Skiing at Christmas and New Year was incredibly crowded this year. Vicky was a bit freaked by the huge numbers of poor skiers crashing down the icy slopes taking out anyone below them. There is an alternative to all this as I checked out twice during New Year week and that is to head for the places where the crowds don't go.

Tommy and George

This might be a field close to the main runs like Tommy and George are enjoying above although these get tracked out pretty quickly. Alternatively you can head off into the areas well away from the runs where we go walking in the summer. The Portes du Soleil, where we do most of our skiing, is a huge ski area with 12 linked resorts, 285 runs and 196 lifts however there are still valleys and peaks which do not have lifts and slopes.

Barme Ridge

On New Year's Eve I follow one of my favourite routes up to the high alp of Barme, below the Dents Blanches (see header above), and then up onto the ridge (above) following this all the way up to above the Col de Cou and the French border. I only see 5 other skiers all morning although things are a bit busier on the descent into France via the 'Mine D'Or' as loads of French skiers are hiking up on skis and skins to the col. Snow conditions are also a bit disappointing right at the top. What looks like perfect powder turns out to be rather crusty and hard to ski in my light touring skis - wish I had brought the fat boys instead. Fortunately lower down the snow is much better.

Point de Chesery

Another favourite route is the Point de Chesery from the Lac Vert. This starts with a long rising traverse across the slopes that run under the peak itself (above) and lie high above the Linderets valley. I have several times seen bouquetins (curly horned deer) here and once saw a whole family. No one had been across here on 2 Jan although once on the ridge there were a number of other skiers climbing the peak.

You can also approach this peak from the top of the Chaux Fleurie chairlift. Either way, once you are on the ridge it is about 40 minutes to the top and there is usually a track that someone else has put in for you. Once at the top you can either ski back down the way you came up and then on down through the powder to Linderets, or if the conditions are right, ski the much steeper face above Plein Dranse. This is much more exciting but does need good snow - not something that we had enough of this New Year.

Point de Chesery

View from the top of the Point de Chesery - Pt de Mosette on left and Pt de Vorlex on right

A steeper proposition and one that needs more snow is the Point de Vorlex. This is one of the highest peaks in the area looking down over Avoriaz and the Linderet valley. You can either skin up from Brochaux or traverse from the top of the Cubore lift on the Avoriaz side of ridge. This is what we did on New Year's Eve 2011when I dragged Tommy, James, Ed and Fred up it. Made more exciting by James dropping a stick from the ridge! You strap your skis or board on your sack and climb a steep gully to reach the ridge. The ridge is super exposed but if you are not the first up the track in the snow gives you some protection from the drop. Again there are a choice of descents. You can either ski the face above the Abricotine run (far right of picture above) or (as we usually do) go over the summit and ski the face which looks over Brochaux and Linderets. Either way it is a terrific climb and descent.

This short film records our 2011 New Year's Eve ascent. The photo below is of the boys climbing the ridge.

Vorlex ridge