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Dré dans l'pentu

990 Views 17 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Etienne
Well rather than posting erratic reports or squatting the "what board did you ride thread", I might as well make a blog-o-thread too. So here we go!

Last week was my last planned splitboard WE and the kind of plan I absolutely love. We were off to beautiful Aussois, a small resorts with large vertical and most importantly, backcountry access to Vanoise National park. We would sleep in the Fond d'Aussois hut. Hut WE in a national park with lift access, what could be better? Fresh snow.

It hadn't snowed for more than a month, but just the week before it had dumped a good meter in Vanoise. The week had been super risky--and actually deadly avalanche-wise--so we planned super safe routes. But the warm temps made the thing easier, melting a lot a sketchy stuff below 2200m and still packing a lot quite a bit on south faces above. And indeed below 2000m, thing were… dry.
Sky Land vehicle Car Wheel Mountain

Never mind, we had plan to go higher than 3000m, maybe hitting some glacier. First day was beautiful. We dropped some stuff at the hut and climbed to col d'Aussois, on super good spring snow ("moquette" in French, litteraly carpet, I think it's corn in English). Sadly, my bowels decided to make turn this epic day into… literally a shitty one. Whatever, it was great riding and a beautiful place.
Sky Cloud Mountain Snow Slope
Mountain Sky Snow Ecoregion Cloud

Back to the hut early, we have a bit of time to practice all kinds of glacier rope stuff, which the group will need for their next WE in Écrins range. The hut is super comfy, being not too remote. Still, no cell phone coverage and oh… this view in the morning.
Sky Mountain Snow Cloud Slope
Sky Snow Mountain Cloud Slope

Second day got… interesting. One guy hand actually broke his hand during the day, but only realized in the evening when the thing doubled in size. Minimum one hour of skinning to get back to the lifts. Helicopter or not? Finally we decided that I would walk him back to the resort in the morning and drive to the hospital. This turned out to be a super nice hike, with baby chamois welcoming us. Then a long ride back to the resort, that we took easy. Three hours back forth to the hosptial and I still had of the day ahead of me.

So I decided to buy a half-day ticket and just ride some groomers with my new Slash Vertical split. Damn, it's good to be back on a narrow full camber board. This things is just effortless. You have to be more calculated than with big rocker planks, but the variety of turns you get is unparalleled. Groomers were excellent, hardly anybody, long steep runs perfectly groomed. I actually hit something I can hardly remember: super soft spring corduroy. There was a groomed patch sitting there all day that was a level smoothness I rarely feel. Meanwhile, the rest of the group got stuck in the mist, in a shitty refrozen downhill. All in all, that wasn't such bad day I guess 🤷‍♂️

That might very well be end of season for splitboarding. Unless some last minute mission pop like last year. This would be cool because right now it had a fun split season, but it lacked something "big". Anyways, season is far from done: I'm heading to Tignes next week, where it has dumped quite some snow over the last two weeks (again above 2000m and again burrying one poor dude below 7m of snow). Tignes has been a last season staple for us and I can't wait to be carving again!
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I'm heading to Tignes next week, where it has dumped quite some snow over the last two weeks (again above 2000m and again burrying one poor dude below 7m of snow). Tignes has been a last season staple for us and I can't wait to be carving again!
Thanks for an interesting story and some nice pictures, but I want to be a bit off topic.

I'm quite interested in what your impression of Tignes will be. I've seen some massive dumps of snow last week, but it seems that it's a bit of an "easy come easy go" situation: meaning that, while LeLac looks beautiful ATM, judging by the cameras, some other cameras seem to indicate that as soon as the sun comes out the snow that fell mostly melts and that it's questionable how much of it will remain until the end of the month.

I'm asking because I've finished several seasons with a last trip to Tignes in the end of april (e.g. last week of April), but this year I'm a hesitating to do so (as it involves driving for 12h one way :D).
I usually end up in Sölden as they have one of the longest seasons plus better glaciers, especially in recent times, than Tignes. Don't know the conditions in either place at this point, but will likely go to Sölden early May if the weather's reasonable. At that time of year I at least don't expect or need off piste, it's just glaciers, so quantity of snow lower down isn't really important to me.
The snowpack is still quite thick for the season (I know the rocks in the webcams), way more than last year. I'm 99% sure last week of April will be in the standard of the season, most runs (p3, Col pers, épaule du charvet...) totally rideable. As for the snow it's going to be dependent on temps... Maybe spring ice to slush, maybe better. I'll post stuff next week, but the snow won't melt overnight either, it's pretty packed.

