Off piste skiing and Touring
For those wishing to leave the marked piste there are numerous off-piste possibilities, the ski-schools offer regular guided excursions or contact Murray Hamilton (a local Scottish guide!) www.propeller.net/murray/ on +33(0)492230856 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
All the resorts listed above have excellent off piste skiing; Puy St Vincent is a popular destination especially when the North wind is blowing at Serre Chevalier. La Grave is regarded a mecca for off-piste and extreme skiing and is only 45 minutes from Briancon, a perfect finale to a perfect trip. Just remember it is off-piste, i.e. there are no pistes, no secouristes patrolling runs and no way markers to show you where to go. To get the most from La Grave go on a nice day when you are fully ski fit and take a guide! In these conditions it is a simply fabulous place to go if you are up to it! There are 9km and 2150m of descent through high mountain scenery past seracs, ice falls and on glaciers. It is serious terrain and awe inspiring. Murray Hamilton on +33(0)492230856, offers guiding here. The ski schools and guide agencies offer day trips in the season once a week or so; this may be a more economic option if you are the only one of your group interested in going. See the la Grave tourist office site, www.lagrave-lameije.com , for details of the local guide agencies.
Each year at the end of March/ beginning of April there is a race down the Vallons, the winners normally complete the 9km, 2150m descent in around 10 minutes!
The use of skins and ski touring bindings allows you the freedom to get away from the resorts and the crowds and descend fields of untracked snow. It doesn’t mean that you have to do difficult routes; often by getting away from the resorts you can improve your off-piste skiing on more gentle slopes days after it has last snowed. You do however have to have a certain level of physical fitness and be aware of the mountains and the avalanche risk. For this reason we would recommend hiring a guide or joining one of the guided trips run by the ski schools or the bureau de guides.
In this area, popular day ski tours include:
• La Blanche ; you can take the lift up from Pelvoux and from there it is an 800m ascent which gives you 1700m descent;
• Col de Querettes above the Narryoux valley. This can be reached either by descending the Narryoux from the ski lifts at Put St Vincent or by taking a track from Puy St Vincent 1600. Towards the top it gets quite steep, but you can choose how far to ascend.
• Tete des Raisins in the Fressinieres valley with 100m ascent and descent
as well as numerous routes in the Queyras and above the Nevache valley.
Further ideas are included in http://.ice-fall.com . Gerard Pailheiret who runs ice fall lives just above us in L’Argentiere.
There are a number of guides giving itineraries for ski touring in the area. These are in French, but normally relatively easy to understand. These include 50 Randonnees a Ski autour de Briancon by Rene Kehres and Ski de Randonnee Hautes-Alpes by Emmanuel Cabau and Herve Gelley which has some 140 routes.
The local maps also indicate in blue some ski touring routes.