Val d'Isère Col du Pers

Ski-Areas > Northern Alps > Savoie (73) > Tarentaise > Val d'Isère > Off Piste > Col du Pers

The Col du Pers is accessed from the Montets drag. From about half way down this lift you and traverse right across a bowl dominated by cliffs. The traverse is along a usually well-beaten and fairly narrow path with a steep, but short slope to your left. The Pers has a rope across it, this marks the edge of the ski domain proper. A pretty much notional marker, beyond it rescue is the responsibility of the French state and not the ski station. However a large board reminds you that you are entering a sensitive national park, no whooping it up scaring the wildlife, either the mountain goats and Ibex or the Marmottes and birds hibernating under the snow.

There are two routes from the Pers, right to the Gorges du Malpassat or left down to the Vallonnets slopes. Unless the Gorges are in condition, indicated by a sign at the ski lift, they can trap skiers like a spider at the bottom of a bathtub. The exit from the gorges is above the river level on a steepish and often icy slope. This regularly proves too much of a challenge but the easy access to the Col means that many badly equipped skiers find their way to this point. Unable to advance, to scared or exhausted to climb back up their only salvation is the arrival of the rescue helicopter. So regular are its visits that they could almost install a timetable. Just that week two Spaniards had been winched to safety.

Given the Spaniard's undignified exit we opted for the Vallonnets slopes. Again another long traverse, with a good 100 meter gap, across the leftmost rim of the bowl that forms the Pers Glacier. We then skied down the middle on some fine, gentle pitches in excellent snow. Finally above the path that leads to the Charles Bridge the slopes got steeper and the snow less forgiving. Traversing across the top of one pitch a tiny crack appeared by Pietro's skis, a small slab broke silently away, then the rest of the slope went with it right where Wendy had stopped. Not a big slide, but it picked up a considerable mass of snow over its 250-meter fall to almost reach the path from the Malpassat Gorge - and several goggle eyed skiers waiting below. The snow was probably piled over a meter at its deepest and the run out zone was pretty safe, but still, a week after the last real snowfall there were still avalanches waiting to be sprung.

We moved off cautiously, the slope had been largely wind blown crust so the avalanche hadn't spoiled anything. From the walkers path it is a 15-minute slide and shuffle back to the Fornet cable car.

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