I don't know Solden, I wish I did. But Tignes glacier, or what is left of it, is agonizing, for sure.

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I usually end up in Sölden as they have one of the longest seasons plus better glaciers, especially in recent times, than Tignes. Don't know the conditions in either place at this point, but will likely go to Sölden early May if the weather's reasonable. At that time of year I at least don't expect or need off piste, it's just glaciers, so quantity of snow lower down isn't really important to me.
I never actually considered Solden, simply because it's small compared to what Tignes usually offers in terms of open pistes until the 1st of May (when Val d'iser closes). But you have peeked my interest as it's a bit closer than going to France. Any idea how much of it is open until their "season end" in the first week of may? Surely not just the glacier, since it seems most of the runs are above 2k? :)
As I anticipated, I was a bit late to the powder party, but it was too hectic to come earlier and love the family up later.

Freeriders were starved though. Every single run is tracked out, including pretty steep and hard to access ones: all couloir and doigts des Tufs, both Couloir at la grande Balmaz, couloir des pisteurs, top of grande motte... We're speaking hour long walk and fall you die stuff in 45+ in some places. At cool du palet I spotted this: one line into a super steep couloir, straight lined (pretty much how Krister Kopala did it earlier this season, you can get the vid on YT), two massive drop (probably spins judging by the kicker) and a strange line that was in fact the camera man.

View attachment 167788

For us though, it meant a lot of moguls and tracjed out stuff and pow got crusty in many places. Groomers though we're excellent and we did find some tracks to make this afternoon!

Still, this is the best conditions we had all season. They are rebuilding the parks, they're are still lots of stuff to track with a bit of hike. Should be the best Easter week in a while.

Knewing that there would be some freeride involved, I tried to setup the Café Racer with stance and more forward, but still with high posi (for me). It made the tail washy of course... I just never learn

Still, my turns were awful this morning, trying to turn too fast, pushing too aggressively, not letting myself getting low. Absolute laziness I think, but also a bit of riding an aggressive full camber boards last time. The Slash Vertical that should get out tomorrow.

And little one is getting her first ski lessons in the morning, sleeping after that, only to go snowboarding and sledding with me. Makes super easy day for us and super fun for her... He'll yeah!

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Amazing. :) I'm having difficulties convincing my significant other that she should disregard the local weather and believe the conditions in Tignes will be better than last year, so I might need to find something closer for a fiev days.

Anyway: hello, my name is envy. :D
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Doesn't look too bad. The snow I mean! Always good to see actual video of actual snow and people actually riding... around here sometimes I wonder if people just do shopping, it's very consumer focused. Forward is of course the only way to go ;)

I never actually considered Solden, simply because it's small compared to what Tignes usually offers in terms of open pistes until the 1st of May (when Val d'iser closes). But you have peeked my interest as it's a bit closer than going to France. Any idea how much of it is open until their "season end" in the first week of may? Surely not just the glacier, since it seems most of the runs are above 2k?
It depends on the year, but mostly just the glacier. The bits which are always open are the Rettenbach & Tiefenbach Glaciers. If you look at the map there's a toll road, which is drivable (and has ski buses on it) and included in the lift pass... that takes you to the two glacier bases, connected by a tunnel.

Usually just park at the Rettenbach (the first one) and all the on-piste slopes up there are working, serviced by the main bubble lift and a T-bar on a slope called "the fridge" away over on skiers' right from there. The main piste gets amusing tiny bumps on it towards the top sometimes but also has regular grooming. The steeper section is good if you're up to it, challenging for most at speed at least. Sometimes at seasons' end they will have a band playing and demo tents at the base there.

There's a ski tunnel through to the Tiefenbach, which feels like a bigger area with more variety. It's a mix of groomed and easy soft bumps and drag-strip "red run" type stuff, fast riding.

