Sunshine, fresh snow and marmots
17th April 2012
What a joy it is to be in sunshine and skiing on wonderful snow again! Today saw a rare break in the otherwise unremittingly grisly April weather, so as soon as the first chink of blue appeared in the sky we hurtled onto the pistes. It’s amazing how quickly a dose of sunshine raises your mood - I grinned so hard skiing down Combe Saulire this morning that I actually made my teeth ache from the cold.
The slopes were in much better shape today than a month ago. In March, the freeze-thaw cycle resulted in rapidly deteriorating snow quality. Today, however, we enjoyed lovely fresh snow at all altitudes with only a bit of slush as you skied back into the resort itself.
A sea of cloud lay in the Courchevel valley this morning, so we remained on the higher pistes in order to make the most of the rare sunshine. The high runs off the Saulire, Pylons, Creux and Roches grises, were all in great shape and deliciously quiet. It was a particular joy to ski at Mach 3 down Creux, that usually-packed motorway piste, without having to worry about high-speed collisions.
There were just a few hardy holidaymakers on the slopes today and plenty of season-workers making the most of this wonderful late-season snow. You know they are season-workers by the deep tans – many with startlingly-white goggle marks.
Despite the wonderful wintry snow, it is obvious that the end of the season is fast approaching. A number of mountain restaurants and minor lifts have closed already; skiing back into the resort you see and smell brown patches of earth by the sides of the pistes and today we heard for the first time the unmistakable sound of a marmot “whistle”.
For most people, spring is heralded by teeny lambs or catkins or daffodils. Here in the Alps, however, it is the emergence of the hibernating marmots which announce ‘les beaux jours’ are approaching. Marmots are irresistibly endearing creatures. Small, furry, with a tendancy to waddle, the entertain us all summer long with their play boxing, whistling and over-eating tendencies. Marmots grow ever fatter as summer draws on, in order to lay down sufficient fat stores for hibernation. At this time of year, however, they are lean and mean and become rodent Romeos - one of the first things marmots do on waking up is mate.
One of the best places to sport marmots in the 3 Valleys is near the Marmotte piste in Courchevel. No prizes for guessing why the Marmotte piste and chairlifts were so-named.
Sadly, the sunshine is forecast to be short-lived. We expect a return to less cheerful weather from tomorrow onwards.
Conditions at time of reporting:
- Depth of snow on lower slopes
- Date of last snowfall
- Depth of last snowfall
- Total number of pistes
- Highest temperature
- Altitude of lower slopes
- Depth of snow on upper slopes
- Avalanche risk
- Altitude of upper slopes
- Number of pistes open
- Altitude of highest temperature