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How to gauge if I'm I ready to ski off piste? Val D'sere and Tignes - Page 2

post #31 of 53

Yeah, the decision to rent is really based on the hassle of carrying the extra baggage around the airports you'll be going through. On the way over to Geneva, you're probably going to have an overnight flight that arrives mid-morning local time. If you can't manage to get much sleep on the plane, then you're probably not going to be in the mood to drag a ski bag around.

 

And on the way back, if you have a connecting flight within the US, they make you pick up your baggage after you go through passport control and then drag it over to another baggage check. So, it really just depends if your preference for your own skis outweighs the hassle of carrying them around.

 

The shops in the Alps tend to have a good selection, and rental prices aren't too bad. So, I usually recommend just bringing your boots and renting the skis. The shops should be able to find something that works for you, and you shouldn't have too much of a hassle swapping if you're not happy.

post #32 of 53

Be aware that service in French rental shops can be variable - know what you want and don't get fobbed off with any old rubbish which can occur if you aren't assertive.  It's nothing personal they sometimes just treat all tourists with arrogance verging on contempt.

post #33 of 53

I spent last season at Espace Killy, though mostly on the Tignes side. EK is snow sure because it's so high up, but Jan 27th to Feb 4th is an excellent time to be there because you'll definitely have a great base built up and it's not a week the French has school holidays (which start the week after). Pretty much the only time we encountered lines was during those holiday weeks, and even then, the lift system is pretty well designed and distributed so traffic dissipates quickly and efficiently. There will probably be lines at the base right around 9 in the morning when lessons start, but that'll dissipate in 30 minutes.

 

The place I most often encountered lines was the Solaise Express chair, and that's being replaced with something higher capacity next season so it shouldn't be an issue as much. The terrain variety is huge, both on- and off-piste. Even if you were to stay on-piste, it would be a huge challenge to ride every run even just once. Definitely visit both glaciers and check out Tignes as well.

 

The bus network in Val is great (every 5 minutes). It's ok in Tignes at the main resort (Lac <-> Val Claret, 15 minutes). There's a bus to take you back to your own resort just after lifts close, but otherwise you're better off skiing between the two resorts. All shuttles are free.

 

TDC is excellent, and I had something like 20 days of instruction from them with 5 instructors last season. On-piste, off-piste, they were great and highly recommended. They're more expensive than ESF or Evo2, but I feel you get what you pay for.

 

Off-piste works differently than in North America, in that only the runs are avalanche controlled. As soon as you step beyond the piste poles, you're responsible for your own safety. I think we had two avalanche deaths last year. A few years prior there was a fatal avalanche some 20ft away from a groomed piste. Until you have your own avalanche gear and know how to use it, I would keep to the piste unless you're with an instructor. TDC provides all of the equipment and are serious about your safety off-piste. You can't say the same for the ESF where we saw many cases of a big group without any gear whatsoever led by someone from the ESF who would shoot off first and leave their students to fend for themselves in avalanche country.

 

Off-piste lessons are very dependant on the snow. Someone mentioned that there aren't as many powder days as in North America and that's true. If you time it right, it'll be magical. If not, it'll still be good but very different than in fresh. The instructors know where to find good snow even when it looks like it's been skiied out (which the easier stuff will be by like 10am). Definitely morning lessons. Better snow and you won't be as tired. The more tired you are the more your technique suffers. Remember also that EK is a high alpine resort, with terrain above 3000m. You may need to take it a bit easier the first few days.

 

As for lift etiquette, there's usually not anyone directly traffic, as it were. Those of the lifts are quads or bigger (6s are very common). There aren't any singles lines, so you may as well move up together, especially if it's just the two of you. I've jumped on a chair at the last minute plenty of times and noone has said anything. Expect to hear more English than French, for better or worse.

