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Posts Tagged ‘Alps’

And it has come to an end…

Although we all hoped to ski and ride into June, Mother Nature had other plans, as she often does. With virtually no snow on the lower third of Superstar, we have decided NOT to spin the lift on Wednesday June 1.

Killington: May 29
With a pathetic 81″ (one-third their yearly snowfall average), Killington showed us a commitment to offering skiing as long as there was snow on the ground. The fact that they opened at all on Sunday, where skiers had to walk-on and off the lift, climb down to the snow and hike the bottom pitch of Superstar, is truly amazing. That was the kind of spirit that Killington had made their reputation in the 1980s and 1990s with continuous years of June skiing when the term “Some walking required” was a given. No one else would have opened under these conditions and even K wouldn’t have even been even been close to open this weekend a few years ago. Kudos to the Killington crew for your commitment in offering us skiing so late this season, even if Mother Nature wasn’t very kind to the East this season. Latest closing since June 1, 2002 THIS season is truly a symbol of their dedication to skiing.

Mont St-Sauveur: May 23
Although the season wasn’t as pathetic as South of the border, it wasn’t a great year like the previous season. The cold April help prolong the season, in some cases, the damage was already done when the real Spring skiing arrived (see ski areas below). MSS has been generally been aiming for mid-May and Victoria Day weekend every year and reaching it. Kudos to everyone at MSS. An extra three weekends of Spring skiing over other Eastern ski areas plus the extra days in October, only Killington had offered a later and longer season.

Jay Peak VT – May 1
Mont Comi QC – May 1
Sugarbush VT – May 1
Sugarloaf ME – May 1
Sunday River ME – May 1

Now what?

Killington isn’t the only ski resort in North America to close recently. There aren’t many liftserved options left on the continent. Summer ski area Beartooth Basin MT hasn’t open again this season due lack of snow.

Killington VT – closed May 29
Mt. Bachelor OR – closed May 29
Aspen CO – closed May 30 (open for Memorial Day weekend)**
Snowbird UT – closed May 30
Squaw Valley CA – closed May 30
Blackcomb BC – closed on May 30, but reopening on June 11

Still open (or reopening):
Aspen C) – June 5 (weekend only)**
Arapahoe Basin CO – June 12 5 (minimum daily until June 5, then Friday-Sunday only)*
Mammoth Mountain CA – July 4 June 12 (minimum)**
Blackcomb BC – July 17 (reopen on June 11)
Timberline Lodge UT – September 5

Northern Hemisphere

That is it, 3 ski areas open this week, potential 4 in mid-June. Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood is offers close to year-round skiing in North America. They are a few places in Europe in the Alps (Tignes, Les Deux Alpes, Zermatt, Saas Fee, Passeo del Stelvio, Hintertux and Mölltaler Gletscher) and Norway (Stryn, Galdhøpiggen and Fonna) that offer the same. A few other offer June and early Summer skiing in the Alps and Scandinavia, but not close to year around.

Southern Hemisphere

Our Summer is their Winter, so that a number of ski resorts on the southern continents of South America (Chile, Argentina), Australia (New Zealand, Australia). There are also 3 ski areas in South Africa and Lesotho in Africa.

Other silly places to ski with lifts
Indoor skiing found in Europe, Asia and Australia and dryslope skiing, sand skiing, but I’ll stop here before it gets too crazy.

Skiing without lifts?
It’s a big world, there are a number of areas that still have snow. Even in the East, where the season has been so bad, but not for long. Some of it is serious and it can be silly.

I’m planning to keep the blog somewhat active the Summer minus of a few weeks. I have a few posts related my Summer skiing experiences that have never been posted which I hope to be able to post them over the next few months. Some of them may be republication from another site on the blog and will show on their original date, so subscribed on the Ski Mad World Facebook page or on Twitter to be fully in touch with snow.

* UPDATE, June 1: Arapahoe Basin announced closing day as June 12. Closed midweek next week.
** UPDATE, June 3: Mammoth announced they were extending their season to July 4. Aspen announced they be open this weekend.

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List of Killington Seasons since 1966-67

*** 2012/2013 : Appreciation Day for one October weekend, reopened on November 5. K record states season as “October 13-15, Nov 5 – May 26”
** 2005/2006 : Open for one weekend after huge October storm, reopen on November 19. K record states season as “October 29-30, Nov 19 – May 1”
* 2008/09 : Nov. 2-6, Nov. 19-May 2

Season Open – Close / Total Snowfall / Ski Days
2015/2016 October 19 – May 29 / 81” / 189
2014/2015 November 3 – May 24 / 197” / 192
2013/2014 October 23 – May 18 / 196” / 199
2012/2013*** October 13 – May 26 / 208” / 195
2011/2012 October 29 – April 22 / 152” / 176
2010/2011 November 2 – May 1 / 263” / 179
2009/2010 November 7 – April 25 / 230” / 153
2008/2009** November 2 – May 2 / 283” / 169
2007/2008 November 16 – April 20 / 282” / 157
2006/2007 November 23 – May 6 / 294” / 165
2005/2006* October 29 – May 1 / 191” / 166
2004/2005 November 9 – May 15 / 206” / 188
2003/2004 November 10 – May 12 / 215” / 184
2002/2003 October 25 – May 26 / 291” / 204
2001/2002 November 6 – June 1 / 192” / 202
2000/2001 October 29 – May 27 / 316” / 202
1999/2000 October 25 – May 29 / 209” / 205
1998/1999 October 22 – May 25 / 186” / 204
1997/1998 October 1 – May 25 / 242” / 205
1996/1997 October 4 – June 22 / 301” / 233
1995/1996 October 17 – June 10 / 307” / 224
1994/1995 October 3 – June 4 / 182” / 214
1993/1994 October 1 – June 9 / 279” / 243
1992/1993 October 1 – June 1 / 300” / 229
1991/1992 October 21 – June 14 / 198” / 226
1990/1991 October 27 – May 28 / 206” / 214
1989/1990 October 10 – May 28 / 249” / 208
1988/1989 October 13 – May 21 / 202” / 211
1987/1988 October 12 – June 1 / 238” / 227
1986/1987 October 10 – June 3 / 233” / 224
1985/1986 October 1- June 3 / 198” / 224
1984/1985 November 3 – June 2 / 220” / 212
1983/1984 October 20 – June 21 / 238” / 246
1982/1983 October 17 – June 16 / 197” / 240
1981/1982 October 20 – June 15 / 268” / 225
1980/1981 October 14 – May 27 / 257” / 226
1979/1980 October 10 – May 23 / 138” / 221
1978/1979 October 16 – May 22 / 292” / 219
1977/1978 October 24 – May 23 / 341” / 195
1976/1977 October 27 – May 15 / 346” / 201
1975/1976 October 30 – May 5 / 232” / 173
1974/1975 October 19 – May 12 / 307” / 190
1973/1974 November 5 – April 30 / 193” / 177
1972/1973 October 20 – April 15 / 267” / 184
1971/1972 November 9 – May 18 / 323” / 192
1970/1971 November 18 – May 21 / 334” / 184
1969/1970 October 24 – May 4 / NA” / 178
1968/1969 November 9 – May 10 / NA” / 183
1967/1968 November 5 – April 7 / NA” / 154
1966/1967 November 4 – May 2 / NA” / 180

