Tag Archives: French Alps

The early season gamble

Early season snowboarding trips are always a bit of a gamble, as you never know what conditions are going to be like. It could be dumping with snow one year and St G Dec13barren the next. However, by the time December comes around I’m always desperate to get out to the mountains so am prepared to take the chance, especially as the number of people who’re not means that it’s invariably cheap and quiet.

I’ve just returned from five days in and around St Gervais in the French Alps and conditions were strangely spring-like. Despite the fact that the season got off to a great start in early November with heavy snowfall across the Alps, sadly it wasn’t sustained and by the time we arrived on 13th December there hadn’t been any Les Contamines Dec 13substantial snowfall for around three weeks. Sunny days and mild temperatures had also accompanied the lack of precipitation although cold nights had allowed for plenty of snowmaking, which meant that the slopes were in surprisingly good shape considering.

During our stay we rode St Gervais, Les Contamines, Argentière and Flaine, and conditions were pretty similar across the board. Most resorts had only opened recently and had limited terrain, but low numbers of visitors meant that the slopes hadn’t taken too much of a beating. Minimal snow cover meant that loose rocks and exposed patches were fairly common lower down, but rock hopping was quite fun and our boards emerged relatively unscathed!

That cloud means snow's on its way!

That cloud means snow’s on its way!

However, higher up the snow was pretty good and we even got a few turns in what could loosely be described as powder. On the whole though off piste was either not really worth venturing into or, in the case of Flaine, very dangerous. This wasn’t necessarily due to an unstable snowpack but rather massive holes everywhere.

It was a far cry from the same week last year when we were out in Courchevel. It had already been dumping for ages by the time we arrived and continued all week, providing us with deep fresh pow for the duration. It was undoubtedly the best early season conditions I’ve ever experienced if not the best ever.

Snow the day after we left!

Snow the day after we left!

By comparison, this season’s early conditions may have seemed a little disappointing, but in reality they really weren’t that bad. It’s not unheard of for there to be next to no snow until well into December. Two years ago there was a worrying lack of snow at the start of December and everyone was freaking out, but then it started to snow and didn’t stop for weeks! You just can’t predict how it’s going to pan out, but in my mind it’s always worth a punt.

Needless to say, it started to snow the day after we left and delivered 20-25cm in the St Gervais area over a couple of days. And the good news is that there’s even more forecast over Christmas, which hopefully bodes well for the next trip out in the new year!

Over to you…

Have you had your first turns of the season yet? Are you lucky enough to be out there for Christmas or New Year? How is it? Feel free to share your photos on the Riding Switch Facebook page and make us jealous! I’ll post more of mine there too…



Charity begins at the snow dome

I’ve always felt incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to get into snowsports. If it wasn’t for the fact that my Dad was a teacher and was able to take the family along on school skiing trips, there’s no way that I would’ve had the chance to do so much skiing and snowboarding as a kid and young adult. And, as with most things in life, it’s definitely something that’s easier to pick up at a young age, before you develop a sense of fear!

Newly qualified youth snowsports instructors teaching new recruits on the Snow-Camp beginners course

So, when I first learned about Snow-Camp, an innovative youth charity which not only makes skiing and snowboarding accessible to inner-city young people, but also uses snowsports as a means of teaching them valuable life skills, I thought it was fantastic and was keen to get involved.

My first real encounter with Snow-Camp and the great work they do, came when I was invited along to their annual ‘City Drinks’ event with work. The event was hosted by Norton Rose LLP on their amazing roof terrace in the heart of The City and the aim was to raise funds for the charity through a raffle and auction, as well as to raise awareness and generate support from companies, individuals and industry partners.

Snow-Camp City Drinks event

Graham Bell, a long standing supporter of the charity, compered the auction, and a number of the young people who Snow-Camp had recently helped to qualify as ski and snowboard instructors, were there to talk to the guests and sell raffle tickets.

It was really great to speak to these mature and ambitious individuals who had turned their lives around as a result of the opportunities offered to them by the charity. They couldn’t be more different to their contemporaries who were involved in the recent looting and rioting in London, and yet they come from the same areas and backgrounds.

In light of the riots, the work of charities like Snow-Camp with inner city youngsters seems all the more important. This is highlighted by the results of a recent survey of the young people involved with the charity, which revealed that 23 out of the 30 interviewed knew individuals who had taken part in the disturbances.

Last year's 'Everest Challenge'

The next fundraising event being run by the charity is their third annual ski and board-a-thon which is being held in the Portes du Soleil ski area in the French Alps from 26 to 29 January 2012. ‘The Everest Challenge’ (sponsored by Ellis Brigham)  gives snowsports enthusiasts of all abilities the opportunity to raise money to help make skiing and snowboarding accessible to even more young people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity.

The challenge, aimed at both skiers and snowboarders, is to cover 150km of terrain in 48 hours, with competitors even riding and hiking through the night to achieve their goal. And on completion, the organisers are promising an après ski-a-thon party of equal proportions to celebrate!

Last year’s event was a massive success, raising over £30,000 for the charity, and this year’s event promises to be even bigger and better.

If you’re interested in getting involved please visit http://www.snow-camp.org.uk/everestchallenge/ to find out more and sign up.

I’ve started training already… See you at base camp!