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Posts Tagged ‘France’

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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LesBronzesSki

A French Cult Classic!!!

Les Bronzés movies are cult classics in France. The 3 comedies were directed by Patrice Lecompte. The English title is French Fried Vacation.

The first movie of Les Bronzés was at a Beach Resort; the sequel was based at a Ski Resort.

Wikipedia quote :

The film satirizes life at holiday resorts such as Club Med. It is one of many films by the French troupe Le Splendid. Michel Blanc, Marie-Anne Chazel, Gérard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte, Josiane Balasko and Christian Clavier wrote and created together the play “Amours, Coquillages et Crustacés”, and drew the scenario for Les Bronzés from this café-théâtre piece. The film has achieved cult status in France, where it sold 2.2 million tickets during its initial theatrical release.It was followed by two sequels, also directed by Patrice Leconte Les Bronzés font du ski (1979) and Les Bronzés 3 : Amis pour la vie (2006).

The sequel, Les Bronzés font du ski, is set in the French resort of Val d’Isère where a group of friends meet up again. The relationship between the ski resort and the movie’s producers is difficult and the name of Val d’Isère doesn’t appear anywhere in the movie or the credits.

Sources:
Wikipedia : Les Bronzés (English) and Les Bronzés font du ski (French)
IMDb : Les Bronzés font du ski

Foreign Titles:
Hungary : A bronzbarnák síelni mennek
Poland : Slalom niespecjalny
Portugal : Barracas na Neve
Slovenia : Vsi gremo na smucanje
West Germany (video title) : Die Ski-Flitzer
West Germany : Sonne, Sex und Schneegestöber

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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.

alphuez
The 160km morning drive to Alpe d’Huez

grenoble2
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.

chamrousse
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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