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Grand Massif 14 - 22 Feb 2020

 Poster: A snowHead
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I did a daily TR for my lads stag week in January to Sauze D’Oulx but this week it’s family ski time in Grand Massif based in Samoens. I’ll try to give daily updates on the trip in general and conditions etc for those interested who might be coming out in due course.

This is our fifth visit to the area having previously stayed in Samoens and Morillon. First impression of our accommodation which I booked back in September on AirBnB is fantastic. Got a wonderful view of the village and mountains. There is zero snow in the valley and it’s like a proper spring day. Could easily go walking in shorts T-shirt and light fleece. It’s very weird for February.

Drive down overnight from Calais was drama free, relatively light traffic but bloody hell im tired now. Done this drive a few times now and I think this will be my last overnighter in one stint drive. Getting too old and my plan to ski today is out the window as too fatigued. Never mind though we’ve got all our kit unpacked been shopping had lovely breakfast at Les Tartines de Martine in Samoens and I’m now chilling with a drink and will have a wee snooze whilst Mrs J and teenager are out for a walk. Missing eldest this year as she’s at Uni. Our first ever holiday without her and have to say I’m missing her badly already. It won’t be the same skiing without her but there’s always next time I guess.

Forecast for the week seems sunny mainly but heavy rain on Monday which could smash the lower slopes to Les Esserts 1100 so fingers crossed temps drop and FL comes down too. Don’t hold much hope of that though.

I’ll try to post a few photos from around the area each day too. Cheers for now
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Not quite sure why they’ve come out on their side but anyhoo gives you an idea of current situation. Every time I’ve been here in Feb before all you can see in these photos would be snow covered.
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Thanks for taking the time to report..
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Well where to start? What an odd day. The oddest of odd days I’ve had I think, at least in February it’s quite difficult to get the conditions round ones head.
Got to the GME at 0830 coz website says that’s the first lift and I couldn’t remember from last time, lift didn’t open until 0850 but to be fair it only took about 15 minutes to queue which I thought would be longer given the crowd assembled.

So we hopped in to our gondola with another family but with one spare seat so the lifty rightly shouts for a solo skier to get in, big talk bloke jumps in no problem makes sense only he doesn’t fully get in and has his left foot still out and the door starts closing. His left foot hets trapped under door and platform and is now dragging him out so I lean out and shout to the lifty to stop which they did but not nearly as quickly as the bloke would have liked. Trusted his knee up and if not for wearing a ski boot I suspect his foot might have been badly mangled or crushed.

Get off at the top to be greeted by a stiff wind and hot sun. First snow looks beautiful but is granular and slushy already but plenty good enough for now.
Top of têtes des saix wind is howling and I’m thinking better keep an eye out for that closing. Ski down into Morillon all good bit hard packed bit slushy bit icy bit of everything really but first run good and quiet too.

Bergin lift up did the red to the right as you exit lift and this was the best run of the day. Snow was lovely in shade mainly quiet and just bloody good.

Thought we’d take a go at marvel as it reminds teenager of when she was tiny. Dis it once won’t be coming back again just not worth it. Then we get to Esserts 1100 and it is absolutely trashed. More grass and mud than snow. How they’ve kept it open is a miracle!

Up Sairon and down into the Carroz sector. Soft slushy moguls on mostly everything and lunatics skiing way to fast for their ability and the conditions. Why do people not realise that when there are moguls and mounds of loose slush that beginners especially like to take their time and ski around said humps and need more space and time to plot their route? Idiots. Saw lots of unnecessary accidents today involving teenagers mainly going to fast. Didn’t bother going all the way down to Kedeuze as just not worth the aggro.

Had lovely lunch of croc monsieur and goat cheese salad at the restaurant towards the bottom of Plein Soleil timalets run.

