When you’re skiing in Val d’Isère, on packed snow five feet deep, it is hard to imagine that there is a whole world of nature beneath your feet, just waiting for the summer.
By July there are wild flowers everywhere, with several species of gentian:
including the giant yellow gentian:
There are acres of rose bay willowherb:
the very rare astragale de lienz spotted by mountain guide Chris Souillac:
and false helleborines:
There are marmots, who sleep for six months beneath our skis:
and vipers, who survive the bitter winters for the same reason our water mains do: the thick duvet of snow means that the ground beneath never really freezes…
Some animals here don’t hibernate, such as France’s largest population of ibex:
or the snow voles:
who spend the winter scurrying through little tunnels between the snow and the soil:
trying to avoid the stoats:
Even the trees are unrecognisable. The bare sticks of the winter larches are vivid green now:
Val d’Isère is marvellous in the summer. But we still can’t wait for winter!
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