This week one of the Mountain Lifestyle team enjoyed a great day out with the ESF on their Mont Blanc Discovery day; off-piste skiing in the Italian resort of Courmayeur. This is what she made of her Italian adventure…

The Italian flag, off-piste skiing in Courmayeur Italy on the ESF Mont Blanc Discovery ski day

We met at 8.30 at the Maison des Guides in Chamonix and everyone who didn’t have their own was lent an avalanche transceiver for the day. We then set off through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur, a short journey of about 30 minutes.

IMG_4107We were a bit of a mixed group so our guides used the first run to assess our ski/snowboard abilities and put us into appropriate groups, so that we could all keep up with each other.

My group was a mixture of skiers and snowboarders, all with a bit of off-piste experience under our belts. First of all we went to the top of the Crest D’Arp to go off-piste. It was a challenging morning of skiing steep terrain with a descent of about 1500m from Col D’Arp down to Dolonne, via a wide gorge and through the woods.

Our instructor, Raf, was fantastic – he had a very kind relaxed nature which made you feel at ease the whole way. He stopped on several occasions to give us information about the mountains that surrounded us and was happy to give tips and advice on handling the terrain.

ff-pistyeOnce we got back on the piste it was time to have lunch at Château Branlant. The food was delicious; we tucked into selection of charcuterie meats and cheeses to start with, followed by a main dish of risotto and ravioli, then a selections of desserts and coffees. They also catered for vegans with a lovely mushroom barley dish served with roasted vegetables. All with a few glasses of red wine, of course – viva Italia!

After lunch we split into different groups depending on what type of terrain you wanted to ski, then we all headed back in the direction of the car park – either down the pistes, or off-piste through Val Veny.

Everyone in the group commented on what a great day it was. It was so much fun to go off-piste with our lovely guides, have some delicious Italian food and meet a group of like-minded people.

IMG_4063

So, if this sounds like your kind of day out the Mont Blanc Discovery days offer an unbeatable opportunity to experience the first-rate skiing of the Mont Blanc region. You’ll enjoy the best off-piste routes in the Chamonix valley, the Aosta valley (Italy) and Valais (Switzerland) with a team of experienced mountain guides and ski instructors.

Every morning your instructor or guide will join you at your hotel or residence to drive you to the chosen site in a private minibus. Group sizes are kept to a small size of 4-8 people so that you benefit from the attention of the guide. You can book for one (87€), three (244€) or six (450€) days and explore a new area each day to enjoy the best of the available snow conditions. Your guides enjoy the day as much as you will and they’ll take you to their favourite places for lunch.

Forget the queues! Priority ski lift access and reserved cable cars means that you get to spend more time skiing and less time waiting in lines. Your guides enjoy the day as much as you will and they’ll take you to their favourite places for lunch.

Contact us now to book your Mont Blanc Discovery day

Our 3 Favourite Off-Piste Experiences for Skier & Snowboarders in Chamonix

It might have been a bit slow to start but with the arrival of a few massive dumps of snow recently, this winter is now looking pretty amazing!

So much snow fell last week that the pisteurs at Les Grands Montets were gob-smacked and have been hard at work ever since making the ski areas safe and avalanche-free for us to enjoy.

Pisteurs securing the ski area at Les Grands Montets in Chamonix

However, the late and sudden arrival of the snow unfortunately makes for fairly unsteady conditions up in the mountains. The avalanche risk has been consistently high and although there is huge temptation is to go ripping through the powder at every opportunity, mountain guides and pisteurs are advising everyone to be cautious and to ski or snowboard safely – especially if you are thinking of going off-piste.

Off-piste ski course with Chamonix Experience mountain guides

The Chamonix backcountry has so much to offer and there is fantastic off-piste terrain to discover. An ideal way to explore, and to learn essential safety skills, is by doing an off-piste course. Here are our top three…

All Mountain – one of our favourites, this 3 day course takes you all over the Grands Montets into bowls, gullies and powder fields where you’ll learn how to ride off-piste, make steep turns, attack moguls and handle bad conditions such as ice and hardpack. Your guide will seek out the best places for the conditions and teach you how to master the mountain like a boss. Split over 3 half days at 195€ per person, this is ideal preparation for doing the Vallée Blanche – your guide will let you know if you are ready to do it.
Book All Mountain Here

