Haluk – Ozhan, Refik, Omer

Today was the first clear sky, sunny day this year and since the storms of the century began. We know there has been no global warming for the past 18 years but with sunspot activity now completely switched off it’s perhaps not much of a mystery why we have plunged into the deep freeze from hell – or rather the “skier’s paradise”. The last time this happened was in the 1970s when the official ongoing environmental scare was “global cooling” – blamed on the exact same industrial pollution that the same people now attribute “anthropogenic global warming” to – but choose to obfuscate under the current term “Climate Change”.  Val d’Isère village was hit by a huge avalanche that killed 77 people in one building. Today the avalanche risk was equally high but most people appeared oblivious to that fact – with groups skiing the Face du Charvet even though the lower south facing parts (exposed to greater temperature variations) had already avalanched in parts. We began our off-piste itinerary for today by skiing the Cairn – not the couloir at the top were it regularly avalanches next to the rocks – just the main open slope. The snow proved to be skiable though heavy and worked by the wind and moisture. Providing snow isn’t crusted by melting and freezing then fresh tracks are always fun and challenging and this was the case throughout the day. Our second run was the Tour du Charvet by the skier’s left – giving a long steep descent into the valley below. This area only usually avalanches when it warms up – as in the Springtime – and the wind passes through there without trapping slab accumulations. There were no traces of avalanche in the area. Passing through the bottom of the gorge you could see that all of the steep faces on the Arcelle area had avalanched and the Cugnai sector was still closed to access. I’d hoped for the opening of the Cugnai but that forced a change of plan. Likewise the North East facing Parc à Moutons face had completely collapsed and the North facing area above the Laisinant couloir had avalanched leaving a fracture line 3.5m thick and destroying the forest below. We skied our third off piste run down to intersect the “L” corridor just off the shoulder below the Parc à Moutons chairlift – taking the Laisinant chairlift back up to access the Le Fornet sector. The run down to the Signal from this chair was supposed to be off-piste but it was totally ski pisted. Unfortunately the group had a lunch meeting at 2pm to make at Les Brevieres – the complete opposite side of the planet – ultra bad planning whoever dreamed that one up! The lunch caveat ensured that we could not make it up to the glacier and the Signal sector access was also still closed. I learned later in the day that Col Pers was excellent and the gorge fully skiable – the river being covered early on for the first time in decades. Our fourth proper off-piste route would begin with a high traverse from the top of the Signal chair (Pyramides Express) – though staying below the fracture line of the avalanche on the steep face that had to be crossed. This allowed us to ski through the Grand Vallon and then over the shoulder to the main face above the Isère – were once again the exposed area tends not to accumulate slabs – but makes for a great descent though the steepest pitches are best avoided when uncertain (as we did in this case). The final run was with Ozhan alone – climbing up from the Borsat chairlift and skiing down the North face. This was probably the least tracked snow of the day and it is a good long run which we did in two parts – both filmed. Arriving at our rendezvous at the the top of the Toviere we were only 5 minutes later than predicted. All of the above was carried out with the understanding that the entire snowpack is sitting on a base layer of hoar frosted ball bearings – caused by a month long first layer of snow exposed to prolonged temperatures reaching minus 30 degrees Celsius.  Nobody really knows how the snow pack is going to behave so prudence is essential. Everyone was equipped with airbags, transceivers, shovels and probes – but one main key is not to ski in any areas where an avalanche can have obviously disastrous consequences – most avalanches spread out and the real danger is in areas where this is prevented (fills up a hole or hollow) or it sweeps over rocks or is confined to a couloir.

Omer just needs to learn how to turn – otherwise the waterskiing on the tails was impressive! Not bad for a first day off-piste.

Haluk was protecting tender back joints – not ideal in this sort of snow – so I didn’t include any video for him as this is not his normal skiing.

Refik uses the whole ski but there is a problem with how the dynamics and angulation are being used  – leading to rotation and being unable to comfortably control the movement of the centre of mass through the end of the turns. The snow was very tricky so that really exposes those sort of issues – as would slalom in a race course. To sort this out would require a general restructuring of the understanding of “dynamics”, timing, angulation and the mechanical pivoting action of the ski (eliminating “steering” and torque being applied to the skis).  The skiing is very strong and the attitude is excellent – the technical problems are ‘learned” from conventional teaching – which is largely BS!

Ozhan – like Refik is enjoying his skiing and the challenges of tricky snow conditions. A significant part of this is just the joy of being out in nature. The reason Ozhan gets stuck back on the tails a lot is because he pushing the skis outwards to get them below him – missing the first part of the turn. This is due to not being trained to pull the skis inwards and to use dynamics – moving only the centre of mass to drive and guide everything. Once again there is a great attitude and some relevant technical input could go a long way… (there was no time for any of that today)

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