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Hiking above Peisey Vallandry

Friday, 27 February 2015

SKI AU BAS PRIX: The Story of Ski Republic

Visitors to Les Arcs and the other big league Alpine resorts will be familiar with the garish Ski Republic advertising - and many will have taken advantage of their prices.

The adventure has now come to an end.  For more on the low cost ski retailer's (brief) rise and fall, see this analysis by Ski Adventures.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

TWO MONTHS TO GO: Diary Dates

With two months of the season still ahead of us, the helpful folk at lesarcsnet.com have come up with a handy calendar of events - click here for details.

One hidden gem is the early morning "First Tracks" excursion with the pisteurs.  It does involve getting up early, but the jolly breakfast and opportunity to ski with the experts before the lifts open is well worth it.  For one account click here.  The next one is this Thursday, 26th February.

Monday sees ski rando coming to the front de neige at Charvet, in the form of an hour-long teams-of-two-relay race.  You used to only be able to rent equipment at Christina Sports in 1600, but its popularity seems to be growing somewhat: for example, skis and skins are now available for hire at the shop by the mini market in Arc 1800.  For a fine account of ski touring (in Austria) click here.

Click here for more.
NB You need a doctor's note to take part

Sunday, 15 February 2015

GENEVA-FRIENDLY RESORTS: La Clusaz

Arrive on an early morning flight to Geneva, and the Les Arcs-bound skier has a wonderful array of resorts to choose from as Day 1 destinations: FlaineCrest VolandMegeve for example.  

Le Grand Bornand firmly falls into this category of Geneva-friendly ski stations.  As does its slightly bigger neighbour La Clusaz.  You can be in the car park below an hour or so from leaving the airport.

Free parking at La Balme

The car park at La Balme is gateway to the highest skiing.  There's also a link to the Cote 2000 area from here on a different gondola.  There's a restaurant, but oddly for a base station of this size, no ski hire shop.  You can rent Alpine skis close by in the Confins valley, which is a charming centre for ski de fond.

Looking back to the resort, during the
"snow famine"of early January 2015

Everyone drones on about how low La Clusaz is, and on our visit, it's true that you couldn't ski below mid-station at La Balme (there being no artificial snow in this sector).  But La Balme's summit of 2477m is comparable with the top lifts of Flaine, Avoriaz and Valmorel, and the reds from the top are genuine reds.  What's more, the views are A-MA-ZING, even by Alpine standards.

View 1: towards Mont Blanc

View 2: back towards Geneva, with the Jura in the distance

The restaurant at La Balme is perfectly serviceable, albeit shady given its north-facing orientation.  We also made it over to the Cret du Loup restaurant below Cote 2000, which has a sunny terrace and friendly staff.  You can also look at one of the resort's curiosities from here, namely a hybrid lift which gives you the choice as to whether you want to sit on a chair or enjoy the shelter of a gondola cabin.

For some stats on La Clusaz, click here, and for the WeLove2Ski review, click here.

For a tour of the resort, here's a nice overview from the Mail.

And for some history, see the English-language Wikipedia page, which charts some of the key dates since the first road into the valley was opened in 1902, click here.

To get the latest news from resort, follow @LaClusazChalets.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

FEBRUARY IN LES ARCS

The February holidays are now in view, with Les Arcs expecting 20,000 in resort next Saturday, 14th Feb.  This breaks down as follows: 10,500 in Arc 1800, 4,900 in Arc 2000, 2,800 in  Arc 1600 and 2,700 in Arc 1950, according to Le Dauphiné.  Interesting to see that, despite all the publicity it receives, Arc 1950 remains the smallest resort...

At Arc 1800, get ready for big queues at the Vagere or Transarc.  Things may be better next year if the new chair to Arc 2000 comes on stream (more here).  But for now, it's worth planning your day and exploring areas away from the mainstream.

Here is a guide from a few years ago on some of the less visited itineraries.  To this I would now add skiing anywhere above Arc 1600 - with the new Mont Blanc lift now running alongside Cachette, queues are now rare.

Take the Malgovert run from the Comborciere all the way down to Les Granges and you have 1100m of descent.  Alternatively, from Clocheret, descent via Gollet and the never-used Violettes piste, again  to the mid-station of the funicular, and you have a similarly long run.

The start of Malgovert this Christmas.
This wild, away-from-it-all, red piste is now open

The good news is that all the runs are currently open, and there is enough snow to build this:

Source: Les Arcs Freeski Academy