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Hiking above Peisey Vallandry

Saturday, 25 June 2011

CREST VOLAND



Crest Voland (pronounced "Crevollon") is a small village in the Val d'Arly, on the road from Megeve to Albertville.  Despite (or maybe because of) its proximity to such an illustrious neighbour, it's fairly low profile.  But it is well worth a visit for anyone on a tour of resorts, as well as those looking for a family offer.


It's now part of a much bigger ski area - the slightly cumbersomely branded "Espace Diamond" being arguably only marginally less silly than Paradiski.  This gives 180kms of pistes, however, which is the equivalent of Les Arcs sans La Plagne.  You don't get the height of the "big league" resorts, but you do get:


1. Great views of the Arly valley and Aravis range beyond
2. A good sense of travelling from village to village
3. Good value prices: eg 26E for a Crest Voland-only pass
4. A genuine French alpine village - this means v fast lower slopes!
5. Good conditions for the height - in Feb 2011 there was quite a lot of snow at 1200m. Les Granges, below Les Arcs, for example, was utterly green at this time.


Definitely not a place for late holidays - there's very little skiing above 2000m.  Worth thinking about if you're looking for something more traditional but want to avoid the traffic and town-ness that comes with a Megeve or similar.


www.crestvoland-cohennoz.com

Saturday, 18 June 2011

LA ROSIERE

UPDATE: 19 January 2013. The future is bright...



Things are changing quite quickly in La Rosiere.  The British Chalet companies like it, there is a new fast lift for 2012/13 to replace the old and slow Fort lift on the way over to Italy....and expansion is planned for 2016/7, with two new lifts scheduled for the Les Eucherts area, along with an additional 40km of pistes.  Bringing the "Espace San Bernado" up to 200kms, this will take La Rosiere right back into the Premiership.

Here are some shots of the area from a January 2013 visit.  Once on the La Thuile side a recommended route is the "Tour" - it brings you onto the "main road" (aka the piste), with a couple of options for lunch.

The Les Arcs pisteurs recommend "La Grotta", which involves being picked up at the foot of the La Thuile lifts apparently.



The green run from the top of the Ecudets chair (1)
The green run (2)
The border.  Take the long red (No 18,
 then No 6) to La Thuile:
1200m of descent
Going back to La Thuile along the "road"
(Piste No 7)
Back in La Rosiere: the restaurant above the Eucherts lift


18 June 2011

La Rosiere's profile seems to have been on the wane in recent years....


Villaroger on the right, Tignes in the background

Without wanting to over-stretch the comparisons with football clubs, it's probably on the Premiership/Championship borders.  Earlier in the year I thought it was probably Birmingham.  And they got relegated.  It has some good lifts, varied terrain (if you include the Italian side) and decent vertical descents.




But it's the views, I think, that make me very, very keen on La Rosiere.  

Coming from Bourg St Maurice, take the N90, go through Seez and its various suburbs and then after a few kms take a left and park at the Les Ecudets lift.  This is at about 1100 metres and means you can avoid the long drive right to the top. You can buy a ticket and get a coffee here, but you can't rent skis.  There are occasional buses from the Bourg funiculaire to Ecudets - one leaves at 9am for example.

The resort itself is modern but feels more of a "place" than its purpose-built neighbours.  The more upmarket accommodation seems to be at Ecudets, which is a suburb slightly away from the centre, served by its own fast lift.

The area above La Rosiere is very flattering - easy red cruising as you look down the valley towards La Plagne or up towards Tignes.  It doesn't seem to get too busy - eg in February half term it was much more fluid than Les Arcs.

Going over to Italy does feel like a trek.  There are two seemingly endless drags while still (just) in France which do make you wonder if it's all worthwhile.  Then there are basically two routes into Italy: take the summer road and weave your way down, or take the higher route.  I'd recommend the latter.  Once over the top, go down via Pontelles and Nuova – this red run is a minor classic – it goes from 2600 to 1400m, away from the lifts, taking you from big open pistes close to the glacier and then down through the trees on a fast and bumpy piste.

