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Season Diary - Day 3: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Updated: Jan 28

Today wasn't really anything to write home about, to be honest. I'm skiing with work in a delightful French resort called La Clusaz, a stone's throw from Annecy and with stunning views over the Grand Massif towards Mont Blanc.


However, between the weather today and the regimen of testing skis - for La Clusaz is the current hosting site of the annual Ski Industries of Great Britain Ski Test - there is little of note to interest you, dear reader.

 

The problem with testing kit is that you rarely actually get to see any of the resort. A list of around 25 skis, plus as many more as you can ski to fill the time, is presented to you and off you go, selecting a ski, getting the brand rep to adjust the bindings to your boots, and then to the gondola.


You get one lap up the gondola and down the combi-blue-red-blue run that makes up the bottom half of La Clusaz's La Balme sector. And that's it. Rinse. Repeat.


There's a lot that goes in to deciding what is a good or not so good skis. First of all is the broad type of ski, for example "On-Piste" which has been our focus today. You'll test six or seven skis within this broad category and rate various features of the ski, such as how well it holds long turns - initiating a carving turn, holds steady through the turn, then doesn't rock you into the back seat at the end of the turn, and how quickly and easily it flips you over to come back the other way - and how easily it performs short turns.


A ski might be terrible at one element, but ace at another. You also have to ask as to whether the ski is intended to be a short turn ski (light, tight radius, lots of pop and power) or a longer turn ski (heavier, bulkier), or a mix of the both. All this in about 5-10 minutes of skiing per ski.


I won't bore you any more with the details. Suffice to say I will find other things to occupy you this week than just the tale of my laps of Gondola La Balme.

 

To kick this off, I'll touch upon today's weather. It started cool with a layer of partial cloud, before warming intensely throughout the day, reaching +6°C from a standing start at mid-station level, roughly 1,800m.


This afternoon, precipitation moved in; beautiful bountiful snow up high (I.e. above 1,500m) but piss pouring rain below this point.


These fluctuating temperatures and conditions effectively meant we were skiing different snow on every run, starting with windswept overnight boilerplate, shifting to spring slush, then perfect pisted powder and finally sticky rain melt. It made testing all the more difficult as it made a direct comparison between the models difficult.


This pattern has been all to familiar for many, many resorts this winter, as well as last year too. Despite all the reports of the best snow ever to hit the Alps pre-Christmas, including from this writer's December trip to Tignes, what has been remarkable is just how much of this has been altitude limited.


It is a growing concern for resorts across particularly the French Alps about the consistent lack of consistent snow for lower resorts, below around 1,800m. I can and sometime indeed will go into the effects of climate change on skiing and ski resorts, but this is one immediate example of just how things are changing.


There should be lots of snow overnight tonight, so fingers crossed for better skiing tomorrow!


Last night's sunset over La Clusaz town

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