MadPat’s family was in France last Summer, this was our first trip visiting my wife’s family since 2003. This was also our first Summer vacation in France since 1998 which was somewhat a concern due to a few factors: 1) Coordinating visits to family and friends in August in France is fairly difficult. 2) The heat. In 1998, temperatures were often in the 35-45C range for our entire 4 weeks around Lyon. I particularly remember the 39C weekend in Albertville and Annecy in the Alps. It was a challenge to move around with a 9-month old Morgane. We mostly traveled nights…it was bad.
Since we arrived over two weeks ago, temperatures had been around the mid 20s celsius which made things easier. The weekend plans for the weekend were initially heading towards the “Hautes-Alpes” in les Alpes du Sud before continuing down south to the French Riviera, Nice. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make arrangements with my wife’s childhood friend in Gap, so the plans were up in the air.
In March 2003, I had planned to ski at La Grave, but the plan fell through. What did I do? I decided to head for Chamonix instead. This time we could have waited a few days before we could head down to my wife’s aunt in Nice. Not easy lining family/friends up. As the Cham solution worked well in 2003, we decided to apply it now: head to the “Haute-Savoie” and drive 3 hours to Chamonix. My wife had only passed through Chamonix as a kid and had never visited, as for myself, it was my 3rd visit.
Haute-Savoie and le massif du Mont Blanc in the distance
Le Mont Blanc vue de la route
Chamonix and l’Aiguille du Midi : 11 août
We arrived in Chamonix à l’heure du midi. Massive traffic into the town and towards the Tunnel into Italy. We had to thread l’aiguille du find a parking space in a paid parking. Waited one hour just to get a ticket for one of the classic and craziest lifts in the World, the double stage rise from Chamonix (1030m) to l’Aiguille du Midi (3942m) on Mont Blanc (4807m), the Alps’ highest mountain. Once we had the ticket, we were given a place for the 5pm Tram, 3.5 hours away. So we took that time to eat lunch and walk around Cham. We showed up early, we squeezed into the Tram cars and manage to be close to the window 4-times on each trip. Once at the top, we were given a time to descend; 2.5 hours later. This gave me more time at the top than on my descent of la Vallée-Blanche in March 2003. The temps was around +1c. Incredible views of peaks, glaciers and seracs.
Replication of the famous pose
Brévent-Flégère ski areas from Plan de l’Aiguille (1st stage)
Second stage of the Tram : Aiguille du Midi
View from the ride in the Tram
Hikers on the Glacier
Mont Blanc from L’Aiguille du Midi
Tram at the top of l’Aiguille
Geneva : 12 août
Back on the valley floor we eat supper and heading to our hotel near Geneva. Visited the Swiss city the next day and were initially supposed to head back towards my in-laws in l’Ain. But the day we left my wife’s town, we decided that maybe it could stretch it into a three-day trip and I proposed Val d’Isère for the Sunday.
Girls on the shore of Lac Léman in Geneva
Val D’Isère, Tignes et La Grande Motte : 13 août
Arrived at Val d’Isère past 1 am and it was somewhat of a challenge to find the small apartment we reserved. The night was short as skiing started at 7am. I didn’t have any skis, not sure if I would find a place to rent so early in the morning. Family continued sleeping as I went to get some bread and look around what I could find. The lady behind the counter at Bakery confirmed what I was afraid of, sport shops would probably open around 10-10:30am. As I walked around, I saw a shop door open with the owner vacuuming. He was open. The air was cool, definitely got me in the mood to get organized, by the time I got back I stopped by the grocery store that had just opened. Got a quick skiing snack and woke up Caroline and asked her to drive me over to Tignes. Picked up a pair of Rossignol 9Ss Slalom skis along the way which cost me 11 euros. I already had my boots and poles, there wasn’t any room in our borrowed Peugeot 206.
Why are we staying in Val d’Isère if the skiing is at Tignes asked my wife half asleep? Val d’Isère is a classic ski town while Tignes is an artificial 1970s ski town; being off-season, probably more enjoyable staying in Val. I was dropped off in the Tignes parking 20km later. Walk through empty pavement to get to the ticket office and decided I wasn’t going to wait an extra 45 minutes for the reduce rates which started at 10:30am, it was late enough. I headed for the Funiculaire which in short is like an underground subway car. The lift connects to base at 2100m with the bottom of the skiing and the Tram at 3000m. What I didn’t know, is that the Funiculaire didn’t run continuously and probably waited 30 minutes before getting on and up.
Summer skiing at Tignes is quite extensive, however I was told a few days prior on the French ski forum Skipass that the ski resort didn’t have a good year and that the glacier was subpar. It hadn’t snowed much this year and the lower glacier was darken and dirty ice. The Summer skiing can extend lower, but this being mid-August of a bad year, all the skiing was done above the lower Tram station.
We are still talking 1 Tram, 2 t-bars and 2 rope-tow mostly serving the upper part of the glacier where the snowpark is located. The Tram terminal is just above. The quality of the snow was good at the level of both rope-tows with the top of 3500k T-bar. The snow on the lower part was becoming slushy and water was flowing, but it wasn’t that bad unless you want to train with gates. The total vertical available this mid-August was about 450 meters.
The bad skiing was lower down skiing the north-east orientation toward the lower T-Bar and the bottom of the tram. The upper part and higher T-bar and rope-tows mainly east facing.
I managed to ski 11 runs for approximately 3160 meters in vertical in about 3 hours of skiing. The best quality skiing was on the East facing slope served by the Upper T-Bar. The top part of the glacier was only served by small rope-tow mostly used by jibbers for the park.
Favorite run would be top-to-bottom as the snow and slope was real good between on the top part of the glacier and was more north facing, the only problem with this long run was dealing with the bottom part of the glacier, but it wouldn’t so bad if you didn’t have to take a slow chair back to the Tram. I wanted to go that run again for my last run and the chair stopped for what seemed like minutes as I could see the Tram just above getting ready to leave for last ride. Fortunately the chair started again and I managed to run to catch that last Tram for one nice long run. What a beautiful way to spend a few hours in August!!!
Tignes Summer ski terrain:
Monday Mad Addict’s Attic : Tignes, ski d’été
Once the day was over, I was happy. That was ’71′. I had hope to ski Tignes in the summer 1998, but a few factors made it impossible. People were on the deck on the chalet at 3000m enjoying the sun and some alcoholic beverages, as for myself, heading down back down to the concrete jungle at 2100m waiting for my family to pick me up.
The family had gone hiking. After a long wait, we explored Val d’Isère and checked out the Col de l’Iséran which is located inside the Val d’Isère ski domaine. We could see Val d’Isère smaller closed Summer glacier at a distance. Morgane was sick we drove back down the crazy switchback road towards Val d’Isère. Eat supper in town and then headed back home.
Jour 16 / 13 août: Val d’Isère-Tignes