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Ski Mad World’s weekly Eastern Closing 2016 posts:
Let’s move Past EASTer & Go Easterner – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Part 1
Freeze Frame – Eastern Closing Thread 2015-16 – semaine 2
Monday, Monday…Eastern Closing 2016 Update – Week 3
The best of Spring Skiing – Eastern Closing 2016 – Week 4
May continue skiing – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 5
Dual May Days for Mothers’ Day – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 6
May it last? Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 7
Deep into May – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 8
At the end of May – Eastern Closing Thread 2016 – Week 9

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Pierre Tardivel was born 50 years ago on November 26, 1963 in Annecy, Haute-Savoie, France. Influences by the movies and the first tracks of greats like Patrick Vallençant and Sylvain Saudan, Tardivel became part of a small group of French Extreme skiers to have made his marks with an impressive 100 first descents in 1980 and still accomplishing first descents. Although most of his first descents are in the Alps, he accomplished in 1992 a first descent on Mont Everest southern summit; also an altitude record at that time of 8770m.

An appropriate quote from Eider:

Pierre Tardivel has spent 20 years…. 20 years skiing the steeps. A well-known figure in the (tiny) extreme skiing community, he is the undeniable godfather of this elite discipline, and at almost 50 years old continues to put down first descents.

A monument built one turn after the other, Pierre represents the epitome of alpine skiing applied to the high-mountains, descending lines that any mortal skier would simply consider unskiable. In fact, his motto is, “no slope is impossible to ski.”

I couldn’t select just one video for this month. So here are three absolutely impressive homemade clips plus one interview for the local TV after that last video posted. The music is also pretty awesome.

Comments (in French) were written by/and Tardivel’s partners.

1987 Pointe Percée – Face Ouest – 5.3 E3 AD
Posted by Jean-Christophe Roumailhac

Pierre Tardivel et Jean-Christophe Roumailhac lors d’une des toutes premières descentes de la face Ouest de la Pointe Percée dans le massif des Aravis. Une belle voie réalisée avec le matériel de l’époque, skis droits de 2 m et chaussures de slalom.

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2008 : Pointe Perçée 2752m-Massif des Aravis – Pierre Tardivel et Jérémy Janody
Posted by Yadugaz

Itinéraire ouvert par S.Meyet et E.Guilhot. Raide et gazeux 5.4 E4 250m avec 1 rappel de 40 m. Avec Pierrot on y retourne pour voir si y a moyen de passer sans rappel et voir de prolonger… 3 tentatives et 2 échecs pour finalement éviter le rappel par la Variante Yadugaz. Pas déçu du voyage l’itinéraire est soutenu. Bravo les ouvreurs!

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2012 : Pierre Tardivel et Laurent Leemans, face Nord de la Tour “Les Grands Barjots”
Posted by Laurent Leemans and Piolet15

1ère descente à skis de la face N de la Tour, le 15 janvier 2012, par Pierre Tardivel et Laurent Leemans, accompagné par Rodolphe Popier , itinéraire baptisé “Les Grands Barjots”, dans le massif du Bargy, une ligne repérée par Pierre Tardivel quelques temps auparavant. Une ligne rendue très difficile par les mauvaises conditions de neige, dans les passages clé les plus exposés et raides. Des pentes allant de 45° à 50°, Cotation proposée 5.4/E4 ,avec la présence de barres rocheuses. Les parties les moins raides, en poudreuse tassée, très agréable à skier . Une ligne se terminant par un couloir encaissé, pour enfin déboucher sur le vallon du Bronze.
Retrouvez toutes les photos sur www.piolet15.com

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Interview with Tardivel after his first descent of the Northface of la Tour “Les Grands Barjots”
Posted by TV8MontBlanc
Pierre Tardivel : un vrai grand barjot (Bargy)

You’ll find below some great interviews and great pictures plus various website information on Pierre Tardivel. All of the information is in French, except the last one.

Pierre Tardivel’s Blog List of Tardivel’s first descents

Montagnologie : Entretien avec Pierre Tardivel
Montagnes Reportages ITV : Interview Pierre Tardivel skieur extrème
Information on Tardivel on the Bivouak website
PisteHors website : Stirred but not Shaken
(in English)

“Skiing a new couloir in the Mont-Blanc massif, without abseiling or rock skiing is still possible today! You merely have to leave the ski lifts far behind, open you eyes and wait for the right conditions”

Bonne fête Pierre. Que tu puisses encore de trouver de nombreuses premières descentes!!!

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By August 2011, only seven ski areas in Europe were still offering liftserved skiing (FirstTracksOnline News).

Tignes, France
Les Deux Alpes, France
Zermatt, Switzerland
Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
Hintertux, Austria (August and September)
– Mölltaler Gletscher, Austria

euro-summer-ski

I wasn’t in Europe to ski, but I was going to ski in Europe. I had hoped going on our last Summer in Europe back in 1998, but a record heat wave and a freak accident prevented me from doing so.

This time, 13 years later, I was going to cross off the months August and September in my ski streak. Then it occurred to me, wouldn’t be interesting to make a comparison between each ski areas still activate within the same time period. It didn’t start that way, but as time the weeks passed by, it became a goal. The fact that I probably not return to do a summer tour of European glaciers made it even more appealing. Visiting them side-by-side in the same time period at the closing of the Summer season and give me a better ideas of what Europe got to offer to skiers in the late Summer months.

Only Zermatt and Hintertux are open year-round while the others shutdown once the Summer comes to an end: some of them for a few weeks, while Passo dello Stelvio is only open in Summer.

This is a list of different aspect of each summer ski areas. I don’t like to talk about “Best of” lists, but the following is more according to my opinions, thus the reason why I call it “Favorites”. For many of them, the actual summer terrain was greater than what was left at the end of the season. The following only reflected of what was left.

Favorite park : Les Deux Alpes
Favorite terrain : Hintertux
Favorite winter quality snow : Zermatt
Favorite off-the-beaten track : Passo dello Stelvio
Favorite place : Saas-Fee
Favorite place in France : Tignes
Most expensive : Zermatt
Biggest vertical : Hintertux
Highest altitude (summit and base of skiing) : Zermatt
Lowest altitude (summit and base of skiing) : Hinterux
Favorite on mountain food : Hintertux
Favorite beer selection : Hintertux
Favorite view : Zermatt, Tignes and Saas-Fee
Favorite sick road : Passo dello Stelvio
Less favorite steeps (or lack of) : Les Deux Alpes
Favorite steeps : Hintertux
Favorite Day conditions during my visit : Passo dello Stelvio
Favorite place to have fun : Saas-Fee (2nd in parks, good terrain and off-the-beaten track).