Off-Piste & Freeride – we’re not saying “don’t go off-piste”, it’s far too much fun to miss out on! You’ll have an even better time if you go with a pro and learn how to shred the pow and find the best stashes. Our freeride and off-piste courses go from half days to full weeks for everyone from complete beginners to experienced powder hounds. Starting from just 69€ they are definitely worth it, you’ll experience Chamonix in a whole new light.
Book Off-Piste & Freeride Here

Avalanche Awareness – learn invaluable skills and have a great off-piste experience. If you want to explore then you need to learn how to do it safely, especially with the snowpack being as unstable as it is this winter. This half-day course will take you into the mountains and teach you the basics of assessing the snow conditions, evaluating the avalanche risk, carrying out a search using a transceiver and what to do if the worst happens. At just 69€ per person it’s an investment that you’ll use every time you go off-piste. We also offer longer courses for those who want to learn more about avalanche, off-piste and glacier safety.
Book Avalanche Awareness Here

11043430_773513366072703_1994709164301509462_o

Once you’ve mastered the techniques of off-piste skiing you’ll be ready to tackle the Vallée Blanche – Chamonix’s most famous off-piste run. Riding the lift up to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi at 3842m, stepping out through the ice tunnel onto the arete, skiing down amongst the seracs and crevasses of the Mont Blanc Massif – it is an unbeatable experience for any confident skier or snowboarder.

Ski the Vallee Blanche from the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix

The Vallée Blanche is not technically a difficult route, it is often compared to being no harder than your average red piste, which is why it is so accessible even to those who don’t have huge off-piste experience. It is glacial terrain though, which is why it is essential to only ever ski the Vallee Blanche with a guide. Glaciers constantly shift and evolve, with crevasses opening up and changing shape with every different weather pattern. This is why none of our mountain guides would ever compromise your safety by taking you down if they thought that conditions were too bad or that you weren’t ready to tackle it.

We also have a ton of other options to offer such as private ski/snowboard guiding, off-piste lessons for everyone from beginners to experiences skiers/snowboarders, longer ski tours with overnight accommodation in mountain refuges, snowshoe treks and so on. Please visit our website or contact us for more details.

The Chamonix ski slopes are now in great condition and the next few days look like they’re going be as glorious as today’s webcam image from Flegere…

Chamonix webcam image of Flegere ski area

We get a lot of calls and emails asking us what the snow’s like – you can see for yourself with the daily video snow report, live webcams and local weather forecasts on our Chamonix Snow & Weather page.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 2016 – who’s in?!

It might have been dumping with snow in Chamonix all week but some of us are already planning our summer of adventure! Results have gone on line this week to confirm all those who have successfully subscribed to take part in the 2016 Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, taking place next August.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix
Photo credit : Franck Oddoux

The UTMB is one of the valley’s biggest events and we’re super excited to have some of the Mountain Lifestyle team taking part. The week comprises 5 different races – UTMB, PTL, TDS, CCC, OCC – all ultra-marathon trail races taking place at high altitude in the shadow of the mighty Mont Blanc.

  • UTMB – Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc – 170km distance & 10,000m elevation
  • PTL – Petit Trot de Lyon – 290km distance & 26500m elevation
  • TDS – Trail des Ducs de Savoie – 119km distance & 7250m elevation
  • CCC – Courmayeur Champex Chamonix – 100km distance & 6100m elevation
  • OCC – Orsieres Champex Chamonix – 55km distance & 3300m elevation

This is such an exciting time of year to be in Chamonix, with an amazing buzz in the air and people from all over the world gathering to take part or to cheer for their friends and family.

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix
Photo credit : Michel Cottin

You can get a taste for the UTMB by heading to Chamonix this spring or summer to take part in one of our trail running camps – a week or long weekend of pounding the alpine trails with an expert trail running coach. You’ll benefit not only from training at altitude but you’ll also receive invaluable advice on training strategies, learn how to fly down technical descents, conserve energy on steep climbs and manage your nutrition. If you book during June then you’ll have the chance to see the Marathon du Mont Blanc take place, another fantastic event when the whole town turns out to cheer and get involved. Here in Chamonix you’ll meet many people who have taken part in all of the UTMB races and can share their experiences with you, this town loves to talk running!

If you don’t have a full week to spare then get an insight into what’s needed to complete one of the world’s most iconic races with a 2 day UTMB recce in which you’ll complete either the first or the second half of the route, accompanied by a running guide. You’ll run 80km through the day and night with around 5000m of positive elevation gain on high altitude trails. An incredible experience and invaluable preparation if you’re planning on running the real thing one day – contact us now for further details.