 

For starting and ending your day, depends on if you're doing a lesson or not. If you are, you won't have much choice. On your free days, I would head out as far from the base of Val to explore. Head out to the Val glacier first thing one morning, for the best views in all of EK. Great intermediate skiing there. Then start to head slowing back and spend some time along the lifts you encounter. Spend another day going up to the Tignes glacier and lifts around there. Another day exploring down to les Brevieres in Tignes. As long as you end up back on the Val side when the lifts close, you're golden. The home return to Val is something of a weak point for many people. Coming down from the Belevarde your options are either Face, which is a steep black run, or the blue Santons which is often closed in the afternoon and really busy when it's not. Returning to la Daille and taking the shuttle is often a better choice.

 

Val is the main base for TDC, so they should be able to match you up with a group near your abilities. Call them, they're friendly. Enjoy your time off-piste with the instructor, and there's tons to ride on-piste as well.

 

Edit: We had our share of low-visibility days, but usually you can head up, or down, or to another part of the resort to avoid it. Check the webcams.

post #34 of 53


When going off piste for the first time hire some mid fat skis about 84mm wide underfoot as you will fall over less due to them being wider than on piste skis. They will take a bit of getting used to on piste though but that width is my choice for both on and off piste excluding powder conditions where going wider in width is even better. Good luck.

post #35 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

@CerebralVortex : Thanks for checking! For some reason, Val D'Isere website mentioned lifts close at 15:30, which I think it is a bit early (?).  Unless lifts have different closing time? 

 

I found a couple of paper maps at home with the closing times. The lifts have staggered closing times starting with some of the higher or more remote lifts and ending with the links between the two sides of the ski area. So, at the height of winter, the cable car on the Grande Motte glacier really does close at 3:30, but most of the lifts close much later. And, they start extending the opening hours around the last weekend of January.

 

So during the time that you're going to be there, the GM cable car should be closing at 4:00, a couple of other lifts will be closing at 4:15, most of the lifts will be closing around 4:30-4:45, and the links between the two sides should be open until 5:00. When you're making your way back from Tignes, you only need to get as far as la Daille. When you get to the base there, you should only have to wait a few minutes for the next shuttle going to the main part of town.

post #36 of 53
Thread Starter 

@CerebralVortex : thanks for the f/u reply.  Closing time at 5 p.m. makes better sense because ECF ski school afternoon session finishes at 5 pm.  

 

 

@bunnybunny : when you skied at L'Espace Killy, did you ski w/ a group or solo?  Reason I am asking, (as I mentioned in my previous post), what's your advice if my nephew and I get separated half way as we ski down on a run?  The place is massive, for on-piste skiing, will it work if we just wait at the lift (if we get separated)?  

 

I am thinking of bringing a walkie talkie (28 mile range), but I think someone said in prior post that walkie talkie in Europe is not allowed?  Is cell phone my only option?  

post #37 of 53

I've skied both solo and in a group, and the sign-posting is generally very good. Meeting at the bottom of a particular lift usually works really well, with a backup plan of "let's meet at this particular place for lunch at 1 if we lose each other" in case getting more or less completely separated in the morning, or "let's meet back home at 6 if we lose each other" for the afternoon. I heard predominantly English race teams with walkie talkies, along with some backcountry guides so it's definitely an option. Presumably French locals just used their mobiles. Cell coverage is good.

post #38 of 53
I concur that you should not bother bringing your starter skis. Just bring your boots and rent in Europe. Rental cars in Europe are tiny and if taking the train to the resort it is tricky to drag you gear onto the train.

Ski rental in Europe is really cheap compared to the us. They stick the largest gear allowing to to get a carving ski when it's not snowing and something wider when it does. I also doubt a 140 entry level ski will be any use off piste. You need something longer and wider.

I'd suggest you take some lessons in the US before you head over there to help get you ready. Be pending on the ski school and some instructors in Europe won't take you off piste. You may need to ask if your instructor is also guide certified.
post #39 of 53

To cover a couple of your questions, yes walkie talkies will work. They send out their own signal. Yes rent skis if you still think you want to spend time OP as beginner skis are not stiff enough for broken up crud. Just be honest about your ability level when you rent. If from the previous comments you realized that you there is plenty of groomed to keep you busy then take your own skis, and just venture off the groomed and back on where the conditions make it easy. That's how we all got started. Hope to see you at the WB gathering and hear about your trip.Have Fun  Al

post #40 of 53

Val d'Isere/Tigne is a fantastic resort area.  It is my favorite resort in the Alps and you will have a great time there. 

