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Day 87: Clapiere

Well, during the night last night we had about 40cm of snow! The place is a massive white carpet. I don’t need to be dreaming of a white christmas this year it seems. As a result the road out of the valley was closed today due to avalanches.

Il y a beaucoup de neige!

Il y a beaucoup de neige!

It’s another unusual feature of life in the alps that you often hear the occasional “crump” as a slope avalanches naturally or, more frequently, is avalanched on purpose. During more snowy days the local mountain rescue services frequently close areas of road off and carry out controlled explosions by helicopter to set off avalanches.

The Clapiere not-quite-piste

The Clapiere not-quite-piste

In addition to this, both cars had broken down in the cold, and one car was not to recover for several days and a maintenance job. We were stuck.

As a result, we couldn’t go alpine skiing today. Me and Bawsaxx spent the morning digging out the drive and cars – a frequently needed job. Then our plan was to go ski du fond in the valley.

Bawsaxx is not a fan of Ski Du Fond so him and Ms. Minx stayed at home while me and les grumblies went out for a ski. From a distance it looked like the “clapiere” piste – one that travels from right outside the house all the way to the village – was properly pisted so we head out across the field to it.

deep snow

deep snow

The field (the space between us and the champ bellet ski lift) was definitively not pisted, and as I put my skis on I sunk in up to my knees. Although it’s way better than trying to walk across the stuff, skinny skis do not have the same ability to redistribute the weight as alpine skis do, so a lot of the next 10 minutes involved me and GM pushing through deep snow, occasionally stopping to dig ourselves out, while BF followed behind on our tracks.

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I was the first one to reach the piste. When we got there however we realised that although it had been pisted, a good 10cm of snow had fallen since, creating an effective off piste ski-du-fond ascent. It was hard going on the way up. The piste itself is graded red, and I have memories of trying to cross it with a terrified ex-girlfriend once, not realising how difficult it was. The snow made it much harder though, and on the way down to Nevache I had my first fall of the season.

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Not too bad a fall as it happened, and fairly expected in the hard conditions and the steepness of the slope. Another feature of skinnies is that they don’t turn in the same way as alpine skis – instead you have to keep a sturdy snow plow or do scary step turns on the way down, which can lead to disaster in some circumstances, as it did here.

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Falling is very much part of skiing however, so as per usual I got up, dusted myself off and carried on.

When we got to the bottom we crossed over to the other side of the valley and joined the piste at the bottom, which had in fact just been pisted, and was a beautiful, crisp corduroy. After that skiing was very nice. We headed up to Nevache as far as we could go.

nice wide piste :)

nice wide piste :)

On the way up, BF had quite a bad fall. I stayed back to help her up, and when we were ready to go again we set off. After about 100 yards in which I messed a bit with my technique (so often the cause), I planted my pole between my skis, and was straight over. In true domino effect, BF saw me and fell over in surprise.

It took a little while to recover from that one! Again we got up, dusted ourselves off and carried on, having no more mishaps until we completed the loop back home.

Close-up of the piste corduroy

Close-up of the piste corduroy

It was a good ski in general, and very warm. The pisteurs greeted us very enthusiastically – they’re a very nice bunch around here.