The only ski area I didn’t to visit that was still open was Mölltaler Gletscher in Austria. As I mentioned to my wife, I was probably not going to repeat a European Summer Ski Safari as the cost was much more expensive than a trip to South America, but it was fun to do. I would have loved to make to Mölltaler, but I was running out of energy and cash after almost 6 weeks in Europe; 3 of them in the Alps. At 85.7%, it’s a good sample of the mission into what late summer skiing in Europe has to offer.

Click on the specific links or image to access the seven original Ski Mad World posts.

Cham, Genève et Tignes turns August, FR – 11-13 août 2011

13 août 2011: Glacier de la Grande Motte, Tignes

See La Meije and Ski Les Deux Alpes: 20-21 août 2011

Zermatt CH : August 24, 2011 – Classic!!!

Saas-Fee CH : August 25, 2011 – Between Zermatt and Zürich

Passo dello Stelvio / Stilfserjoch IT : August 28, 2011 – Sci estivo

Hintertux, AUT : August 29, 2011 – Austria’s turns

Hintertux, AUT : September 1, 2011 – last turns and days in Europe

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Sunday: Italy (Passo dello Stelvio)
Last week: Switzerland (Zermatt and Saas-Fee)
Prior weeks : France (Tignes and Les Deux Alpes)

Its Monday and I’m starting my final week in Europe, so it must be time for Austrian turns. My almost 6 weeks stay in Europe is coming soon to an end, like many of the summer ski areas (Les Deux Alpes and Saas-Fee) which closed their summer skiing activities the previous day. The next ski season is close-by with snow having fallen this weekend at Passo dello Stelvio and Hintertux. Austria will see a few more Austria glaciers (Kaprun, Stubai and Solden) to re-open for the Fall-pre-season time.

Hintertux is different from the ski resorts I’ve visited in the pass month. The surrounding valleys and mountains are greener and populated with small rural villages which is the totally opposite from a place like Les Deux Alpes. The first thing you noticed at Hintertux is the facilities are modern. It takes 2 gondolas to reach Tuxer Fernerhaus and the lower extend of the snow at 2660 meters and a third gondola (Gletscherbus 3) to get at the slopes and top at 3288 meters. Each stage has a beautiful lodge and cafeteria and / or restaurant. The last stage gondola climbs towards a jagged Gefrorene Wand peak and you don’t really notice the ski terrain until you stepped out of the top station. There you notice the heart of the summer complex of Hintertux, two slopes almost face-to-face of approximately 200 meters each serviced by 2 t-Bars.


View of Olberer terrain


Olberer T-Bars, Gefrorene Wand on the other side.

Of all the summer ski areas I’ve visited, which is 6 out of the 7 of all ski areas open in late August, Hintertux is the lowest in altitude. The snow quality wasn’t the same as I encountered in the higher ski areas in Switzerland, but the terrain was excellent with a number of runs off two different faces. You could also ski down 628 vertical meters to the lodge restaurant at Tuxer Fernerhaus and take the Gletscherbus 3 gondola back up. Hervé was explaining me that generally in summer, they are more lifts on different terrain open (Kaserer 1 + 2 and Lärmstage chair), however this being the end of August; skiing had retreated to the best quality part of the glacier.

The terrain was pretty steep and snow was hard and icy in some spots. The gondola exits on top of the Gefrorene Wand side which is mostly West facing. We started skiing on the Olberer face where the Eastern orientation facing the sun would make it more edgeable in the early morning. There were a bunch of racers at the bottom of both lifts and they were a few courses on the hill. There were even some race kids from Greece. The snow was firm at first, but became soft after a few runs. Of course, they were the exception where there was no snow on top of glacier and you just hard and / or dirty glacier ice.

There was about 3-4 groomed runs on the Olberer side and the remains of an abandoned snowpark. The vast majority of skiers were training and skiing on that side. When the snow was softer, we headed across to ski the Gefrorene slopes.

We skied down to the longer run from the top of the Gefrorene lift down the chalet for our expresso and beverage break. The trail had a few switchbacks and there was a small stretch covered with rocky chocolate chips just before the melted out terrace. As we drank, we looked on at the major construction around the station which included the construction of new lift.


Lower ski run and lift construction seen from Tuxer Fernerhaus terrace at 2660 meters


Tuxer Fernerhaus (2660 m), construction crane and Gletscherbus 3 station

We headed back up and spent now most of our time on the Gefrorene side. Skier’s right along the T-Bar was as steep as I’ve seen for glacier slopes. There are maybe 30 posts on the side of the top trail indicating the different lanes, however that would have been earlier in the summer. Today, the only course on this side was on the other side of the T-Bar closer to the gondola terminal exit. There was still a dusting of fresh snow which covered the very hard and not always perfectly smooth surface, but we found a few good lines. You didn’t need to ski straight down, you could also follow the trail along between the steep lanes and the rock face which connected with the run to the bottom. There was some mellower terrain for the odd tourists that had rarely skied. The skier’s left part of the glacier was mellower (the southern end of both sides), the other being even longer, passed between each face and lifts to continue lower. That part of become pretty pathetic and slushy and dirty as it got later.

At the end of the ski day, we ended back down for an excellent cheap meal and beer at cafeteria at Sommerberg (2100m) at the top of the Gletscherbus 1. First rate facilities and dinning at reasonable price: not what I expected. We had an excellent two-days in the Tyrol and South Tyrol; today was my biggest day of the trip with 24 runs and 5806m vertical skied mostly 200m t-Bars for 4 hours.


Gletscherbus 3 gondola


Gefrorene Wand T-Bars, Olberer on the other side


MadPat skiing Gefrorene – picture isn’t level


Hervé on the Gefrorene Wand side with Olberer in view

After this meal, we took the one last gondola down and headed to the Gaushaus in Tux, a few villages down. Hervé headed back to Germany as I decided to settled down for a few days to ski on September, write some of these TRs and close out my skiing for 2010-11. I had initially hoped to make it further East pass Lienz to ski Mölltaler Gletscher, the only other remaining summer ski areas to make the list complete, however the extra 200km was getting me further from Paris. I knew what to expect at Hintertux for September turns, I wasn’t so sure about Mölltaler as I had difficulty finding information. After 5 weeks, I wisely decided to stay put and rest and my credit card keep a load off bill which was probably already pretty impressive.

A few days later, on September 1, I managed to return and ski before closing out the trip and return to Paris by train via stops in Innsbruck and Munich :
Hintertux, AUT : September 1, 2011 – last turns and days in Europe.


MadPat and Hervé at Sommerberg


Last stage before Hintertux and the valley at 1500 meters

MadPat’s Gallery :
Tag 32 / 29 August: Hintertux

20110829_htx
Ski Log

20110829_htx_de
Ski log detail of skiing terrain : 24 runs for 5806m vertical skiing

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How many ski areas are only open in the Summer time? Passo dello Stelvio located in Italy’s South Tyrol is accessed from the top of the mountain pass of the same name is one of the them. The ski area is only open in the Summer partially due because the road is generally not open from October to May.