 

You should know that Val d'Isere is large and has much more piste skiing than American resorts.  As a result, there is no reason to go off-piste if you don't feel comfortable.  The European ski areas are vast and you will have plenty of trails to ski all week long without any fear of boredom.  There is a lot of suitable intermediate terrain at Val d'Isere and Tignes.

 

Now, Val d'Isere has some of the best lift-served off-piste skiing in the Alps so it is a great opportunity to do so.

 

There are several very good off-piste ski schools available - TDC and Alpine Experience among them.  I think I used Mountain Masters and Oxygene when I was there and I recommend both.  You really don't need to worry about your experience level because they will assess your skills and then take you in a suitable off-piste area for your skill set.  You just need to explain to them what you are looking to get out of your guide and what you would like to experience.

 

So, don't worry about your ski ability and let them deal with it, that is why you are paying them.  

 

Make sure to ski Valle Perdue/The Lost Valley when you are there.  It is a really memorable experience and a good intermediate should be fine on the trail.  Here it is on Youtube:

 

post #41 of 53

An option to consider for the future is Club Med, especially if you find you really like the off-piste but also find that a week of off-piste lessons is expensive to book (not sure how much they run these days).  I stayed at the Club Med in Tignes, and the one-week package included five (IIRC) days of full-day lessons which, at the upper levels, took you off-piste.  [You'll of course want to confirm that this is still the case.] Just to give you a picture, when I was there the second-highest level class went off-piste, but it wasn't serious off-piste.  The skiers in that class didn't go that fast (most of the skiers there weren't that proficient in powder), so it would be easier to keep up with. [This was in the days before powder skis!] There was a big jump between that and the highest-level class, which went fully off-piste (using the trails only to access the off-piste and return to the hotel), issued avalanche beacons to each skier, and skied pretty fast, especially on the traverses (diving right into the chutes off the traverses without pause).  

 

The one issue you might have is that it sounds like you're an intermediate, and thus would probably be in a lower level class than the lower of the two I described, at least until you increase your proficiency, and I'm not sure the extent to which an intermediate Club Med class would venture into the off-piste (it might depend on class preference, including how adventurous they were).  You'd need to ask Club Med about this.  

 

Also, the clientele at Tignes was mostly French, so it helps if you speak the language, but it's not a requirement.


Edited by chemist - 9/5/16 at 2:12pm
post #42 of 53

To go back to the OP's original question, "How to gauge if I'm I ready to ski off piste? Val D'sere and Tignes".  You say in the very first sentence of your  first post, "I've never done any off piste skiing.  I am comfortable with (easy) groomed Blues in Alta, Snowbird, WB, SSV, LL."

 

I have skied Val d'Isere/Tignes many times, and with all due respect, you do not sound like a person who is ready to launch off-piste at Val on her own with her nephew in tow. For someone of your apparent ability level, you would almost certainly have a much better time signing up for a guided off-piste experience such as Mountain Masters (ask for Alain Ledoux) or whatever other service is au courant. They will gauge your ability level, keep you safe, and show you more and varied skiing than you would likely find on your own.

post #43 of 53
Relying on low end two way radios in the Alps would be a huge mistake. You can easily get into different valleys where you would not be able to work. Cell phones would more likely work but signal strength may be an issue as well.
post #44 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by chemist View Post
 

An option to consider for the future is Club Med, especially if you find you really like the off-piste but also find that a week of off-piste lessons is expensive to book (not sure how much they run these days).  I stayed at the Club Med in Tignes, and the one-week package included five (IIRC) days of full-day lessons which, at the upper levels, took you off-piste.  

