The last few weeks have seen unsettled weather and a good amount of precipitation throughout the Alps, leaving the higher elevations in very good shape for the middle of November. Like any other ski town throughout the world, the locals in Chamonix have been jonesing to get out and make their first turns of the year.
The sun finally made an appearance on Wednesday and offered a chance to get up into the high alpine above Chamonix and sample some of the fresh snow. From the small village of Le Tour, we made our way up the left flank of the Glacier du Tour to the Albert hut, at 2700 meters.
While the main refuge was closed for the season, the “winter room” was open for skiers to stay warm, cook meals, and spend the night with minimal need for overnight camping supplies.
As it’s still early season, the glacier was littered with open crevasses and the snow bridges that do exist are very thin. It was like navigating a mine field as we zig-zagged our way across the Glacier du Tour to reach our objective at the top of the Col du Passon.
After nearly 1800 meters of climbing, we were ready to make some turns. Over a meter of fresh snow in the previous three days had settled nicely and digging a snow pit confirmed our evaluation of a stable snowpack and it was time to drop in.
To our surprise, the snow quality and depth on the northern aspects was much better than expected at lower elevations and we were able to ski to within 200 meters of our car, a 1600 meter descent. Not bad for the first outing of the season.
With the upper elevations already in good shape, there’s rumors going around the valley that Les Grands Montets will open next weekend. We’ll have to wait and see, but there’s great skiing out there right now as long as you’re willing to hike for it.