Wednesday, 23 January 2013

In the shadow of Mont Blanc

Bonjour from the small French village of Les Carroz, within sight of the Grand Massif of Mont Blanc. Though it’s usually covered in cloud, there’s no mistaking the mighty peak at 4,810m. But we’re reaching some heady heights too with the highest lift in the ski area getting up to an impressive 2480m.

I’ve been here almost a week now in what can only be described as idyllic ski conditions. Late afternoon and early evening the clouds come down and it usually snows, but the days are clear with unbroken blue sky horizon to horizon and not a breath of wind. Generally it’s around –15˚C but it’s a dry cold and when the sun is out it can feel quite warm.

The week started off with the slopes quite busy, mainly because it was the weekend of course, but as the week has progressed it’s almost like having the entire area to ourselves, all 265km of runs.

I say our, as I’m here with a couple of friends, Louise and Jock, and on day two another couple of friends of Louise, Gordon and Viv, appeared in the apartment next door, so there’s quite a group of us in all. Gordon is a more experienced skier and owns an apartment in Les Carroz and so knows the area well.

As ski holidays go I’m very impressed with Les Carroz, the oldest ski resort in France. There are no nightclubs as such and the village itself has a life all of it’s own and is quite pretty compared to a lot of “ski resorts” around the world. The ski area itself has enough runs of every grade to keep everyone happy, and the lower towns of Samoens and Morillon also boast extensive cross country skiing.

The Grand Massif ski area does have a claim to fame; it has the 2nd longest ski run in the world, the Cascades, at 14km. It takes over an hour to get to the highest point in the Flaine ski area, from where it starts, but from there it’s one continuous run all the way to the bottom of the valley. It was good fun but there are a lot of sections that are almost flat so a lot of pushing on the poles is required. The end of the run zigs zags down a steep side of a mountain and is only 15 feet wide and very icy in places. I’ve done it, but most likely wont again.

It’s been many years since I’ve been away skiing on runs that are longer than just a few hundred metres, and day one was a real struggle. Nursing a couple of injuries didn’t help either but suddenly, around mid afternoon, coming down a difficult blue run, something clicked, and it wasn’t my arthritic toe joint. From then on it has been a complete joy, carving wide sweeping turns, usually at speed, as is my desire, turning gracefully on the top of small mounds and being naughty using beginners as slalom markers!

All that said, today was difficult. Overnight 15cm of fresh snow fell. The piste-bashers that smooth out the slopes stop around 2am, so by this morning there was three to four centimetres of powder on top. This is fine for those with fat skis or boards, but for my racing carvers it’s a nightmare.

So, I took the plunge and hired a different type of ski, called an all-mountain ski. You can see in the photo that they wouldn't be out of place in a circus on the feet of a clown and I was more than a little apprehensive on them. But wow! I used them all day and found myself skiing near vertical red runs which I’ve never been able to do before. I was having so much fun hurtling down one in particular, that I managed to lose the group I was with!

So a couple of days left, with more snow on the way tomorrow. Maybe I wont go home.

Au revoir de Les Carroz.

1 comment:

Pauline said...

Is that Mont Blanc or a meringue?