Snow & Rock Freeflo Backcountry Ski Adventure Skills Course with Squash Falconer in Tignes

Last week Floss from Freeflo and I delivered our first Snow & Rock Backcounty Ski Adventure Skills Course and it was a huge success.  We were delighted to be joined by 5 lovely people who arrived on day one with fantastic attitudes, all the right kit and lots of enthusiasm!

Snow & Rock Backcounty Adventure Skills Course
Snow & Rock Backcounty Adventure Skills Course

Taking full advantage on day one of the amazing blue skies and fresh powder the snow gods delivered for us we went straight out into the back country.

Over the course of the week we covered a huge amount; focusing on avalanche safety, terrain selection and navigation early on and working on ski tour & skiing techniques as the course progressed.  With a small group it was very easy to address individual goals and aims and work together to improve and learn.

Snow & Rock Backcounty Adventure Skills Course with Freeflo & Squash Falconer
Snow & Rock Backcounty Adventure Skills Course with Freeflo & Squash Falconer

This is a short video we made during the course that will give you an insight into what we got up to –

We are running a second course in April and in order to make it more accessible we have made it a course fee only – it’s amazing value!

5 day course for £650 which includes a £200 Snow & Rock voucher!!

Here are all the details…

Sunday 16th 23rd April 2017
Course Price £650

Price includes:

  • £200 Snow & Rock in store voucher
  • 5 days elite British back country coaching with FREEFLO
  • Sharing the 5 day Adventure with Adventurer Squash Falconer
  • Avalanche and transceiver workshops
  • Adventure evening with Squash Falconer
  • Video Analysis

What the package doesn’t include:

  • Insurance
  • Equipment
  • Lunch and Drinks on and off the mountain
  • Espace Killy Lift Pass
  • Flights & Transfers
  • Accomodation*

* The accommodation we would like to recommend is with Ski bug – they have a beautiful catered chalet in the heart of Tignes, ensuite bedrooms, large living area, log fire & in chalet sauna.

Ski Ability Intermediate Level:
If you are an off-piste skier with varying success then this course is for you. If you can link turns without traversing, at least 5–10 turns together if not more with reasonable control, style and speed, down the fall line, in most snow types then this adventure is for you.

Training for the trip:
Fitness is paramount for this ski adventure. Good fitness will make the trip more fun and you will get more out of your week! Although the course will be tailored to the group’s ability, it is highly recommended for you to get as fit as possible before you start. You must be able to ski all day if not most of the day from the first lift to the last lift with a couple of short breaks.

Insurance:
Getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue is highly recommended. Make sure it covers skiing off-piste beyond the ski boundary and ski touring with an instructor or guide. Buying a Carte de Neige with your lift pass in resort or online is recommended as will cover any mountain rescue without payment. You can purchase the carte de neige in resort with your lift pass for around €2 euros a day or you can purchase it on line to beat the queues for a year at http://www2.ffs.fr/carteneige . You can also purchase the Carre Neige which is a similar product: www.carreneige.com.

Make sure your insurance covers skiing off piste beyond the ski boundary with an instructor or guide.

The 5 Day Adventure:
This is an off-piste and back country adventure. If the weather doesn’t allow us to ski off-piste we will brush up our technique back on the piste.  This is a course where we will be passing on our experience and skills and where you can learn how to ski and move safely off-piste and most importantly to have fun while skiing.  You also will be inspired and motivated by Adventurer Squash Falconer throughout the week.

Rough Itinerary:
This a rough outline of the 5-day back country adventure itinerary, this is likely to change depending on the weather and the group’s ability & goals.

Night of arrival – Sunday:
Meet the team on Sunday evening and discuss the week ahead, plans and individual goals.

Monday will be a free day to find your skiing legs and acclimatize!

Day 1 Tuesday:
Warm up for skiing & skining! Introduction to the use of avalanche equipment, terrain selection & navigation.
Evening: Avalanche Workshop
Day 2 Wednesday:
Technical Focus how to improve your off-piste skiing, balance and fundamental elements.  Ski Tour.
Evening: Video Analysis
Day 3 Thursday:
Technical Focus skiing on off-piste steeper terrain and variable conditions.  Ski Tour (possible stop at a mountain hut).
Evening: Adventure evening with Squash Falconer
Day 4 Friday:
Technical Focus ski touring/hiking. Ski Tour (possible stop at a mountain hut).
Day 5 Saturday:
Ski tour full day.

