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FRESHTRACKS IN FLAINE: PART TWO - Jane Peel, Flaine
Tuesday April 24, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI's chief reporter takes on the tricky kick turn and the blazing spring sunshine as she continues her touring trip with the Ski Club of Great Britain.



It's the last week of the season in Flaine in the French Alps and I'm on one of the Ski Club's many Freshtracks holidays.

It's called Flaine Exploration and it's an introduction to ski touring, or skinning.

It started off gently:

Now I fear it's going to get serious.

As forecast the skies have cleared, the sun is out and it's warm.

Very, very warm.

But before we get going, our instructor Yann Westercamp takes advantage of the perfect visibility at 2,500 metres to give us a geography lesson.

After only 23 days of sunshine this whole winter, he's enjoying himself:

 

We're all checked to ensure our transceivers are switched on so if we're unfortunate enough to get caught in an avalanche there's a good chance we'll be found and dug out.

We'll also be doing an avalanche rescue search today to prove we know how to use our kit.

Avalanche transceiver checkMiriam gets checked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yann knows the off-piste here like the back of his hand but nothing is ever risk-free in the mountains.

A huge amount of snow has fallen this season and, with the changing temperatures, the signs of slides are everywhere.

AvalanchesAvalanches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AvalanchesAvalanches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We head down an off-piste run known as Haut de Salle.

There's no deep powder but it's perfect spring snow.

Haut de Salles off piste in FlaineHaut de Salle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane PeelYours truly enjoying the "down" bit of ski touring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way down we catch sight of an ibex, several chamois and a bearded vulture though most are too far away or too quick for me to catch them on camera.

Chamois, Haut de SallesSpot the chamois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's a long run, ending up about 800 metres below Gers lake where we'll begin our skin up.

"Un petit promenade", Yann calls it.

I somehow doubt there'll be anything "petit" about it.

Putting skins on Dave and Martin get ready for a "petit promenade"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stop off to rehydrate and have a look at the Refuge du Lac de Gers and its Himalayan prayer flags.

Refuge du lac de GersRefuge du lac de Gers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Himalayan prayer flagsHimalayan prayer flags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

There are so few people around during this last week of the season that the refuge is closed so we're soon on our way again.

Skinning from the Refuge du lac de GersOn our way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it's time for the dreaded kick turns.

For those who don't know, this is what you have to do it you want to change direction while skinning up a steep slope.

If the pitch is too steep you can't go straight up the mountain, so you zig-zag.

The kick-turn with skins on involves moving the uphill ski first.

My first couple of attempts are effective enough.

Then this happens (and "thanks" to John Pennifold for capturing the moment):

 

Falling over is only half the problem. I've discovered that standing up with your bindings in walk mode takes some getting used to.

For the rest of the day we skin a bit more and then ski a bit more, tackling the steep off-piste Tête de Montieux route under the Lindars Nord chairlift.

SkinningSkinning


























Tête de Montieux, FlaineTête de Montieux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end Yann rightly assesses that we have burning legs or, as he says, "jambées flambées".

So presumably day three will be easier?

Nope.

We're off to the east-facing Désert de Platé off the back of the piste map.

It is stunning to be far away from the lifts and our group has the place to ourselves.



The snow is the right kind of soft and skiing down is hugely enjoyable, but the skin out is exhausting in the heat.

Le Désert de PlatéLe Désert de Platé

























Going upLe Désert de  Platé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Désert de PlatéLe Désert de Platé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so slow Yann takes my heavy backpack for me.

SkinningSlowly does it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I know. It's embarrassing.

I am slightly ashamed (but not so much that I refuse his offer).

And little do I know that there is more embarrassment - not to mention sheer terror - ahead.

The final instalment of my Flaine Exploration is coming soon...

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Ski Club Of Great Britain runs hundreds of Freshtracks holidays for members each season, split into six types - off piste, touring, weekend, development, heli & cat and action. There are also trips specifically aimed at solo skiers, families and the over 55s.

Flaine Exploration (2017-18 season prices) from £859, including 7 nights chalet board and accommodation based on a twin share, coach transfers and 5 days with an instructor and a Ski Club leader.  Course only price £450.

Any equipment required, including touring boots, skis and skins can be hired from Flaine Super Ski, which works with the Ski Club in resort.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news


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