 

I've done the Club Med ski week at Les Arcs.  I was blown away the first day at lunch time when the waiters were lined up in their tuxedos with foie gras and champagne outside the lodge where you take off your skis.  You simply took off your skis and were handed your hors d'oeuvres and drink before you even got into the lodge!

 

What a way to experience your skiing.  I loved it.  The ski instruction was nothing to write home about but they were effective as guides to take you around the mountain.  

 

Unfortunately, the Club Med experience is pretty expensive so you need to have the discretionary income to partake.

post #45 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marathoner View Post
 

 

I've done the Club Med ski week at Les Arcs.I was blown away the first day at lunch time when the waiters were lined up in their tuxedos with foie gras and champagne outside the lodge where you take off your skis.  You simply took off your skis and were handed your hors d'oeuvres and drink before you even got into the lodge!

 

What a way to experience your skiing.  I loved it.  The ski instruction was nothing to write home about but they were effective as guides to take you around the mountain.    

 

Unfortunately, the Club Med experience is pretty expensive so you need to have the discretionary income to partake.

Hunh, no tuxedos or foie gras when I was at Tignes -- sounds like they've upgraded!  I actually wasn't that impressed with the food (when I was there) compared to that at a typical three-star French ski hotel (more cafeteria/buffet-style, and without as fine a selection of the local cheeses) (again, yours sounds fancier), but it was still a great experience.  I just did a price comparison, and I can see what you mean about the expense.   For a week starting Feb. 5 (prime skiing time), it's $1232 (pp/do) at Club Med Les Arcs including lift, lodging, food, and 5 full-day lessons.  You can get all that but no lessons staying at Le Golf (3-star hotel) for only $479/week (pp/do).  And it looks like you can buy 5 full-day lessons for $560, which is still less than Club Med (and if you're not going to do the lessons, Club Med becomes much more expensive by comparison).  It's impressive how inexpensively one can ski in Europe vs. in the US (though I assume Les Arcs is less expensive than the big-name resorts like VDI, Trois Vallees, Zermatt, etc.).


Edited by chemist - 9/6/16 at 10:09pm
post #46 of 53

well late to the party here...

 

off piste is very different to the US... its just free mountain vs controlled entrance patrolled mountain that is not groomed...

 

Val and Tignes has everything so you literally can pick on any given day what type of skiing on the snow and weather...

 

Low vis days are killer as there are very little trees except in some areas.... snow days in SLC are the best days...

 

Its funny i am heading back to Tignes Val Claret for new years and i ski every year in SLC... Val and TIgnes is far bigger and you will be pleasantly surprised how much better the lifts are in Europe... all the so called fast quads at Alta are nothing compared to the 8s or gondolas in Val....

 

I have not had lessons since i was 9 then just done race training so cant really help you there...

 

i have a few trip reports from there but here is last years one - http://www.epicski.com/t/146439/val-disere-france-new-years-2015-16

post #47 of 53

If you have to ask, you aren't ready. 

post #48 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ske-Bum View Post
 

If you have to ask, you aren't ready. 

Not so. There are people whose ability exceeds their confidence and people whose confidence exceeds their ability. And a very few folks whose ability and confidence match. People in the first group need encouragement to push their limits. And in Europe, as in NA there is a wide variety of off piste. The Vallee Blanche can be safely skied by a guided intermediate and he or she will enjoy most of it (not looking down when crossing a snow bridge helps). OTOH skiing the other way off the Aiguille du Midi would not be such a good idea for an intermediate, or advanced skier, or a lot of experts.

post #49 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post
 

Not so. There are people whose ability exceeds their confidence and people whose confidence exceeds their ability. And a very few folks whose ability and confidence match. People in the first group need encouragement to push their limits. And in Europe, as in NA there is a wide variety of off piste. The Vallee Blanche can be safely skied by a guided intermediate and he or she will enjoy most of it (not looking down when crossing a snow bridge helps). OTOH skiing the other way off the Aiguille du Midi would not be such a good idea for an intermediate, or advanced skier, or a lot of experts.

