Sancy Couloirs

Ski-Areas > Massif Central > Puy de Dôme (63) > Monts d'Auvergne > Le Mont-Dore > Off Piste > Sancy Couloirs

Those are the obvious routes. Higher up it is possible to ski the North-East face of the Sancy down to the pas de l'âne piste but again there is a risk of wind slab avalanches. The overnight snow had left around 10cm of fresh powder on a rather difficult base. I started skiing as in normal deep powder, tried some jump turns as my skis went through the crust and then ended up settling for a snowboard move. Full hooligan with skis close together carving long wide curves. Not necessarily to be recommended as there were plenty of frozen death-cookies hiding in the powder. Another skier caught one of these, lost a ski and ended up hot-dogging it half way down the slope before doing a face plant.

Les Poubelles, le petit pas de l'âne and le pas de l'âne

La Poubelle, Vigier, le petit pas de l'âne and le pas de l'âne

As you come out of the cable car station there is a concrete fence, if you look through you get a good view of the Val d'Enfer and the Puy-Redon Couloirs with its famous 'Y' (e-grec) directly opposite. Down below is the couloir des Poubelles, the ancient rubbish shoot used by the cafe. That is until walkers enjoying a Sunday stroll in the Val d'Enfer got upset about finding a stinking midden at the end of the valley. These days all the rubbish is taken back down on the cable car. Couloir cognescenti will know that both Chamonix Mont-Blanc and Barèges have their own Poubelles and the one at Mont Dore is no less extreme. Rather than climbing over the fence you can access it by cutting back a bit further on. Jean Pierre was keen to give it a go but the first 20 meters were not in good condition so we climbed up to the Couloir Vigier sometimes called the couloir des Pompiers. This couloir is named after local ski instructor Jean Marc Vigier who was was taken by an avalanche on the descent in January 1977. He escaped more stirred than shaken. In between the two are the couloir des Demoiselles found just after a hump coming out of the cable car station and the couloir de l'arête du Dinosaure which is found on the right about 100 meters from the cable car station and follows the line of a characteristic razor of volcanic rock. Higher up are the Pas de l'âne and a variant the Petit Pas de l'âne. Jean Pierre told me of a friend who'd slid half the length of this couloir, popping over rocks and finally finishing at the bottom with his salopettes torn to shreds. These form two north-west facing couloirs leading into the Val d'Enfer... welcome to hell!

overview of the sancy couloirs

Compared with the Le Mont Dore Couloirs you are now playing with the big boys. The Mule Pass (pas de l'âne) which is visible on the top right of the photo is a serious proposition. The entrance is slightly steeper, around 50° to 55° and halfway down there are some hidden rocks, like teeth, waiting to jump up and bite the unsure. The Petit Pas de l'âne. is reached by crossing over the ridge clearly visible in the photo at the top of the pass, this leads to the face shown on the right. A nice slope but it gets very steep around the middle. We decided to tackle the Vigier, reached by taking the pas de l'âne drag lift then walking along the wooden boardwalk to then end of a small fence which leads to the summit of the Puy de Sancy. Again the entrance wasn't in wonderful condition but we soon found skiable, if old snow. The recent fresh snow had trouble sticking to this steep face. The run exits into the Val d'Enfer and then onto the resort green pistes of the same name.

There are plenty of other possibilities in the area. High up on the Puy de Sancy is the couloir en S. A steep, some say 50°, but short entry pitch leads into a pleasing 'S' shaped couloir. Its northern aspect keeps the snow in condition for a long time. However a cornice, formed by the prevailing south-westerly winds guards the entrance well. Few people have skied this run and we would certainly leave it for another day. On the traverse over to the Puy Redon you can find the couloir de l'Entonnoir (the Funnel couloir). This runs parallel to the Pas de l'âne and is slightly less extreme, around 300 meters at 45°. There is a tight passage (hence the funnel name) near the top and this part is often icy, there is an escape route to the right.

Les dents du diable and couloir en 'S' Les dents du diable and couloir en S

Couloir S and the Dents du Diable

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