Depart Sunday

Kit List- What to bring:
Skis: Ideally an all mountain ski that is around 85-110mm under foot. Anything wider under foot than that is a lot harder to make shorter turns and to influence the ski, especially when we are skiing the bumps amongst the trees.
Boots: If you haven’t got your own boots, a downhill boot without a hike mode is fine or a touring boot.
Skins: Skins for touring.
Gloves: Gloves or mittens are fine. I normally have glove liners as well as it can get cold.
Layers: Lots of thin thermal breathable layers are always good with a waterproof jacket over the top, so you can remove them if you get hot. A buff or snood is always very handy.
Poles: Downhill poles with bigger baskets are fine. Telescopic touring poles are better for touring with.
Goggles: Goggles are a must. Ideally two lenses. If you can make sure you have a yellow goggle lens or a lens which you can put in your goggles in case of bad weather and poor visibility this will makes a huge difference.
Sunglasses: A big yes for the sunny days.
Helmet: A helmet is paramount.
Backpack: If you have a comfortable backpack 25-35 litres, please can you bring it. If you have an ABS bag please bring it as it is great for off-piste but can be heavy for touring.
Avalanche Gear: If you do have a pack, shovel, probe and transceiver (digital) please bring them. If not, you can rent them in resort. ABS bag is recommended.
Water bottle, flask and snacks: Nuts, dried fruit and energy bars are always handy for slow release energy instead of chocolate.
Sun cream: 30+
Beanie: To keep head warm and to cover up helmet hair when having lunch!
Camera/GoPro: Good to take photos and to make movies
First Aid Kit: Small first aid kit and foil safety blanket/blizzard blanket

For more info, please contact

info@freefloski.com

We look forward to stepping into your next adventure with you.

Floss & Squash!

Floss Cockle is a BASI British International Ski Teacher L4 ISTD with a wealth of experience having taught skiing for sixteen years and completed nineteen winter seasons.

 

 

Snow & Rock Back Country Ski Adventure with Squash Falconer & Freeflo

I love skiing and I’m passionate about mountaineering.  A few years ago I started ski touring (skiing across open country, walking uphill on skis as well as skiing downhill).

For me ski touring is the perfect sport – I can enjoy the thrill of skiing and get my kicks climbing the mountain too.  Attaching skins to my skis allows me to head deep into the back country, away from the ski resorts and lifts, to reach beautiful places and ski untouched powder.

IMG_8117I’m based in Tignes, France and last winter I was lucky enough to meet ski coach Floss Cockle from Freeflo ski.  Floss is an incredible skier and coach and she has shown me some of the amazing back country that is right on my own door step in and around Tignes.  Heading off the beaten track means that you have to have a good understanding of the mountains, the conditions and your own skiing ability.  I have some knowledge, but with 19 ski seasons under her belt Floss’s skill and experience has been invaluable and has taken my back country skiing experience to the next level.

Squash & Floss from FreeFlo

Right at the end of the season, this year, both fit from a winter of touring and skiing, Floss and I did a day that blew my mind.  We hiked for 4hrs to the top of the North face of the Pramecou.  Floss had been watching the weather and conditions closely and knew that it was a good day to ski the face.

IMG_0387Having never skied anything as steep, I was so nervous!  However, the conditions were good and I trusted Floss’s judgement about my skiing ability.  I watched, holding my breath as she skied the couloir perfectly and as she came to a stop my heart thundered in my chest, it was my turn!  I dropped into the deep, steep powder and felt the most incredible surge of adrenaline through my veins… I was skiing the North face of the Pramecou!!!  And it was amazing.

As I skied towards Floss, with the biggest grin on my face I shouted, “I love this.  This is incredible, we need to share this with everyone!”

IMG_0430And as we walked out and headed back towards Tignes we came up with a plan to do just that.

Squash & Floss in the back country

We’ve teamed up with Snow & Rock to bring you two unique one-week off piste and back country adventures in Tignes, France in January and April.

Anyone who books will get a £200 voucher for Snow & Rock!

We’d love you to join us in the mountains next season and take your skiing to the next level.

If you are an intermediate skier who wants to do more off piste and go into the back country then this trip is for you.

See all details below and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch – info@freefloski.com

Floss Ski TouringDates:
Sunday 8th -15th Jan 2017
Package Price £1645*

Sunday 16th 23rd April 2017
Package Price £1745*

* Prices may vary subject to availability.