The big issue I have when over on the Italian side is that I’m always nervous about getting back (the Col du Petit St Bernard is notoriously windy and prone to generally iffy weather).  I need to go back, relax, and explore the Italian side some more.  It has a good-ish lift system and feels away from the crowds.




Close to "the border", at the top of La Thuile

Restaurants on the Italian side are generally described as average, though friendly and vaguely Italian.  I'd agree with that.    

For some people – eg a real mixed ability party with some adventurous intermediates and some beginners - it could be perfect for a week.

Keener folk could get bored, but definitely worth a day trip if you are staying in one of the big Tarentaise resorts.  You do get much more of a sense of adventure than in a Tignes or Val d'Isere.  And those views...


www.larosiere.net

Sunday, 12 June 2011

LES ARCS: 2010/11 Season Review

The best guide to Les Arcs for prospective visitors is in the Where to Ski and Snowboard book (website: wtss.co.uk).  Here are some updates from Les Arcs from the (rather forgettable) season that was 2010/11: 

PARKING
Still much grumping from the locals about the new(ish) parking regime at 1800.  You can still park free at 1600, and also at the tennis courts on the way up to 1800 on the left hand side – assuming you’re early on changeover day.

It's also still free to park at the Funiculaire in BSM.  If you’re skiing on the day of arrival, buy your ticket there – it will then include your journey up the hill.

LIFTS
New lift for 2011/12 at 1600.  This new fast lift will now go to Deux Tetes.  In a way it's a shame as it will make the area served by the old Mont Blanc lift rather less tranquille, but it's a logical development.  Over the last 8 years just about all the key lifts on what is (in my view) the most interesting side of the ski area will have been replaced – ie from 1600 right across to Peisey.

HIGH SEASON
.....there can be 15 min queues.  To avoid these, take the remaining slow lifts (eg Charmettoger, Villards, Renard, Comborciere, anywhere on the Villaroger side).  It gives you a slowcoach, B-road kind of alternative.  Queues for the Cable Car remain hairy for much of the time, high season or not.

PRICES
Ski resorts are never cheap, but Les Arcs seems to be able to serve the full range of customers; from Russians who can’t quite get to Courchevel through middle class French families to Brit university trips.  At the expensive end, Chalets de l’Arc in 2000 is 16-20E for main course.  At the cheaper end, there is the Arcabulle cafe just above which is 4E for a good slice of pizza; it’s 6.5E for a panini at the un-atmospheric but well-located cafe at the top of Col de la Chal.  Down in 1800, Chez Boubou is 9.80E for a plat du jour and, although not technically piste-side, you can ski down to the place Miravidi quite easily.  Hotel de la Vanoise is about 12-13 for plat du jour and very well recommended (just above Peisey lift).  Blanche Muree is still my favourite.  A proper, non-chain, place!

GET UP EARLY 
One day a week there is a trip to start the day with the pisteurs at 0745 (from the Transarc).  10E, coffee and croissants at their hut at 2600m, and first tracks with just the pisteurs for company.  

WEB ETC
Les Arcs’ website is OK but a bit flash and lacking in substance.  Les Arcs TV (the one you watch when staying in resort) is shocking.  Really.  Radio Les Arcs provides the soundtrack and isn’t bad at all as the DJ likes 80s stuff.  You can listen on-line from Britain if you are sad enough....

HOTEL DU GOLF
Hotel du Golf now has a pool and fitness place, so probably the best option for non-skiers who can afford it.  It’s not too expensive out of high season.  They are opening again in summer, so are to be commended. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

FRENCH SKI RESORTS: The Premiership





With both turnstiles and ski lifts closed, the important issues of the day can now be discussed.  Namely: if your favourite French ski resort were a Premiership side, which would it be?  Here’s a starter for 10: 


(1 June 2012: Follow this link for the 2012/13 version)

Man Utd = Val d’Isere
A classic resort; famous around the world, consistently performs at a high level.  Popular with rich people from The South.

