In the last few years mid February has been the safest choice (normally dry weather, reasonably cold and good ice). However. there's no guarantee for that of course! Also, remember that weekends in February may be very busy because of local traffic.
In reply to Luca Signorelli:
Last year it went downhill around mid to late feb though didn't it? I remember I was waiting for conditions to get worthwhile in Scotland with Cogne as my back up plan and Scotland got too warm around that time, unfortunately from the forecasts I was reading Cogne did at the same time also
In reply to Pete_Frost:
You're pretty safe in early feb - I think the 3 times I've been have all been within Feb.
Twice we had great conditions. The other time there were enough routes in condition at our grade for the week. But some of the things we wanted to try weren't in.
In reply to Pete_Frost: Thanks, this is great advice. My climbing partner now can't make it until late Feb. Is it still worth going for it, or is there somewhere with more reliable conditions at that time?
Thanks again to everyone who replied to this thread. I'm now looking for recommendations on where to stay. Somewhere with a drying room, or facilities to dry kit is a must, and I'd prefer a place with single rooms rather than shared dorms. After that, I'll consider anything.
In reply to Pete_Frost: The latest I've been is 20-24th Feb. But that time conditions were excellent and good for a few more weeks after. I think it can vary a lot from one year to the next though.
I've stayed in both the residences Nigritelles - very spacious apartments with cooking facillities and good buffet breakfasts and the more expensive hotel la Balme which was half board with amazing portions for dinner. I'd stay at either again.
In reply to Pete_Frost: Just got back from a week there - conditions were amazing and the weather superb.
Hotel La Barme is great if you want a hotel/feeding. The owners also have apartments in Cogne (main village, La Barme is in Valnontey) which are like hotel rooms but with kitchens - http://www.residencechateauroyal.com - lovely people and a decent, updated log book
Thanks for the very encouraging update on conditions as we'll be there in less than 3 weeks time. We're also breaking the s/c habit of a lifetime by going for the full La Barme experience so thanks too for your comments re. the Herren family.