In about 10 trips there in early May, one time only I experienced a late season dump, and the stuff from the top of the Giggijoch (2284m) up to Rotkiglijoch and over to Rettenbach was ridable. A couple of times we had maybe 20cm of fresh on the piste, much to the surprise of most of the people there... fresh tracks all morning. Don't expect either!

As a boarder I don't mind slushy snow, but Sölden is pretty high and the conditions have been fine for me at least all day there, in early May. Sometimes Ischgl closes just before Sölden, and when I've been there very late season snow conditions can be surprisingly good if a bit soggy lower down. Check the conditions first!
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Yeah looking good on video is tough You miss stuff more often than you think and when you're perfect or have perfect conditions, you're not filming. But we're having fun with it new DJI pocket 2. We'll see...

Anyways, we found some really good, not to tracked pow, mainly in north faces and super nice spring snow. The good thing with pros killing every line is that there are boot pack and skin tracks all ready...

I did way better with boards. I setup the CR correctly (on reference with angles I like) and used it only to carve morning groomers-I should know it's a niche board by now-working on my smoothness and getting lower on the heelside. Also checking the little one at the kid's club every other run.

Then, full-on Dancehaul. God, forgot how easy this board is. Small now carves, jumping everywhere... But it's free riding where she impressed me the most. 35ish deg full gas in chopped pow, 30ish aggressive in bumpy spring snow: didn't budge, acted like a serious 160. As long as the snow is soft in a way or another, it's really a decent freeride board too. Plus you trick everything in your way.

And for more serious freeride, I have the Slash Vertical split, which I know bring on my resort trips too. It's just a good freeride board and my skier brother has AT bindings now. My snowboarder brother is lazier and less fit every day though! I might very well ride it tomorrow.

And now that I'm really happy with my quiver, there's a shop that has Dupraz B.Hot on rent/demo... Very tempting.

P2 and P3 and been tracked a bit more. It was surprising to see that many tracks on Dôme de Pramecou north face and La Grande Balmaz, which are really no jokes and those relatively safe classics almost empty. We may check them out later this week. The tracks going down through glacier de la glacier de la Grande Motte straight to Refuge du col de la Vanoise are having me dream: 1000m drop off pure glacier pow... No tracks yet on Petite Face de la Grande Casse, but it shouldn't be long, stability is amazing right now. I wish I can get back in shape to do it one day, it's really on bucket list.

Speaking of bucket list, we we're on the most excellent Loacker's gran lareyn we brought back from Alta Badia this summer. I really want to get back there in the winter with a split too...
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Alta Badia and the whole Sella ronda region is nice but I strongly suggest you go there during the cold winter months, e.g. January - February. I would say it's quite prone to spring like conditions even early in March; at least that was my experience years ago. Probably because a lot of the slopes aren't really all that high in altitude, and partially due to it being close(r) to the Mediterranean Sea.

Did you have any chance of testing the Dancehaul's edge hold in spring like morning ice conditions? I'm curious to try a volume shifted board, but I got the impression most of them may not be the best thing to use outside winter conditions.
Not this week, snow isn't icy even the morning, but ice isn't great at all on this board. Firm is okay, but at one point the lack of effective edge make the board just wash.

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When I said it's hard to look good on video: when you don't miss the trick, you miss the shot!

Anyways, I'm glad I tried to trick a bit more today, even if missed some staples that I should means 100%. I have a strange end of season symptom, where I just get a bit lazy on everything. Skip a jump, a butter, just send it less overall... But when I do Il super happy. Probably because I'm a bit afraid to miss easy stuff (but who cares?).

Anyways, they finished the park in Val d'Isère, there's a fun line with two volcanos, a knuckle/hip and a jump I want to ride more. Park in Tignes is still being built: rails, rails, rails with some jobs in the middle and big boogers for spinning 10s... Freestyle these days.

Also ride the Café Racer on its correct setup, doing what it's made for on empty groomers. Felt reaaaally better, although my heelside are definitely not laid out enough, but I close my radius much more already. I'll just try to think about Kimija "pendulum" next time.

We're still getting some really nice track in good pow, and the stability for riding steeps in just amazing right now. We're probably off to some longer, wilder, classics tomorrow, like Col Pers or Vallons de la sache.

