In early March I headed off to Chamonix for 7 days (it was supposed to be 9, but the so called ‘Beast from the East’ had other ideas and my outbound flight was cancelled).
The alps have had an amazing winter for 2018 and it was in full swing in Chamonix for the week I was there – we had heaps of snow and I got more fresh tracks than I’ve ever squeezed into a week trip before. The downside was that the poor visibility on most days and the high avalanche risk (temperature was a bit all over the place) made touring a poor choice. This meant that I spent the week focused on lift served freeride, including the famed Vallee Blanche which had been on my tick list for years.
In the past I’ve always found that finding the best off piste runs takes considerable time (and confidence to go where you want) which is not always practical when you’re only out for a week at a time. Although I was fortunate to have access to some first hand local knowledge one tool I was introduced to for helping off piste skiers really stood out – FatMap.
FatMap is a mobile app map with one of its features being some really quite impressive 3D ski maps. They’ve mapped all the major European and US/Canada ski resorts and the free version includes piste maps, 3D fly through’s and ski tracking/stats. When the app really comes into its own is when you pay the (entirely worthwhile) £9.99 for 2 weeks access to the full version. This includes detailed off piste runs, avalanche and crevasse information.
The great thing about it is that all this content is added by locals/professionals who know the mountain like the back of their hand. This not only includes the map of the run on the 3D map but a whole host of information including gradients and safety consideration. Quite frankly in some cases the route descriptions are too verbose and go into detail about safety and route finding which you should really know and be doing as a matter of course if skiing off piste.
The FatMap app is like running into a local in a bar or hostel and quizzing them for hours on which of your ideas for tomorrow is best. Of course if you get the chance to talk to a local about runs you’re thinking about doing you should take it but if that doesn’t happen FatMap is the next best thing.
Just as those times when you get all your information from a someone in the bar you should always be aware of snow conditions, avalanche forecasts, weather forecasts and route finding. No app can replace that knowledge, along with a physical map and compass, but for all the other detailed info which makes finding and completing these sort of routes so much easier FatMap is excellent.