André’s January Update from Chamonix

Much has been written about the slow burn start to winter 2017 in the Alps, and in particular the Northern French Alps, but January has been far from all bad… Ok, so granted, Chamonix at the start of January looked more like Autumn than Winter. Les Drus, which I have the perfect view of from my garden, should have been caked in snow by January, but was worryingly naked, and some favourite lines I’d been looking forward to riding which are practically on my doorstep were still good for trail running.

Some snow came during the first week in January – it wasn’t enough to really solve the problems of lower lift-access terrain, but gave the potential for a few fun days splitboarding. Most of it fairly mellow and low key, but we did manage to keep it interesting by bootpacking a couloir which I hadn’t ridden before, with a little bit of exposure and a good amount of wind at the top to keep us honest.

Getting some touring and bootpacking in early January, when lift-access powder is sometimes too tempting to stay focussed on, is no bad thing… a bit more investment in terms of time and energy, but equally nice to get away from lift-line “bla bla bla” and do something positive for our rest of season fitness.

Another storm hit, mid-January, making for some fun storm tree-riding in a few favourite spots. Still pretty low-tide so a need to be relatively cautious of thinly veiled rock and tree stump hazards, but super deep in places, and the stoke around the valley was definitely building. That’s the thing with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ conditions, your expectations change in line with them… a drought makes you more grateful for the days which deliver.

The first blue bird day post the mid-January storm was a Sunday, so a few of us decided to escape the Chamonix crowds pushing and shoving for first lifts and lines, and shot through to Italy. Easy access to Italy via the Mont Blanc tunnel is one of the many great things about living in Chamonix – 11km through the tunnel and you pop out in the land of good coffee, food, better attitudes, and less people. Often you can through ‘better weather’ into that mix too. We weren’t disappointed with our decision that day…..

The snow stayed good for the next few days in Chamonix too, and I was happy to fit in a few favourite lines around Brevent, find some fun jump lines in my go to resort of Flegere (known as a snowboarders dream playground for good reason) and do some ‘adventure’ snowboarding/scoping (aka bushwacking) elsewhere.

The copious opportunities which January usually offers for cliff drops has definitely been more limited, so just before the month was out, and after some horrible winds to boot, I was pleased to find this nice looking cliff face with a ‘just about’ steep enough, untouched, landing to be drop-able.

Things look set to change with a couple of storm cycles rolling in to kick start February, so looking forward to what the next month has to offer!

Instagram: @andre_saudan

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