We almost rode the tunnel piste on the TK3000. Thing is like never opened. The opened the poma for the first this season on Monday, but the tunnel was closed already. Anyways, you can ride from the top, there's a tiny entry between rocks.

Seeing all the tracks in Vanoise glaciers and chatting with Britton off to refuge de la Femma in the gondola, just makes me want one more hut WE. Could very well happen, we'll see. But right now, it's the best resort riding I had since COVID.
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Today I had an interesting avalanche situation. Overall it's super stable, the avalanche report was very optimistic, so after having my daughter ski (she doesn't like the kids club, but love sliding on snow on just anything!), I contemplated skinning up to Aiguille du chardonnet, a quick and easy tour from the lifts.

I decided otherwise and got inspired. South east wind had blown all night covering tracks in a soecific direction. Up to the point that a huge slab had gone over the skin track near the top. The whole down was also full of this wind blown pow that was just asking to bury me. No thanks.
Cloud Sky Snow Mountain Slope

Meanwhile I had decided to take the Café Racer up the Grande motte Glacier. Perfectly groomed, with a layer of wind blown pow for added smoothness.
Sky Snow Slope Mountain Ice cap

The top was otherworldly, it's a bit steeper so my track (on the left) wasn't pencil sharp, but I but looked smooth. The rest of the run was in prefect conditions too. That's 1300m of smooth groomers in cold snow, more than enough to practice kijima's pendulum. I'm far from "deep carving", but that idea of a pendulum really helps me extending my body mid turn. It really, really helps the heels ides, although I have ton of work to do there. I especially trend to lose speed when laying it a bit to hard, because I'm late and so I close my turn to much. Also rode some nice light wind blown pow on the way. Everything the Café Racer wants.

The other highlight of the day was my daughter skiing with her grandmother for 1.5 hour in the morning, asking to go faster, and then snowboarding with me in the evening, insisting to go "alone". And some sled fit good measure. It's so cool he see her enjoying everything snow has to offer!

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You're killing me. :D

We almost rode the tunnel piste on the TK3000.
Water Sky World Azure Cloud

Are you talking about this tunnel? I always wondered why this thing is drawn on the maps and I was never able to find it: and I'm talking like several visits in the past 10 years. :D
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The TK was closed from something around 2010 and reopened in 2018, but they never reopened the tunnel since. You can go from the top though (off piste) or even dig under the gate and crawl your way to the other side (there are videos on YT). They are also working on opening the Leisse chairlift, which is more often closed than open... Cool to see they are working on small/older lifts, even late in the season.

Also , April pow? Yes please!
Sky Snow Branch Tree Slope

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Today was fun despite the storm. A nice layer of fresh pow was stacking up. Visibly was fluctuating and hard tracks/bumps were to close to do anything technical. But pow on groomers? Yeah why not! I knew it wasn't full on pow so I didn't went the Korua. I'm learning...

No, Korua is for tomorrow. It dumped another 10cm after closing (probably around 20 total, maybe more) and it stopped when they started grooming. Pow and fresh groomers in between and oh, forecasted bluebird skies. Tomorrow should be an epic Korua day.

Talked to the shop where they demo the Dupraz b.Hot. The owner owns both the Dupraz and the Dancehaul and day they are pretty similar board, the Dupraz being stiffer and with a slightly larger sidecut. He says it carves nice, but overall he prefers the Dancehaul, just more fun. Also when he saw the Korua I was carrying, he was like "I wish I could sell those". OK, OK, I'll get it, no point in the B.Hot in my quiver.

Another great day for the little one too: she rode her first pow (at two and a half) and was like "Me I made a line in the snow", dying laughing. It's the first time she can really play in the snow, and she's loving every bit of it!

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Day of the season today. What can I say, blue bird skies, 20cm of fresh snow for pow and corduroy. I had fond memories of spring dumb in Tignes from some 20 years ago, it felt just reviving it. The amount of easy access off-piste with steep fw is just amazing in Tignes. The hardest part was choosing. And that doesn't include hiking and skinning.

I might not be the only one liking Tignes, because gosh, everything was tracked today (althougj it wasn't crowded at all). Steep, long skinning, huge sends. People were all over the place. From Dome de Pramecou to straightlining Couloir du Palaet. It was quite the gear exhibition too.