To get back up to Samoens had to travel Marmottes and down Blanchots to the têtes des saix chair. Horrendous. Ten year of kid flew down way to fast and clattered in to me stood literally on the piste edge with daughter allowing Mrs J to catch up. Fortunately he saw me and bailed out just before full collision. He would have come off worse, a lot worse. I picked him up sorted his skis for him asked him to slow down and be careful. He parents just stared at us like we were from Mars not a word of anything. Dismay commenced! Then the bottom section was as mogulled and busy as any piste I’ve seen. It was horrible. So busy and still with idiots flying down. You see loads of parents like penguins herding and shadowing their young ones down safely to avoid idiots.

Top of Têtes the wind was HOWLING and they closed the lift. Chariande up from Samoens also closed. Perce neige top half zero snow, I mean zero snow. All blown off it was boiler plate ice. Carefully wound our way down to the GME on quite pleasant blues.

Got to bottom and lifty gives me ski which a child had dropped somewhere in front. I say yep no probs coz undoubtedly any sensible child would just wait at the top of the chair up to Club Med and expect next riders to arrive with her ski? No I was wrong. She had just walked off carrying one ski. We spot her about 20 meters away and I shush up hill after her calling out. Eventually she turns and I hand the ski to what should be a relieved teenager. She takes it and doesn’t say a word in any language. Her mother shouts to the father who is a further 20m on “nous avons trouvé le ski” and they start walking away. Now I’m not fluent in french but I’m pretty good having lived here for year so we have some very strong words about saying thank you and being polite and still not a word of thanks. I wish I’d thrown it over the cliff! Dismay and annoyance well set in now.

Queues for GME back into town was as big as I’ve seen but lifties were doing a great job of filling every car and it moved swiftly. 17° c at 1600metres today. It was hot! The queues have been pretty big and unpleasant at times. I said to Mrs J who works in a school that we have to find a way to ski in term time next year. I don’t think I can keep trying to enjoy this. I could fill pages on the Chairlift Etiquette thread just from today.

I think this must read a bit negatively but I must add we’ve still had a lovely day skiing together as a family. Teenager skied beautifully, I described it to her as very easy on the eye! Mrs J was nervous and a bit jittery but overall skied we’ll only fell once and enjoyed as she says pottering about.

See what tomorrow brings. There is talk at the lift office when we returned to the car park of lifts being closed tomorrow as the weather forecast is heavy rain even up top and high wind. We’ll see I guess. But we are expecting a short day if any skiing at all.

Arrivederci for now more tomoz folks
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Jeez that was a long post! Sorry folks got bit carried away Embarassed
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@jirac18, thanks for the updates - keep them coming! Shame about the unpleasant company.
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Thanks for the updates. We are not there until 6th March getting worried that there’ll be no snow low down by then unless there’s a decent top up which doesn’t look likely given the temps it all seems to be falling as rain and trashing the lower areas. Shame as Sairon into les esserts is my favourite run. Do you have plans to ski Flaine? Would be interesting to see how the snow is up high.
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@snowmam, yes we’ll do Flaine Wednesday I expect. Sadly if there is no fresh snow and lots of I think the run into 1100 will be unmanageable by then. There is no real decent snow here in my opinion below the Bergin chair so I guess that’s at about 1300 metres top of my head. And what there is being smashed by the two weeks of half term.
They are clearly working hard to retain what there is and manage the pistes as best they can but whilst being no snow guru this is as bad as I’ve seen let alone for February. Sorry can’t bring better news will try to be as positive as I can and it is still possible to have a great holiday it’s just a bit hard work at the moment. Sad
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marmottes last section was mad last week, I can only imagine the chaos this week! I expect the runs from tete des saix to vernant lift and tourmaline will also be crazy. we found that once in flaine the traffic thinned considerably and we barely queued at all. the snow in flaine was great on Friday, hopefully it's holding up.
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sairon into esserts is a great run, and still is right up to the last pitch, only there does it really turn to mud, it was very soft below bergin but fun spring conditions, not unpleasant! even if no snow comes, if the FL drops they will be blasting it, Wednesday last week the cannons were on all night right up to 8.30am, then it rained all day Thursday and washed it away Sad
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@jirac18, thanks for these updates. I hope FL lowers and things look a little less muddy for you and fellow skiers are a little more polite as your week continues Cool ...
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@jirac18, thanks for these updates. I hope FL lowers and things look a little less muddy for you and fellow skiers are a little more polite as your week continues Cool ...
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The snow conditions under approx 1800 metres were pretty poor on Sat so I’m not surprised it’s not v good. It’s v warm in the valley tonight so won’t be any freeze thaw cycle and tomorrow sounds like a washout.

