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Sunday July 23, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

About 20cm of snow fell at altitude in Tignes this week giving the glacier a much needed white covering but it's melting fast. UPDATED

High winds and frozen lift cables frustrated skiers and snowboarders - PlanetSKI among them - who had been hoping the improved weather on Wednesday would allow the pistes to open for the first time since Sunday.

It had been raining almost non-stop for two days at resort level, but the good news is that it fell as snow above 2,800 metres.

It was much needed after poor conditions had forced the resort to restrict the number of slopes open and cut lift pass prices.

You can read below our account of the state of the glacier at the weekend.

It finally re-opened for skiing on Thursday.

The limited area was busy and the snow described by those who headed up the hill as "sticky".


We went up on Friday to find adequate conditions on the run used by ski schools for race training but the overall picture was similar to last weekend.

Summer race training on the Tignes glacierRace training on Friday
















Summer race training in TignesRace training on Friday















Melting snow on the Tignes glacierMelting snow
















It seems as if summer has returned.

It's hoped there'll be no further disruption to the summer season which is due to close on 6th August.

As the sun shone down at resort level, the best option was to enjoy some of the other summer activities Tignes has to offer.

Kayaking at Tignes Le LacOn Le Lac, Friday


Here's what it looked like on Wednesday up at 3,032metres when the glacier was closed to skiers:

Glacier closedGlacier closed on Wednesday
















Sign at the Grande MotteSign at the Grande Motte
















At Grande MotteAt Grande Motte on Wednesday
















At Grande MotteAt Grande Motte on Wednesday
















The glacier looking whiteThe glacier looking white


















There is skiing on the Tignes glacier but only just.

A day's lift pass for the Tignes glacier has been reduced from €25 to €15 because the skiing is so limited.

Weekly passes are no longer being sold as there's a risk the glacier will have to close completely.

I am told the piste patrollers met on Friday to discuss whether it was safe to keep it open, though things are looking up as 10cm of snow fell on the glacier on Monday.

"It's very bad," an employee at the Maison de Tignes information centre told me on Saturday, shortly after I arrived.

"It's for very good skiers only."

That afternoon, I went for a hike over the Col de Fresse and took this photo of the glacier:

Glacier from the Col de FresseGlacier from the Col de Fresse

Soon after 7am on Sunday morning I was up there, and it was clear that the information officer had not been exaggerating.

Though I've never previously skied here in the summer, it's obvious that it is, indeed, "very bad".

It was a shock to see how thin the snow cover is, even well above 3,000 metres.

Looking up from 3,032mLooking up from 3,032m

Not looking goodNot looking good

Not the best conditionsNot the best conditions

PlanetSKI reader reactionPlanetSKI reader reaction

Locals say that two years ago the glacier was forced to close its summer ski slopes early but last year was fine.

They say the current conditions have been caused by a combination of a lower than average snowfall last winter and a recent heatwave.

As a result there is only one small section open, accessible by a chairlift, and a series of T-bars and rope tows.

The lifts take you from 3,032m up to 3,450m almost level with the top of the cable car which is closed this summer for maintenance.

At the top is a small freestyle park with a few rails and kickers. 

The best snow, not surprisingly, is up here.

Freestyle parkFreestyle park

Just below is the Glacier piste, which is basically one run with two branches.

The top of that isn't too bad, either, with some skiers able to get some slalom gate practice in.

Tignes is due to end its six-week summer season on 6th August.

Will it manage to stay open for the final two weeks?

A liftie I ask simply shrugs her shoulders, then adds that there could be some snow coming on Monday.

**Update: it did snow on Monday though the lifts have been closed so we've been unable to check it out yet.  See more below.

I'm determined to make the best of my Sunday morning as I wonder how much longer we'll be able to ski on the glaciers of Europe in July.

Yours truly on the best bit of pisteYours truly on the best bit of piste

Do it while you can, I tell myself, and enjoy!

And you know what?

I can honestly report that I did enjoy it.

It's true, the snow was a tad hard to start with, though not for long. 

Then it became a thin layer of slushy mush on top of glacial ice.

Later still, there were big lumps of slush and occasional large puddles to negotiate.

But my two pairs of brand-new-never-been-used-next-season-skis, of which much more in the autumn, worked a treat.

For the start of the day, the new Atomic Redsters were perfect and, as the morning wore on, I had a lot of fun with the Atomic Punx twin-tips.

Both pairs were courtesy of Intersport.

With the day's skisWith the day's skis

Even the worst of the runs, which you have to take to get off the mountain when it closes at lunchtime, was perfectly skiable, despite its appearance.

The only way backThe only way back

Yes, that's the pisteYes, that's the piste

I've had better mornings on skis but at least I've been on snow (of sorts) in July and it feels good!

You can still ski on the Alpine glaciers in the summer, even when the weather contrives against you.

But you really should do it while you can.

**UPDATE MONDAY 10am:  Some snow has fallen on the glacier but the lifts are not open as a result of high winds.  We'll keep you posted!

Grande Motte, Tiges - July 24thGrande Motte, Tignes - Monday 24th July

Phil Smith, founder of PlanetSKI partner, Snoworks, which runs summer and autumn courses on the Tignes glacier, later said on PlanetSKI's Facebook page that 25cm of snow was forecast to fall on Monday and that they would be up on the mountain on Tuesday.

"We may be skiing powder tomorrow Smile" he said.

"Glacier skiing can always look like this when the snow has been washed away by high temperatures and rain.  Every glacier in the world can look like this.

"For great race training all you need is one stade, some poles, some timing, a great coach and away you go.

"If you look at the glacier up high you will still see snow cover on the snowpark which has been in great condition all summer and up high on 3500 which again has been excellent all summer.

"One snow fall and it all changes." 

Phil Smith said Snoworks always advised joining a camp for summer skiing rather than free skiing.

"Join a camp and the coach will always train where the best snow is and you can get massive amount of benefit for your skiing," he said.

"Free ski in the winter, train in the summer."

PlanetSKI also hopes to be up on the glacier on Tuesday and we'll be reporting back.

**UPDATE Tuesday 8am:
 The official word is that 10cm of snow fell on the glacier on Monday.  The ski area is still closed but the weather forecast for Wednesday is looking good. Watch this space...  

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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