While the news that the ski resorts in France will remain closed throughout the season still echoes in the mountain valleys, Mother Nature doesn't care. This week we were treated to fresh snow in the Hautes Alpes with perfect timing. Snow at night and sun during the day, and that for three days in a row now. Dream conditions as long as you stay on not so steep slopes because the avalanche danger is very high!
After it had snowed all day on Friday, a few hours of sun was forecasted for Saturday morning. So at a little after six (just after the French curfew) we drove off towards the Freissinieres valley. Almost immediately we were stopped by a gruff (goes without saying) French agent. "You are not allowed to continue driving", "Uhhh, what?" "The road is closed from the Monte Carlo car rally."
So we turned around and left the iced mountain roads to the racing drivers. Plan two was La Blanche above the closed ski area of Pelvoux. From the village of Puy Aillaud we hiked up through 30 to 40 cm of fresh snow.
On the way up, largely through the closed ski area, it was clear that the avalanche conditions were tense. The wind had blown very hard and the snow layer broke at the slightest bit. Once at the top of the area, we decided to stay on the not so steep slopes of the ski area. And don't hike any further up. The powder was still pretty good, especially below the tree line. We decided to hike up again. Above the tree line, the snow had blown to pieces and was dangerous. It turned out that in the evening I heard from a mountain rescuer friend of the CRS in Briançon that they came to the rescue with no less than 5 avalanches. Most skiers were okay, but three ski tourers had to be flown to Briançon hospital with broken bones or other injuries.
At about twelve o'clock on Saturday, I was back home, the clouds came in and it started to snow. That meant I got back on skis on Sunday. No steep slopes, because the avalanche danger was of course still very high. So this time we decided to go to the touring ski classic of Tête des Raisins above Freissinieres. It could not have been skied on Saturday because of the closed roads. So the chance of first tracks was very high. More snow had fallen than I expected. We hiked up through 25-30 cm of fresh snow.
While hiking up, we did everything we could to avoid reaching 30°. Because we felt that the snow conditions were very tense again. But even today it was not a punishment to stay on not-steep terrain. We found great snow and that under a lovely sun. It is not without reason that the Tête de Raisins is a real classic, as it turned out again today, when we skied down we saw at least forty skiers and boarders skin up. This season it is noticeable that the ski lifts are closed, many people have clicked on the touring skis. The snow's call is just too strong. I wonder how many will still be taking the touring skis here next year when the lifts are open again.