Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade does not take into account objective hazards (stone fall, seracs, etc) but only the consequences of the skier falling.
Low Exposure (E1): Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.
Medium Exposure (E2): As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.
High Exposure (E3): In case of a fall, death is highly likely.
Extreme Exposure (E4): In case of a fall, the skier faces certain death.
In spring snow, the southeast facing side of the La Balme ridge is sheer perfection.
There are no great technical difficulties and as long as the snow conditions are right (and it hasn’t turned to deep slush) the slope can be skied by anyone who is comfortable on all marked runs.
In short it’s a great introduction to off piste skiing in spring snow.
Being southeast facing it doesn’t hold powder for that long but it can occasionally surprise and if not then there are loads of options on the north side of the same ridge.
To get there, start at the top of the Vallons or Cucumelle chairlifts, walking south along the ridge for a few minutes at which point you’ll be able to put your skis back on and take as much speed as possible along the same ridge.
Once you can’t get any further on your skis, hike the rest on foot as far as the small cabin at the top.
Helpfully the ridge nearly always has a nicely groomed cat track in it as it is used by the ski patrol to get from one valley to the next quickly and for avalanche control.
This makes the going easier.
From the top, you can take more or less any line you like but stay under control as there is the odd section of cliff that you generally can see from above as long as you aren’t travelling too fast.
If you aim for near the top of the Barres button lift you can turn left just above it and continue off piste for longer on the same aspect.
You rejoin the piste on the Barres green run.