Contrary to many other Alps summer operations, this ski area is a one season area and base is very modest in size. The lowest Tram is located at the pass at 2760 meters and connects to Trincerone. Another Tram connects to another station slightly higher at 3174m. From that point, there are a few more drag lifts. Some lodging is available at the pass or that the two tram stations higher in altitude.

Skiing terrain in early summer can reached up to close to 700 meters with skiing from the highest point at 3450m down all the way to the pass at 2760m. All, but one of the ten ski runs are above 3000 meters.

Quote from the ski map:

Una vacanza divesa e indimenticabile!

Ideal for learning and improving technique in all disciplines, from snowboarding and skiing, to off -piste and cross-country skiing. (…) Add to all this a disco, swimming pool, gym, sauna, Jacuzzi…as well as mountain biking, golf and weekly excursions to the Bormio Terme and Giorenza, and you get a unique and unforgettable holiday.

This ski map was taken during my visit in August 2011. Read the Trip Report for description and ski day : Passo dello Stelvio / Stilfserjoch IT : August 28, 2011 – Sci estivo

Click to access larger image

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How many ski areas are only open in the Summer time?

Taking the train out of Zürich the previous day, my driving through Italy’s South Tyrol to go skiing made it the fourth country in less than 24 hours. The previous afternoon I moved from Switzerland through Liechtenstein to end up in Austria’s Tyrol.


Zürich streetcar


Zürich Hauptbahnhof


Walensee


Schann, Liechtenstein


Tyrol

It was still dark outside when I was waiting to be picked up at 5:30am by a fellow Ottawa Masters Racer. It had been a long walk up the hill from the train station the previous evening, now I was waiting at the side of the street. I was in front of the Pension Can in the small town of Landeck where I had stayed the night when I finally the headlights coming my way. Herve and I were heading for a place called Stifserjoch in Italy, 100km drive and less than 60km south of the Austria border: A Mountain pass which serves as the border between South Tyrol and Lombarby and a stone throw from Switzerland. In fact, South Tyrol was annexed by Italy at the end of the First World War in 1919 and most of the population of this province maiden language is still German thus the two different names for the same ski area (Italian 2011 Census).

I had mentioned to him that I wished to ski most of the seven ski areas open in late summer and that Passo dello Stelvio was on the list:
Tignes, France
Les Deux Alpes, France
Zermatt, Switzerland
Sass-Fee, Switzerland
– Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
– Hintertux, Austria
– Möllaler Gletscher, Austria

Hervé was now racing in Europe and living in Germany. When I inquired about summer skiing in the Alps, he asked me if I wouldn’t mind the company? We were initially supposed to tag up and ski Saas-Fee and Zermatt together, but the high possibility of rain during that week, hard connections from Germany to the Swiss Alps and cost didn’t make it worthwhile for him to take a few days off work. That decision was wise especially when it rained in Saas-Fee and the ski area was closed on the day we were suppose to meet. We proposed our get together and found a place for me to stay in Landeck on the road from his Bavarian home to Passo dello Stelvio. We would drive back to Austria from Italy and head to Hintertux that evening and ski there the following day.


Early morning in the South Tyrol, Italy


Inside the old town : don’t follow the GPS too closely


Switchback to the top of Passo dello Stelvio

The road up Passo dello Stelvio belongs in the same category as roads up to Alpe d’Huez in France or Valle Nevado in Chile for puked factor. In what seemed like an endless series of switchbacks, we finally made it to the top of the pass at 2760 m populated by a few builders, hotels and tram building. This was the second highest road in the Alps, after the Col de l’Iséran near Val d’Isère which made my oldest daughter puke two weeks ago on my ski Tignes day.


Lower tram prior around 7:30am

I felt better when we arrived at the top and started breathing the fresh mountain air. As we were getting ready in the tiny parking lot, there was already a lineup of racers waiting for first tram. It took two tram rides to reach Livrio (3174m) and the remaining skiable terrain on this late August morning of this warm summer in the Alps. The terrain seemed simple and lackluster at first with the two Geister parallel poma lines running a fairly flat slope. From the tram, you needed to climb downslope to reach the lift. The bottom of the slope was simply ice. Towards the top of the lift, Hervé indicated to turn right at the top and its at this moment that I realized there was more to Passo dello Stelvio liftserved skiing that meets the eye. There was another poma on a steeper side. Coaches were busy setting up a few courses on the Payer runs as we were enjoying some fresh tracks. Yes, fresh snow tracks in August in the Italy. How special is that? The base was somewhat firm, but there were some pockets of fluff. That side of the hill was steeper. After 4 runs on the steeper side, we headed for another poma that was slightly lower.

The Cristallo lift wasn’t running, so we decided to keep an eye on it. At one point, we saw a few skiers waiting and the lift running, so we decided to join them. That lift was on a flatter slope on a different orientation. The poma seemed to have technical issues, but once everything was figured out, we made 10 fast laps in the fresh snow. The poma didn’t have a great vertical, but we didn’t care as the skiing was so much fun. The skier’s right of the poma had a narrow strip with a few fun rolls. On the other side of the ridge from that poma was a huge drop off with skiing destination Bormio within sight.


View of the main Geister slopes from Livrio (3174m)


Cristallo poma


Hervé and Cristallo fresh tracks


Hervé on Cristallo and view of the Payer lift and slope


View off the back end of the Cristallo lift. Bormio is in the other direction


Payer lift and courses


Payer lift and courses. View of the Cristallo poma at the bottom

We headed back and skied down the main slope to the rustic lodge next the Tram terminal with the even more rustic bathroom. Best view from behind a toilet ever. After our food, water & expresso break, we headed back up for some more laps on the Cristallo slope. Once the racers had all gone from the steeper Payer runs and we took advantage from the nice firm edgeable snow for a few last runs. We tried to milk it for extra more runs on the Geister side, but it was 1pm and the closing time. The liftee stopped our day at 27 runs.


Main side (Geister). Livrio at the botton. Tricerone (3050m) can be seen on the left. You could load midway to avoid the flats and ugly snow.


Payer and Cristallo pams at the end of the day


Livrio lodge and buildings. Notice the steep carpet ride to access the lodge. White building on the left is the tram terminal.

Although the skiing is modest, the setting of this place had it special and we had a great day.
I understand why Hervé likes this place. After our runs, it was back down via the Trams to the car at the pass, back down the valley and onto our next destination.


View of part of the road up to the Pass – I can’t remember if this is the toilet view?