However the rain is forecast to turn to snow late pm higher up so Tuesday should be a blast.

When it’s like this higher is generally better so worth getting over to Flaine and up to Grand Platieres. You do however have to brave Tourmalet piste to get there which is busy and not nice to ski on when the conditions are poor like now.

If you fancy a break from the half term madness I can highly recommend getting up to the col de joux plane for some snow shoeing. A ski bus goes from GME. Beautiful and quiet.

Hope the snow line is as low as possible tomorrow and you get a great day Tuesday.
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(Imagine soft Geordie voice) Day two in the Grand Massif house.

(You go back to Devonian accent now)

Hopped in the car drove to the GME car park for first lift. Queue was ridiculous at least 4x yesterday. Decided to change it up and parked next to Reposette at Vercland as despite being here over quite a few years we’ve never used this lift. Queue was small and moved quickly to the antique metal baked bean cans of gondola cars. It was so retro it was nice and absolutely stress free. Hopped off in no time at Samoens above 1600 Club Med. So glad we did this.

Overcast overhead but sun trying to brighten. Temp gauge at Chariande was 14° at 0900. Up to Têtes des Saix still blooming windy and we thought that with the high wind and rain forecast the likelihood of the top lifts closing was high. Sure enough all links to Flaine closed so we decided to ski as long as we could before the rain just in Samoens sector. It was actually really good fun. The chair lift queues were heavy but completely different in character to yesterday. Everyone seemed chilled and moved along nicely without any buffeting or drama. We did loops of the blues and red either side of Samoens and as we got back to the bottom of Chariande the rain came around 1300 hrs.

Upto the top on the chair and down to Vercland in the 15th century bubbles! Hot footed across the road for a few drinks and some of the absolute best Nachos and onion rings you’ll ever taste in your life at Reposette. The staff were super friendly, the owner is Dutch and his staff are a mix of french Dutch and English and I must say it absolutely crowned a good half day skiing. Bloody loved in there!

We met a guy called Mathias who has his own one man band ski touring and trekking business. He was having lunch and showed me his website which looked very good. He offers guiding snow shoeing either half day or full with a stop at a chalet of a friend where they do a fondue lunch etc. His links are
Rando-observations.com and école de ski 360.com tel 33 0680875279 if anyone’s interested. I’ve not used his service but he seemed a really nice fella so said I’d give him a plug on SH.

A lot of people came down about an hour after the rain started and to be smug for a second every single one looked like they wished they had come down an hour earlier and were drenched. I’ve only once gotten drenched skiing and vowed never again hence our planning to finish when we did.

So the snow. It was okay off the top of Têtes down to Dahu. We took the red Marmotte down rather than the blue initially and was better. The pisteurs had done a grand job overnight and to them I doff my cap. All the runs were a mix of soft spring conditions but really enjoyable.

The rain has well and truly landed in the valley. I worry for the conditions down to 1100 morillon but if and it’s a big if the temp can drop later and it snows up top then tomorrow could be good in places.

