Let it snow, then rain, then snow

One of the most noticeable and amusing things about living in the French Alps is how quickly conversation turns to snow when winter approaches. Months before the resort is due to open, people start predicting what sort of season it will be based on everything from long-term weather forecasts to how abundant the berries are on the trees in the mountains. I’m as guilty as the next person.

This winter in France got off to a slow start with a very warm and dry autumn, causing the annual ski test at Le Grand Bornand, held before the official opening of the resort, to be cancelled. Nobody could talk about much else apart from when the snow was due to fall.

Finally, about ten days ago, the snow fell. Conversation went from ‘when’ to ‘how much’ and ‘how low’, with rain washing away the first dump of fresh snow on the lower pistes. Resorts all over the Alps opened on the weekend with eager skiers lining up. I was one of them, queuing at the La Balme area of La Clusaz, and at first tempted to stay on the piste to avoid the rocks hiding under what we all suspected to be the usual early-season flimsy layer of powder off-piste. All that changed yesterday when I hit some rock gardens on the piste. Even at an altitude of 2,600 metres, the rocks were poking through. Nicely hidden behind the steepness of the slope and on a narrow part of the piste, I heard my new skis crunch over the rocks like a train chugging along a track. I ventured off-piste instead. Result! Just one rock obscured my fresh tracks.

<Photo: safety net at La Balme, La Clusaz in the Aravis mountain range of the French Alps>What a dire start the season eh? No, not really. The resort isn’t even due to open until 17th December! I’m happy that the snow is back (and indeed it’s dumping down right now, although rain is expected later in the week), but I wonder if the early opening was perhaps more for marketing or pressure to open prematurely. The pistes are patchy, and worryingly, the barrier at the top of La Balme that prevents people from sliding over the edge to their death has not been fully raised yet, leaving just the lower orange netting to waist height only. Falling over it would not be difficult. Pictured is how it normally looks. Those big zig-zag ropes attaching to the higher horizontal black rope to keep everything taut are not yet there and the orange netting is kind of hangy.

Anyway, enough about health and safety: I need to get back to talking about snow with my friends.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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5 comments on “Let it snow, then rain, then snow
  1. pete says:

    les houches was great the weekend, quiet (eveyone went up grand montets for a bit of rock riding ;)) good snow coverage and no boulders poking through as its big grassy hill 🙂

  2. Stephanie says:

    No snow here yet. Normally we’ve been snowed in at least once by mid December. All rather boring this year!
    Enjoy your ski-ing. We have to make do with sledging down our hill – but maybe one day I’ll get back to the slopes …

  3. Wendy says:

    Stephanie, I’m guessing that if it still hasn’t started by today, you’ll get lots this weekend. Perfect for a white Christmas!
    Pete, grass is indeed a lovely base.

  4. joana says:

    I visited Albertville and Annecy last week and hoped for a little bit of snow (not that I’m a skier just love watching it). Except the rain nothing else. I was discussing with a friend there for how the owners of hotels and chalet are waiting for their income to “start coming”. Hoping in better snowing days for all !

  5. Wendy says:

    Joana, the abundance of snow of the past week seems to have created a *lot* of last-minute bookings for my friends who run chalets. Sorry you didn’t get to see the snowflakes in the valley – I love seeing them land as proper flakes too.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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