Serre Chevalier Blog 2012
April 9th - Easter Monday
Back home in one piece - for a change!
After being taken out by a crazy Italian four weeks ago it was the turn of the French (possibly Belgian the way he was skiing) yesterday, all captured on GoPro :)
And what we did before and after. Another Hard Day in the Office.
If you have not seen this again was one of the better days this year - and I do not exaggerate - see the video below
April 6th - Good Friday
Have now packed up all the toys, along with the crutches and splint I bought just in case!
Yesterday, was one of those sweet days. We spent the day before in La Grave, as we stayed over Tuesday evening in the Edelweiss, and then spent the next day (Wednesday) along with Robin and Marlon doing their website, and the weather outside was pretty foul (wet and no snow) but that usually means snow up top.
As we drove back over the Col du Lautaret late Wednesday afternoon it was still raining there (2058m), not an encouraging sign. As we descended back down towards Serre Chevlier it was evidently raining far harder than on the La Grave side of the Col. The rain continued on into the evening, so Elaine and I decided on getting up early (Thursday) to see if it was worth doing "First Lifts", I did think it would be a case of wet weather gear, with rain up to 2,100m and if we were lucky snow above that, so we were both quite elated at the blue sky that greeted us, with light whispy cloud in the valley and some dramatic blobs of cloud at various levels of altitude.
However what was significant was that the snow level was visible on the trees at around 2000m. We went up from Frejus just behind a group of British school kids, as we thought that would give us the best options. Once at the mid station we could see the Vallons chair was not open so we took a few drags all the way to the top, being the first on them after the pisteurs.
About 10cms of fresh was laying over the pisted runs, and that made for a very sweet gentle descent. As we came down so more people were spilling out from the chair lifts, I went and took a look to see if the chair was open and was more of less moving off from a standstill downhill when out of the corner of my eye saw this out of control skier hurtling straight at me. As I was not really moving, I could not avoid him, so as impact was imminent, I shouted "Cock" at him bracing myself for the obvious impact in a solid body check position. I was relieved at the outcome which resulted in me not being knocked over and one out of control skier coming off far worse.
Monday April 3rd
Little video of our "epic" trip over the Col D'Izoard for lunch!
Sunday April 1st
Thursday, we came back from Tignes via Turin aiport where we picked up Nick and Kathy.
And so Gastro Tours commenced!
As Nick is also a member of the wounded knee club, to such an extent that both skiing and snowboarding in the summer slush, was none too appealing to him, we decided that eating should be the focus of the trip, however being in the mountains meant that to a certain extent one had to earn the calory intake!
On the way back from Turin we stopped off at a restaurant in Clavierre where we had some very "interesting" antipasti - a great start to Gastro Tours, although not too physically demanding to earn the food, that said, think I'd done around six hours of driving!
The next day (Friday) I engineered a "plan". We drove up Nevache Valley, parked the car down near the river and then walked up to Refuge Ricou, a hut where I've stayed a couple of times. As it is situated on a south facing slope snow was not too much of a problem and we were able to walk up there without the need for snowshoes.
The Refuge is at 2100m and think it took us around and hour and a half. Food was fairly basic, though the weather and hut situation were gloroius, and we were the only people who had made the effort to go there for lunch, though there were a few ski tourers we came across, most walking out as there was very little snow.
Once back in Serre, I jumped on the bike and did a quick cycle up to the Col du Lautaret.
So what to do Saturday? I've been into the Queyras region a couple of times. It is a large National Park down from the Col D'Izoard, but to get there in the winter is a bit of a drive, though stunning at times and quite gnarly.
We headed for Saint Veran, the highest village in Europe at 2040. The village really was worth the visit, and somewhere I will be going back to next year when there is snow.
However this is Gastro Tours, but Saint Veran was closed down, every Auberge / Restaurant we came across was shut till the tourists returned in Summer!
We then headed back down and on to Arvieux, where I thought that there might be an Auberge open. The Col D'Izoard was "ferme" however I continued to drive up the road and was amazed at how far we were able to go. We eventually hit the snow line and I parked up, and hatched a further plan. We were at 2070m and the Col D'Izoard is at 2360 with the Refuge Napoleon around 75m down on the other side. So checking on my mapping software I reckoned it was not too bad a hike, and once we were out of the trees we would be in the famous La Casse Desert, a sort of lunar landscape.
Again we were the only people up there, and I sort of felt like I was "scrumping" apples in that I should not have been there, was tres bizarre, and I just could not get my head around the fact that no one else was doing this.
Once at the Col was almost releived to see more people, who had come up from the other more popular side. We walked down to the Napoleon and a damn good lunch was had!
One hell of a memorable day.
Walk back down was uneventful, and still no one else there.
Today, decided on some more cycling as the weather is forecast to break next week, and I failed to mention the meal we had last night (thanks Nick and Kathy) at The Petite Pont, so needed to bring back more of a dynamic equilibrium to the Calorie intake / burn factor!
