On the hunt for fresh powder
Snowboarders come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and more styles than you can imagine but if there’s one thing all boarders have in common, it’s the love of fresh pow pow! There really is nothing like waking up to a big dump of fresh snow, strapping onto your board and getting knee deep in fresh fluffy powder. At least that’s the kind of morning that gets my adrenaline flowing…
Don’t get me wrong I enjoy hitting the park but for freeriders like myself there’s nothing in the world that beats the feeling of finding some virgin powder and cutting that first line through it as the sun shines down on the mountain.
But I’m sure you’re not here to read about what get’s my adrenaline pumping, you want to know all the insider knowledge on where to find the best off-piste runs in Méribel and the three valleys, so here’s a few gems for you. Before I begin though, a little bit about safety, you may sigh but an avalanche is not something to be taken lightly.
First and foremost you should always have an avalanche pack, shovel, probe and transceiver being the essential parts to it, and it’s no good just having a couple of them. It’s one per person. It’s also no good having one if you can’t read a transceiver, so get some expert guidance or watch some “how to” videos and have a practice.
Secondly, listen to your gut and use your common sense, the avalanche warnings are there to help so USE THEM! 1 to 2 is pretty safe, 3 be extra aware, 4 you might want to stick to the piste instead, and 5 just go back to bed!
Three great tips I’ve learnt:
- Go one at a time. Never all start carving through the fresh stuff at once, the risk of causing an avalanche is massively increased.
- Don’t stop in a dip (if you can avoid it). If you find yourself in a dip start hiking your way out quickly because you don’t want to be stuck there if a friend above causes a slide.
- Don’t panic. If you notice one start above or underneath you remain calm and try and ride away from the avalanche, if you can turn out of it and stay high then do but if not just ride your way down and away from it as quickly as you can.
Now we have addressed the safety part, lets get on to the fun stuff!
When I wake up to a bluebird powder day there’s only one lift on my mind, “Olympic”, as you enter the Chaudanne take the “Roc de Fer” chair lift and then on to the “Olympic” up to the peak at 2290m. Instead of heading down the blue run turn left off the chair and up over the crest, then traverse high and to the right to give you the optimum run in, crossing under the lift then sweeping to the right down past the rocks before continuing over the rolling hills until you are coming through the trees to rejoin the piste. It’s the perfect wake up call!
Over at the Altiport take the “Loze Express” and then follow the blue “Boulevard de la loze” for about 200m until you find the off piste tracks to the right, you’ll have to be quick to make the first ones as this proves popular. Dropping off to the right can seem daunting as the trees are dense in places but trust me there’s plenty of space to make some fresh tracks and not too many flat spots to get you in trouble. The snow is great here and there’s a few natural kickers to be found that make it one of my favourite runs. Just keep left and head towards the bottom of the “Dent de Burgin” chair lift.
Another adventurous off piste run is from the top of “Saulire” down into Mottaret. Take the red run towards Méribel and just after the red run “Marcassin” that cuts left to Mottaret, head off piste traversing high until you are under the “Pas du Lac” gondola. The run down from here staying right of the lift is wonderful, a long sweeping descent that has you pass over the red “Aigle” run and onto further off piste tracks towards the tree line. The latter half down to Mottaret is a little more ambitious as the runs between the trees and bushes are tight in places so for the feint hearted rejoin the piste at “Aigle”, but for those who like an adventure just make for the trees and keep your eyes open.
Finally the place in Méribel that (if I could) I’d build a log cabin and never leave it, Mont Vallon. When the winds are high they often close the lift up to the highest peak in Méribel and Courchevel so when the opportunity arises don’t hesitate to head up there. The red runs either side of the mountain are long and very enjoyable, if a little taxing in places, but it’s in-between those where the off-piste fun is to be found. Looking up from the foot of the mountain it’s hard not to be in awe of the powder junkies playground, it’s truly massive.
Head down the red “Campagnol” run until you’ve gone around the hair pin to the right, continue along that section and then keep going straight off piste towards the gondola, from here survey the scene, choose your path and be prepared for the run of your life! There are two large areas of bare rocks that you have to avoid so go easy as you start down, but this is one playground you’ll keep coming back to! I’ve spent many an hour not even considering another lift because you could do this run a hundred times and it’ll still feel as fun and as different as your first!
Now I could go into Courchevel and Val Thorens but then half the fun is exploring yourself and spotting somewhere awesome to make a fresh track. Of course you can always go for the truly adventurous method of hiking across the peaks for an hour and then cruising into your own private playground, but when you’ve got this lot straight from the lifts you may as well start there.
Happy hunting powder junkies!