Well I don’t need too many words to describe this one, the pictures very much speak for themselves, even to those who have no knowledge and no interest of skiing! The European winter so far has been practically non-existent; easily the worst start to a winter in the Alps I can ever remember. Christmas and New Year were a nightmare, bare pistes and lots of angry holiday-makers, and January has been pretty snow-free so far, but finally, finally, the heavens opened last week and provided us with the base we need and at long last, the first powder day of the season!
Up until this weekend I must admit that my enthusiasm for skiing was starting to wane… Two months of attempting to ski on grass and ice will do that to even the keenest sportsman (!) But last weekend restored all my faith in the white fluffy stuff, and team this with blue sky, amazing pals and an obscene amount of brilliant banter, it all came together to provide one of the best ski days I’ve ever had.
Following the lack of snow in the Alps, the last week has seen its fair share of rain, but as dreary as that is to look at out of your window, rain in the valley means snow in the mountains (yippee!) Earlier this week saw a few days of miserable, grey rain, but when the clouds finally lifted they revealed the majestic Aiguille de Midi as it is very rarely seen; the towering sides too sheer to hold snow except in the event of a heavy snowfall combined with very strong winds. I am truly pleased to have captured it in its brief moment of pure white, a very special view, and out of my living room window too!
So it’s been a slow start to Winter in the European Alps by anyone’s standards, a meagre amount of snow in November to get us all excited about skiing, followed by weeks of mild, sunny weather causing what little snow there was to gradually disappear and meaning panic for anyone working in the tourist industry. Most of the Chamonix ski areas were set to open early December yet barely managed to scrape a few slopes open for the Christmas week. We left here before Christmas desperately hoping for some of the white stuff on our return… And thank goodness, we did arrive back to Winter, rather than an even more extended Autumn! The Valley is now thankfully covered in white, although snow cover on the pistes is still the worst I’ve ever seen it for this time of year. There’s an awful amount of grass poking out of the pistes and the artificial snow canons are in full flow, plus it’s well below freezing every day so it’s all about layering up appropriately before leaving the house! But the mountains look beautiful, the sunsets are stunning and it’s always good to be back on the snow, regardless of of how good (or poor!) the skiing is.
Winter is coming to the mountains!! It’s getting darker, much much colder and the snow is imminent. It keeps falling high up and we’ve had some teaser flakes on the ground down here, but we’re still waiting with baited breath to see when REAL winter is going to hit. A few resorts have tentatively opened across Switzerland, France and Italy and getting back on the skis was as exciting as ever, but as always happens at this time of year, it’s hard to let go of summer! We’re still clinging on to the beautiful sunny and autumnal walks and the wonderful feelings that come with with hiking up a stunning mountain trail and breathlessly reaching the top, knowing you’ve just done something brilliant.
But this last week I’ve discovered that it doesn’t have to end quite yet! Snowy walks under blue skies are still possible, just! Once the skiing kicks in properly I’ll be all over it and love every second, but I think when skiing people often forget their surroundings and just don’t have the time to stop and appreciate the mountains in the way you can when travelling uphill, and a lot slower! That’s why ski touring is so special. You drink it all in on the way up, appreciating every second and every peak, then when you finally reach that summit, strap on your skis and get your reward, you know you’ve earned every turn.
We’ve done some wonderful early season ski tours already this year and fingers crossed for a good winter so that there will be many more to come, but this week a friend suggested a snowy winter walk, and we managed to sneak one in, maybe the last of the year, and if so it was a good one! Forest trails are so beautiful in winter, and this is the perfect time of the year to enjoy them. In a few weeks they’ll be buried until spring so make the most of them while you still can!