Tram between Livrio and Trincerone


Buildings at the Pass


Passo dello Stelvio and Swiss border. The border had a strategy importance prior to the First World War when the pass marked also the border between Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italian Kingdom with Switzerland just above


View driving down to the valley


Ciao South Tyrol

MadPat’s Galleries :
Tag 30 / 27 August: Zürich nach Österreich
Giorno 31 / 28 agosto: Passo dello Stelvio

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Day’s Log

20110828_stelvio_de

Detail log of skiable terrain

The Day and terrain stats: 27 runs and 4137m vertical in about 5 hours including the 1 hour break.
Verticals :
Geister 1 + 2 : 192m (3160-3352)
Geister 2 (from the midloading point): 157m (3185-3352)
Payer : 147m (3190-3339)
Cristallo : 149m (3170-3319)

Tram Passo dello Stelvio-Trincerone : 290m (2760-3050)
Tram Trincerone-Livrio : 124m (3050-3174)
Both Trams : 414m
Top to bottom ski terrain on August 28 : 192m (3160-3352) / early summer potential : 592m

Monday Mad Addict’s Attic features Passo dello Stelvio and includes a ski map of the area

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Day Two skiing on the combo Zermatt-Saas Fee lift ticket which set me back a nice 120 CHF. Zermatt’s neighbouring valley is less touristy, but as scenic. Saas-Fee doesn’t have the attraction power of Zermatt and it isn’t access by train, but you still can’t drive on the town’s streets. No majestic Matterhorn hovering above, but if it lacks in a majestic iconic peak, it makes up in hanging glaciers easily visible from town.


Arriving in Saas-Fee in the late afternoon

I arrived the previous day as it was getting dark; Saas-Fee is definitely quiet place compared to my previous destination. I stayed at the Hotel Garni-Imseng, a laidback hotel with normal zimmers, but you could find in the basement next to the Bakers Museum, the Touristenlager place, a dorm in the basement which had 7 side-by-side 3 stories bunkbeds for a potential capacity of 21 people in one small room, fortunately we were only 5. The other guests were a couple of parkskiers from Geneva and a freerider that skied 2 hours in the early morning then took the bus and train to get to work in Lausanne and back later in the night. I’m not even sure if the owner knew this guy was staying there. The setup was sketchier than in Zermatt, but more genuine, authentic and friendlier from the owner, staff and guess. I guess that too many tourists in Zermatt can have a negative effect on the locals.

I had a full breakfast before heading for the gondola; I wasn’t in the hurry to hit the ice. It was slightly overcast as I rode the lift with a hiker. Lift assisted hiking was really big in my two Swiss destinations, many of the Saas-Fee gondolas were running just for hikers and had nothing to do with skier access to snow. The last part of the ascent was done with the Metro Alpin, an underground funicular, but much older than the one at Tignes.


Saas Fee in the early morning light from the gondola


Saas Fee’s Winter ski runs below glaciers

You couldn’t really see where the skiing was once you leave the terminal building; it didn’t help that it was cloudy. The skiing started as a push across very thin cover flats towards the side of the glacier. The first thing would notice was the cattrack set next to huge crevasses. I was also impressed with the overall steepness of the runs; not much of a runout in Saas-Fee. The runs were short and steep, not really steeper than Zermatt, but didn’t have the runout. The skiing domaine was also more restraint.


The zigzag Metro run that you access once off the Allalin terminal at 3500 meters. The run is on the edge of the glacier and among the crevasses. T-Bars in the background.


The Allalin 2 + 3 T-bars, bottom of Metro pitch with courses and Allalinhorn (4027m).


There were also courses on the FIS run. View of the crevasses and Allalin station (3500m).


Courses on FIS and Allalinhorn


Snowpark

No wonder the Geneva park kids like Saas Fee; the jumps and halfpipe were happening. The only park I witnessed during this late summer treks across the Alps glacier that came close was the Les Deux Alpes park.

The altitude wasn’t as high as the previous day skiing at Zermatt, so the snow softened up earlier. The glacier setup was two parallel T-Bars and a lower one where the bottom snow conditions were somewhat sketchy. There were a number of people training, but not close to the amount or general caliber as in Zermatt. I made runs until we started being immersed in clouds just prior to the last lift at 1pm.


Allalin 2 + 3 lifts and Metro run


FIS run with part of snowpark in the shadow of Allalinhorn


Top part of Summer skiing terrain as seen from top of Allalin 1 lift


Allalin 1 lift, lower part of Summer skiing terrain with Täschhorn (4490m) and Dom (4545m), 3rd highest mountain in the Alps.


Lower T-Bar : Allalin 1 – Lower ski accessed point at approximately 3200 meters.


Upper T-bars and Allalin restaurant & terminal (3500m)


Feegletscher and Täschhorn from the gondola


Storm brewing as the skiing ended

Once back in the valley, early evening showers moved in and continued into the next day. I managed to ride the alpine luge next to the gondola. The next morning the Swiss kids weren’t going out as the hill was closed and I decided to make an early move out towards Zürich. Zürich is a beautiful city. but like Switzerland, it is expensive. I’m moving further East for my next destination.


Saas-Fee


Walliser Rösti and beer after a good day skiing


Road from Saas-Fee to Zürich


and tracks from Saas-Fee to Zürich


Zürich

MadPat’s Galleries :
Tag 27 / 24 August: Zermatt und auf nach Saas Fee
Tag 28 / 25 August: Saas Fee
Tag 29 / 26 August: Saas Fee und Zurich

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Day’s Log

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Detail log of skiable terrain

The Day and terrain stats: 18 runs and 4490m vertical in just under 4 hours.
Verticals :
Allalin 2 + 3 : 249m (3330-3579)
Allalin 1 : 162m (3200-3362)
Top to bottom summer ski terrain: 379m (3200-3579)
Allalin restaurant terminal : 3500m
Metro Alpin Funicular Felskinn-Allalin : 456m (3044-3500)
Alpin Express 2 Gondola Moreina-Felskinn : 372m (2672-3044)
Alpin Express 1 Gondola Saas-Fee-Moreina : 765m (1907-2672)
Saas-Fee to Allalin : 1593m (1907-3500)

Ski Pass

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Zermatt!!! A place steep in mountaineering history and one of the most popular tourist attraction. It is also the terminal of ski mountaineering Zermatt-Chamonix Haute-Route.

The family was leaving Lyon today; wife and kids were taking the TGV train to Paris and flying back to Canada the next day. Earlier that morning, I hoped on my own train in the neighbouring town from my in-laws towards Geneva and Zermatt. It had been 4 weeks since we landed in Paris, the rest of the family were heading back for work and school while I was extended my stay in Europe to get a few more turns.


Train station in France


French countryside


Swiss Alps


Final train ride up to Zermatt

A few hours later I got off the train and walked into a postcard. No artificial Disneyfied pedestrian village with typical faux-Swiss Chalets; this was the real deal with spectacular scenery with the Matterhorn in the background and you’ll understand why there are so many tourists roaming the streets.


The Matterhorn


Zermatt

All good things for tourists, but for myself, Zermatt is first and foremost one of the most extensive summer skiing destination in the World. Skiing starts at 7am, but the gondola ride open at 6:30. I bought a 2-day combo ticket that is also good at Saas Fee in the next valley. The ticket set me back 129 CHF. A single day pass for Zermatt cost for one-day was 80 CHF making it probably one of the most expensive ski passes all season combined on the Planet. Walked in sandals from the hostel to the gondola terminal and hoped on at 7:30. The ride from 1600m edge of town to the 3800m summit station was made via the bottom gondola then followed by two trams.


