Related Photos

  • Vallone di Verra en route to Ayas hut, Champoluc
  • Vallone di Verra en route to Ayas hut, Champoluc
  • Vallone di Verra en route to Ayas hut, Champoluc
  • The end of a great week in Gressoney
  • Toby Jacobs in Canyon Leisch, Gressoney.
  • The winter room , Val d'Ayas hut
  • Sunset from the Val d'Ayas hut, Champoluc
  • Vallone di Verra en route to Ayas hut, Champoluc
  • Off piste below Monte Sarezza, Champoluc

Superb skiing in Gressoney.

~ Wednesday, 24th March 2010

I spent last week with a talented group of skiers, all keen to spend as much time as possible away from the crowds, off the piste and up in the hills on a tour. What a great week we had.

The first two days were spent around the Gressoney and Alagna Valsesia area, skiing such delightful valleys as the Valle d'olen and the Valle d'Otro. 1700m of descent per run, some skinning and very few others around. The snow was getting baked by a blistering sun, so we had to work the slope angles and aspect as well as we could. Great runs though. A fitting finale to both days was down the Canyon Leisch, nicknamed the James Bond run. Fun skiing in a narrow gorge, not technical, but hiding the odd surprise that kept you on the lookout!!

We set off for a tour on the third day, but a persistently strong northerly brought us to our senses before we got commited. The descent down the Val di Bettolina was a great consolation prize, especially as it had it's own James Bond finish!! The conditions were much finer the following day, so success was had crossing the Passo di Bettolina and down into the upper vallone di Verra. Pockets of soft untracked snow litterd the descent, the price to pay for which was 1100m of ascent to the Val d' Ayas hut, situated at 3400m on the Verra glacier, below Castor and Pollux. What a delight it was to have the winter refuge to ourselves, a glorious sunset, great facilities and star gazing to match anywhere else in the world!!

The glacier wasn't particularly well snow covered so we descended the following morning, quite crusty but a small price for the experience and hit the Champoluc lift system for the afternoon. Clearly the legs weren't tiring, we tore the slopes to pieces, pushing our afternoon pass to the limit and just getting back up to the Colle di Bettaforca before closing time! This lead to a superb descent into the lower Bettolina valley via a narrow steep couloir. Awesome.

The final day dawned brightly again and we headed back to the Champoluc area to ski some of the slopes we saw yesterday. What a great area this is. Below Monte Sarezza we found even more untracked  snow and the remoteness of our adventures was always tamed eventually by the lifts or piste system. The lower Bettolina valley run was a fine end to the week, throwing some mist our way just to keep us awake until the valley floor. A fantastic finale.

Many, many, many thanks go to Rowan, Tom, George, Dave, Toby and Anna for such enthusiasm, energy, friendship and love of the mountains, making this week one to remember for a long time. Salute!!