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Grande couloir

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Iíve skied the 3v for many years but have yet to ski the grande couloir, as I am put off by the ridge approach. Iím interested in any snowHeads experience of the GC, and tips for surviving the ridge Puzzled
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@vaughan, I've not done it but there's a video of the full run here...


http://youtube.com/v/YGtqcnrPQvE
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I have done it a few times, it's the entrance that is the issue for me with drops both sides. Once onto the main slope it is like a black mogulled run but quite wide and with not that many skiers it did not get icy (but that's a few years ago now I live in Tignes in the winter). I do recall walking along the ridge using about 5 or 6 points of contact, which will probably attract dissent from the purists!

That said if you get it all wrong it is a long way to the bottom, we were just about to set off when I spotted a bobble hat near the right hand turn and then a pole so we skied down and collected them, then 2 skis, another pole and a set of shades and gave them back to a gent on the piste below, he had bounced off nearly every bump. He thanked us in a very British accent and said "I think I am going for a brandy, in fact I may have 2!"

That said that could happen on any mogul run.
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@vaughan,

I've skied it quite a lot (worked a season in Courchevel) but not for more than a decade.

I think the ridge is the hardest bit for most people not because it is usually that tricky skiing (on rare occasions it has been in big ugly rutted bumps but that isn't usual) but because of the stress of THINKING they run the risk of disappearing off either side.

The good news is that all the places where you might feel you can fall off are really skiable (if steep) descents - you would be unlucky to hurt yourself if you slip off the side. I've skied them all and once you've done that it reduces the stress but even if you haven't it is good to know.

Technically of course it is all about the usual mogul skiing issue of speed control. Focus on lots of turns with big absorption movements (flex up and down from knee and hip) to keep your skis in contact with snow and avoid being bounced from bump to bump. Once you turn into the couloir itself it is a bit of a relief. The steepest section is also the narrowest one but it isn't long - half a dozen turns or something before the couloir opens out and mellows.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
This may be useful:

http://www.dimple1.demon.co.uk/skiing/saulire.html
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When I started skiing I went to the 3V quite a lot and it was always a bit of an "aspiration". Ironically I did it on a trip to La Plagne. To explain, we were staying in Champagny but had a car so did a day trip to 3V and a day trip to Les Arcs (yes, it was before the Vanoise Express). The day we went to 3V I parked at Le Praz. There was just me and another guy and the snow conditions were very good. There had been recent snowfalls (needed chains on the way up to Champagny) but things had calmed down and the sun was shining. My mate didn't want to do it - so I told him to ski down the piste to underneath the exit to keep a watch for me. If I didn't turn up after half an hour, alert mountain rescue! Going along the ridge gave me a bit of a squeaky bum. When I got to the top proper I happened upon another lone brave soul. He was on bigfoots ski blades!!! Anyhow, we had the run to herself and I enjoyed it immensely. In fact, I did it again. Regretfully I wasn't brave enough to ski Emile Allais or Pylons and they still await my presence to this day.

I am sure GC is much busier these days though I'd hope the ridge and it's inherit commitment keeps it "special". It's not a survival piste IMO. As in I don't remember even alone and relatively inexperienced feeling that vulnerable. But it's certainly a step away from "skiing off the side" and is a good challenge for those progressing to gnarlier terrain.
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Did it a couple of years ago when doing some off-piste tuition with Ski Marmalade. The top is the difficult bit with the narrow sharp edged track before pretty mean moguls afterwards. Not particularly enjoyable but has to be done! Of course differs depending on the snow conditions. Would I do it again - not by choice but if guided that way ..fine.

The instructor said that he saw a guy fall with one ski heading to Meribel and the other into Courchevel. Believe he was okay though!

There is a video of Graham Bell enjoying it.

http://youtube.com/v/OSmW2FjR-a4
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Obviously the day that Graham did it there was decent cover and the conditions seemed easier that we did it when there was no snow for weeks. Lots of other skier whilst non one when we did it.
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Done it a few time and eldest Junior Miss Ansta1 first did it when she was 11/12. Video of the first part below

When conditions are good, it's a great run.


http://youtube.com/v/k8JhtMjnKRs
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@ansta1, you or young un done any of the others?
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hawkesbaynz wrote:

There is a video of Graham Bell enjoying it.

http://youtube.com/v/OSmW2FjR-a4


Just stating the bleedin' obvious but he's a fab skier and makes it all look sooo easy.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Done it twice.

