it was grippy and heavy enough to damage ligaments, snap skis or break bones.

People are being urged to be cautious with avalanche danger aplenty and ungroomed slopes.

Sadly, one of our group had to be helicoptered off the mountain with a suspected broken knee ligament.

After talking with some of the 3V pisteurs, we were not the only ones to have suffered injuries.

Some municipalities in the French Alps have banned touring as ski and snowboarding injuries put extra pressure on already stretched medical facilities.

And with the mountain looking so familiar, and yet without the regular security of ski patrol or lift attendants or other workers on the hill, it’s also strangely foreign too.

We got to the bottom, happy to be on the snow again after such a long absence, but also with a sense that things are still not quite right.

Some resorts are now officially closed to ski touring, though they are allowing groups with dedicated snowsports professionals, which can mean either guides or, in some resorts, ski instructors.

And some resorts have dedicated and secured touring areas.

Here, for example, are the latest guidelines from Les3Vallees.

Here at PlanetSKI we were delighted to be back on snow, but we urge caution.

Heading Uphill:

If you are thinking of ski touring or snow shoeing then the rental chain, Intersport, stocks all the gear.

If you’ve chosen freeride skis, then you can add skins and touring bindings when you get to the store. It’s no extra.

The store is also likely to have avalanche transceivers, collapsible poles, airbag backpacks and shovels and probes.

The actual kit differs shop-to-shop, but many Intersport stores feature the Atomic or Salomon shift system.

We would highly recommend taking a guide, and please abide by all the resort regulations in these difficult times.

The emergency services are already being stretched, and excess call outs are not in anyone’s interests.

Check out the details at intersport-rent.fr