Lucky us to have gotten snow relatively early this year all the way down to the valley floors. The skiing was deep this early December. The avalanche danger was a high 3 because the layer on the ground had turned to facets. This is not an unusual situation. It happens when we get early snow in the autumn then cold, dry weather afterwards. Because the ground is relatively warm, around -.1, and the air is cold, -15 in the alpine areas, this shallow layer of snow grows into faceted crystals that can’t support the weight of new snow. As the winter progresses, it gets covers with new lawyers of snow which eventually bond to each other and create a bridge over this weak ground layer. When we have a lot of snow, this bridge insulates our impact on this weak layer. So you’ll understand what the avalanche forecasters have been writing about these past two weeks:
These avalanche prone locations are to be found especially in little used terrain and at transitions from a shallow to a deep snowpack.
The WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF today
The weather forecast calls for sunny weather for another week, then possibly more snow and higher temperatures.
Ski Safaris are always a super exciting time for me. Before leaving, I would have spent days researching and planning the trip. Most often, we’re heading to an area I’ve never been to before, so I’m as amped as my clients to discover new horizons. The forecast was calling for heavy snows in the Alps, and variable weather in the Mediterranean. So we thought we’d take our chance and head south!
This trip to Corsica in the middle of the pandemie was even more tantalizing! We knew we could travel to Corsica after getting a PCR test. There were no quarantine restrictions going to or returning back home to Switzerland. Whether or not we would actually be allowed to waltz right back in across the border in a week’s time, left me with a tiny morsel of curiosity.
Arriving at L’Île-Rousse on the ferry from Livorno, Simone and I were gripping the Ferry handrails, craning our necks to study the wind force and direction. We planned to start the trip with a little afternoon kite surfing since we had just the half day. Simone had brought his foil board, which turned out to be a bonus. The winds were light in the little bay of Algajola, a 20 minute drive from L’Île-Rousse. He had a good full-on session, while I flailed with my North 12m kite as it slowly deflated with a faulty airport valve. I’ll be getting on a foil next so I can ride with him in lighter winds!!!
We drove south to Corte to base ourselves in the Restonica valley for some ski touring. The valley was insanely beautiful to us, coming from the Alps. The road weaves and winds its way up the valley, way, way above the steep river below. Cows were leaving a country style mess on the road . It was a challenge to not drive off the cliffs as I drove, wanting to see all the sights. We skinned right from the the van, up through sparse woods, then put on ski crampons to get over the frozen spring snow to Lac de Melo below the Breche de Gloria. Above, the sun started heating the snow, making the last climb to the Breche very agreeable indeed. Standing on the main east-west ridge dividing Haute Corse felt inspiring. The ski down on mature spring snow was a blast! It’d gotten warm in the Alps earlier, but there was nothing like flying down these vast couloirs, skiing mature spring snow on all aspects. This snow had been sitting there since October so it was super nice to get on such fine corn snow.
Over the next 7 days, we meandered up and down the valleys of Haute Corse near Corte and discovered the wonderful granite, climbing, e-biking and kiting on the beaches near Calvi. We used the e-bikes on our last day to approach Monte Cinto, the highest peak on the island.
The snow is slowly accumulating at the upper and lower elevations around Verbier. What fun it is to again glide over the ground as if we’re flying. We skied mid December further to the east around the Furka Pass and Andermatt to get into the deep snow. Though the conditions here, for the moment, on steep, north aspects, in high alpine terrain is still too weak to safely ski, there are still lots of other fun places to have fun skiing. The warm weather last week has helped create a base below 2400 meters on which this new snow is accumulating.
Here are a few shots from last week. Wishing you all a very fine New Year!
What a summer it’s been! The weather has been perfect. Not too hot so many of the alpine routes stayed in shape well into August. We just had a good dump of snow above 2500 meters so that will help keep the glaciers white as we move in the autumn season.
Fi and I moved across the valley to Bruson. It feels so good here. I can’t get over how quiet it is. We’ve lived in Verbier going on 40 years, so it’s quite the change. So psyched to still have ski in and ski out from my doorstep.
The view of Verbier from our new place in Bruson.
Ton and I did another sweet adventure together, following the Bagnes-Magic Valley border traversing La Sale-Pleureur-La Luette ridge. What makes this trip so fine, is the feeling of solitude and the outrageous views and exposures above the two valleys. There all sorts of different terrain features, from obscure footpaths leading to the Bivouac Pantalons Blancs, to the solid moves up onto the summit of the Sale. The ridge between the Pleureur and Luette makes for some good route finding on crumbling dirt and rock. Then Luette gives you some relaxed rock climbing to the finish. The gang at the Dix hut have it all figured out with fine food and excellent hospitality.
Hope you’re enjoying your day wherever you are, inside or out, masked or not, and hope we get to play soon together in these mountains on dry ground or slippery.