Pre-Season Tune-Up 2013 - Can there be such a thing as too much snow?

Pre-Season Tune-Up, Tignes, 4-10 November 2013


Can there be such a thing as too much snow?

Inside Out Skiing
returned to Tignes for our fourth Pre-Season Tune-Up, slightly later in the year than previous trips. Before we arrived there had been a few decent snowfalls so the conditions on the glacier were excellent. Great snow depths and firm, grippy snow on all pistes.

The first morning saw snow on the terrace at our hotel in Tignes Les Boisses (at 1850m altitude), so we knew the glacier would be in good shape with freshened pistes. There was a delayed opening of the glacier as the pisteurs needed to do lots of work to ready the lifts and slopes ready for skiing. Once we got on to the glacier it was “a touch windy” as someone said, but there was enough visibility amongst the falling snow to do some great work with three groups, led by Inside Out coaches Scott, Rob and Ian. It was a challenging start, but everyone upped their game and began to get their skiing dialled in after just a few runs.

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Plenty of snow (and plenty of weather!).

Visibility was OK all day, and snow conditions were pretty fabulous with piste conditions more like mid-winter than pre-season! It was a great way to get the trip off to a flying start. As the day went on more fresh snow started to fall and the wind started to blow a bit more, heralding yet another autumn snowstorm arriving.

Unfortunately Day Two was not to be a repeat of the first day as very high winds at altitude meant that the glacier remained shut. This, unfortunately is a risk we take for any glacier-only skiing during the pre-season. At other times of the year it’s not a problem, we simply head to the lower pistes to shelter from the worst of the weather, but pre-season this is not an option. On ‘down days’ like this we normally use the unexpected free time to look at other aspects of skiing. On this occasion Scott led an informal talk on ski servicing, ski setup and boot alignment. For the majority on the trip this was all new information and the number of questions during the session showed how interesting everyone found the talk.

Day Three was once again subject to a delayed opening. A significant amount of fresh snow had fallen during the previous 24 hours, accompanied by very high winds. This often requires several hours of work to de-ice cables, test the lift and prepare the pistes. A major factor was ensuring the avalanche clearance of slopes above the pistes, with some very large avalanche scars above the top cable car station and avalanche debris completely covering one of the pistes. Once we arrived at the glacier piste conditions were, if anything, even better, but for those people who were leaving at the end of the mid-week course the day was frustratingly short.

Significant avalanche scars on the face above the top cable car station. Clearing that slope meant a delayed opening.

Cairon Lesley Neil

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Awesome piste conditions, just perfect for improving your skiing skills

Days Four and Five were among the best we have ever had on our Pre-Season Tune-Ups, especially when the Grand Motte cable car and the Vanoise chairlift opened, gives us a wider range of ski terrain to work with. Lift queues diminished significantly and for some of the time we were skiing in calm weather under a perfect blue sky. Not bad for November!

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JamesA Tignes 13 PatrickK TIgnes 13 JoBTignes13

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Waiting for the pickup after a very productive day.

Snow conditions were the best we have ever seen on the glacier, with amazing snow depth already. This is great news for the main winter season as a good base is already being laid down. This photo, taken just off the side of the piste shows how much snow fell in just a couple of days. Lots of people were already skiing down the (closed) Double M piste all the way to resort level, and that run was formally opened as we were leaving resort.

Knee deep powder snow, just off the side of the piste.

Amazing to have such conditions in early November.

With the new terrain the coaching groups spent lots of time working on carving skills and improving the timing of the movements made at the start of the turn to ensure you are completely balanced on the ski the moment you change edges.Lots of progress was made and it was nice to spend time in the evenings during the video feedback sessions to see the changes that people were making to their skiing. The plentiful snow also gave us the opportunity to work on skiing ‘variables’ - lumpy, choppy unpisted snow which challenges your balance significantly more than skiing a smooth piste and demands a much higher level of commitment to your turns if you are to have good control of your skis. Everyone upped their game, especially on the 2nd run in the variable snow when they knew what to expect and had a better idea of how how strong you needed to hold yourself to avoid being thrown around by the snow. Good work team!

Felicity Neil Ciaron

Evening sessions on our Pre-Season Tune-Up are a mix of video feedback,time in the hot tub or the sauna, lots of chat over dinner and a few drinks in the very friendly bar at the Hotel Melezes. It has become an Inside Out Skiing tradition for the balance board and juggling balls to make an appearance, often in conjunction with small doses of alcohol (purely for relaxation purposes, of course). This year’s challenge was juggling while standing on the balance board, a feat achieved by Inside Out coach Scott. Rumours that he nearly broke a collarbone by a failed 180 jump while on the balance board are, mostly, true ;-)

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Team Hot Tub, and “Jam” the hotel’s resident dog!

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Fun on the balance board.

Towards the end of the day the wind got stronger and stronger, which wasn’t a good sign for the following day’s skiing. This proved to be the case, as the glacier didn’t open for our final day of the course. All was not lost, however, as we made the most of the time with a further talk on ski setup and alignment plus a motion analysis session discussing a range of video clips showing skiers of all grades, from near beginner to world class skier. We find that these discussions are a great way to improve our understanding of how skiing works and to help improve “our eye” for seeing the important things about skiing and disregarding the merely stylistic.

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Ski setup and motion analysis sessions.

It was a useful day, despite the lack of ski time. Special credit goes to the two hardy souls who rustled up some snowboard kit and made some turns in knee deep powder just outside the hotel - not bad for 1,800m altitude during early November!

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So much snow!

Vanoise Chair
Happy to be here!

All in all it was a terrific, if occasionally frustrating, start to the season. Let’s hope we continue to get great snow for the rest of the winter.