Chelsea = Courchevel
Money talks; the domain of well-heeled Russians.  Oddly characterless.  Less affluent folk are scattered in distant suburbs away from the centre.

Man City = Tignes
Lots of investment; lifts now arguably superior to those of its neighbour across the mountain.  Clearly on the up.  Still lacks that je ne sais quoi.

Arsenal = Meribel
Strong Anglo-French links, not as good as thinks it is but is still very good indeed.  Will never go out of fashion.

Tottenham = Les Arcs
Has had its ups and downs over the years, but a steady transformation over last decade - by no means perfect but can mix with big league.

Liverpool = Chamonix.
Fancies itself as the home of mountaineering.  Which in a way it is.  Has a tradition, character, real sense of place that everyone respects - fans all want to visit at least once...

Everton = La Plagne
Was one of the "Big Five" in the 1980s, but no longer.  Shrewd management has papered over the cracks (slow lifts, short runs).

Fulham = Megeve
Location and proximity to nice restaurants is just as important as the skiing.

Aston Villa = Flaine
Has lots of support; good all-rounder and the infrastructure to mix it with the big league.  Could win a trophy under new management.

Sunderland = Alpe d'Huez
Great stadium, all the way to 3,300m; a World Cup venue.  It’s south-facing, though and therefore can lose its best assets towards the end of the season.

West Brom = La Clusaz
Quietly goes about its business with little attention from abroad.  If you look at it in more closely, you’ll find it has a lot going for it…

Newcastle = Val Thorens
Again, a big stadium, with great atmosphere and famous nightlife.   When the sun shines it’s great, but on a cold day...

Stoke City = Les Sybelles
Has no discernible centre; a modest kind of a place.  Has made its mark on the Premiership without anyone really noticing how far they've come.  Top lifts often shut due to wind.

Bolton = Valmorel
In the shadow of its neighbours but well-run and doesn’t get intimidated.

Blackburn = Avoriaz
Has been in Premiership for many years; respected but not really among anyone's favourites.  Are owners putting enough money in?

Wigan = Areches/Beaufort
Few people go there, but those who do enjoy the welcome (and the cheese pies).

Wolves = Les 2 Alpes
One of the oldest in the league - nightlife like the Wild West.  Summer glacier can't hide lack of strength in depth (narrow ski area).

QPR = Les Gets
Not the biggest but there's money there.  Unlikely to be so good late season?

Norwich = Serre Chevalier
Bit of a yo-yo resort between Prem and Championship.  Remote location.  But has strong support, and real character.  And good food...

Swansea = Isola 2000
Also somewhat remote geographically from rest of the league.  Was briefly in the top flight during the 1980s.  More investment has gone in recently; will it be enough to survive…

AND MORE IMPORTANTLY….

Oxford United = Chamrousse
On the Grenoble Road, big university town boasting great ski area.  Was briefly in the top flight; Jean-Claude Killy once skied there.  Has strong following from the locals; could surprise a few people.

Barnet = Ste Foy
Where the ski instructors go on their day off.  Only a few lifts but packs more of a punch than this implies.  Noteworthy gradients.  Local authority resisting its bid to expand.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

NEIGE....On The Road

It's the 1st of June, and the snow is falling, as witnessed in this Maurienne village...
http://maurienne.tv/index.php?post/2011/06/01/Neige-en-Maurienne-en-Juin-2011

Meanwhile it doesn't look too seasonal back in Les Arcs....
http://twitpic.com/55e70t

On The Road

For the armchair cyclist, Grenoble Cycling Pages have put together a YouTube channel. The Col du Lautaret tour, taken at the start of May, is v atmospheric.  The music may not be entirely to your taste.

http://www.youtube.com/user/standringr