Had a great half day, can’t control the weather so we’ll roll with it. Having a few drinks and some nice food at our chalet this afternoon and evening and see what tomorrow brings.
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Glad you had a better day. I’ve snow shoed with Mathias before - he is a v cool guy and I can recommend.
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View from gondola up from Vercland to Samoens 1600
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View from gondola up from Vercland to Samoens 1600
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Just to give Mathias a proper plug...

https://www.rando-observation.com/?lang=en

https://ecoledeski360.com/en/
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@albob, Very Happy
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We stayed in Vercland 1st-8th Feb last year tons of snow skied home every evening right down to the edge of the road and our chalet was right there. What a difference this year!!
Had great food and drinks in Le Reposette so can second your recommendation. Great staff.
Boo to the rain wish the jet stream would just shift a bit farther south and let the cold air move down so it would fall as snow.
Thanks for the updates hopefully temps will drop.
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It really does need the temp to drop and stay below freezing to consolidate what snow there is. Looks like there was a dusting certainly of a few centimetres last night. It rained heavily at times in the valley until well into the night. This morning is white out fog so I can’t see from the chalet what it looks like and what height the snow line was but the webcams are showing clear sky above this fog and trees clearly have snow on them and there’s even a dusting on hut roofs at 1100m. It’s clearly not what was needed but better than nothing.

I’ll drop an update later. We’re a bit slow getting up and ready this morning so won’t be up top until probably 1000h but hope to bring you some better news shortly.
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1600 at 9.30 today. I’d say about 6 maybe 8 cm fresh on cars parked at 1600. We’ve just done tetes down to molliets and then down to La cupesse at carroz. Pistes are so so much better but hard packed and icy in places. It’ll do for today and next couple I guess if it stays cold. Temp around 2°c now
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Really good day but just so busy most everywhere. The snow overnight was an absolute god send! Every run we’ve done today has had some nice snow. The icy patches are still there especially on homeward runs later in the day but predominantly conditions were good.

We had planned to go to Flaine but the queue at the chair was huge so we did the green down to Vernant then the Portet blue down to molliets. From the top of molliets down to La Cupesse restaurant was really nice and then we went back down to bottom of Molliets and the têtes des saix lifts which were closed due to an avi. Reopened but queue took about half an hour to get going so not ideal but understandable.

From the top we skied down into Morillon sector. Perce Neige busy and a bit crazy as always and there was thick fog. The run down to Chalet Clair and top of sairon was very hard packed and rutted. Mind your edges when straight lining for the flat and uphill bits!

Sairon Biollaires were actually excellent. Very well pisted and nice snow on top. We then did a loop around Bergin lift several times as it was very quiet over lunch and Igloo restaurant was packed in the sunshine. We thought best to ski while quiet and glad we did then halted bit later for a drink and some frites at Chalet Clair.

To get back to Samoens we decided to try Chars down to Coulouvrier chair. Top and mid section was nice enough but icy but the bottom quarter was horrendous. I’m trying to recall a time where I’ve seen so many people either crashing into each other of just catching skis on huge piles of slush and falling over. It was like there was nowhere to turn safely at points and very congested. Good thing was it was all slow speed incidents and at points almost comical. Fog at the top was very thick around 3.45pm.

We did the blue Dahu back down to the button lift by Chariande. Took the button upto the car park at the far end of Samoens 1600 and drove back down to chalet. We remarked on what a beautiful drive down it was, still lots of snow on trees and even still some ground snow just before Vercland.

We discussed which mode of getting to and from the snow we preferred over the three days and drive won as we decided it meant no gondola queue whatsoever and it was nice to not queue right off the bat nor to descend. So I think over the next days we will probably do a mix of drive upto 1600 or Vercland. We plan to have dinner straight off the slopes at Reposette one of the days for sure. Look forward to going back in there.