 

 

Did you read the OP post or did you you just read mine? The gentleman has NEVER skied off piste ever, has only been skiing for 5 yrs, I know people that have issues going from the groomers at Squaw, to any off piste, and these are people that have skied for many more years then this guy, and live in Tahoe, not Virginia. I would say, not seeing this guy ski, that a guided ON-piste would be a better call, especially in Europe, scaring the hell out of one's self is no way to advance in ability or confidence, and that area will do it to you. Buy the heli insurance, when you go over there, money well spent. 

 

You are correct about people not understanding their abilities. I have seen self rated "experts" tomahawk 2,500 vertical in AK after not heeding a guides advice. 

post #50 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ske-Bum View Post
 

 

 

Did you read the OP post or did you you just read mine? The gentleman has NEVER skied off piste ever, has only been skiing for 5 yrs, I know people that have issues going from the groomers at Squaw, to any off piste, and these are people that have skied for many more years then this guy, and live in Tahoe, not Virginia. I would say, not seeing this guy ski, that a guided ON-piste would be a better call, especially in Europe, scaring the hell out of one's self is no way to advance in ability or confidence, and that area will do it to you. Buy the heli insurance, when you go over there, money well spent. 

 

You are correct about people not understanding their abilities. I have seen self rated "experts" tomahawk 2,500 vertical in AK after not heeding a guides advice. 

 

(BTW, it's "she", not "he".)

 

People get in way over their heads all the time, and I agree that you don't want to see that. But I'd think the "guided" term would be key here... wouldn't the guide figure out where it was safe to go based on the abilities of the skier(s) they are guiding?? And the OP is not going to ignore the guides advice in this case.

post #51 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ske-Bum View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldgoat View Post
 

Not so. There are people whose ability exceeds their confidence and people whose confidence exceeds their ability. And a very few folks whose ability and confidence match. People in the first group need encouragement to push their limits. And in Europe, as in NA there is a wide variety of off piste. The Vallee Blanche can be safely skied by a guided intermediate and he or she will enjoy most of it (not looking down when crossing a snow bridge helps). OTOH skiing the other way off the Aiguille du Midi would not be such a good idea for an intermediate, or advanced skier, or a lot of experts.

 

 

Did you read the OP post or did you you just read mine? The gentleman has NEVER skied off piste ever, has only been skiing for 5 yrs, I know people that have issues going from the groomers at Squaw, to any off piste, and these are people that have skied for many more years then this guy, and live in Tahoe, not Virginia. I would say, not seeing this guy ski, that a guided ON-piste would be a better call, especially in Europe, scaring the hell out of one's self is no way to advance in ability or confidence, and that area will do it to you. Buy the heli insurance, when you go over there, money well spent. 

 

You are correct about people not understanding their abilities. I have seen self rated "experts" tomahawk 2,500 vertical in AK after not heeding a guides advice. 

Yes I read the original post. She's talking about taking off piste lessons, not venturing off on her own down a glacier. Maybe she's ready maybe not. Right instructor and not too much new snow and she should be fine, but he might be better off improving her on piste skills first. You never know though--a taste of the off piste might really motivate her. I've skied in Chamonix in guided groups off piste with some very intermediate skiers who had a lot of fun.

However, my remarks were in response to your blanket statement that if someone has to ask they're not ready, and I stand by it.

(My experience in teaching surgery residents how to operate is that in general--with a lot of exceptions--women surgeons tend to have more ability than confidence, men the opposite. And I much prefer to teach the former than the latter.)

post #52 of 53
Thread Starter 

I am the OP here.  Yes, I am a "she".  

By no means I plan to venture off piste on my own at a place like Val D'Isere.  If I am skiing off-piste,  for sure it will  i) be in an off-piste lesson, ii) follow instructor (guide) advice.  

post #53 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by fosphenytoin View Post
 

I am the OP here.  Yes, I am a "she".  

By no means I plan to venture off piste on my own at a place like Val D'Isere.  If I am skiing off-piste,  for sure it will  i) be in an off-piste lesson, ii) follow instructor (guide) advice.  

Interesting user name.

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