Well, what a start to winter: La Balme here in La Clusaz opened last weekend, providing an entire area of untracked powder — and a few rocks underneath. With my snowboard relatively unscathed, I popped over to Tignes with some friends for Sunday and Monday. Despite the sunny weather on Sunday, the wind was strong, causing the fresh snow to feel like pellets of rice hitting us in the face at times. The glacier was mostly closed, again, like last time, due to high winds. The run down from the glacier was still rocky, presumably due to the high winds stealing all the snow.
Meanwhile, Monday was even worse. A friend in Val d’Isere texted me in the morning to say she was looking at a blizzard, while the rest of us chickened out of the 9.30 start we had planned. The fog and snow stayed, so we ventured out after a long breakfast and played on a free piste (thanks Tignes!) at Val Claret that was pretty much untracked until we arrived. That would be because there were only a few other suckers out there, but it was fun to try to see the kicker before actually hitting (or missing) it.
One of my French friends chickened out of skiing, opting for ‘defrosting the car’ instead. This involved sitting in her car with the engine running and her feet over the heater vents on the console until she thawed out. By the time she was warm, the centimetres of snow on her windscreen had melted away. Meanwhile, just up the road from her, my handbrake-turn-loving friend had put on his snow chains and was happily pulling on his handbrake all around the ever-white roads of the resort.
So, two days of cold fingers on this visit, plus the day of boarding on the glacier in antarctic-style conditions in November, added to all my previous visits which mostly involved snow or high winds has led me to believe that Tignes actually means “bloody freezing” in French.