CHASING SNOW IN CHAM
15th March 2019 | Katie Bamber, Vallorcine, Chamonix
The PlanetSKI road trip to ski the wild mountains of Chamonix faces challenges with heavy snow closing road passes & ski lifts.
It had to be just taking it as it came.
The weather is unpredictable on this mid-March ski roadtrip.
Winging it, in some ways, and rolling with the punches, finding our way up into the snow by whatever means.
It’s making it up as all good road trips should be…
Arriving in the Chamonix valley on Thursday night, it was always going to be a big snow day – an adventure getting up and onto the slopes.
20cm had fallen on Thursday, a projected 25cm through Friday.
We drove through Chamonix proper up to Argentiere, on to Montroc to head up and out of the Chamonix Valley to Vallorcine.
The mountains are wild here, and especially powerful in this near-blizzard weather.
Next day in Le Buet
Trees and steep rock were only just visible slugging down the Col des Montets into Le Buet – a secluded hamlet – and into Vallorcine.
15 years ago, I was informed by a Chamonix old hand, Vallorcine was also a hamlet.
It has the train station linking it to Martigny in Switzerland to Chamonix and guided ski tourers could ski off the back of Le Tour – absolutely guided as it was steep, avalanche risky, with hidden cliffs and a near-impossible route to navigate – and into Vallorcine.
Its mountains border Switzerland and a small train linking Martigny to Cham would chug you home after visiting the rustic creperie on the platform would feed weary skiers “the best pancakes in France”, Old Hand claims.
Once a secluded and sleepy hamlet, Vallorcine has in the past decade been connected to Le Tour by a gondola, opening up the skiing and the isolated village a little more.
But only a little.
Apart from a few ‘modern’ apartment buildings built, I can’t imagine a much sleepier place.
But nonetheless a perfect spot to take on the Chamonix skiing from.
Who needs Cham nightlife and bling when you’ve got the mountains to take on?
If you can get there…
Train’s a no-go from Vallorcine
The plan was to take the train to Argentiere in the morning, to tour up the route of the burnt-down cable car station.
It’s March after all.
However the silent, powdery snow covering all tracks within minutes last night had turned wet.
Temperature changes messes with the snow and an avalanche had fallen over the train tracks.
The Col des Montets we drove over at 5pm yesterday, littered with cars fixing chains and less prepared being towed, was closed.
What to do?
Drive the rail tunnel through the mountain, as no train was using it, by car.
Indeed the Col is closed.
The weather had warmed up incredibly, so there’s avalanche from above risk.
Col des Montet – Access Chamonix – Closed
Train tunnel to Argentiere
Rail tunnel through to Chamonix Valley
It’s 10am and already an achievement down, without even having put on skis.
Which is the next stop, picking up the rights skis for the snow at Intersport.
The clear up in the Chamonix side
Col des Montets firmly closed
Very luckily, heading through Argentiere for Les Houches down the valley, the Argentiere lifts opened.
So whilst still not touring the burnt down lift line up to Grands Montets as there was too much for steep and deep wet March snow.
We were heading up to see how the ski area is this season without its famous Grands Montets lift peak access.
But before you go on up the hill…
Don’t miss the patisserie in Argentiere, Le Fournil.
The ski breakfast of champs.
Le Fournil, Argentiere
Or just weary road trippers making their way to the snow.
Skylight views in Chamonix Argentiere
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