FATMAP difficulty grade
The Tête du Grand Pré is the collective name for a series of off piste descents on the mountain that is commonly (but wrongly) known as the Tête du Grand Pré.
Confusingly the actual Tête du Grand Pré is the name of the peak to the west of the peak we’re interested in here and the one below which you traverse to get to the start of these descents.
In the same way as the Les Guibertes area, the Tête du Grand Pré has a huge number of potential lines, each with their own particular character.
However, it is also a tricky place to navigate and it is easy to get lost in its vastness, which can mean unwelcome encounters with cliffs and avalanche couloirs.
The complicated route finding, together with the long hike and traversing, keep the hordes away from these lines and it is not uncommon to find untracked snow a week or more after the last snowfall.
All in all the area offers wild and wonderful tree skiing that can rival anywhere in the world on its day.
The access is initially the same as for the Guibertes couloirs, namely a 20-30 minute hike up the Cucumelle followed by a ski and traverse high on the south face of the Tête du Grand Pré.
A short side step or climb leads to another traverse, this time on the southeast face of the same mountain.
At the small col that leads to Les Guibertes, you need to hike up the ridge straight ahead for another 10 minutes.
Be careful at and around the summit as a large and sometimes overhanging cornice often forms over the cliffs on the north side.
There is a lot of traversing involved to get to the Tete du Grand Pré.
If you are on a snowboard it is much easier if you are goofy or happy riding switch.
Heel edge traversing can be a slow, frustrating process.
From the summit, follow the wide often windblown ridge down to the northeast.
Look for a gulley that leads into the trees to the right of the peak ahead.
That’s your way in.
This gulley can also be reached by starting the descent just before the summit, heading right down a gentle slope that gets gradually steeper before cutting left mid way up the large E facing side of the Tête du Grand Pré (this has the obvious disadvantage of cutting across a large slope that is often in the lee of the wind and therefore potentially suspect).
The gulley gradually becomes a well spaced tree run that cascades down the mountain in a series of steeper and gentler sections.
If you reach some wooden avalanche barriers, start to bear left and avoid the next section of steeper slope.
Look for a flatter section that runs right to left across the slope and leads towards a tighter section of trees and a steeper slope facing north.
If you are too far left to see the avalanche barriers, keep an eye out for this flatter section and the tight trees at a gap in the snowy ridge running directly down the mountain.
Take the north facing slope through tight trees to start with.
This slope gradually turns towards the east and the trees become more spaced out.
Follow this as it turns into a wide open and fairly gently sloping glade.
The glade comes to an end at about 1600 metres altitude as it gets significantly steeper.
You can continue straight on but there needs to be very good snow cover as the ground is rocky.
Continue down to what is a footpath in the summer.
Turn right on the footpath and follow it down to the last bend of the Route de Fréjus green piste.
An alternative exit, if the snow cover is patchy, is to turn right just before the end of the glade and traverse above a cliff and across an obvious avalanche corridor (often it has old avalanche debris in it) before heading down to join the walking path and then the Route de Fréjus piste.