SkiVt-L France 1996 Edition: Val Terces Day 3
Friday morning - the weather looked promising,
but sunshine was a false hope. Still, the high clouds appeared
to be above the summit, so we took a chance and headed for the
top. Our hope was to catch another 4000 foot vertical warm-up
and then tackle the next valley.
I dunno exactly how much it snowed during
the night: our car roof indicated maybe 8" since Thursday
morning. At the summit, it was impossible to tell. Between the
flat light, windblown local variations, and what passes in France
for grooming on the only open summit run (the checkered "local
avalanche danger" flags dissuaded me from much off-piste
exploration), I couldn't get an accurate reading. Besides, I found
myself having too much fun to care. Suffice to say, it was an
eoic powder day.
This first run, all 1360m (4460 feet) of it,
was a blur of nearly non-stop freshies. The pow-pow was never
deeper than my knees, but never lower than my boot tops. And this
was on piste.
Off piste, which really just meant 10 feet
into the woods, the new powder mixed with the old, yielding a
pole-probe estimate of 27". Kids' stuff, by some standards,
but it would have to do.
We never made it back up to the summit that
morning, as it played Picabo with the clouds most of the day.
But big deal. We still had that mere 2500 foot vertical, and all
them trees. So Vickie practiced her powder technique down the
center of the piste, while I darted in and out of the trees. We
danced in the snow until 2:00 PM, when Vickie called it quits.
But it was my last day at Serre, and I wasn't
going to let a little sight problem spoil my fun. I headed solo
back up the hill to make a stab for the Vallon de Cucumelle, a
long sweeping red cruise that headed down towards Villeneuve,
the central village of the Val Terces domain. This required
a trip up to Yret and down to a short connector chair through
white out conditions. Yeah, the visibility sucked, but with three
feet of powder just outside the piste boundary, what's a guy to
do? The steep and knee deep kept me focused.
The Vallon du Cucumelle, I imagine, is quite
beautiful. I never really saw much of it. Didn't find too many
freshies over here, either, but that was now OK - my legs were
spent. I eventually dropped down to the valley floor in Villeneuve,
a mere 1100m lower than my start. Three lift rides later, I was
back up on the ridge, ready to pass over the Col de la Cucumelle
back to Monêtier.
This proved to be the scariest run of the
day - not because it was steep (it wasn't), but because it was
only about 10 foot wide, with a drop off the left side of indeterminable
height. Covered in fog, flat 4 PM light, and littered with bad
skies. The line between snow, sky, and bottomless depths was indistinguishable.
After feeling like The Almighty-Powder-King all day long, I was
reduced to skiing this Stowe Toll Road piste in the biggest, slowest
snowplow I could managed, followed by a 10 minute hike up over
the pass before I could descend again towards Monêtier.
All told, from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM, we skied
five runs - and about 16,700 verts, two thirds of it cutting fresh
tracks. This is big mountain skiing!