I cycled up to the Col du Montgenevre, then back down past here and then on up to the Col du Lautaret, doing around 78km and 1350ms of vertical in just over three hours, meeting up with the others for a quick Panini in Monetier, where Elaine and Kathy had been snowboarding.
Should add that the skiing (on the piste) is still good, up at Montgenevre was quite busy being Sunday and the Italians always go there. Many ski tourers out as well up at Lautaret but think I'll stick to the bike as the snow cover is not good and I'd rather ride here making the most of the mountains and what I could not do back in the UK, if that makes sense!
Les vieux oiseaux are back! Kathy and I did Monetier through the trees on our boards from 12 noon til 2.30. Soft snow, empty pistes (some empty of snow, too!) but plenty still left to ride all the way down to the bottom. We decided to experiment with filming using the GoPro and Kathys Flip camera, the idea being for Kathy to film me and viceversa. Only problem was not wearing gloves in order to hold a camera - and contentrating on boarding at the same time. Hence a couple of wipe outs; one cutting my hands in the icy snow! But you have to suffer for your art..
THE DOG'S BLOG
Nearly fell in the lac at Tignes chasing my ball; had to be rescued from hungry looking huskies (what mutts, pulling sledges all day); been walking up and down mountains. Knackered.
Nick's put sausages in the oven - dingdong.......and I presume we're off to Mojo's - double ding dong!
Here we are in sunny Tignes!
Arrived midday yesterday in time to collect Loulou from her morning shift at the legendary Riders Lodge. Skied all afternoon yesterday and today so we have made the most of our ski passes going from Tignes Le Lac over to Le Fornet in Val and up the glaciers. My legs are quite done in from keeping up with, no, not Le Gav, but Loulou and her friends, Winnie and Aimee. Foot full on the accelerator for a day,and a half, - black red or blues - with the snow chaanging from hard and icy to soft and slushy - all on the same piste. Le Gav is groaning, too, and downing the Ibruprofins!
Amazing amount of skiing here, and soooo much off piste if only there was any fresh left! But Le Gav and I are already missing Serre Che. We have had our helmets firmly clamped on, aware all the time of the potential for colisions. In Le Fornet we stopped for "refuel" in a quaint mountain restaurant only to be turned away as we did not have a reservation! Would that happen in Serre? No. But, also, you wouldn't see the sort of crazy air that the boys were getting in the Snow Park.
Tomorrow we will be leaving here to go and collect the next "clients" (!) Nick and Kathy arriving at Turin in the afternoon. Le Gav can certainly do with an osteopath! Amazing, though that now only 7 months after his ACL op, he is skiing so well and, phew, he has now lasted nearly 3 weeks into our ski trip which is somewhat of a record!
We have stayed at the Alpaka Lodge in Tignes Le Lac. Typing this now in the fabulously cosy bar surrounded by the Ski Club of GB with wine at 2Euros a glass because it is Girls Night - and last night was a very social Pisteurs party.
Feel far more at home here than in some of Loulou's fave apres bars like the Follies on the pistes and the Loupe bar haunts where we are surrounded by boys in dresses - long baggy tops which are the only way, apparently, to ride the park!
Had a great breakfast this morning with sausages, bacon and beans - and PG Tips tea. Would come here again - and again, depending on Loulou's plans for next season?
This is a bit like a holiday within a holiday - we have a fab room with great views. Ironically, and some would say, appropriately, we have been put in room 101....
Had a nice bike ride up and over the Col du Lautaret on Friday and then down to LaGrave so clocked some vertical. Roads were very empty and really enjoyed the decents back down, as confidence comes back on each bend.
Then Saturday, last day skiing with Bing and Tracy and we went over Montagnolle to ski pass "my cliff". Plan was then to traverse and drop down into the valley and then skin back up, scored a nice line in some untracked but once at the bottom I decided against skinning up as I thought the snow was too soft and deep, in other words not good for my knees - and I actually managed to get thorugh a week skiing with Bing not injured for the first time in three years!
Sunday, thought we'd have a day off and give Kiki a good long walk and rest the knees, only trouble is that nearly all the walks roud here are of the extreme variety especially if you take the paths and not the "chemains" (trails) and go up as opposed to along the valley.
On the South side we climbed up towards the Col du Granon and then looped back. As you can see not a lot of snow on the South side with many people now opening up their summer houses. Elaine and I were both complaining about our knees on theway down.
Kiki being a "dude" in La Grave
Have uploaded some great videos see below....
Yesterday (Tuesday) was one of the unforgettable days in the Mountains when, weather, plans, snow, in fact everything came together, along with a little luck to produce an awesome day - see Elaine's blog about that day.
