There are high prices to skiing in Chamonix. Everything gets tracked out in hours, and there's always a bit of a faff to ski the really good stuff - be that a fistfight on the traverse, a dodgy rappel into the line or a combat skiing exit.
We put up with all this stuff because when this place is right, it's the best place in the world.
It seems more and more that this year's rightness has been and gone, though. December and early January's storms are a distant memory. You know what, though? There's still pow out there. We skiied a classic Cham touring route today, starting at La Flégère and going around the back, through the keyhole and back down the Bérard valley, finishing up in Le Buet. There was plenty of tracked pow on shaded slopes, and we found some deep old fresh turns thanks to the experience, slope analysis, know-how and all-around awesomeness of our guide.
But what's this..? Chamonix-Meteo announce snow Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday. Although today's forecast is only calling for 5cm at 1500m, so don't book that heli trip just yet.
Let's look at the snow conditions right now. It's in the minus double-digits most days now, so piste skiing is brittle and noisy in the mornings. Once the sun gets to work, pistes soften and become grippy, ending up slushy with sheet ice beneath in the afternoon. Mid-morning to mid-afternoon is the time to ski right now. Off piste, stick to shaded and untracked aspects that have remained cool and out of the way of the sun.
If you're looking at skiing elsewhere within reach in the near future, Les Contamines is good right now, with no people and untracked pow out of the sun. But don't bother with Courmayeur; they missed the last dump we had, and there's grass poking through the slopes in places.
Here are a couple of shots from a brilliant day out today.