Tignes Col Du Chardonnet

Ski-Areas > Northern Alps > Savoie (73) > Tarentaise > Tignes > Off Piste > Col Du Chardonnet

Monday and our ski guide Olivier Carrere decided to take us over to the classic Col du Chardonnet. There are in fact two normal couloirs off the summit of the Chardonnet. As we were the first skiers over here we would tackle the wide lower couloir but first we had to get there. The pisteurs had been blasting under the Merle Blanc chair. With the North wind these slopes had become dangerously loaded with snow and threatened the pistes below. The previous day the piste patrol had tracked high along the ridge setting off explosive charges to bring down the potential slabs. Towards the Col the snow was still intact, a large hole with powder marks showed that this slope was not ready to slide, yet. We climbed for about ten minutes from the lift then crossed the avalanche debris. The traverse, on a convex slope holding tonnes of stressed snow didn't look welcoming. Instead Olivier led us up a ridge with visible rocks. These would serve to anchor the snow. We then followed the tracks of the pisteurs high on the Chardonnet mountain then sideslipped one by one down to the col. avalanche avoidance and safe skiing. The col was full of snow with just the narrow tracks of the pisteurs marking the surface. The guidebooks say that the first hundred metres is a 40 degree slope but I had my doubts. It is probably nearer to 35 degrees if you stay in the middle. The second, higher couloir is much steeper and narrower and the initial pitch is usually side slipped. We all carefully descended this section to a rock outcrop. Then we skied one by one down the north-facing slope to the Lac du Chardonnet, it was cloudy and not ideal conditions so we all did the best we could, which wasn't brilliant. A short pole across to the Grand-Huit chair and up to the Aiguille Percée, then back to Tignes to catch the Skirail and the same programme as yesterday with the Familiale and Vallée Perdue. Only today we didn't ski down the forest but crossed over the narrow bridge and onto the Daille pistes where the British Forces were holding their ski championships.

The two Couloirs du Chardonnet (Tignes)

The two Couloirs du Chardonnet

Olivier was heading up to Paris for a few days to see his mum so the group was divided up a bit and I joined Pietro, a guide and instructor of Italian origins. I'll tell you a bit more about the rest of the group, there was Roger, Wendy and David. All three of them retired although Roger and Wendy were still pretty young. It seemed to be the case that a lot of the Alpine Experience clients were in their middle years and had been coming back to Val d'Isere season after season. They all skied very well, both on and off the piste, something Wayne Watson attributed to years of experience. David was probably around 60 and there were other skiers out there who were even older. However at no point could I say that anyone held me up, indeed often it was me trailing at the back. I was very impressed at the amount of vertical and distance we could cover in four hours, there was very little standing around waiting unless someone wanted to stop. Given the instruction and small groups it all seemed like very good value. I'm sure if I'd been skiing with friends we wouldn't have covered half the ground, at least not in a week of uncertain conditions as we had.

Col du Chardonnet, maybe it is nearer 40°? (Tignes)

Col du Chardonnet, maybe it is nearer 40°?

Pietro had similar ideas to Olivier. As the snow had stabilised somewhat we skied off the top of the Genepi ridge. We had to walk quite some way to distance ourselves from the previous day’s tracks. We then went over to the Chardonnet but tracked down under the steeper couloir where again we found untracked powder. The snow was heavier now and the wind had done its work in forming a crust in places. We had to scan across the slopes for those tell tale signs of soft powder. I took the afternoon off to go cross country skiing in the Manchet with Geraldine. We hired some gear from Jean Sports and headed up the valley. A little late because as soon as we got to the Manchet the sun dipped behind the Charvet and plunged us into sub-zero temperatures. Still struggling with cross-country skis keeps you warm. I attempted some parallel turns on the slopes. Not an easy operation with narrow blades with no edges. Then we spotted the skate park - covered in snow it looked like the fun place for some idiocy. I climbed up and launched myself into the bowl to immediately fall flat on my face. I got more comfortable with my skis and even managed the end of the Solaise blue on the way back, whizzing past many of the beginners who were astonished to see the strange contraptions I was sliding on.

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