Spring ski tours

In French there is an expression, “faire le pont”, which literally means “to make the bridge”. It is used when a public holiday appears near but not quite adjacent to a weekend – so you “make the bridge” by taking Friday off to join a public holiday Thursday and the weekend. It is an excellent expression that has no direct equivalent in English, so here I will just use it straight. Tanya and I made the bridge last week, to gain a four day weekend. Determined to get the most out of the snow that is left in the mountains, we packed our skis into a car and headed to Arolla.

Tanya scoping skiing possibilities. Behind are Mont Collon and Pigne d’Arolla.
The weekend also involved big news in Switzerland – “Twelve Saint-Bernards take over their lounge room”.

Arolla is pretty high in the mountains, at 2000 m above sea level. So it makes for a good starting point for late-season ski tours. We scoped out the possibilities, and decided to go for an easy tour to Col de Chèvres that connects the Val d’Arolla with the Vallée des Dix. We were able to ski right from the road, no walking required. The first part of the tour was on Arolla’s pistes, which are now closed for downhill skiing, but provided a nice solid base to gain a few hundred metres of height.

It was hot on the snow, and we sweated our way up to the Col de Chèvres, which really isn’t that far from Arolla. From the Col we had wonderful views back across the valley to the Aiguille de la Tsa and behind it Dent Blache and the Matterhorn. To the west we could see into the Vallée des Dix, with its glacier, and on the other side the Cabane des Dix. Towering over us was the mighty Mont Blanc de Cheilon.

Tanya getting ready for the descent.
The view east. Dent Blanche middle left, Matterhorn middle right.

While we ate lunch we watched as a series of people set off from the Col towards Arolla, with various degrees of success in the difficult snow. The snow from the col was indeed very heavy, and was followed by a section of snow that had a hefty crust – the kind of snow that grabs yours skis and sets them on a straight line course that you can’t easily adjust. If the skis are in slightly different directions, you are in trouble, and are doomed to a slow and unavoidable crash. Luckily this section didn’t last for too long and we were treated to some absolutely wonderful skiing on spring snow and easy terrain, with plenty of features to zoom around and through and over on the way down.

We just made it back to the road on skis.

Our second ski tour for the weekend was to Monts Telliers from Bourg Saint-Bernard. This is an ultra-classic tour that is known to keep the snow for a long time, and indeed it was very well covered, although we did have to walk for about 500 m up the road before we put the skis on. Once on the snow we quickly gained altitude and headed up the Combe de Drône. Monts Telliers appeared across a snowy plateau.

Tanya powering uphill (as she does).
Monts Telliers. “Objectif en vue”, as the French say.
Another skier near Monts Telliers.

The climb got gradually steeper, until just below the summit ridge on Monts Telliers, when things took a decidedly “alpine” turn. The slope got steep and the wind picked up, and we decided to ski from the ridge, a few metres below the true summit. The view was still magnificent.

The almost-summit views, from the ridge.
Looking towards Italy.

Back at the road we had a picnic next to the beautiful creek (La Dranse d’Entremont) and walked back to the car. It was quite a contrast to head back to Lausanne where spring is in full force, and back in the summery warmth it seems a remote idea that it’s still possible to ski in the mountains.

The post-tour rest.
Cold water.
May 9, 2016


  1. For God’s sake Tanya PUT YOUR SHOES ON IN THAT CREEK! You’ll fall over!

    • Tanya on

      Ha ha!! Only I could be so spectacularly late, but I just found this comment now (and directly became extremely mirthful). Not that safe river crossing practices are any laughing matter, mind.

  2. […] A couple of weeks ago Tanya and I went for a ski tour. We started high, because the snow is rapidly melting, and set out from Bourg St Bernard at 1915 m, which is as close as you can drive to the Grand St Bernard pass in winter. We skied towards Monts Telliers, along the same route we took at about the same time last year. […]

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