That included Candide Thovex, who crossed twice today. Someone working at the lifts confirmed he had been here for a few weeks. The huge sends I've seen early week must have been him.

The Café Racer absolutely delivered. Full speed in steep pow you can just push on the front, or even put it sideway and glide until you lock back into the turn. My brother said "it doesn't seem to ride like other boards". Add perfect groomers in between and I just can't enough of those turns.

I tried to work on my heel side, pivoting upper body more, extending more too. Some looked real funny (see the vid in "what let's did you ride today), but I got some better ones. I feel of timing, uncoordinated, but my hand starts reaching more and more and I can push on my feet. I just have to get my ass lower.

This way I'm much better with my current quiver. The Café Racer is for good for slick groomers and pow and that's it. For everything else, I have the Dancehaul (and Slash Vertical). When I stop trying to have it do to much--which is tempting--I start thinking about changing it for something more freeridish. Now I'm more thinking of something more "perfect day" like a Dart plus 64 or a gentem.

Anyways ready for more of the same tommorow, but on the Dancehaul.

Snow Mountain Slope Sky Ice cap

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And that's it. One more day on the Dancehaul for a playful day. Off-piste was more crusty/corn, but we did manage to find some pow, mainly when going to le Fornet over from TK3000. Parks were in good shape too, we were feeling like hitting a lot of sidehits too. But groomers were really excellent today, so we went for playful turns and all. Not quite ready for japan ground tricks though 😅

We also saw two snowboarders actually carving today, which is rare occurence. One on a TF, doing mellow turns leaving a pencil thin line and one one some SBX like board, carving like crazy. @NT.Thunder mentionned it a few times, but it's crazy how few snowboarders are actually carving on the slopes. Skiers you see some, not the majority, but you see some. Snowboarders, I cross a couple a season. I'm sure there are more, but just not enough for me to cross them often.

Anyways, it was an excellent spring day to close a great week. A huge dump just before we arrive, blue bird skies and cold temps (for the season), a mid-week refill and then some more blue bird skies. We didn't even hit P2, nor Col Pers, I didn't even skin to Dome de Pramecou or Aiguille du Chardonnet, we didn't hit as much park as we use to in the spring. There is just too much to do in Tignes when the snow is there and it's the best resort freeriding week I had in years.

I actually didn't use the Slash Vertical split at all and realize I mainly brought it as a comfort blanket. Maybe if my skier brother had been there (he skins too), but even if. I think I just realized that the Dancehaul is more than enough for the kind of freeride I do in resorts, despite its 52. Well, snow was soft, but had it been firmer I think I would just stayed on groomers rather than wanting more effective edges in shitty conditions. Really, the Dancehaul is board that never fails me and is always fun.

I had ton of fun on the Café Racer too, because I used it for what it's made for: carving slick groomers and pow. If I have to use it twice as less as the DH, then so be it (or even less). I have stopped trying to force it into freeriding and that's for the better.

Time on the Café Racer allowed me to work on my carving. I'm realizing how ignorant I was on the subject a bit more everyday. I could work a lot on rotating the upper body and forward lean on heelsides. I think I'm starting to have all the pieces, but I just can't put everything together with the right timing right now. Either I don't get low enough or don't angle the board at the beginning of the turn, either I "cut" the turn a bit to much and forget to let the board turn—actually I have to actively counter-rotate the board at that moment—, or extend to late, too hard etc. This ends up either being a decently low "freeride carve" (body squared), a super tight but not that low carve, or a lower one but washed out on the tail etc. It's fun though learning almost from scratch again. I never wanted to be a beginner again for rails and jibs, but for carves it brings quite some new stuff to try out.

And of course my two years old! She's been sliding with me on anything she could: skis, snowboard, sled etc. having a blast everytime. Even non sliding things like igloos, snowballs, riding the gondola, were super fun for her. It's great to see her enjoying the snow and mountains that much and it's just hilarious to be around with hers listening to all the plans and comments she makes.

Is it end of season? I hope not, I'm really itching for either some hut tour or closing day party and I have plan that could combine both, just doing again we did last year: some glacier tour and then pond skimming party at les Grands Montets. But if it happens to be end of season, then so be it, this would be a great way to end it.
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