Pre-season in Tignes

Words & Photos: Ed Blomfield

Sick of being stuck at my desk in London while reports of epic early season snow rolled in, I found a cheap flight to Geneva last weekend and drove to Tignes with a longtime riding buddy. It was dumping hard when we arrived (we had to fit snow chains as far down the road as Bourg St. Maurice) so took refuge in the Couloir bar as the snow flurries continue to blow past outside. There were only a handful of seasonaires in the bar since the season has yet to start in earnest.

The next morning we awoke in our matchbox apartment to that familiar feeling of dehydration that comes with altitude. You always forget that – it was like I’d swallowed a few packets of silica gel out of a shoe box! The snow was still coming down hard so we spent the day building a dodgy ass quarterpipe against a mountain hut. Sorry, no photos – it was a whiteout. The evening was spent at the opening party of the Loop bar with a few rounds of pool, while the designated driver did a few donuts in the snow-covered carpark on the way home (sooo much fun!).

Sunday dawned bluebird, and we had ourselves an amazing day doing laps of the funicular towards the Grande Motte. The view from the top was amazing, check out the shots:

Check out the UFO over Mt. Blanc!

To be honest I couldn’t believe my luck scoring a powder day in November. OK there were a few rocks lurking under some of the turns but nothing board-destroying. The only downer was that the cable car up to the very top of the glacier wasn’t open due to the snow and wind. Have a look at that empty piste just waiting to be hammered! The powder fields just to the side were even more tempting, but alas they were out of reach.

Still, we had a great laugh hitting some pow lines further down towards the tongue of the glacier and lapping the Tichot chairlift:

Paul Lang, long-time Tignes seasonaire

Mick Warren, another Tignes veteran.

The snow-cannons were fired up already….

Langer busts out a ‘smokescreen’.

Andy Shanks – a.k.a Decoy (Tignes’ favourite DJ) – makes the most of the empty slopes.

Mick’s a short guy, so it doesn’t take much snow for him to be balls deep…

Snow blows over the ridge near the ‘Spanish Couloir’

As you can see it was seriously cold. Winter has definitely arrived!

Monday morning was another whiteout, and thanks to some typically efficient French customer service it took over half an hour to get a lift ticket. A few more pow turns and the thought of everyone back in the office in London soon cleared the anger though. As we were leaving resort, bound for the airport and our evening flight, the clouds parted and we found ourselves having to turn our backs on this bluebird afternoon. Gutted!

‘The Fingers’, one of the best set of couloirs anywhere. You get a great view of these from the Dragon Lodge.

This is a rare sight – no lines on this classic Tignes powder run. You can be sure it won’t look like this later in the season once the lifts are open.

On the way down the valley snow was still covering the road all the way to Bourg. In fact there was snow on the fields and hills right through Albertville and into Annecy. The landscape had that beautiful, misty look after a storm, with a dusting of white on the trees. The clouds were stunning too…

Lake Annecy

So that was that: back to the airport and a short hop back to grimey London. Anyone reading this with a bit of holiday to use up should seriously think about going out for pre-season, there’s tonnes of snow right now and the slopes are completely empty. If you’re anything like me then it probably feels like forever since you last went riding – in which case a long weekend in the Alps is the perfect way to relight the fire. You’ll come back feeling like a new person, seriously.


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