Tram station


Tram ride above glacier

For some reason, we ended up waiting in a closed trams for what seem a longtime. People were hot in more ways than one. The weather forecast was uncertain as T-Storm were forecast later in the day. The Matterhorn was partially clouded off for part of the day. The temperature at the top terminal at 3883m was 0 celsius, the snow was refrozen and hard. There was a long cat-track starting from the summit terminal building and descending where the majority of the skiing was happening. There was even a tunnel to avoid skiers training Super G or Downhill. Once on the other side of the short tunnel, a multiple of teams had divided the hill in lanes for training. Conditions were hard and fast which was perfect snow conditions from running gates for teams from Ontario kids to the Austrian ski team. These conditions prevailed until 11:30.

In this last week of August, the skiing was serviced by 5 T-bars covering a vertical drop of almost 500 meters. Skiing is possible for an extra 500 meters on the Oberer Theodulgletscher earlier in the season.

The morning skiing wasn’t for the uninitiated: it was like a first year driver on the Autobahn. The terrain accessed by the two 280 meters Zermatt parallel T-Bars started steep only to conclude in a long run off at the end down to 3400 meters. A number of courses were set to the skier’s right and two on the left side of the trail. The gateless skiing was in the middle. At the bottom left side in the run out, there was a few park features. You could access the park via a shorter T-bar that ran 75 meters, but the snowpark was clearly not the focus of the Zermatt skiers. Some skiers were arriving from Cervinia on the Italia of the border via a lift arriving to the Plateau Rosa which you could ski to and from.


T-Bars and the Matterhorn


Coaches and racers with the Tram terminal at 3883m in the background


Lanes with Super G course on the left


Austrian racer

As skiers running the downhill course from higher up, I noticed a T-bar higher not visible from the top of main T-bars. This lift ran along the ridge that also served as the Swiss-Italian border and climbed an extra 160 meters. The top of the T-Bar was approximately at same altitude as the Summit building (3899m). On the plateau in between, a T-Bar assured the liaison. Although the Downhill run was off-limits, there was a gentler run between it and the cat-track from the morning. The excursion was better with snow that was soft and edgeable. It made for a pretty long run with almost 500m vertical: wow! It was impressive.


Ridge T-Bar on the Italian-Swiss border


Saddle between top T-Bar (3899m) and Tram Terminal (3883m). Start of the Super G/Downhill training course on the left


In the other direction : Breithorn (4164m) trek. You can notice path and climbers

Clouds started moving in at noon when most of the racers were gone. I asked if it was okay to run that was previously used to train downhill. The answer was “yes” and it ended up being the run of the day. I keep bumping into this French skier. He initially approached me and asked if I was American. He mentioned that he recognized me by my skiing. We took the T-Bar together a few times. He was instructor from Chamonix in Zermatt on a daytrip. When we talked about age, he says that he mentioned that he was “48” to the ladies. Turns out that he was actually 78 and had been an instructor for the last 60 years. He worked for a number of years in Tahoe and spent one year at Mammoth during their third year of operation in 1960-61. This man was full of stories and was the definition of the classic French skier from the 1960s in the way I would imagine in term of personality. He lived just off Argentière next to the lift.


Traverse towards Plateau Rosa with view of main summer skiing area


Plateau Rosa and lift connection with Breuil-Cervinia (Italy)


Back towards T-Bars base

Ended up milking out the last run of the T-Bar, skied the previous closed lanes due to the various training courses. The flatter bottom of the slopes was pretty mush, but it still fun to ski if you don’t mind that thing of snow.

We downloaded off the mountain together. He shared some of his bottle of cider and sandwich. He didn’t want to have anything to do with my Mars chocolate bar. The ride down was longer as we used the top tram then transferred to the two stage gondola. Not the fastest way down, but still incredibly spectacular.

The French skiers removed his ski boots at the top while I put my sandals. I was waiting for him to put his shoes only to find out that he didn’t have any. He told me he never wore shoes unless he asked for a loan at a bank. :O Telling you, classic. As we walked down the streets of Zermatt, me in my sandals, him barefoot, he offered me a ride down the valley with his car parked lower in the Valley (Zermatt is car-free). I had to decline as I needed to get my stuff back from the Hostal and transfer via Train and bus to Saas Fee. I was really a pleasure to share part of my day with him.

Zermatt is really spectacular. The scenery and the size of the summer liftserved skiing are pretty impressive. Definitely an all-round classic!!!


Close view of the Glacier during the Tram ride


Lower end of the Oberer Theodulgletscher with visible early summer lifts


Gondola download


Zermatt


Matterhorn in the clouds


Beautiful Zermatt

MadPat’s Galleries:
Jour 26 / 23 août: Ambérieu-en-Bugey à Zermatt
Tag 27 / 24 August: Zermatt und auf nach Saas Fee

Monday Mad Addict’s Attic : Zermatt (Trail Map)

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Day Log

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Detail log of skiable terrain

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With the assistance from postcard written on January 24, 1993.

Never…never saw anything like it: A ski day that would become unforgettable twenty years later. As we are during the Holidays, a time of the year where the slopes are the busiest.

This was my recollection of my second outing of the 1992-93 season, the first being at Chamrousse. Since that first day, we visited Lyon and took advantage to be in the beautiful city to get our Christmas shopping done prior to family get-together on Christmas. A gray Christmas Eve with rain, fog and unseasonably warm +12c; I was very far from my Canadian White Christmas that I was accustomed to in Montreal or the Laurentians. I was somewhat depressed by the constant humidity and fog of this place and probably one of the main reasons why living in France would be so difficult for myself.


Lyon

The French resort of Alpe d’Huez was unknown to me and I imagine off the radar of most North American enthusiasts like myself. The place was grand and so much bigger than what I was accustomed to, but that wasn’t the reason why I remember this day so many years later; it was rather my introduction to the French Holiday Mountain Madness. Let just say that it was a day of multiple happenings. After 9 days away from the mountain and snow, we got to return to the bigger and higher Alpe d’Huez also located in the Department of l’Isère. Main village is located at 1860 metres with a top elevation of 3330 metres. The lowest elevation 1120m making the 2210 meters vertical drop. One major resort connecting with 4 smaller ones with 125 trails for 220km of skiing served by 82 lifts with a 90,000 people per hour capacity.

The Drive

We left in the fog for another pre-dawn morning to drive to go skiing. The drive is only 160 km; a good part of distance on the 2-lane autoroute that connects Lyon to Grenoble. Do it on a Sunday between Christmas and New Year, and you’re going to get rushed by traffic driving way faster than the 130kmh speed limit. Over one million people live in Lyon and are within day trip range to reach the ski areas above Grenoble: Alpe d’Huez one of the two major resorts with Les Deux Alpes. My wife was driving the Peugeot 309 dodging from slow lane to fast lane back to slow as she was trying to move out-of-the-way of people driving probably over 160 kmh tailgating and flashing their headlights, then put the brakes as she changed into the slow lane where two-trailer trucks are limited to only 60kmh. Although the French get minimum 5-weeks vacation a year, my experience in France over the years tell me that many city folks are stressed. The drive was only the part of the impatience of the French version of the weekend warrior mentality.

