Sunday, December 28, 2014

10 years of Snowchasing!

This season marks the 10th season of snowchasing and my 8th year writing this blog!
It has been a decade now since my first winter skiing in BC! With more than 90 000 visits and 116 posts so far, this blog is just getting better and better (in my opinion! ;)

Hopefully, this one will be another one to remember!

As every winter this one will be different from the previous one. The biggest different this winter is that I won’t take the plane to go skiing! My girlfriend is currently doing a training period in Grenoble and since this city is nicely located at the Alps doorstep, I will spend my winter exploring this famous mountain range!

Since I have only spent in the previous years only a week in Italy, one in Austria and another 2 weeks in Switzerland for skiing, I haven’t even really started to scratch the surface of the possible options!

I have been in France since April, I have already started to hike around the peaks surrounding the city. It was some really nice weather this fall for doing so. I have also spend a fair amount of time to the municipal library to fuel up on the topo books that are available.

An fairly nice storm hitted the mountains in November, but with reports of hitting rocks by most of skitourers doing tours around Grenoble, I stayed calm and waited for the base to build up a bit. The snowpack, instead of building up disappeared with the warm weather we had in early December.

I was looking at the options for skiing from Slovenia to Spain and nothing seemed really interesting. With reports of major ski resorts not opening for theChristmas holiday, some really depressing webcam view and even reports of heli-transported snow, there wasn’t much hope!

As I was in Strasbourg with Amelie after spending a few days with her parents visiting the Christmas market, we saw a report that Norway was receiving a shit load ofsnow.

I had swore myself after driving to northern Norway last spring that there was no-way that I would drive back up north, but snow was calling...

After a short call to Piet, my German friend that I’ve met in Roger’s Pass, we made the plan to rally up with him and his girlfriend Sarah the following morning in Hirtshals in northern Denmark to take the ferry to Norway. After packing up with food and booze to minimize as soon as possible our expenses in Norway, we drove straight the 1300km that were separating us from the ferry.

The drive through Germany was as I remembered: not super interesting and quite long (even if you can drive at whatever speed you want). They haven’t really build the autobahn next to some architectural gem...

We met according to the plan at the ferry. They were starting from the south of Germany and had driven all night long! The ferry ride was not too rocky and that was quite good for me since I am a bit sensitive to seasickness!

As we got to Norway, we had our first vision of the season of what a real winter looks like!
With snow on the ground at sea level, ice on the road, there was no doubt; winter was on its way here!

We did the usual weather forecast check in what I would say is probably the widest free internet network on earth: McDonald’s. A decision was quickly made to drive towards Røldal which was 220km from Porsgrunn where we were.  It had snowed around 160cm from the 16th of December to the 21st and there was more snow on the forecast!

I had quickly forgotten how long it can take to drive on the norwegian roads! With nice pure ice on the road, you are not too tempted to go over the 60km/h speed limit... and if you are, photo radar are there to remind you not to do so!

We first stop in Haukelifjell skisenter which is 30km east of Røldal. We were pretty excited as we got out of the car, since there was a lot of snow everywhere and the snow was nice and cold. We set in Piet’s van to have dinner as we heard what sounded like rain...

We first doubt that it would be possible since it was -3Celcius outside. I went out to make sure, but yes, it was raining. As we went in bed, it was raining fairly hard and I started to wonder if we had just driven that far for nothing!

The rain didn’t fell for that long and it eventually turned to snow but it had time to did some damage... 

There a fresh layer of about 5-10cm of snow covering a thing layer of rain crust. Since the visibility wasn’t that great, we drove around a little bit to find a backcountry slope with some trees on it. The days are fairly short at this time of the year here! With the sunrise around 9h30 and the sunset at 3h30, there is not much time to waste!

We parked near the Vågslitunnelen just north of Haukeli and after the very last minute preparative, we started skinning from there. 
It has been fairly windy and there wasn’t much good snow. We did a short tour that would have been nice if it wasn’t from the raincrust. 
We had textbook dust on crust...    
After that not glorious start, we drove through a pretty intense snowstorm to Røldal in the hope of finding better conditions!

Hopefully, the conditions would make up for the long drive!


Friday, April 11, 2014

Backcountry skiing at its best in northern Norway

With a nice day forecast and Etienne leaving at the end of the day, we took off for a not so long tour that was supposed to have a great view. Storsteinnestinden was our pick for the day. With Amelie’s knee not doing any better, she stayed at the car and we pretty piss not to join us.

There were some light clouds as we were started to make our way up but the more we were hiking up, the more those clouds were burning off! 
We eventually reached the summit and were welcomed by probably the greatest view we’ve had of the trip!
Two fjords were surrounding us and with the white peaks and the blue sky, we were pretty mesmerized!
I guess we were both pretty stoked to be up there since we took just wayyyyyyy too many pictures up there!
I would say that this kind of spectacular view is really unique to Norway and it was really nice to be able to enjoy it fully under a nice calm, blue-sky day!
As every good thing must come to an end (and especially since Etienne was taking the plane in the early evening), we eventually had to ski down!

Actually, the good thing was just starting!
There was probably about 15-20cm of really nice cold and fluffy powder and a totally untracked (apart from our own skintrack) mountain to ourselves!

So after the greatest view of the trip, we were enjoying the best turns!
I wish we would have hiked higher up to have a longer descent since all the turns were really nice and smooth.
After one of my best run of the season, we headed back to Tromsø since Etienne now needed to pack his stuff and catch a plane to head back home.
After dropping Etienne at the airport, I hit the road with Amelie to drive south towards Narvik. Anna, a friend of a friend, was living next to Narvik on the swedish side in Abisko. I was to meet her for two days of skiing in this area.

 As boring and uninteresting the drive up was in Sweden and Finland, the drive in Norway was just spectacular! With postal card pictures every town of high point, that makes it very nice to drive around here! The downside is that it really takes forever to get somewhere since the roads are so twisting!
We got to Anna’s cabin the following day and from there, we drove back towards Narvik to have a look at the backcountry. 
There is a cool little resort litterally in town. You can skin up if you like, but we used the lazy option since Anna was able to have us single ride tickets even if that kind of ticket is not really existent...
I just dumbly followed her since I had no clue about where we were going!
It was a great day with the snow really changing a lot between different aspects. After two short laps, we were at the top of a nice really long couloir that was dropping down to the road. The snow was really firm and hardpack, but it was still fairly easy go get the edges to grip.
Anna brought me not too far from her cabin for a little tour. 
We started skinning near the Låktatjåkka train station. We were just barely able to get a grip on the snow since it has been really hardened by the wind. 
We kept hiking up to a cabin were we had a nice pancake with some locally made marmelade.
It wasn’t the greatest skiing ever, but it was such a nice day that it was great to be out there and enjoying it!

Those turns were my last one of this trip since that as soon as we got back to Anna’s cabin, we started our long journey driving back to France where we still needed to find a place to live for the next year. 
Leaving Norway left me with the similar feeling as on my first trip to Alaska where my friend and travelling partner Babiche got hurt cutting our trip short.

I guess I’ll just need to do the same thing as I did with Alaska and come back!