Val d'Isère Pays Desert

Ski-Areas > Northern Alps > Savoie (73) > Tarentaise > Val d'Isère > Off Piste > Pays Desert

We hoped on the Col and Cascade chairs to reach the Pays Desert (Deserted Country) slopes. Later in the season, when spring snow forms overnight this is a big classic with better snow than you would find on piste. We had to traverse some way across the slopes to eventually find snow that pleased us. The wind had either stripped the snow back to a hard base or had left it crusty and difficult to ski. We were looking for the little tell-tale waves that are an indication of soft, pleasant snow. The guidebooks mention a number of alternatives, we were probably closest to the slopes under the Ouille-Noire. From these gentle slopes you could set out down to Bonneval sur Arc in the Maurienne valley below, but that would either mean skinning back or booking a helicopter ride to Tignes. We tracked north-westwards to the Pays Desert drag lift. Every now and then an undulation would interrupt the perfect slope and we would have to jump a small cornice or ski over a small drop. At one point a shush down a valley following the Pays Desert stream took us up to a small knoll and then the lift.

Le Pays Desert / The Deserted Country, Val d'Isere

Deserted Country - Fornet

We then took the Cascades and did a bit of between the pistes skiing. A lot of people wouldn't count this as true off-piste, philosophically they may have a point but as far as insurance is that once you cross the piste markers you are off piste, even if still in the ski domain. The reality can be much harsher, last year in Val d'Isere a woman was killed by an avalanche just meters from the piste. If you look at the terrain around the Espace Killy you will often see little hollows and gulleys close to the pistes. On one lift I heard some Dutch skiers speculating that these were part of a future fun park. Far from it, these holes can be deadly, even a small avalanche can sweep a skier into one and bury them deep. More than a couple of meters and the chances of survival are not good.

Le Pays Desert / The Deserted Country, Val d'Isere

Le Pays Desert / The Deserted Country

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