La Grave, France

La Grave Steep Skiing Clinic

As famous as Chamonix, La Grave is another mecca of steep wild skiing with accessible couloirs and slopes to challenge even the most seasoned skier.

Our Steep Skiing clinics consist of five days: two days working on individual skiing technical skills, climbing skills and developing the correct psychological outlook, then three days applying what you've learnt with descents of the best couloirs and slopes in the La Grave area. This course is an unparalleled chance to learn from one of best Miles Smart

This course will suit extremely strong and fit skiers who can ski on all terrain.  You want to learn and understand the techniques and psychology required to ski very steep terrain.  You enjoy the adrenaline that comes from challenging yourself but that is not your main motivation.

Miles Smart - IFMGA Mountain Guide

Miles Smart is an American IFMGA-qualified mountain guide. He spent his first winter in Chamonix in 1999 and has been based in the Alps each year ever since. He is the 2004 recipient of the AMGA Guide of the Year award and is an instructor and examiner for the American guide scheme. Miles worked alongside Doug Coombs running the Steep Skiing Camps in La Grave, France, and has since taken over these steep skiing camps.

Miles works equally within the disciplines of skiing, climbing and mountaineering. His guiding highlights include a guided ski descent of the Grand Teton in Wyoming and a guided ascent of the Bonatti Route on the Grand Capucin above Chamonix. Miles has climbed El Capitan in Yosemite more than twenty times and has made many speed climbing records on this wall, and has also skied many steep lines such as the Gervasutti Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul. Miles lives in Chamonix with his wife Liz.

The price includes 5 full days of skiing with our IFMGA Mountain Guide and the guides expenses.

The price does not include travel to/from La Grave, accommodation, meals, lift pass

We are proud to offer all of our returning customers a £50 discount.

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Ski Club Winter Arrangements limited (trading as Mountain Tracks)
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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Off-Piste Adventure trips.  On all our weeks you’ll be staying in comfortable catered chalets or hotels. When skiing you need to carry just a day pack, which contains your safety equipment and any personal items or extra clothing layers you may need.

  • This season, we’ve partnered with Ortovox to provide us with the very best safety kit and clothing. Our guides will all be decked out in the latest Ortovox jackets and trousers and will keep warm, dry and comfortable thanks to their technical wool base- and mid-layers. Our guides couldn’t recommend their kit more highly.
     
    • A good quality pair of ski trousers. They must be made from a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex or similar. It’s useful to have some venting zips on the legs either inside or outside thigh or full-length side-zips. Integral snow gaiters and some pockets for handy items are good features.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. We advocate the ‘layering principle’ and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket.
    • Comfortable underwear with good wicking properties. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Ortovox. They are comfy, breathable, warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Several thin (rather than fewer thick) layers between your skin and the outer shell - an approach that gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • Good quality, ski gloves or mitts if you suffer from cold hands and 1 thinner pair of gloves made from a softshell or fleece material if the weather is warm. These are particularly useful if you do any ski touring or hiking on the trip as thick gloves quickly become too hot.
    • Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer from cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • We continue to see big changes in ski, boot and binding design and technology, which make off-piste skiing and ski touring much more accessible. For our Adventure courses, we prefer you to ski with” freeride” skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings but are suitable for off-piste then you are welcome to bring them with you. Downhill boots are also acceptable but please bear in mind that you will do some touring on ALL our Off-Piste Adventure courses so you made need to hire suitable skis and boots in a resort.

    Skis

    This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. The MTN 95 is an award-winning ski with great stability at high speeds whilst the MTN 88 is a best-selling lightweight touring ski. The QST’s are slightly heavier and therefore suited to charging; perfect for day-touring. 

    Lockwoods Ski and Outdoor are supporting our guides and we suggest that if you’re interested in any of the MTN or QST skis, you should make Lockwoods your first point of call. This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. 

    There are many ‘all-mountain/freeride’ skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from Salomon, Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl. Look for a ski that is the right size for your height, typically the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height. As for the width of the ski or “side cut” a mid-fat ski – 90-110mm under the foot is a good place to start; this offers plenty of flotation off-piste while remaining suitable for day tours and they should also handle reasonably well on piste and mixed terrain.

    Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com 
    Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com 
    Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com/
    Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us/
    Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
    Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com

    There are plenty of other great skis to choose from so if you’re planning on buying skis for ski touring or general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us, or Lockwoods, to discuss the options available.

    If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.


    Boots
    For our Off-Piste Adventure courses its best to have a pair of ski touring boots – they have great skiing performance and with the vibram soles, they are much safer for scrambling around on the rocky or icy ground. However standard downhill ski boots are also acceptable. We do not recommend you come on a trip with brand new boots.

    If you are going to be getting into off-piste and ski touring, then rather than having a pair of downhill boots and a pair of ski touring boots, we strongly suggest that you opt for a good pair of ski touring boots. With advances made in plastics, mouldings and materials in recent years you can now get a ‘hybrid’ touring boot that offers as much downhill performance and stiffness but they come with a walk mode and good flexibility for the uphill too. Many boots fall into the category "hike & ride" so a 3 or 4 buckle boot, walk mode, vibram/grippy sole and possible Pin binding compatible.
    It just makes more sense - not only are they much more comfortable to walk in compared to ordinary ski boots, they are great to ski in too.

    Scarpa has lead the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufactures like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of a ski touring boot.

    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmos boots have stood the test of time and are good all-round choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.

    The best of the rest are:
    Fischer - Transalp
    Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
    K2 – Pinnacle boot
    Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
    Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit’ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner. Heated and moulded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit, they can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable
    ‘off-the-shelf¹ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.

