Chamonix’s last proper ski area closed for skiing and snowboarding
yesterday. The final area to close each year is the Grands Montets which is a bit higher than the others in the valley and helps make Chamonix one of the higher resorts in France. This altitude is just one reason why spring skiing is great here. Disappointingly closing day was a week earlier than last year, but this was more a reflection on 2013’s exceptional snow rather how warm and sunny March and April has been. With all this warm weather we’ve been enjoying you might think this means the skiing has been total rubbish, but on the contrary Chamonix always delivers something! The spread out nature of the lift accessed areas as well as the high altitude at Grands Montets makes Chamonix ideal for spring touring in the valley. The vast areas of fairly easily accessible glacier make the area snow sure almost all year. Therefore when resorts like Portes du Soleil are setting up for mountain biking we’re still riding steep and deep powder in Chamonix!
This year the splitboard touring on spring snow has been fantastic as usual, we focused mainly on the Aiguille du Midi lift until the crevasses got a little too interesting lower down. Then switched to Grand Montets when the fresh snow returned last week.
A late flurry of snow falling last week amounted to about a metre in total and this meant the season has ended on a definite high. The picture below was taken just last week – it was the second 30cm powder day in a row. When it snows that hard it’s pretty difficult to ride above treeline!
When the snow finally stopped we had one of those new best days ever, the clouds vanished and about 40cm of light powder was left set against the blue sky. On days like this in the depths of winter I would normally ride at the Brevent area in order to avoid the huge queues at the Grands Montets, but at the end of season the slopes are quiet and we could just lap over and over the 3300m high top bin at Grands Montets.
There hasn’t been too many days where it was deep enough to jump off anything you could see but last Tuesday was one of those days, the rock in the picture below involved a little traverse but was super fun!
The beauty of Chamonix is that the Aiguille du Midi, a lift that rises from 1000m to 3800m, is open year round so unlike other resorts if it dumps next week we can still go lift-assisted skiing! This is the jewel in the crown 0f why Chamonix is the best place for late season skiing!
The picture below is the view from the top – it’s always a tough decision whether to do a couple of laps here on a powder day, where it’s slower as you have to take the train and climb 400+ steps, or to lap a lower lift over and over like at GM!
Last week with closing day arriving it was all about exploring the great options available from the top of Grands Montets. We dropped down the heavily crevassed Rognons Glacier onto the flat wide Argentiere Glacier. From here we switched to touring mode and splitboarded across to the Argentiere Refuge. From the refuge we headed up to the Col d’Argentiere but the cloud rolled in as we reached the top limiting any great views. The descent was fun on heavy powder and the visibility remained good. There are about 4 cols you can reach off the Argentiere glacier all are fun day tours of varying differculty.
So as this last week shows Chamonix always delivers late season snow. We had to wait longer than some years for that spring powder dump and many local people had lost faith and were out riding bikes or climbing. However when the rain in the valley stopped falling we had some epic snowboarding in deep powder! Who knows with the Midi lift still turning there is probably another powder day in store before the end of Spring!