Package includes:

  • £200 Snow & Rock in store voucher
  • 5 days elite British back country coaching with FREEFLO
  • Sharing the 5 day Adventure with Adventurer Squash Falconer
  • Avalanche and transceiver workshops
  • Adventure evening with Squash Falconer
  • Video Analysis
  • Return UK Flights
  • Resort Transfers
  • 7 nights accommodation 4* facility Chalet Hotel L’Ecrins based on sharing a twin room
  • Welcome Drinks & Canapés
  • Hot and Continental Breakfast
  • Afternoon Tea
  • 3 Course Dinner & Wine

What the package doesn’t include:

  • Insurance
  • Equipment
  • Lunch and Drinks on and off the mountain
  • Espace Killy Lift Pass

Ski Ability Intermediate Level:
If you are an off-piste skier with varying success then this course is for you. If you can link turns without traversing, at least 5–10 turns together if not more with reasonable control, style and speed, down the fall line, in most snow types then this adventure is for you.

Training for the trip:
Fitness is paramount for this ski adventure. Good fitness will make the trip more fun and you will get more out of your week! Although the course will be tailored to the group’s ability, it is highly recommended for you to get as fit as possible before you start. You must be able to ski all day if not most of the day from the first lift to the last lift with a couple of short breaks.

Insurance:
Getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue is highly recommended. Make sure it covers skiing off-piste beyond the ski boundary and ski touring with an instructor or guide. Buying a Carte de Neige with your lift pass in resort or online is recommended as will cover any mountain rescue without payment. You can purchase the carte de neige in resort with your lift pass for around €2 euros a day or you can purchase it on line to beat the queues for a year at http://www2.ffs.fr/carteneige . You can also purchase the Carre Neige which is a similar product: www.carreneige.com.

Make sure your insurance covers skiing off piste beyond the ski boundary with an instructor or guide.

The 5 Day Adventure:
This is an off-piste and back country adventure. If the weather doesn’t allow us to ski off-piste we will brush up our technique back on the piste. This is a course where we will be passing on our experience and skills and where you can learn how to ski and move safely off-piste and most importantly to have fun while skiing.  You also will be inspired and motivated by Adventurer Squash Falconer throughout the week.

Rough Itinerary:
This an example of the 5 day back country adventure itinerary.
Night of arrival:
Welcome drink and canapés . Discuss the week ahead, plans and individual goals for the week.

Day 1:
Warm up to find our ski legs. Technical focus on: Balance and fundamental elements. Introduction to the use of avalanche equipment. Skiing mainly in Tignes.
Evening: Video Analysis
Day 2:
Technical Focus how to improve your off-piste skiing.
Evening: Avalanche Workshop
Day 3:
Technical Focus skiing on off-piste steeper terrain and variable conditions. Skiing in both Tignes and Val D’Isere
Evening: Adventure evening with Squash Falconer
Day 4:
Technical Focus ski touring/hiking. With a short tour
Day 5:
Ski tour a full day with a possible stop at a mountain hut.

Refuge
Kit List– What to bring?:
Skis: Ideally an all mountain ski that is around 85-110mm under foot. Anything wider under foot than that is a lot harder to make shorter turns and to influence the ski, especially when we are skiing the bumps amongst the trees.
Boots: If you haven’t got your own boots, a downhill boot without a hike mode is fine or a touring boot.
Skins: Skins for touring.
Gloves: Gloves or mittens are fine. I normally have glove liners as well as it can get cold.
Layers: Lots of thin thermal breathable layers are always good with a waterproof jacket over the top, so you can remove them if you get hot. A buff or snood is always very handy.
Poles: Downhill poles with bigger baskets are fine. Telescopic touring poles are better for touring with.
Goggles: Goggles are a must. Ideally two lenses. If you can make sure you have a yellow goggle lens or a lens which you can put in your goggles in case of bad weather and poor visibility this will makes a huge difference.
Sunglasses: A big yes for the sunny days.
Helmet: A helmet is paramount.
Backpack: If you have a comfortable backpack 25-35 litres please can you bring it. If you have an ABS bag please bring it as it is great for off-piste but can be heavy for touring.
Avalanche Gear: If you do have a pack, shovel, probe and transceiver (digital) please bring them. If not you can rent them in resort. ABS bag is recommended.
Water bottle, flask and snacks: Nuts, dried fruit and energy bars are always handy for slow release energy instead of chocolate.
Suncream: 30+
Beanie: To keep head warm and to cover up helmet hair when having lunch!
Camera/GoPro: Good to take photos and to make movies
First Aid Kit: Small first aid kit and foil safety blanket/blizzard blanket

For more info please contact

info@freefloski.com

We look forward to stepping into your next adventure with you.

Floss & Squash!

Floss Cockle is a BASI British International Ski Teacher L4 ISTD with a wealth of experience having taught skiing for sixteen years and completed nineteen winter seasons.

