After yesterday’s epic on the Vallee Blanche and Grands Montets, the forecast was ordinary and we had low expectations. Because Phil and Jack don’t have touring gear our options were limited and Jerome and I were at a loss at what to do. The snow down low in the Chamonix valley is dust on crust and up high is all tracked.
So we decided to go to Courmayeur, mainly because it was a change of scenery and skiing in Italy was always fun. So we headed through the tunnel and rode the mismatch of lifts and finally found ourselves at the top. And with a surprise. There was a foot of fresh snow.
From the top of Courmayeur there are two main off-piste areas that extend to each side of the resort. There was some cloud about so we simply decided to go to the one that looked more clear, which turned out to be the Arp Vielle area which drops down into Val Veny with the wild landscape of the South face of Mont Blanc looming overhead.
We traversed a wide bowl filled with lovely powder, which seemed kind of a waste though we did manage a few sneaky turns. After the traverse there was a lovely long steep couloir filled with powder but also some avalanche debris which kept us honest. It was about 40 degrees which with soft snow is a great pitch to challenge and exert yourself but not at all dangerous so it was thoroughly enjoyable.
After the couloir petered out we skied some more superb snow in the open steep trees before the long traverse on a forest road back to the lift.
After the long traverse we had a quick lunch and then headed back up to the top and skied in the other direction to Dolonne. This was not quite as steep as Arp Vielle but we found some excellent snow in open trees and had a blast.
As we got down lower to the forest we followed a long & windy trail full of slush bumps back to the piste.
A couple more lifts and we made the ski back down to the car. The clouds had petered out by this stage and we had some great views up to the Helbronner side of the valley where we could see the Brenva, Entreves & Glacier Toule which were the locations of some of our favourite descents in previous years. Due to the disconnection of the Courmayeur lift system as well as our two long off-piste descents we also did quite a bit of piste skiing to get from A to B which resulted in an enormous day and tired legs.
No ski day in Italy would be complete without a few drinks and a pasta meal in downtown Courmayeur.
What we thought was going to be an ordinary day turned out to be a complete cracker. Courmayeur rarely disappoints, we have had some superb skiing over on the Italian face throughout the years and today was no exception. I can’t wait to come back!