Jumping through trees in Courchevel skiing

The words ‘white out’ or ‘snow blizzard’ don’t immediately conjure up the ideal skiing conditions. But some of my best days skiing have been in the middle of a white out. Sure, they don’t match the glorious blue-bird powder days we all long for, but they come a close second.

CVL Trees with snow on them in a white out

A blizzard = snow. Snow = more fun stuff to play in.

Number 1: For want of stating the obviously, a blizzard or white out means that there is snow falling on the mountain. This means there’s more fun stuff to play in and fresh tracks to be had. Ice and slush? No chance if it’s snowing.

 

Big powder skis on chairlift Armarda VJJ

Fresh snow = BIG GIRL SKIS

Number 2: There are precious few days of the year you can march up to the ski lifts with a pair of skis that are 110cm under foot. A white out is one of them (providing there’s a decent enough base). And don’t forget your avalanche kit.

 

Pete skiing powder on empty mountain

We have the mountain to ourselves

Number 3: While everyone else has taken one look out the curtains, seen a blizzard, and retreated back to bed, you’ll be charging around the mountain having fresh tracks for breakfast. Yesterday I counted 3 people on the mountain before 10.30am. One was Pete (pictured above) and 2  were lifties.

 

Jumping through trees in Courchevel skiing

Cloudy? Check. Awesome tree skiing? Check. Empty powder field? Check check check.

Number 4: You get the fun jumps and tree lines before anyone else.

Blue sky on a powder day at top of mountain

There’s the sky! Knew it was up there somewhere. Pete is clearly thrilled by this.

Number 5: If you can make it to the top of the mountain (and the higher lifts are sometimes shut while avalanche cannons etc are set off and the area’s made safe) then you’re rewarded with a tiny patch of blue sky.

Tips for skiing in a white out

  1. Stick to runs that go through the trees. It is so much easier to see in a white out when you are in areas with trees or landmarks as they provide definition and improved spacial awareness.
  2. Use the piste markers. If you are in an area away from trees, or in an area such as the Espace Killy where trees are few and far between, make sure you use the piste markers and follow them down the piste. This way you can be sure that you won’t get lost. AND…the pole to the right hand side of the piste always has an orange top. This way you always know if you are on piste on the right side of the piste marker
  3. Ski in pairs. It is so much easier to ski behind someone, so splitting your group into pairs and putting better skiers at the front should make it easier and mean no one will get lost. If you are skiing in a group, stick together, and discuss the number of turns you are going to make before stopping, or the number of piste markers you plan to pass before you stop.
  4. Always stay on piste unless you really know the run and exactly where you are. It can be disorientating and while on piste there is no risk of falling off a drop.
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