Once with decent snow cover at the start of the week, and once at the end of the same week after no new snow. It was a totally different run.

The "ridge" was nowhere near as difficult as it looks before you set off, but the bumps do grow big pretty quickly after a few days. I think I enjoyed the first two couloirs more; but they were deep and soft when I went down them.
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I didn't think the ridge was that bad; the occaisional snow plough but basically just ski along it. The rest of the run is nice.

Now what is the Peter James novel where the villain directs her new husband to his death down the Meribel side during white out conditions (not that I want to scare anyone; it is only fiction)
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Only done it once. I get vertigo, so the ridge was a 'face your fear' challenge. Rutted and getting mogulled. I felt a fall could be serious. My advice would be don't look down, especially to the left down the Meribel side. Keep looking forward.
Once off the ridge, the couloir was fine. I recall a decent sized rock to navigate around about 1/3rd of the way down, where it narrowed.

Glad I did it and in the right conditions would go again...but wouldn't look down until off that ridge. snowHead
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Ugh, that first bit. I couldn't. Shocked
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Poster: A snowHead
looks nice.

Why didn't Bell just tuck it?
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@ansta1, My feeling is that group shouldn't have been there. Those drop-offs terrified me....or was it just the lens?? No, couldn't do that ridge.
I did Emille Allais 20 yrs ago in nice soft stuff. Poor showing but falls stopped quickly. Remember a nasty rock spike in the middle. Probably I shouldn't have been there either.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Quote:
eldest Junior Miss Ansta1 first did it when she was 11/12.


Pah. My son did it approximately 11.5/12.5 years younger than that. snowHead

The missus was on enforced leave of absence from snowboarding due to being pregnant; but was quite happy doing the GC. I looked at the first 4m and then did the walk of shame.

Wouldn't surprise me if he does it again before I get round to it. Embarassed
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The ridge is a blue run.

The couloir is a fairly short and easyish black.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Whitegold, I can see the ridge isn't a difficult ski, just vertigo-inducing. I can't walk on the arrete start to the Vallee Blanche either. Shudder. Skullie

The Grand Couloir itself looks OK, since it doesn't seem too narrow. I don't mind steep (well, steepish) if there aren't edges to fall off or if there's room to turn.
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Possibly a dumb ass question having not skied it (though have skied quite a few triple-black entrances), but if it gets like an icey, moguly, luge track on the traverse, why does everyone ski down the top of the ridge, and not traverse a line on either side where it is less skied?
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The ridge becomes an issue when it becomes concave so it's not possible to snowplough and side-slipping raises your tips and tails so your feet are off the ground. People still take off down it, careering out of control as their 'fail-safe' snowplough has no effect.
The answer is to ski one of the ridges on either side. Hang your tails out 'over the abyss' allowing a firm footing and then it's straight forward edge control like an easy-peasy sideslip.
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@admin, after you, mate
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@stuarth, because psychologically they are averse to the drops on either side and put themselves in the middle, to be away from them.
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Sure, no probs @Hurtle! That's a plan for than outing at the EoSB then Smile
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I lapped it a few times the last time I was in the 3V, but the entrance ridge was hard snow that had built into a series of steps, loved it!
Back to the OP, if the ridge is like it was in the GB video, you could probably side slide most of it.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Hurtle wrote:
Ugh, that first bit. I couldn't. Shocked


Same.

Brrrrr Shocked

Iíve looked from the top of the cable car and thought ďNOPEĒ.
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Hurtle wrote:
@Whitegold, I can see the ridge isn't a difficult ski, just vertigo-inducing. I can't walk on the arrete start to the Vallee Blanche either. Shudder. Skullie

From my memory (twice on each the GC is a fair amount less intimidating.

