Course Report: Vanoise All-Terrain, Jan 2011

Another great week’s skiing the magnificent Vanoise valley. More powder would have made it better, of course. But that’s skiing off-piste for you. More snow is forecast and we’re looking forward to that.

We had twenty eight skiers out this week making up 4 groups. Lee and Mike were up in La Tania looking after our Junior All-Terrain, leaving myself, Emma, Gareth and John Hendry on the Vanoise course.

My group were level 4. So none or minimal off-piste experience, with little experience in bumps, steep terrain and variable conditions including ice. So we were directly into some on-piste preparation. Skidding, skidding and more skidding… oh yes and even more skidding! This is the secret to steep slopes, bumps and ice. Most people spend their skiing learning how not to skid so it’s a bit of a mind game when I suggest skidding is core to performance skiing! I was heading up a chairlift with one group member who had never skied off-piste in his life and I pointed to a steep off-piste slope below and promised him we’d be skiing it by the end of the week. He looked at me in sheer disbelief and laughed. He was, in fact, skiing it the next day. Now there’s testament to the power of ‘skillful skidding’.

Day 3 and we headed up to Champagny and into Paradiski. The plan was to head directly across Les Arcs to make the most of the skiing over there and then catch a bus back from Bourg St Maurice. The snow was good in La Plagne, but we bypassed this pretty quickly and made our way across the Vanoise Express into the awesome Les Arcs ski area. Despite clouds coming in and a drop in visibility, I wasn’t deterred from heading as high up the Aiguille Rouge as possible and into some bumps!

Day 4 and into the La Plagne area. I headed high again, up onto the La Plagne glacier, whilst Emma, John and Lee headed lower down into the trees. I was convinced there was powder to be had on the glacier and we weren’t disappointed. We just couldn’t see it! So determined to get into the powder we ended staying up there. I was sure the group were looking forward to a great lunch whilst I was looking for the nearest snack bar to get this powder conquered. So in sub zero temperatures and with minimum visibility I took them to what I thought was a snack bar at the top of the glacier. I opened the door to an amazing restaurant which we had completely to ourselves. What a place! (Situated at the top of the Bellecote Telecabine, I highly recommend it!)  Over one hundred teas to choose from, soup in real bread bowls, (don’t eat the bowl first.. doh) with a superb ambiance. It felt like we were in Nepal or somewhere equally exotic.

Day 5 and we changed our venue. We were due to head to Valmorel  but with bad weather forecast, we decided to stay closer to home and head for Courchevel where the sun was shining. Valmorel will have to wait. The unusually warm weather for this time of year had meant that it had rained overnight lower down turning snow to ice. Every so often it happens. There was fresh snow further up, but as this was an All-Terrain course, this was our opportunity to develop our skills for controlling skis on ice – and so, with some reluctance, we went to work.  After a couple of hours, deep rooted fears had been conquered and demons beaten. It was a turning point for many and one which will be remembered.

When we arrived at the new snow, the hard work paid off, resulting in big smiles all round. Only days ago, skiers with little or no off-piste experience were now skiing 40 degree slopes in a variety of terrains –  nervous piste skiers turned all-mountain adventurers.

Job done.

Bring on St Anton.

iSKI All-Terrain courses are running throughout the season. Click here to see forthcoming dates.

All-Mountain (7) All-Terrain course (4) Emma Carrick-Anderson (11) Instruction (2) iSKI Course (3) Lee Townend (6) Phil Smith (5) Ski Courses (10) Vanoise (1)