Part 2B. Les Creux, Chanrossa and the Aiguille de Fruit

Easily the highest mountain at the Courchevel end of the Trois Vallées the Aiguille de Fruit provides splendid off-piste skiing on its lower slopes. While the Couloirs provide dramatic skiing, those preferring isolation may prefer the Aiguille de Fruit. This is a lonelier world. There is always someone passing by in the Couloirs to help pick up the pieces, but if something goes wrong on the Col de Fruit you are unlikely to be so lucky. Be cautious, and be sure that someone knows where you have gone.

With one exception the skiing lies in the gigantic Creux Bowl stretching from Vizelle in the east to Chanrossa in the West. Reconnoitre the terrain first looking across and down from Vizelle. Next ski down the easy red Creux (q.v.) stopping to look up at the ridge on your right. Finally go up the Chanrossa chair where you get further views into the bowl. Initially the bowl does not look promising. First, its obvious that there are avalanches down the Aiguille de Fruit. However, there's a pisteurs hut at the top of the lift at Col de Chanrossa. They of course flag if the area is open or closed, they also tend to get the first shot on the traverse. I usually like to call in any way to check on snow conditions. They can tell you if its fluffy, heavy or crust. They also know that your out there if you do have problems. Second, there are no open slopes with even gradients and beautiful sets of linked turns. That's part of the charm of the skiing. The area is full of complicated tricky bits of snow that will test any skier and there's usually still untracked snow three or four days after the last fall. Third, the bowl looks like a trap with long hikes out from the bottom. There will be a bit of walking at times at the bottom but this usually leads to gentle down slopes that bring you back out at the Creux chair complex. The lift company usually bash a piste into the bowl to assist easy exits.

One should start the skiing by going up the Chanrossa Chair. The lift company seems to have difficulty making up its mind about Chanrossa. Many years ago the whole of Chanrossa was clearly off-piste. Later they blasted an easy red to the left of the cable car (LDM) and marked a steep black bumps piste further to the right. Recently they have improved the red run (J. Pachod) and marked a black run further to the left. Advanced and expert skiers have not been forgotten. The area under and to the right of the Pylons is now a glorious off-pisted bumps field with a vertical fall of about 400m. The area is normally fenced off to discourage casual interest, but when snow conditions are adequate the pisteurs leave a narrow gap to permit entry. Choose your route carefully and this can be very steep and exciting. However it receives sun all afternoon and can also be icy and dangerous in the mornings. Treat it with caution. If you get on to the bumps and decide that you can't cope with them you are better to keep traversing to your right where the slope gradually gets less steep and where it nis often possible to find patches of deep snow. The Chanrossa bumps can be technically very difficult and the slope is steep enough to be potentially as dangerous (or even lethal) as The Wall in Avoriaz or the off-piste bumps at Mont Fort, Verbier. Treat them with respect.

The more extensive deep snow skiing is to the left of the piste (LDM). From the top of the chair turn right and ski off the left hand edge of the piste onto an obvious traverse. This traverse is avalanche prone but if dangerous the entrance will be very obviously closed. If in doubt enquire at the pisteurs hut at the top of the lift. The traverse sweeps round for about 1.5 km on the north face of the Crete de Chanrossa towards the Aiguille de Fruit. Gradients off the traverse vary significantly from place to place so that you can choose something that suits your ability. Nowhere is it very steep and it tends to become easier towards the very far end. The slopes are predominantly north facing and surprisingly lightly skied.

There are also runs on the east side of the Chanrossa ridge (see Courchevel 1600).

The more difficult skiing in the Creux Bowl is approached from the Creux Noir chair lift. If you turn right at the top of the chair there is the choice of a short but relatively difficult red piste back down to Creux (Roches Grises), or you ski off the other side of the ridge down towards Mottaret. The start of the Mottaret run is clearly signposted (when open).

Most of the off-piste skiing is to the left of the chair (LUM). It is possible to walk (there's no need to take off one's skis) along the ridge for about 1.5 km. One can descend almost anywhere on the left hand side. There are various small precipices, and the gradient varies sharply from place to place. So its best to plan an approximate line of descent during your earlier reconnoitre. On the whole the gradients are steeper and the descent more satisfying the further one proceeds along the ridge. Finally one arrives at a rock face at the Col de Fruit, from this point it is possible to ski very close to the tracks from the longest traverse off Chanrossa.

There is one last run to describe. (I've left the best until last). Though one can in principle ski anywhere on the Courchevel side of the ridge (the Creux Bowl), the other side of the ridge is the Parc National de Vanoise, an alpine wild life reserve. It is absolutely forbidden (ABSOLUEMENT FORMELLEMENT INTERDIT) to ski anywhere in the park. If you ignore this and get caught (which is fairly likely) they will confiscate your lift pass and may also refer you to the local authorities. There is one exception tothis ban. Keep traversing along the ridge to the Col de Fruit. Keep your eyes open to the right because the domain is rich in alpine wild-life. Eventually you reach a final saddle before the ridge ends in a vertical face. On the right is a magnificent snow field directly under the west face of the Aiguille de Fruit. It is permitted to ski this field, you can ski straight down or traverse south before descending. You may not traverse to the right. Be careful though, although magnificent this slope is:

  1. South Facing
  2. Avalanche prone

At the bottom of the snow field lies the Allues brook. Cross the brook as soon as is practicable and ski over gently sloping lightly wooded meadows to the Ski de Fond above Mottaret. Alas you now face a 20 minute walk along the Ski de Fond Piste before you arrive at the lift. This trip takes a good half day. Its probably advisable to take a picnic or at least a snack. There are several places at which you will feel like stopping for a rest. There is nothing technically difficult about this route, it is easier than much of the skiing into the Creux bowl. But the distance and the isolation suggest that beginners at off-piste touring might be wise to seek a guide or ski school instructor to lead the trip. Apart from the walk along the ski de fond this is one of the nicest runs in the Alps.

 

 

 

Copyright©Dennis Summerbell, 2004, (Link to full copyright notice)

Updated 3 May 2004