Marathon du Mont Blanc in Chamonix

We also offer one-to-one running and fitness sessions with a personal coach – so whether your goal is to complete your first marathon, to smash a personal best, or just to have some fun in the mountains, we can help you achieve and even exceed it!

For the ultimate trail running experience, contact us for a bespoke training camp including nutritious gourmet meals, daily massages, expert advice on sports “pre-habilitation” and recovery from professional physiotherapists and guided runs in the mountains with tips and advice. We can cater for any group sizes and are happy to discuss a variety of options to create an itinerary that meets your needs. We are fortunate enough to live in the perfect environment for outdoor training of all kinds that can include road biking and lake swimming for budding triathletes!

If you’ve not already checked, you can find out if you were lucky enough to get a place in one of the  UTMB races on the official Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc website – just enter your surname in the search box to find the results.

Congratulations if you were successful! UTMB week is one of the busiest of the year, so be sure to book your accommodation in Chamonix before it all books up. We can also help with essentials such as airport transfers and pre or post race massages and physiotherapy – just ask us and we’d be happy to help.

Fresh Snow in Chamonix! Go Off-Piste with a Chamonix Mountain Guide

After a slow start to the winter season, it looks like we’re getting it all at once – 1.5m of fresh snow has fallen this week, with another 2.5m forecast over the weekend!

The great news is that any remaining rocks and bare patches are rapidly disappearing under a thick layer of the lovely white stuff, making for excellent conditions both on and off-piste.

Fresh Snow at Le Tour in Chamonix Mont Blanc

The warm dry conditions of December mean that the snow base is likely to be unstable though and this unfortunately makes the avalanche risk high. We would always recommend hiring a mountain guide for off-piste skiing anyway, but the current conditions make it extra advisable.

Here are just a few good reasons to hire a mountain guide:

  • Safety – a qualified mountain guide will have been thoroughly trained in avalanche awareness and rescue. So, not only are you less likely to be caught up in a dangerous situation in the first place, but you’ll be with the right person should the worst happen.
  • Local knowledge – why bumble around by yourselves missing out on the best snow when you could be making fresh tracks in awesome terrain? Your mountain guide will know exactly where to find the best powder stashes and how to navigate the vast Chamonix off-piste, maximising your time on the mountain.
  • Progression – got goals to achieve? Want to improve your off-piste skills and learn more about backcountry safety? Your mountain guide will have a wealth of experience and knowledge that you can benefit from. While not necessarily the same as a ski instructor, your mountain guide will take your abilities into account and give you invaluable advice on skiing different types of terrain.
  • Fun!!! – explore terrain that you didn’t know existed, shred slopes you didn’t know you were capable of, find excellent snow that you wouldn’t have found by yourself and generally have a fantastic time playing in the powder! All courtesy of your Chamonix mountain guide!

ski-off-piste-powderWe offer a number of different guiding options – the most flexible option is to hire a private mountain guide for one or more days, either just for yourself or get a group of mates together and split the cost. Because it is a private group you can go wherever you like and the guide will tailor the day to whatever you want to do. Time and time again we hear people tell us that this was the best day of their holiday!
Book your private mountain guide here

Snowboarding Les Grands Montets, Chamonix Mont BlancAlternatively, if you want to keep costs down you can always join a group for 4 hours of off-piste powder, gullies and moguls tuition on the Evo2 Off-Piste Clinic. At just 69€ it is a great way to kick-start your skills and give you heaps of confidence. You’ll be in a small group with either skiers or snowboarders of similar standard to yourself and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to sample some of the best off-piste terrain in Chamonix, under the guidance of an expert ski or snowboard instructor and mountain guide – an unmissable experience!
Book your off-piste clinic here

Off-piste ski course with Chamonix Experience mountain guidesStarting this Monday 11th January we have a fantastic 5 day introductory off-piste ski course, taught by a great team of UIAGM qualified mountain ski guides and ENSA qualified ski instructors. You’ll explore the couloirs, glaciers and snow-filled forests of Chamonix whilst developing your off-piste skiing technique and learning essential safety skills. This course is extremely popular and we only have three places left so CONTACT US NOW to find out more!
Book your 5 day off-piste course here

As much as all of the above is relevant at any time of the winter, it is especially important at the moment to take all necessary safety precautions. Venturing off-piste is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences you can have, so do it safely in the company of a qualified Chamonix mountain guide.

 

Go off-piste with Chamonix Experience mountain guides

You can see the fantastic snow conditions for yourself on our Chamonix webcams and watch the daily Chamonix snow report video on our Snow & Weather page.