Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What's the weather like in March?

Simple question impossible to answer. As we come to the end of March we would reasonably expect to be in Spring Skiing mode. The days are long, lifts open until late afternoon, the odd fly has been spotted and the goggle tans are developing. All of this was completely true until the end of last week when winter decided she had not quite finished yet. By Sunday we were experiencing temperatures of minus 25 in the wind and wondering if we had imagined the temperatures of 14 plus degrees and apres drinks in the sunshine only days before.

The dramatic drop in temperature brought snow, lots of it. Even down at Village level the early Primroses were hidden by snow and the alarm clock was beaten by the snow plough off to do his snow clearing. The Pistes are fresh and in beautiful condition so it seems a shame that there are so few people here to enjoy it. When Easter falls late, March is usually a quiet period. There are no school holidays and the idea of "Spring Skiing" can raise concerns around the quality and quantity of snow. 

So is it risky to book a snow holiday for March? Our experience would say not at all. The Three Valleys area is high and benefits from a mostly northerly aspect which keeps the snow in good condition. Piste grooming in the area is amongst the best in the world which ensures the conditions are the best possible. The efficient lift system can get you up high quickly and even if spring snow appears at the bottom of the area down lifting using Gondolas at the end of the day is always an option.

We have been in the area many times during March and a quick check through our Photos confirmed that it always snows during the month. So as many people start to think about their snow holiday for next season don't forget about March as a possibility. As an added incentive next March from the 18th to 22nd March the 2015 Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals will take place in Meribel. This is not just a "first" for Meribel but also a "first" for France. What better excuse do you need?

To show off our lovely conditions here are a few pictures taken over the last 7 days.

Enjoying the sun before the weekend

Lovely afternoon sunlight on the way home

The Altiport area plunged back into Winter

The sun did try but the snow clouds won in the end

Monday, 10 March 2014

Yellow is the new Black in The Three Valleys

Across The Three Valleys ski area there are Green, Blue, Red and Black marked Pistes or runs. The frequency with which they are groomed/bashed at night by the Piste Machines varies within each resort area but as a rough guide Green runs will be groomed every night, most Blue runs will be groomed, a lower % of Red runs will be groomed and an even lower % of Black runs will be groomed.

When Pistes are groomed the unevenness of the surface is reduced and moguls are flattened leaving a corduroy surface which we commonly refer to as Hero Snow. It is predictable and in most cases a very different experience than skiing or riding Off Piste where no slope preparation is carried out and obstacles such as rocks and sudden drops in terrain exist.

Over the past few years we have seen an increase in the number of people wanting to explore Off Piste. This is partly driven by the availability of equipment which enables people to  participate in the experience without a huge outlay in terms of money and time to learn new skills. This has led to some problems, the weather this season has given us an unstable snow pack and avalanches have been frequent some sadly fatal. A local guide commented on one of the problems with this increased interest in Off Piste areas being people have "equipment beyond their capability". 

One of the problems is how do you learn how to ski or ride Off Piste conditions without actually going Off Piste and endangering your life and that of others. This year the Les Menuires area of The Three valleys have taken steps to address this. On the Piste Map there are now Liberty Ride Pistes which are marked in yellow:

These are marked pistes which have had obstacles such a rocks removed but no grooming is carried out. The condition of the snow is therefore what you will find Off Piste providing a safe area in which to experience these very different snow conditions. Piste markers are used and the areas are patrolled.

Liberty Ride Piste marker

Three Liberty Ride areas have been introduced and no doubt more will follow. They can be found on la Masse: access via la Masse 2 gondola, on Ariondaz near Saint Martin: access via the Saint Martin 2 chairlift, and pylĂ´nes: access via the Sunny Express chairlift. This is a great innovation by the area so before you venture Off Piste for the first time practice your skills in one of these areas.