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The 160km morning drive to Alpe d’Huez

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Isère skiing near Grenoble (B) with Chamrousse (A) and Alpe d’Huez (C)

Grenoble and the valley beyond were in the dark; it wasn’t going to get interesting until we left the main highway. At that point, it would become one of the most spectacular drive and the most stomach turning ski access road until I would go to Valle Nevado in Chile 15 years later in 2007. Although many North American skiers never heard of Alpe d’Huez, cycling fans have heard of this road. The road starts climbing once you leave the main highway below in the valley and unto 15km of zigzags in the mountain along side cliffs. The perfect road for car sickness. The worst part of it is that a number of cars passed us on the switchback road even if they couldn’t see ahead. We have to climb in altitude because snow rarely makes it down in the valleys. As we gained elevation, we were suddenly out of the darkness and cloud, and greeted with blue skies. This made for spectacular scenery. The ski resort is located at 5500 feet (almost as high as Mt. Washington). The mountain summit is over 10000 feet. During the drive up, you get to pass the beautiful mountain village of Huez, located at 4350 feet (1450m); however, even if the postcard scenery has a ton of snow, the reality is that there isn’t any snow: it hasn’t snowed since early December, that is why we had to find a ski resort in high altitude or with snowmaking like Alpe d’Huez.


Photo : Pierre Guillot
January 24th Postcard written to my mother in Canada


Getting out of the valley and above the clouds


Village of Huez above the clouds – not easy taking pictures on switchback roads. Concentrate with the postcard

Mountain : Anarchy & Chaos

Unlike Chamrousse, the bottom of Alpe d’Huez is above treeline and there are lifts everythere on the lower mountain. We parked next to a road that connects different parts of the resort a few feet from the snow and the flat slope. The bottom third of the mountain was pretty flat and served mainly green skiers (beginners); the driver and myself felt a bit green ourselves, but it was mostly from the drive, maybe a bit from the altitude and the long past breakfast a few hours away. It was already pretty late, and we were in a rush to get our lift pass.

The queue or lineups are often non-existent in France; buying a lift ticket was total anarchy and chaos. There was no queue, just a semi-circle of masses squeezed against each other up to the ticket counters. It was almost as bad as the pushing and shoving I’ve experienced for concert tickets or attending general admission shows at certain rock concerts.

Once we finally got our tickets, we skied a few runs, then headed straight to the top elevation of the ski area: Pic Blanc at 3330 meters. We took two large gondolas, which got us to 2700m then hopped on the Pic Blanc Aerial Tram for the last leg to the summit. No pylons, just a base and summit stations separated by almost 700 meters and spanning 2km. As it was for the ticket window, we were crushed in a tram with over 90 people. We managed to squeeze in as the door closed and started our final climb. The slope of ascent is pretty steep at the end and height was really impressive, not good if you are afraid of heights. At this point, my girlfriend passed out and had to catch her as she slumped, her skis falling against someone’s face; the person seemed pissed off, not realizing what had happened. I was struggling to keep her from falling, and making sure our skis didn’t crash onto someone else, hoping we arrived real soon. As the tram arrived and people walked out, Caroline had regained consciousness. We seeked for help with the Ski Patrol; after a few minutes, it was determined that we needed to eat and drink water, and spend time at a lower elevation. Caroline’s hometown village has an altitude of 190 meters, so it was an over 3km altitude gain that morning. It was also decided that it would be better not to take the black run called Le Tunnel down: we were going to use the Tram back down. On the other side of the summit, there is, or at least in 1992-93, summer skiing. The skiing starts on the other side and they is a tunnel through the mountain to cross towards the resort side.


View from our car


View from the top of Pic Blanc

The closest restaurant off the base of the Tram was at Le Plat des Marmottes at 2300m. We needed to ski down a blue run called Le Couloir where at one point it became le Boulevard des Marmottes, mainly a traverse across the slope with a few small cliffs on the uphill side. All of sudden, I heard a crash behind me and saw that a skier had suddenly tumbled down a small cliff. I turned around, and rushed to see if he was okay. After a few minutes, I headed back towards our restaurant. That running and the altitude had made me woozy also. There was a nice restaurant with lawn chairs on the snow; however you needed to pay or buy something to be allowed to use them: a foreign concept at the time. I can’t remember if we had a lunch or we bought some food to eat? I just know that I had a sore stomach with bad cramps and needed to go to the W.C. like they say in France. I can’t remember either if you had to pay to use the toilet, but what shock when I opened the stall door: there was no toilet to sit on. WTF? It was what they call a Turkish Toilet (known as Squat Toilet). Now imagine my discomfort when you have ski pants and ski boots and you really need to go.

Image of a Turkish Toilet (Wikipedia)
Image of a Turkish Toilet (Wikipedia)

Unbelievable

Minutes later, I came back to finally manage to eat some food. It was possibly past noon before we started really skiing, when we weren’t waiting in line. We skied down, but wanted to stay above the chaos of the lower slopes, so we headed towards to bottom of the Lievre Blanc double chair at 2100m. The liftline was another example of frustration as people didn’t leave anyone any elbow room, constantly stepping on your skis and your tips; I really can’t stand when that happens. Almost felt like doing as hockey players do, and dropping my gloves. Merry Christmas to you to…get the F*@! off my skis!!! You couldn’t move, and everyone tried to move ahead of you, regardless if you were there before or not. A few people couldn’t take it anymore and removed their skis, I did the same… but some of them actually had the gall to actually walk ahead of the line. At the end of the day, everyone in line had removed their skis then re-putting them just before getting on the chairlift. The person in charge sat in his cabin; no liftee to hand over the chair. The only thing he did was looking if people had passes or stopping the lift. A number of chairs were going up empty as people weren’t all expert in stepping in their bindings; the efficiency of the experience was mind-boggling. We did just a few 450m runs on the chair, skiing mostly artificial snow towards the bottom of the serviced trails. Gondolas and Tram had huge lineup, like a farm animal being coraled into a meat processing plant.


View of top of Lièvre Blanc lift and resort of Alpe d’Huez at the bottom


View of Lièvre blanc run

Peace and Steep

We did find some peace, skiing great short and steep runs above the Lièvre Blanc lift. There was the tiny Clocher du Macle double chairlift reaching up to 2780m and under the summit ridge. There was two short 250m runs serviced by that lift and a long secluded descente in La Combe Chardonnière down towards to bottom of the resort. The snow was firm edgeable snow and was great to ski on, similar to skiing on chalk and the stuff I’ve skied at Mammoth of Chair 23 in mid-June 2005. Even if they were short runs, the runs on Balcons were definitely the most memorable skiing souvenir from Alpe d’Huez that I have twenty years later. It was probably one of the steepest runs I had ever skied at a ski resort at that time. I remember having to give pointers to Caroline as she was intimidated by the slope.