Ski Touring Adventure, Tignes

April 15th 2016

“I’ve got three days, the weather looks ok and there will be windows of opportunity.  Pack light and bring good snacks”, she said.  Floss from FREEFLO has a reputation; she’s an awesome skier, a great instructor and is highly skilled in the backcountry.  As ski tour buddies go, they don’t get much better.   I packed light.

All season I’ve been ski touring in Tignes, but I’ve been on piste and in familiar areas – this was the trip I had been hoping for – an opportunity to explore the back-country, expand my ski touring horizons and go on an adventure.

We were a small team –  Floss, myself and another friend Steve.  We met early in Val Claret in Tignes and drank tea.  Looking out at the thick snow falling, this was going to go one of two ways: the weather would clear and we’d go or we’d have to postpone.  We took the Col du Palet button lift, dropped off the back; the snow stopped falling and the cloud lifted.  It was on!  We were stepping into the back-country, the untouched mountains stretched out endlessly in front of us, it felt like freedom and it looked spectacular.

The view heading up to the Pointe de la Vallaisonnay
The view heading up to the Pointe de la Vallaisonnay

After a short exhilarating powder ski down we put our skins on to head up to the Pointe de la Vallaisonnay (3020m).  Knowing that Floss had previously tried twice to get to this this point without success made reaching our first peak in a little over two hours even sweeter.  On mountains in the back-country, nothing is a given: conditions, weather, team and individual fitness all must align in order to reach goals. 

Reaching the summit of Pointe de la Vallaisonnay
Reaching the summit of Pointe de la Vallaisonnay

With Floss finding the route it was a fun ski down off the back of the Pointe and lunch in the valley floor by a nice big rock was delicious.  Ski touring is hungry work and I’ve found that in the mountains, the harder you work for it, the better it tastes.  Steve whose background I discovered was in geography, told us a story about the glacier we could see retreating on the Grand Casse in the distance – apparently it once formed part of a natural dam and we were at the bottom of the lake it created until the glacier broke, releasing an almighty volume of water wiping out all the villages below!

Re-fuelled, our next move was to skin up and around the Aiguille Noir back up to the Col Du Palet where we had begun.  We had a good pace as a team but Steve had been pushing hard all day and decided he was going to finish here. 

Almost back at the Col Du Palet where our day had begun.
Almost back at the Col Du Palet where our day had begun.

Floss and I still had time to blast down to Val Claret and catch the last lift to the Grand Motte, so that we could reach the Leisse Refuge in time for dinner and our adventure would continue.

Reaching the Leisse Refuge in time for dinner.
Reaching the Leisse Refuge in time for dinner.

The weather was closing in but Floss was familiar with the route to the refuge so it wasn’t a problem.  We skated for over an hour and were delighted to reach the refuge, the lit fire and sit down to a hearty meal.

The next morning we woke up to fresh snow and no visibility.  We took a long breakfast.  We wanted to reach the Refuge Femma and from there we could attempt to get to the peak of Mean Martin, 3330m, Floss’s ultimate goal for the trip.  Floss had casually said before we set out that it would be amazing to get there.  It’s crucial on a trip that you understand each teammate’s goals.  I knew I had the fitness and ability to get there and could support Floss’s ambitions.  I also knew that in doing this I could achieve my goals of exploring the backcountry and having an adventure.   This was teamwork making the dream work!

Waking up to fresh snow and poor viability.
Waking up to fresh snow and poor viability.

The visibility was lifting a little but it wasn’t ideal.  Honesty within a team is vital – it’s no good pretending you can do something and finding yourself up on the mountain in a situation, stuck.  You can put your own life in danger and even worse put your team in danger.  My navigation skills are ok; Floss’s are very good.  Both aware of each other’s skill level, we set off South, touring up the steep slope of Cotes De Leisse dessus, stopping regularly to read the map and setting the reciprocal compass bearing in case we needed to back track.  We soon reached the Col De Pierre Blanche 2842m.  The cloud lifted for a short while and we enjoyed the day’s high point but we were both highly aware that we needed to get to the refuge. It was only 5km away and 380m down.  The thick fog set in and we were engulfed, we could only see a couple of metres in any direction.  We knew where we were on the map and I listened as Floss explained a plan.  She knew there was a river in the valley below; we could ski down to it, avoiding the cliffs beneath us and then it was simple – we could follow it all the way to the refuge.  It was a really good learning curve for me.  I was so fixed on following the route we had planned which was to traverse along the ridge and drop down to the refuge that I hadn’t considered another route.  We carefully made our way down the steep gully and reached the river, which we aptly named, “relief river” for obvious reasons and soon after we reached Femma.

