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Mont Blanc - December 22, 2014


Jake

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Despite the less-than-stellar climatic conditions that the Laurentian region has experienced so far this winter, I had a good day of skiing at Mont Blanc. The weather was very pleasant: -14 with perfectly blue skies and little wind in the morning, warming up to -6 and clouding over in the afternoon. Trail selection is still quite limited, but snowmaking is progressing well and will hopefully lead to more open terrain after the unsettling weather that will occur in the next few days.
 
The runs that were open, however, offered respectable conditions that remained pleasant for most of the day. There were 11 runs available, which translated into 6 distinct possibilities for going down the mountain. On the Mont Blanc side, there were 5 options: Yodel, Robert, Géant, Dufour, and the lower part of the Mambo. The Géant Special offered an alternative for skiers who wished to go the Mont Faustin side. Unfortunately the Robert closed midway through the morning for training, further reducing options. All of these trails offered comparable conditions, namely a firm base with some loose snow on the surface, with a few ice patches appearing in critical areas later in the day. Exceptions were the Mambo, which iced out earlier in the day, and the Géant, which had very granular surfaces on the southern part of the trail. All-in-all though, the mountain crew has done a great job with trail maintenance considering the lack of natural snow and iffy temperatures the region has had so far this season.

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Robert: Given the time of year, there was lots of flat light.

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Geant: Oddly enough, half of the trail had very nice conditions, while the other was very granular and hard.

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Geant

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Yodel

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The base of Mont Blanc: a little snowpark was available for fans of this type of activity.

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Dufour

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Géant Special

On Mont Faustin, there was basically only one trail: the Suisse. Being a beginner trail, it doesn't sound particularly exciting, but this run is actually quite enjoyable to ski as it has turns, straight segments, varying pitches, and interesting rolls and dimensions. In other words, a lot of variety and very little feeling of a manufactured trail, which many beginner runs tend to have.  The Suisse offered great conditions in the morning, but degraded quickly around lunchtime because of high skier traffic, since it was the only trail open. At the bottom, skiers and boarders had the option of skiing in the Bébé T-Bar, a segment of about 500 feet containing a secondary (and closed) magic carpet lift. I was very happy to see that the unofficial sous-bois at the top was open and skiable. Given that there has been very little snowfall, I did not expect this kind of bonus, but thanks to the lack of rocks and well-tended base, it was ready to be used.

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The Suisse

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Bottom of the Suisse: On the left is the option of the Bébé T-Bar.
 
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The unofficial sous-bois at the top of Mont Faustin: It's not officially a trail, but it is well-maintained by mountain operations, which allows it to be available with so little snow. 
 
In terms of people, there was a solid crowd for just a few days before Christmas. Perhaps everyone is getting out before the disastrous gift we are about to receive from Santa Claus. There was no wait whatsoever for the one open chairlift on the Faustin side, and on the main side, there was a 3 to 5 minute wait at the quad chair until late morning, at which point they decided to operate the triple chairlift as well. From this point on, access was almost instantaneous. Another problem today, which I don't see very often, was a bit of crowding on the trails. There were not too many issues in the morning, but later in the day when it got more crowded, there were many people on the runs, since a very limited number were open.  
 
On a more general note, things are looking up for Mont Blanc this season. Following the complete renovation in the cafeteria last year, investments this season include a renovation of the large secondary room adjacent to the cafeteria, refreshed locker areas, new snowmaking equipment, and more. I noted however, with great sadness, that the little café under the hotel lobby is no longer in operation, replaced by a lunch box area and meeting space. While the rain and warm temperatures that are coming the next few days are worrisome, I have no doubt things will improve in time for the various events planned in January, including Centraide charity day, and CKOI radio day. 

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Serious amounts of snow has been made and is ready for spreading: the Mambo (left) and the Panda (right).

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A brand new fan gun mounted on a tower near the bottom.

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