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La Grave offers a lot of open space and fantastic tree skiing but what brings people to this mythical French village, is the big couloirs on both the north and south aspects of the big ridge, Girouse glacier.

 

So what should you be thinking about when tackling a couloir? Almost certainly, you will be with a group of friends, so it’s important to make sure you always communicate before you set off. Discuss where to regroup and how far it is to reach a safe spot in the couloir. This decision will be based on snow quality and the terrain around you.

It’s also wise to discuss the distance you want to leave between each skier, agreeing on a sensible gap will ensure everyone is safe.

 

When you arrive at the top of the couloirs, it’s a good idea to stop with your back to the couloir wall, so you can easily look up and downwards without having to twist your head too much, which can happen if you are stopping with your chest towards the couloir wall.

 

Remember when skiing, that your shoulders should be still and it’s your hips and legs that are making the turns. Your eyes on the other hand should be on the fall line and not looking at the flanking walls. To make your skiing as fluid as possible, always initiate the next turn with your wrist slightly towards the fall line.

 

 

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When the snow is soft, always ski and rest in a sensible position, so as to avoid surface sluff created by your fellow skiers, as well as youself. ‘Sluff’ can easily grab your skis if you’re not fully under control. If the snow is firm, make sure to ski short distances between stops, to avoid large pieces of snow ‘taking out’ other skiers.

 

When traveling in mountainous terrain with couloirs, a lot of attention needs to be focused on whether or not the temperature is rising or falling. This will enable you to manage the risk of the couloir avalanching, but also to avoid skiing on refrozen snow where a hard, glazed layer has formed, making a couloir descent tricky or impossible.

 

When undertaken in the right conditions, by experienced skiers, couloir skiing is a reward that’s hard to match from any other type of skiing!

 

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