My Leader’s Diary: La Grave

Ski Club Leader Russ Farn tells us about his last trip to La Grave where he accompanied a Ski Club Freshtracks group for a long weekend of off piste skiing. Find out more about Freshtracks holidays here.

Travel and Transfers

Despite storm Doris, everything went well with the travel. British Airways accepted skis for all eight members as part of their luggage at no extra cost and could also check in hand bags if required. In addition, travelling with an avalanche airbag was fine – this can sometimes be tricky! Many of the members commented on how much more convenient (and tolerable) Turin airport is over Geneva. Flying there was a very good move!

The transfer company, Snow.cab, gave me a call on the Thursday morning to check luggage requirements and provided two busses for the 2hr transfer from Turin.

Marlon and Robin, our hosts at Hotel Edelweiss, were very welcoming and served us a full, three course dinner on arrival, which was the perfect fuel for the next day’s adventures!

Day One

The guides, Nico and Maxant, came and met us at the Edelweiss hotel at 08:30 and distributed harnesses. They were excellent over the whole trip and had a car and a van to transport us to the best runs each day.

Having touring capable equipment is really useful for members on this trip. You can rent skis, boots and skins from two shops in town, pin bindings are more common than other freeride/touring bindings.

The first day was tough to arrange because the gondola was closed above the P2 mid station due to wind. Given the snow conditions the guides recommended a ski tour over at la Chazelet (North West of La Grave). We bought two lift rides for €10 and the guides arranged packed lunches. The 30min tour was a good introduction but the skiing afterwards was difficult – breakable crust for the first ski run of the trip! The second skin wasn’t much better as the snow was very hard and wind swept.

The whole group was a little dismayed to finish the day early, but sometimes there is no helping the conditions!

IMG_20170224_164403939_HDRDay Two

Thankfully, day two was much better! We skied at La Grave in two groups, lapping the T-bar at the top and the different gondola mid stations. We ate at a mountain hut overlooking the couloirs but the snow wasn’t really good enough to ski any of them unfortunately – we tried but it was too rocky once we got to the entry. The skiing through the trees to get back to P1 was challenging, not the best coverage and rocks galore – as was true for many resorts in the Alps last season.

Overall it was a fun, full day celebrated with an après-ski beer or two at the brasserie in town – not too many though as the third day was set to be another belter.

IMG_20170224_125416119Day Three

On day three we split into two groups, one with Nico and the second with Max. Both groups enjoyed slightly softer conditions and better snow in La Grave. Max covered some serious distance with the smaller group and they all enjoyed the pace and coverage bombing around the incredible local terrain.

The other group toured up ‘Pic Blanc’ with Nico which involves a three hour skin of 1000m, starting from a layby at the side of the road. The weather was fantastic and whilst the skin was at the limit of what the group could tolerate, everyone enjoyed earning their turns and ‘summiting’ the peak.

Ski crampons were necessary on the final uphill section. After a snack on the top, the ski down was excellent; Nico picked the perfect time to get some fantastic soft spring snow and the route he picked hadn’t been skied by anyone else. The descent involved three decent pitches which everyone skied really well and then a run out through a river gulley. It was certainly worth the skin up and we had an early finish at about 2pm followed by another round of well deserved beers.

Day Four

Collectively, everyone apart from a member who injured his leg decided to pay for another day of skiing and guiding with Nico on the final day.

Staying in La Grave for convenience, we managed to get the lift to the top of the gondola first thing in the morning but then unfortunately high winds forced the lift to close. We completed three laps down to the P1 station which took us to 12:30. The coverage was really poor down in the woods and we were thankful to finish with limbs and equipment in tact!

The travel back went very smoothly. Marlon kept one room for us to shower before the transfer buses picked us up at 14:00. There is also a Sauna in the hotel with a shower – perfect for soothing tired muscles. Marlon also prepared us some packed lunches for the transfer. The flight back was fine.

Overall

Even though the snow conditions left a little to be desired the four days of skiing were all eventful and a real adventure. The two guides, Nico and Maxant, were fantastic throughout and helped out in all aspects of the trip – unsurprisingly local guides get preferential rates almost everywhere!

I couldn’t recommend La Grave more to any serious off piste skier – definitely one ticked off the bucket list!

For more information on Ski Club holidays to La Grave head to the website.

If leading a Ski Club holiday sounds like your cup of tea, then why not become a Ski Club Leader? Find out more about what goes down on the Leaders’ course here.

All Images are by Russ Farn.

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