We waited another two days before the weather was clear enough for the helicopter to see what it was doing. The afternoon was clear sunny and incredibly bright. The helicopter landed on the car park, probably to pick up explosives and headed directly to a high crest above the chalet, it dropped so low all we could see was a cloud of snow billowing about for several seconds and then backed off the mountain a fair distance. There was a tiny plume of snow/smoke followed by a boom before the whole slope of snow started to slide down the mountain. It was all miniature and distant, but having been up there in the past, I could imagine how large the slide was. Huge billows of snow rose up in the valley, catching the sun and causing a giant brilliant white glow for several moments. The helicopter moved on to the next probable site and repeated the drop. Again a plume followed by boom and another silent slide of snow, whole valleys of silent billowing movement in the distance, the scale was impressive. It continued into the distance and out disappeared of view for a while, appearing again above the chalet but further down the valley.
They had already decided that the other side of our valley was safe enough to use the road so I took a chance to see what was going on. I was itching to be outside and also wanted to get to the other part of the resort to say goodbye to a friend who had been staying there, there were no busses so I thought that I would walk there. I passed a couple of groups of official looking people in uniforms and we passed the time of day. The helicopter was high up on the mountain doing its thing and the evidence of avalanches were clear to see in the bright snow. Looking back above the chalet, there had been several, all small and had stopped way short of the buildings. It looked as if the job was done. I set off on my way down the hill taking photos and enjoying the stunning snowy scenery, the helicopter returned to the car part to pick up more explosives and passed directly overhead on its way down the valley to continue its work. I passed the crossroads and another group of resort officials, they waved whilst watching the drama on the hillside and I continued. A van approached, I stuck my thumb out, getting a lift from one of the local guys directly into the resort village. On arrival we met the Gendarme who were holding up the traffic until the avalanche clearance had finished. No one was allowed from where I had just come from........ I’ll never know if I should have been there or not, but the view had been great and I got a ring side view of avalanche clearance in action.
I got to say good bye to Cecile, we’d met last summer on the donkey farm and she’d been staying in resort with a group of schoolchildren for ten days or so through work. We hadn’t managed to ski together as she’d injured her ankle over New Year but it was good to catch up and pass the time of day. She looked happier at the end of the visit than the start, a bit more tired but thankful that she wasn’t looking after kids for the whole season. I can only imagine. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again, she’s promised to come and give me a hand with the house when I get that far. I hope she does.
The resort slowly started to reopen the following day, piste by piste, as safety barriers got adjusted and lifts de-iced. Clare and I skid on Friday for a while, the powder was deep and soft but the visibility so poor, due to the clouds and continuing snow that we didn’t last much past lunchtime. Exhausting after skiing on groomed slopes, I have decided to get a lesson after the next new snow to learn the techniques and make it a more enjoyable experience.
|helicopter on sunny peak in centre of photo|
|Yes, it really was that deep|
|proper snowed in|
|avalanches and snow slides above the chalet|
|on the road to Pla d'Adet|
|the valley of Saint Lary Soulan|