    Bindings
    We prefer you to have ski touring bindings on your skis for our adventure courses but if you have downhill bindings mounted on your skis then this is perfectly acceptable. The new touring bindings are every bit as safe for downhill as alpine bindings, yet you have the additional advantage of being able to walk uphill with them to access the real off-piste. Fritschi Diamir and Marker both have great bindings which can be used with ski touring boots and downhill boots. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufactures; they are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!

    Although Pin bindings have been around since the Dynafit Low Tech bindings over 30 years ago. Since their patent expired the technology has advanced substantially. Salomon, with their Shift Binding, are at the forefront; they’re ‘multi norm compatible’ so fit a selection of boots and are lighter than most freeride bindings. Our lead guides are using the Shift binding this winter, so if you’d like to know more about them give Lockwoods a ring.

  • Although our Off-Piste Adventure courses rely heavily on the lift systems in resorts, access to and egress from runs sometimes involve climbing and walking a short way and you may undertake 1 or 2 day ski tours, for this reason its best to have skis with ski touring bindings, skins and ski touring boots.

    • Ski Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Ski Crampons (aka Couteaux) - most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your own skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons.
    • When skiing on glaciated terrain you will need a harness and occasionally boot crampons and possibly an ice axe. Your can guide can supply you with these items if you do not have your own.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - applicable for all our off-piste courses and ski tours.

    Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon 
    Snow shovel
    Avalanche probe

    We recommend simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+.

    Avalanche airbags/rucksacks – if you wish to ski with one of these on our courses you are welcome to do so, they are not mandatory but we always support the use of available safety items.
    You can hire avalanche rucksacks in a lot of resorts, makes are usually Snowpulse/Mammut, ABS or Ortovox AVABAG. Prices vary from shop to shop and resort to resort but a guide line price would be from €20-30 per day or around €100-120 for 6/7 days.

    Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it.
    How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out https://mountaintracks.co.uk/discipline/winter-mountaincraft

  • Good pair of goggles – essential. Useful to have 2 pairs on powder days in case of head plants! A pair with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    Good quality sunglasses – UV factor category 4 recommended
    20-30 liter rucksack is usually suitable for most off piste skiing. Key features are a method of attaching your skis in either a A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage; easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom; separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe; small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglasses/goggles etc; an ice axe loop and possibly a built in rain cover and a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet (if you use one). It’s essential that the pack has a good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps.
    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used but please remember that they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack with cylinder in; so unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one.
    1-1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration-systems (e.g. Camelbaks) as these often freeze in winter
    Suncream and lip salve (factor 30 or higher recommended.)
La Grave.JPG

La Grave

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La Grave is one of the Alps' most renowned off-piste ski areas. For years it has attracted the best of the world's off-piste skiers who come for the great skiing and the majestic beauty of the place. The vertical drop off is over 2100m and much of the skiing is not for the fainthearted! If you are looking for accessible resort skiing then La Grave is not for you. There are no prepared pistes here, just a lift taking you up to over 3,500m and a selection of long off-piste descents to challenge any skier.

We strongly recommend that you only ski in La Grave with an experienced Mountain Guide.

Resort height: 4,593 ft / 1,400 m
Highest ski lift: 11,647 ft / 3,550 m
Elevation: 7,054 ft / 2,150 m

Our top reasons for visiting La Grave

  • Beautiful, wild ski area
  • Exhilarating skiing for advanced and expert level skiers
  • Over 2,000m of vertical
  • This place is all about the skiing – there is limited après-ski in the village
  • No pistes = no beginners = no families = great adventure skiing
  • Enjoying a cold beer and reliving the day's highlights in The Skiers Lodge!

Travel to La Grave

The closest airport to La Grave is Grenoble which is 50 miles/90 minutes by road. There is a bus service from Grenoble to La Grave and the team at the Skiers Lodge (our recommended hotel) also provide a pickup/dropoff service at the airport on request. Contact our office for further details

 

  • It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.

    For UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
    If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
     

  • We do recommend you arrive in La Grave a couple of days before the start of the course so you can have at least 1 warm-up day before the course starts.

    The Tunnel du Chambon on the RD1091 has re-opened making travel from Grenoble, Chambery and the Oisans significantly easier. This is often the easiest route.

    To get to La Grave we suggest flights to Grenoble airport, you can then book a transfer with Ben's Bus http://www.bensbus.co.uk/ski-transfer/la-grave-ski-transfers/ from the airport to the Lac du Chambon. You will be dropped at the Barrage du Chambon (road junction for Les 2 Alpes/La Grave/Alp d'Huez). There is a bus stop and a restaurant at this location. For onward travel from here you can book a local tax with Jean who will take you to La Grave for a reasonable price. You can contact him on 0033 (0)6 72 67 69 33 for a quote or to book.

    You can also fly into Turin and take the main road west (E70) towards Susa, Oulx and onto Montgenevre, Briancon, pass over the Col du Lauteret to reach La Grave. Driving time on this route is around 2.5hrs.

    Its recommended that for either route, but particularly if you choose to fly into Turin you hire a car as public transport this way is complicated to impossible. There is more information on this web link: http://www.lagrave-lameije.com/en/how-get-la-grave-villar-darene-and-its...

    Please note that it is NOT POSSIBLE to drive over the Col du Galibier in the winter months. The Col du Lautaret is typically open during the winter but can be susceptible to closure in very heavy snow storms. You can check information on the road cols and conditions on this website: https://www.inforoute05.fr/wir3/cols_en.html

     

  • Our Steep Skiing Clinics are led by Miles Smart. Miles is a very experienced American IFMGA Mountain Guide who has lived and worked in the Alps for many years. 

    The clinics are guided on a 1:3 ratio. We can run the course with up to 6 participants and Miles would be joined by another IFMGA Mountain Guide specialising in steep skiing. 

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