The Grand Couloir itself looks OK, since it doesn't seem too narrow. I don't mind steep (well, steepish) if there aren't edges to fall off or if there's room to turn.[/quote]
You would have no problem. Really.
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stuarth wrote:
Possibly a dumb ass question having not skied it (though have skied quite a few triple-black entrances), but if it gets like an icey, moguly, luge track on the traverse, why does everyone ski down the top of the ridge, and not traverse a line on either side where it is less skied?

Because it's steep and more intimidating - and you might trigger an avalanche. And tbh if you can't ski the ridge, icy or not, you probably shouldn't be there.

Plus, if the ridge was so glassed over then you are probably better of skiing something else anyway.
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Farley Goode wrote:
@ansta1, My feeling is that group shouldn't have been there. Those drop-offs terrified me....or was it just the lens?? No, couldn't do that ridge.

To be fair a controlled snow plough through something like that isn't a bad shout and instructors tend to be more laissez faire than the rest of us as they know through experience what you are capable of.
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@vaughan, btw no e.
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Layne wrote:
stuarth wrote:
Possibly a dumb ass question having not skied it (though have skied quite a few triple-black entrances), but if it gets like an icey, moguly, luge track on the traverse, why does everyone ski down the top of the ridge, and not traverse a line on either side where it is less skied?

Because it's steep and more intimidating - and you might trigger an avalanche. And tbh if you can't ski the ridge, icy or not, you probably shouldn't be there.

Plus, if the ridge was so glassed over then you are probably better of skiing something else anyway.


If you are worried about triggering an avalanche by skiing just below the ridge, then you probably shouldn't be skiing the ridge either. Guess it's not quite like here, but would the resort have the traverse closed if that was the case?
Not really a question of whether one is capable of skiing the ridge, was more a question of whether it is feasible to not ski down, but rather to either side of it given that it sucks to ski down icy moguly luge tracks no matter how good (you think) you are - unless you actually are a freestyle mogul competitor, then you might prefer that route Madeye-Smiley Just wondering since people don't necessarily pick the easiest line, just the most obvious, and from the video alone, that looks a viable route (which it may or may not be for some unseen reason)
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?

View from the bottom of the ridge, the reality is that you need to stay on the ridge to maintain height, drop off the ridge and you have a climb back up to enter the couloir. Certainly the day I took this photo, the bits to the side of the ridge don't look inviting.
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@tangowaggon, look inviting to me.e
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under a new name wrote:
@tangowaggon, look inviting to me.e

I didn't have my rock skis on that day
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You can get away with just snowploughing down the worst bits of the ridge - that's what I did when we did it a few years ago Embarassed Lost many points for cool but I like to think I still looked better than the people walking down (or back up!!) the ridge. Maybe?

The actual couloir itself is fine, just big moguls.

The Meribel couloir to the left looked very icy when we did the GC and I wouldn't have fancied heading down it intentionally or otherwise - you could be sliding for a long time and there were some big rocks pointing out. Off to the right had much better cover.
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stuarth wrote:
Guess it's not quite like here, but would the resort have the traverse closed if that was the case?


They avalanche control all the couloirs off the ridge, because they all threaten the pistes below. The avalanche risk will be minimal if the Saulire is open. There is a pisteurs hut at the top, you can ask them for the current conditions.

The ridge isn't fun when it is scralped out, but neither is the grand couloir. I wouldn't ski the grand couloir in marginal conditions (icy moguls) either.
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About 1:10 into this video you will see that the ridge is really just a path
http://youtube.com/v/pgXgxPFNf7E
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@johnE, when you say "just"... Laughing Laughing
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I had a close shave on the ridge about 20 years ago. Bumps were huge and I'd spent the previous two days in bed with a stomach bug. Thought it was a good idea for the Grand Couloir to be my first run after I no longer needed to be in dashing distance of the toilet, so I headed down the ridge with my mad viking friend leading the way. Got my edges tangled up in the bumps and came perilously close to going down the Meribel side of the ridge (one of my skis did drop down the ridge by 20m or so). Turns out it wasn't a good idea to make the Grand Couloir my first run after being unwell, and it was almost optimistic to think that I no longer needed to be in dashing distance of a toilet.
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