Current temp around Vercland was showing 0°C at 4.30pm and 2°c in Samoens. Forecast locally seems to be some light snow to fairly low levels tomorrow morning. Didn’t go down as far as 1100 Esserts so can’t vouch for conditions there today but the snow of last night certainly made today a really good day. Needs more though
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Top of têtes des saix looking towards Flaine


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Tue 18-02-20 17:20; edited 1 time in total
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Half way down red to Bergin chair. Best run of the week so far


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Tue 18-02-20 17:21; edited 1 time in total
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Snow on trees in case you’d forgotten what that looks like
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You know it makes sense.
Anyone know why my images have started appearing on their side? Not a big deal but bit awkward to view in thread I guess.
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Arrived today into Samoens (two days late; looking at you EasyJet)...looking forward to getting out on the snow tomorrow.
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@jirac18, If you go to snowMedia zone and select an image to 'edit' - you can then flip/move the image to suit (no idea why they are on their side tho'..)
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@jirac18, nice to read your report. We regularly go to the area in January each year and have mentioned on here more than once that La Reposette is a cracking place to finish the day Very Happy
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Snowing quite hard in Samoens as of 8am this morning.
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@chemistry, forecast to continue for the morning which will be welcome! If nothing else we’ll be able to home having seen the village covered in snow like it should be and of course it’s much needed for the slopes for the rest of half term and those coming out next week.
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Beautiful snow. So nice to see in the village instead of all the rain we have had this season.
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What a cracking day! Probably haven’t clocked up masses of miles but what we’ve done was brilliant.

I posted on another thread this morning my reservations about skiing today in poor viz but I’m so glad that actually spurred me on to get at it.

We drove to Morillon and took the gondola up to 1100. Everything was snow covered from village up and it was throwing it down with proper big fat snow.

Chair up to top of Morillon and we just did loops all day on Sairon, Biollaires and Bergin lifts.

Did loads of off piste runs in knee and shin deep fresh snow with teenage daughter. She did way better than me today but we both loved it. Even Mrs J the nervous skier did a couple of off piste sections linking pistes just to say she’d done it and it was great to see!

Pistes were very hard packed and even glassy icy in places below Bergin especially into Les Esserts. But anything higher was fantastic.

Temperatures have stayed low and it hasn’t really stopped snowing all day albeit at time quite fine icy snow. It’s given everything such a boost but the sun is back tomorrow so it won’t be a big game changer as the half term masses who opted out today will be out in force tomorrow.

We didn’t have to queue at all today other than the first chair at 1100m but that was literally just a couple of minutes only.

As I sit looking out over Samoens now it looks picture postcard still with a covering down to the village which will no doubt disappear tomorrow.

Hope everyone else had a good day in the fresh of GM!

Oh we had lunch at Igloo, can’t say enough good things about those guys there. What a brilliant restaurant with impeccable staff and service as always!!
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Hi really good to read your updates from Samoens. Am brand new to snowheads, we are here in Samoens, first time. It is BUSY! Such a shame as we like it here, but have sadly decided not again for Feb half term Sad did 2 yrs previously at Morillion, both Feb half term, no probs. This year seems crazy. Liking the website, looking for restaurant tips having done v well so far on home food!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@The Jamo’s, busiest I’ve ever seen the GM, especially Samoens. Slopes in Morillon definitely quieter although still very busy at times
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glad you finally got some snow!

i wonder if the business is to do with which areas of france are on holiday which weeks? we were there last week and the same week last year and it was definitely notably quieter this year. I thought maybe people made last minute decisions where to go, but maybe the regions on holiday my week this year are more non-skiing areas? pretty sure they rotate which regions get which weeks.
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@The Jamo’s, welcome to Snowheads. The difference this year is that UK half term clashes with the the two busiest French holiday regions for skiing, Paris and Marseille. Last year UK half term was at the same time as Marseille and 'the rest', which would have made it quieter and next year is Paris and 'the rest' which should also be quieter. Incredibly useful chart for planning is here:
https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=139730

I've also been told that in really good snow years the canny French opt for lower/smaller/cheaper areas so that also affects how busy the GM is.
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