That lift no longer exists and the quietness of the place has probably changed. The location has been serviced since 2000 by first, a two-stage 6-person gondola (Mamottes 1 and Marmottes 2), the last stage connecting Plate des Marmottes with Clocher de Macle at 2800m. In 2004, there would be a third stage: a 33 place Funitel Gondola (Marmottes 3) connected Clocher with the Glacier above the ridge at 3060 meters.


Upper mountain and steep Les Balcons run


MadPat’s sunset run for possible last run

As the day ended, the last long run of the day was another memorable one. A long winding descente with steep terrain with gullies. We had a few slow skiers struggling in a steep section ahead of us and the patrol closing the trail behind us wanting us to move. The trail mellowed at the end; snow wasn’t as good as we approached the zoo. Not sure which trails we took as it was so long ago; it was probably The Balme red trail which was a nice 4km descente away starting off at Le Plat des Marmottes, but not impossible that it was the even more secluded and longer La Combe Chardonnière. I remember wanting to do it, but don’t think we made it.

What a day, I was somewhat disappointed we didn’t get to ski the top off Pic Blanc and Le Tunnel, but it turned out not so bad after a bad start. I would probably return someday before leaving France at the end of January. We were about to leave for a few days and New Year as we were invited by a university ski team friend that happens to be from Paris.

Lessons of the day:
– eat a good breakfast,
– try to acclimatize yourself to the altitude
– drink plenty of water
– and avoid Alpe d’Huez during the Holidays

Note: that was my observation twenty years ago, the first three-point still definitely apply, not so sure on the fourth one.

Details info on current lifts from the remontees mécaniques website : www.remontees-mecaniques.net

Click to access 1995-96 trail map

MadPat’s Gallery:
27 décembre 1992 : Alpe d’Huez

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With the assistance from postcards written on December 14 & 20, 1992.


Photo: Thierry Astruc
December 14th Postcard written to my mother in Canada

I’ve rarely had time to ski prior to Christmas due to midterm exams, correcting or other engagements. Always had no time with Killington’s October stealth openings then would generally manage one or two outings before the end of semester crunch in December.

Fall 1992 was slightly different; I had absolutely no time to go skiing. I had to meet a self-imposed deadline and finish almost 4 years of graduate studies. Thesis was completed on November 30, numerous copies made for the faculty, jury and directors and off to Mirabel Airport for the Montreal-London-Lyon flights. Graduate work was over until the jury would meet, which gave me probably 2-3 months of time off with the Christmas Holidays.

Overnight flight and unable to sleep after being awake for over 55 hours and barely slept in the last month in order to compete the thesis. Blame it on last-minute major “suggestions” by one of my directors and formatting changes from one computer to the next (home computer was new to me, I had just bought a Mac Classic with no printer in the last few months and didn’t know that formatting changed with the type of printer used). A five and a half hour wait at Heathrow Airport in London until my 90 minutes flight to Lyon, France. I was going to visit my girlfriend and her family outside Lyon. This wasn’t my first visit to France and it wasn’t my first time in the Alps either. The New Year 1991 trip was for less than 2 weeks with the University ski team and was only about skiing, although some people might think that skiing in gates isn’t skiing. This trip was 2 months and it wasn’t focused on skiing, but I brought my ski gear anyway.

The first week was spent recuperating and sleeping from the high stress of the last few months. We also visited the surrounding villages, Lyon, the Beaujolais and Burgundy regions. It took us 18 days to finally make it to the Alps on December 18.


Flying into London with St. Paul Cathedral below


December in Lyon


Cremieu, Isère : a few minutes from my in-laws


Beaujolais


Brançion, Burgundy

This was the latest start to my ski season in memory, and first time I hadn’t skied in November since I’ve been keeping track back in 1981. It had been just above 6 months since my last day at Killington on June 11th.

In Lyon I bought the Guide Curien de la Neige, a French magazine that listed France 383 ski areas. Caroline had mentioned Chamrousse was a real option as it was only 135km and 2 hours away; she had skied there a few times as a teen. The base is located at 1600 metres and sits on the mountains just above Grenoble, the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics. Chamrousse was host to the Games alpine skiing events. Croix de Chamrousse is the summit located at 2255m.

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Google Maps: The 135km day drive from the in-laws to the Olympic Mountain: Chamrousse

So the skiing was about the same distance as Tremblant from Montreal with approximately the same vertical, but much less expensive. Lift tickets were sold 80 FF ($20 CDN), although it was low season prior to this coming weekend. Today was Friday, we were hoping to come on Wednesday, but we wanted Winter tires installed on the mother-in-law’s Peugeot first. I found this reproduction of an old 50 year-old postcard; Chamrousse was arguably one of the first locations where skiing was practiced in France in the late 1800s.


Edition R. Girard, Photo : Centrale Grenoble
December 20th Postcard written to my mother in Canada

Skimap.org: Chamrousse Ski Map 2006
Source: Skimap.org: Chamrousse Ski Map 2005-06

We drove up to Roche Béranger base at 1750 metres. The place was quiet and it was a low-tide Friday, one week away from Christmas. Chamrousse’s elevation is lower than other Isère Department ski areas like Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes. We started skiing around Roche Béranger and slowly towards the left on the trails network and base area of Le Recoin at 1650m. The skiing terrain was fine near Roche Béranger; Arolles and Gaboureaux were some of the steeper open stuff which lead to the other base. That base was bigger and a tram reached the highest point. Runs down to Lac Robert or lower down towards 1400m weren’t open.

Caroline had started skiing when she was 6, and she spent a few years of her childhood in France’s Southern Alps; her technique was a bunch of mixed elements, some probably dating back to the 1960s French technique when Killy and Canadian Tiger Greene won medals at Chamrousse. She had skied only twice during her year in Canada, and once with me at Tremblant in late April. I gave her a few pointers, and continued to deprogram her from bad habits, and teach her from scratch. She was much better than an ex-girlfriend which had never skied before meeting me and that was in 1992. Now she is so a much better skier.

We skied Les Crêtes and the excellent and fun Mens’ Olympics Downhill, which was steep at the top and twisted on the mountain face. I was jealous of people living in Grenoble with this ski area sitting above them.

It would seem that snow is rare, even in the mountains. The lack of artificial snow and no base means rocks. It was super warm on that day, and the past week with +12c. The snow was good with some freshies, however the lack of base and a few rocks isn’t good for your ski bases: now my skis needed a place to get fixed.


Crossing over onto Le Recoin : Croix de Chamrousse and Tram to the summit


Skiing on the Roche Béranger side with Tram in the distance


Le Recoin below and Grenoble further below


Grenoble in the valley


Backside


Looking at the summit from Le Recoin base


December days are short

MadPat’s Gallery:
18 décembre 1992 : Chamrousse

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