FEATURED

FEATURED
Hiking above Peisey Vallandry

Sunday, 31 January 2016

SMALL AREA, BIG MOUNTAIN: Areches-Beaufort

If you're looking for a base to explore a number of different ski resorts, Albertville is certainly an option.  But an attractive alternative involves basing yourself 20km in the (to Brits anyway) low profile Beaufortain valley.

From the super little town of Beaufort you can:

  • Ski the Espace Diamant from Les Saisies (our visit to Crest-Voland is here)
  • Visit Les Contamines from the back door entrance at Hauteluce
  • Ski the local slopes above the town at Areches-Beaufort.  Which is what we did

The resort isn't particularly high (slopes to 2300m) but then it's not that low either.  And the ski area is small.  But it does have two (loosely connected) mountains, and so it feels bigger than you might expect.  Here's the official blurb from the tourist office, which includes some videos.

All in all, it's well worth a look - a good mixture of moyenne montagne and haute montagne, with serious views across the valley and towards Mont Blanc.

Park at Le Planay (1200m), and take the lift up.
Looking back into the Beaufortain

The slopes around the Col des Combettes (2100m)
feel higher than they actually are.
Taken from the cosy restaurant half way down

The point about it being a serious mountain is a serious one.  Areches hosts the famous Pierra Menta ski alpinism race every March, and has been making real efforts to build its credentials as a base for ski randonée.  For example, there are a couple of avalanche-secured tracks now in place on the mountain that you can now follow.

It's nothing like the ski in, ski out convenience you get in fancier resorts.  For example, the link from the Le Planay side to the Le Cuvy area at Areches involves a walk through the car park that would get some mollycoddled skiers seriously aerated:




Then again, you are rewarded withthe spectacular Perches red run back to Planay, far from the hum of any ski lifts:

The Perches run from Le Cuvy

It's about 2 hours from Geneva (take the Annecy lake road for a scenic introduction) and for a day trip or a weekend should be a real contender - particularly for the more experienced skier who wants to try something with a more "traditional feel" without wanting to compromise on being in a "proper" ski area.



Saturday, 16 January 2016

AS SEEN FROM ARC 1600: Ski Adventures

For another take on Les Arcs, follow the Ski Adventures blog, which includes an insider's view on the resort, as well as the opportunity to stay at Chalet d'Alice in Arc 1600.

The first blog of the year looks at the story around the upgrade of the Cachette piste, including the many snow cannons that now line the run....

Saturday, 9 January 2016

ANOTHER VIEW OF LES ARCS: Chez les pisteurs

The pisteurs have a new(ish) Facebook page and it's rapidly become an indispensable info source. This week, for example, we have a fine shot of them hard at work during the soggy weather.



And a link to the borderline unintelligible world of the nivologists, as witnessed in  this snow report from Arc 2000:


You can spend quality time with them every Thursday morning at 7.45 - a ride up before the lifts have opened, breakfast with the pisteurs and then onto the slopes before everyone else. More here.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

We've taken the plunge and entered the UK Blog Awards.  More on twitter @UKBlogAwards and #UKBA2016.

If you like this blog, please vote for us here.

View the LesArcs.Blog entry here

Saturday, 2 January 2016

THE VANOISE NATIONAL PARK: 1963-2015 RIP

(My rudimentary translation taken from the Alpes Magazine editorial, Dec 2015-Jan 2016)

As we put together the latest version of this magazine, including an article taking us to a wild and secret part of the Tarentaise, far from its ski factory image....we see the majority of the 29 communes who make up the Vanoise National Park refuse to sign the new charter.  This new charter would offer a new future to this area of outstanding natural, in line with the Giran Law, adopted by Parliament in 2006.

Only the municipal councils of Peisey-Nancroix and Saint-Martin-de-Belleville voted in favour of the charter.  Old-fashioned arguments, coupled with a complete lack of political courage, are at the heart of this.  An opportunity has been lost, for utterly irrational reasons.  An opportunity to safeguard a common approach to the area's heritage, to keep a national park which is a shop window for La Savoie, and indeed for the whole of the French Alpes.

Not everyone has the opportunity to live at the gates of a national parti, a treasure in both ecological and economic terms.  

Not everyone has the opportunity to be able to safeguard, for future generations, these protected national spaces.  

Not everyone will have the opportunity to build a different type of mountain area.  One which has achieved a great balance between taking advantage of both the fabulous ski areas and the beauty of the surrounding wilderness.  

This opportunity is the one that the majority of communes in the Tarentaise and the Haute Maurienne have refused to seize - in the name of their liberty, and in fear of a "repressive" state, who isn't interested in what happens beyond Chambéry.  They are quick to forget that this same state, during the 1960s, put in place the famous "Plan Neige" which took the miserable state of the Alpine valleys as its starting point, and which dared, driven on by visionary local leaders, to allocate some of the unspoilt areas to the pursuit of winter sports.  This has allowed people from across the world to come and enjoy themselves on the slopes of Val-d;ISere, Tignes, Les Arcs, La Plagne or Courchevel.  

The ski industry flourished - it created value, employment, innovation, and enabled a whole region to develop a global reputation.  This is the reality, and it cannot be denied.  But, in 2015, this sterile debate between economic growth and environmental protection appears just as much old-fashioned as it is incomprehensible.  Surely it can be possible to work on a harmonious approach, not just one which is "sustainable" (this word has rather lost its meaning recently), but which can finally give proper respect to the fragile equilibrium of our mountain areas. 

It is high time to shake off these worrying prejudices, wherever they may come from - the developers with their cement mixers, the farmers intent on waging was against wolves and other "predators", the middle-claass intellectuals who are so well qualified to talk about the environment it actually disqualifies them...

All of the above groups should be seen as "people of the mountains".  It is only by working together that we can find a sensible way forward.  As the writer Jean Giono put it so well: "through such agreements we can develop a shared love of the mountains".


Lac de la Plagne, Summer 2014.
A 3 hour hike from the head of the Nancroix Valley, on the
Vanoise section of the GR5 long-distance path


Friday, 1 January 2016

WEATHER MATTERS

With the dodgy start to the season, all eyes are on the weather.  Where to start?

A first stop should be @WeatherToSki, which today is reporting the first small snowfalls ahead of the more comprehensive arrivals expected over the coming week.  It's a good source of information more generally - take a look this piece on snow sure resorts near Geneva, for example. It includes a visit to La Balme, high above La Clusaz.

Above La Balme, Jan 2015

The MeteoFrance site has a special section on montagnes and goes into quite a bit of detail.  And there is also LaChaineMeteo.

For Les Arcs, you need to be careful about whether you are getting a reading for Bourg Saint Maurice (810m) or from the actual resorts themselves - i.e. from 1600m upwards.

@SnowForecast is very good and enables you to target each resort.  Or of course you can go straight to the weather section of the Les Arcs official site.

Back at home, you can keep in touch with Britain's latest snow news by following the @UKSnowUpdates or the ever-hopeful @LondonSnowWatch.

Snow in the North Penines, 1 Jan 2016
via @UKSnowUpdates