Saturday 21st – Saturday 28th February 2015
Simon, Hazel and I had a fantastic off piste week in and around Sainte Foy Tarantaise in the French alps. Although it was snowing much of the time we were there, and we only got two sunny days in the week, this made for great snow conditions and we were able to make fresh tracks in the powder every single day. The three of us were on an intermediate level off piste course with Mountain Tracks , having done a few foundation level courses in previous years ( 2012 , 2013 , and 2014 ). This year Hazel and I finally felt like we were actually “getting it” and starting to be able to enjoy our powder descents (rather than merely trying to make it to the bottom without falling over!) And here’s the proof:
It’s very satisfying to finally be able to look back and see neat tracks like these with proper short turns (and no crater marks halfway down either!).
Most of the week was spent skiing big open backcountry descents, accessed via the ski lifts but immediately taking us “off the back”, well away from the resorts and into beautiful unspoilt and untracked valleys – often getting picked up by minibus from wherever we ended up.
On the days when the weather was particularly snowy and avalanche risk / visibility made going further unappealing w e instead skied some shorter sidecountry off piste descents within the resort areas, and worked on our off piste technique. Our instructor Dave Meyer was great (and incidentally is a Scot who learned his craft at Glen Coe & Nevis Range!).
The final day of the course was beautifully sunny and we made the most of it, skinning up from the top of one of the Sainte Foy lifts to the summit of La Fogliettaz, then enjoying a fantastic 1700m descent with acres and acres of beautiful untracked powder.
Meanwhile Sarah and Emma, who came out with us but were complete ski beginners, took a week of beginner ski lessons on the quiet pistes of Sainte Foy and made fantastic progress, being able to ski red runs by the end of the week having never put skis on before their arrival.
We were all staying in a lovely chalet, the Auberge sur la Montagne . Run by a couple of Brits who are keen skiers it exceeded our expectations in every way, from the hot tub and sauna to the gourmet chef (!) preparing four course dinners each night. The chalet also has its own gear store, well equipped with a wide variety of ski equipment including good quality ski touring kit (which Simon made good use of after finding his own skis weren’t coping too well with the alpine powder!) – and provides minibus transportation to the nearby resorts (not only the local lift station at Sainte Foy, but also to Tignes, Val d’Isere and Les Arcs which are all only a short drive away) and picked us up from random places we’d skied to.
In the end we spent 3 of our course days in the Sainte Foy area, one day at Tignes and one day at Val d’Isere. We felt we’d barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer and didn’t even get around to visiting Les Arcs despite its nearest lift station being under 10 mins drive from the chalet.
All in all we’d definitely recommend the area and would consider going again, especially given how great the chalet was. That said, there’s plenty more places to see, so only time will tell where we end up next!