Floss taking a break, happy & relieved at 'Relief River'
Floss taking a break, happy & relieved at ‘Relief River’

Refuges are wonderful places; simple, functional and warm.  There’s no tv, no wifi and no phone signal.  The outside world is a million miles away.  We drank tea, ate snacks and reflected on the day’s adventure.  It had been a really good day.

Refuge Femma
Refuge Femma

Both awake before the alarm went off, we were up and out early!  The weather was good and we both knew Mean Martin was within our reach.  There was fresh snow and no one else in sight. It was day three of our adventure and we had found a rhythm.  We silently made our way through the snow, stopping occasionally to take in the absolute beauty of our surroundings and to enjoy some of our remaining snacks! 

Leaving Refuge Femma in the morning.
Leaving Refuge Femma in the morning.

We reached the summit in under 3.5hrs.  It was windy and the weather was closing in once again, we had timed it just right. 

The ski down in the fresh powder was exhilarating and brilliant.  We were delighted – we had achieved our goals and we were rewarded with this incredible powder descent.

In order to get back to Tignes we had a little more touring to do – we had to head up and over the Col De Fours, make our way to the Manchet Valley which would take us into Val D’Isere and from there make our way back to Tignes on the pistes.

We took our time, stopped and sat in the snow for a while – I wasn’t ready for the adventure to end.  It was a privilege to have been touring with Floss.  What an amazing trip we’d had and I was now armed with more knowledge, more experience and a huge feeling of excitement about our next adventure.

If you’re interested in joining us on a ski tour adventure then please sign up to my mailing list on the homepage of my website or send me an email squash@squashfalconer.

 Click here to read Floss’s blog about the adventure.

Courmayeur – The Vallee Blanche

I have never been to Courmayeur in Italy until last week when I did the Make a Wish, Ski the World Challenge.

Coumayeur Lift
Hotel Pilier d'Angle in Courmayeur
Stunning Ski Slopes
The Guides 'Hut' in the town centre

Forget your purpose built ski resorts, this is a charming established mountain town, nestled away in the region of Aosta Valley in Northern Italy.

Not only did I get to spend the weekend skiing over 43,000 vertical metres but I also had an extra day in Courmayeur and went to ski the legendary Vallee Blanche. Probably the most famous off piste ski run in the world – an 18km journey with 2800m of vertical decent through stunning glaciated alpine scenery. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years and never got round to.

With Marco - our guide from www.courmayeurguide.com
The Vallee Blanche!

We woke up in Italy, took the lift from La Palud to Helbronner, skied over into France and down the Vallee Blanche just in time for a late lunch in Chamonix. A short bus trip back through the tunnel meant we were back in Courmayeur late afternoon! A day I would highly recommend to any skier (and boarder in better conditions!).

The snow wasn’t in great condition but the views and adventure of it all certainly made up for it.

It was amazing skiing down the glacier...
Melt water begins to meander though the ice lower down

What amazed me the most was that the Vallee Blanche reminded of a smaller version of the Khumbu Ice Fall. A huge moving glacier; beautiful but deadly, full of crevasses and precarious great chucks of ice.

I felt like I was at the bottom of a mini Khumbu Ice Fall!

At the bottom of the Vallee they have drilled into the ice and made a really cool (literally) museum all about the history and geology of the Vallee Blanche.

This barman didn't have a lot to say!
Why couldn't we have had a school trip here?!
Looking back up The Vallee Blance

Make a Wish – Ski the World Challenge!

Last weekend I was in Courmayeur in Aosta for the Make a Wish, Ski the World Challenge.

The challenge – to ski or snowboard the combined vertical height of the highest mountains on each continent, with two peaks in Europe thrown in for good measure. (Mont blanc, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Everest, McKinley, Aconcagua , Vinson, Carstensz Pyramid)

The exact total of all the peaks is 43,314m. That is a vertical drop of about 30 miles. It is almost five times higher than the altitude a plane flies at!!

The aim of the challenge – to rise money for the Make A Wish Foundation. The charity makes dreams come true for children with life threatening diseases. www.make-a-wish.org.uk The total raised was almost £20,000!!

The Team!

We were in teams of two or three, we found the ski run with the largest vertical drop (and the fastest chair) and stuck on it all day! I was surprised that I could do the run so many times and not get bored but we all got quite competitive and were very focused on getting it done. It was a great bunch of people who were involved and Graham Bell joined the event too which was brilliant. He’s not a bad skier!

The Ski the World Challenge is run by, Ski Solutions, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary. It was such a fun weekend, I’d recommend it to everyone who can ski or board (you can do it even if you’re a beginner, just make sure you’re in a team with someone who’s fast!). www.skisolutions.com