Monica Solmonson off-piste near Chamonix • March 25, 28 & 29, 2010

Monica Solmonson came out from Oregon for some touring and off-piste skiing with Kathy in March.

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Our first outing was over the Crochues-Bérard traverse, in the Aiguilles Rouges. Looking back across the valley to the Mer de Glace, we see a storm spilling over from Italy.


Monica heads up the steep slopes below the Col des Crochues.


Though the weather was very warm, conditions were still great in the protected Vallon du Bérard.


Stormy weather and very heavy snow conditions thwarted our original plan to stay a night at the Argentière hut, but we had a great day skiing at the Grands Montets. We checked out the slopeside restaurant on the "Variante Hotel" run, very cozy.


For our last outing, again on a very hot day, we took the train into Switzerland to the little ski area above the village of Les Marecottes. Leaving from the top, we skinned and then booted up steep slopes through the Col La Golette. A short but very steep exit to top of the col made us glad we'd brought the crampons and ice ax.


We were rewarded as hoped on the north-facing side of the ridge by some surprisingly good snow!


Endless benches and drops, and we had it all to ourselves!


A short skin along the banks of the Lac de Salanfe and its dam, takes us to a trail and road descending the Vallon de Van.


We stopped for a coffee and tarte at the charming refuge at Van d'en Bas. The hut itself is rustic and beautifully kept up, but Kathy obviously had eyes only for her half-demolished blueberry tarte!


Shortly below the hut we ran out of snow, but were given a lift down the road to Tretien by a local skier/speed rider who had flown above our heads as we skied out!


The village of Le Tretien sits on a steep hillside beside the wild and beautiful Gorges du Triège. It's one of the most quaint of the many hillside villages seen from the Glacier Express train running between Martigny and Chamonix. We enjoyed our stroll between the houses to the little station above the town. We flagged down the train and were soon back enjoying a celebratory beer in Chamonix.