Friday thought #50 First ski of the season – in September!

The title says it all really! It seems winter comes early in Innsbruck as the Stubai Gletscher guarantees skiing from October to June. A couple of days of heavy rain last week meant a good layer of snow up high so the lifties were kind enough to get it open a week early. Exploring a new area is always great fun, especially with very few people, fantastic snow and glorious sunshine!

We even found a little peak to scramble up, our first Austrian peak! Looking out over the Dolomites, with snowy peaks as far as the eye could see, I must admit I was feeling pretty happy about our move. The novelty of starting the ski season in September certainly helps! We finished off the day with tired legs and a Weissbier in the sunshine, excited about the winter to come…

A stunning panorama
A stunning panorama
Stunning
Looking across to the Italian Dolomites
Incredible cloud inversion, luckily we were above it!
Incredible cloud inversion, luckily we were above it!
So much to explore!
So much to explore!
First Austrian peak!
First Austrian peak!
We even found some powder!
We even found some powder!
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Friday thought #27 Will the mountain environment ever get boring?

You may or may not have ever heard of the Vallée Blanche, some of you may have even skied it, but regardless of your previous knowledge, the pictures of this stunning ski run speak for themselves. Essentially it is a completely off piste ski trail, 18km long, ungroomed, unpatrolled, and follows an enormous glacier down the Chamonix Valley, marking the border between Italy and France. You enter the Vallée Blanche at your own risk, preferably with a guide, as there are no end of crevasses waiting to swallow you up if you head the wrong way. From start to finish the whole experience is simply breathtaking, in the sense that it literally will take your breath away. I’d say it’s worth learning how to ski if only so you get the chance to do this at least once in your life!

It has to be done on a sunny day as the views are just as important, if not more important than the skiing. To reach the start you have to fight your way on to arguably one of the busiest ski lifts in the World and trying to get a space on it between 8 and 10am is every man for himself, yet as we recently discovered, heading back round for lap number 2 in the afternoon is more than worth the effort. After the pandemonium of the morning, at 2.30pm we had the lift to ourselves, and saw just 2 other people in the distance during the entire run down, easily 2 hours of solitude in what has to be one of the most stunning places on earth. Add to this tranquility the beauty of skiing home at dusk watching the sun creep its way downwards behind the mountains and it all makes for a pretty magical day.

Thank you Chamonix.

Just taking a break next to the ice fall...
Just taking a break next to the ice fall…
Heading down the arête for lap number 2, wait till the afternoon and you have your own private mountain!
Heading down the arête for lap number 2, wait till the afternoon and you have your own private mountain!
Stunning ice, different every time
Stunning ice formations, although not sure it it’s pointing at something worthy of note or giving me the finger!
Heading home in to the sunset. So clichéd but in this case very true!
Heading home in to the sunset. So clichéd but in this case very true!

Friday thought #25 Nature at its best

Following a recent ski trip to Kosovo and Macedonia (more info to follow, such a fun trip!!) I feel the need to share some of the most beautiful examples I saw of snow in all its glory. Living in the Alps you’re surrounded by snow for several months of the year, but going somewhere new can sometimes bring a whole new perspective to the weather you feel you know so well. When fresh snow is combined with wind and storms, the resulting effect can be absolutely incredible. Enjoy x

A long forgotten chair lift in Kosovo (have you ever seen a one person chair lift before??!)
A long forgotten chair lift in Kosovo (have you ever seen a one person chair lift before??!)
Ice patterns on the window, -11 Celsius outside!
Ice patterns on the window, -11 Celsius outside!

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An amazing build up of snow following several days of storms in Macedonia
An amazing build up of snow following several days of storms in Macedonia

Friday thought #22 First powder day of the season!!

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.

Happy skiing to all!

Ah, fresh lines...
Ah, fresh lines…
First tracks of the day
First tracks of the day
Happy skiers on the chair lift!
Happy skiers on the chair lift!

Friday thought #20 Snow plastered mountains

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!

Not a view many people get to see...
Not a view many people get to see…
Truly stunning
Truly stunning

Friday thought #19 Happy New Year and the arrival of Winter!

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.

Happy New Year!

Pink mountains
Pink mountains
Winter is finally here!
Winter is finally here!
Beautiful snowy walks
Beautiful snowy walks

Friday thought #15 Snowy walks and ski tours!

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!

Breathtaking views on snowy walks
Breathtaking views on snowy walks
Beautiful, snow laden branches
Nature at its snowy best
Beautiful, beautiful ski touring, with the added bonus of the Mont Blanc Massif in the background!
Beautiful, beautiful ski touring, with the added bonus of the Mont Blanc Massif in the background!
A tough finish, but totally worth it when this is what you're aiming for!
A tough finish, but totally worth it when this is what you’re aiming for!