Winter 2020-21 was a very different season for us all. While many people were sadly unable to visit the beautiful French Alps this year, the few who did remain in resort or who were able to visit were left with un-operating ski lifts all winter. However, every grey cloud has a snow-white lining, as this meant that we had to find different ways to explore this incredible mountain range.
And there’s no way our team at Chalet Chardons were going to let closed ski lifts stop us from enjoying the mountains, so it was time to get out the touring skis and snow shoes and climb up the peaks with nothing but our own strength and determination.
We want to commemorate the amazing times we still managed to have during this very strange winter season by doing a rundown of our team’s favourite touring routes they did these past 6 months.
We hope these will offer some ideas and inspiration to others for future ski seasons to come.
Disclaimer: For off-piste skiing you should employ the services of a qualified mountain guide or instructor and have the right equipment and knowledge. The routes we suggest should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. Chalet Chardons and its representatives accept no responsibility for the use of this information.
Part 1: La Daille
Route: From the La Daille Funicular, tour up through the trees all the way up to the Folie Douce. From here, veer left and keep heading up so that you’re above the treeline. You’ll pass a small hut, then just on from here is a great stopping point. Change over your kit and head down from here, keeping slightly more towards the right, through the trees and some beautiful powder fields.
Why it’s a favourite: “The route for the tour up was always pisted so it was a nice smooth climb, and you don’t have to tour for too long to get some decent tree runs on the way back down. Especially after a big dump the night before, there was some amazing powder skiing to be had – and it was always super pretty going through the trees!”
Part 2: Chaudannes
Route: From Tignes le Lac, from the bottom of the Palafour lift, head up the piste to the right which takes you all the way up to the top of the Chaudannes lift. This nice easy tour takes about 45 minutes to an hour and gives you lots of different options for your ski down. Either head back down the way you came, either via the red or the blue run, or follow the slopes down the other side of the mountain into Tignes les Boisses or les Brevieres. If you fancy some off-piste skiing, keep touring up the piste and from here you can drop into or around the un-pisted black run on this face of the mountain.
Why it’s a favourite: “The tour up was always pisted and not too steep, so was a really accessible touring route for all. If you head all the way down into Les Brevieres, you get a long ski down, meaning you’re getting a decent amount of skiing for the length of touring you have to do to get to the top. Also there’s the added bonus of a nice cold beer on a sunny day or hot chocolate on a cold day at the Lo Soli restaurant at the top of the Chaudannes lift!”
Part 3: Pointe du Picheru
Route: Start from Le Villaret du Nial, which is just off the road on the way to Val d’Isere, and tour up to the top of the Picheru, which is approximately a 1000m ascent. On the way down, descend via the ENE face to reach to Sassier chalet point at 2660m. From here, it’s about an 800m descent directly back to the start.
Why it’s a favourite: “There’s plenty of different options for your way down, and different ways to make it a little more exciting; you can ride some steep little chutes, or keep to the more gentle, wide open faces if you prefer. And you can normally spot a few chamois and ibex too if you keep your eyes open!”
Part 4: Rocher de la Davie
Route: Starting from the Villaret des Brevieres, go up through the trees past the chalets de la Davie to the summit at 3200m, and back down the way you came.
Why it’s a favourite: “It never gets too steep but it’s still a beautiful summit and the views on a clear day are amazing!”
Part 5: Palafour
Route: Starting from the bottom of the Palafour lift in Tignes le Lac, follow the piste up all the way to the top of the lift. Then you can ski back down the same way, either following the piste or hitting some of the off-piste sections.
Why it’s a favourite: “It’s quite a steep climb up in places but it’s worth it for the panoramic view of the mountains at the top! Also the nice wide blue run for ski down has always been a favourite, lifts or no lifts.”
Part 6: Terre Rouge
Route: From Tignes le Lac, tour up to the top of Palafour and then continue up the Cyclamen piste to reach the Eye of the Needle (L’Aguille Percée). From here, walk up behind the pisteurs hut to the entrance of the Vallon de Sache. Transition here. Ski down the back side of the Vallon de Sache, and aim to get as close to the Dôme des Platières as possible. At the bottom here, transition back to touring mode and maybe have a bite to eat before touring up to below the Glacier de l’Inverneau. Transition back again into ski mode and enjoy the long descent into Tignes les Brevieres. Please note that this is a physically demanding and technical tour, and the route back is dangerous and involves avoiding cliffs, so it requires a guide.
Why it’s a favourite: “It’s a super cool alternative route back to Les Brevieres. Very few people ski it and it’s quite out the way of the resort so it feels like proper back country. There’s also a variety of terrain from big wide open fences to tree runs, and the long descent offers fresh lines all the way.”
Part 7: Saint-Foy
Route: From the bottom of the Les Charmettes blue run, at the main snow front of the Saint-Foy Tarentaise ski resort, follow this run up and towards the left. A little after you follow the piste around the first corner towards the right, you’ll find some forest paths off from the left side of the piste. There are a few different ones you can take but they all take you up through the trees towards the top of the resort, and then from the top you can head back down through a variety of different tree runs, or stick to the piste if you prefer.
Why it’s a favourite: “The tour up is such a pretty route through the trees along small forest paths – going up single file in and out of the trees feels like a proper adventure to do with friends. And there’s a great variety of different routes you can take on the way down including more gentle gradients, making it accessible to different levels of skier. There’s also the added bonus of the bar when you reach the top!
Being able to go and explore Saint-Foy this year reminded me of how much more you can do when you don’t restrict yourself to just the ski lifts and lift pass you have paid for – if you have the equipment and the knowledge, you can really climb any mountain you want and soak in those incredible views without having to spend a penny or rely on anything other than your own strength and desire to reach the summit.”