Tuesday 21st march
First thing, this morning, I imagine that there was a quite queue for La Meije telepherique, which has been closed for repairs for two days. Everyone wanted to be up on the glacier early to make first tracks on the 25cms of powder that fell up on the summit at 3600m on Sunday. Only there were already tracks there. Ours. Teehee.
Yesterday, we skiied powder on the Glacier do la Girose. It was as, Per, our guide, exclaimed "the best powder of the season" and absolutely deserted as it would have been when it was declared one of the top 10 all time classic ski touring areas pre the lift being built in 1976.
I admit that I was kinda nervous doing La Grave again. Last time was around 7 years ago when I was boarding and became a little freaked by being guided over a narrow snow bridge between two whapping crevasses. Plus there is a reason it is called La Grave. People DO die there! But, hey, we were with Per, the best/safest guide in the Alps, who actually said, as I was putting on my harness that he would even come down and get me in the exceedingly unlikely event that I fell into a hole...
The moment of truth was skiing under the rope at the top of Deux Alps (ironically right beside a crevasse warning sign!) and where there were huge notices declaring La Grave was closed. For a moment, I considered going with Bing's mum, Wendy and Tracy, who had leant her skis to Bing's dad, Dave, so he could do his first ski tour ever. Les girls were going to do Deux Alps all day and then Tracy would drive Per's van back to La Grave. Hmmm, sounded like a nice relaxing plan compared to ours which was going to involve hiking, skiing, skinning and some rock hopping down to La Grave.
But, just going up the telecabin from Deux Alps, where the queue was snaking down the steps and beyond, was enough to make anyone want to head for the deserted hills.
From the top of Deux Alps we carried our skis to the summit and skied down to the Glacier do la Girose. It was so quiet as we stood at the top, you could hear a crevasse crack! Then Per flew down the untracked snow with a whoop. And, before you could say, GoPro on, we were following, linking turns alongside each others. Except Bing, of course, who mostly flew down in a couple of turns.
I would like to say that it was technically really difficult and needed hugely advanced skiing skills. Except it was SO effortless, like floating and, amazingly, the steeper gradient was easier still (though it may have had something to do with gaining confidence and less rigid thighs!).. We then put on our skins (keeping one ski on all the time because we were on the glacier, eek!) and hiked up so we could do another great descent. heading towards Col du Lac and further down La Girose. At one stage, Per pointed to a great white rolling expanse and said, "Go on, Dave, you make first tracks"; and, after a dozen perfect turns, he was grinning like he had won the lottery. It was the first time in his 67 years that he has ever had such an opportunity.
We skinned up again for about 400m on the Chancel side almost to the top of P3 telestation where Per made the call to go down the Vallons.
This is where I sort of wished the cablecar was working as a leisurely lift down would have been perfect. I could have used Baylis as an excuse for not doing dodgy snow only 6mths after his ACL op. The snow started to get lumpier with heavy fresh just covering huge moguls. Legs were burning by this stage and all I could think was that every turn got us down a further but La Grave still looked like a tiny toy town at the bottom. Finally, hop, skipping and, in Per's case actually jumping on skis over a stream, we made it to the very bottom. And, then, sacre bleu, we had to heave our skis onto our shoulders and walk by a muddy river and finally hike up to our van. For half an hour I had been fantasising about a cold beer as we had no refueling breaks (just doing skins). Not very ladylike, maybe, but feeling hard core in ski boots with only a handful of others who had skied over from Deux Alps (and got a taxi back), at The Castillian bar and I felt that I had "manned up" doing La Grave and deserved a pint!
THE DOG'S BLOG
Road trip ie more time spent on the floor of the blue kennel on wheels hoping that the world would stop rushing passed up and that we would not be swallowed up by long dark worms, They call tunnels. Then spent a day in a new kennel on wheels, in Per's van in Deux Alps. Spent the morning sniffing his shoes and nibbling his ropes. Later, got some pretty whiffy-smelling guys to throw my ball in a bar. Got home, had pizza, slept.
Sunday 18th March
The guys left very early today after having a great week, especially weather wise and now we have new "clients" who arrived yesterday, Bing and Tracy who are staying with us, and their parents who are staying just up the road in the Aiguille - which was knocking this week out at £240 evidently!
And this morning we woke up to rain, and very low cloud. Went up the hill circa 10:30 and was snowing at circa 1800m though only light with the occassional heavy flurry. We headed off to Monetier to get down into the woods and the top of Balme was a total white out with zero viz. Plus it also turned out that most other people thought the lower slopes of Monetier would be a sensible option. Lower down was raining quite heavily at times, and then at the top almost a couplr of cms of fresh !!
We did a few runs and had a coffee then decided to head back, if you did not know the way then there was now way you could get back as the viz was so bad. Was a case of skiing down following the poles by the side of the piste.
Bing's parents, Wendy and Dave are 67 and 65 and can ski really well even if the heavy zero viz - there's hope for us all!!!
Friday 16th March
Hardly seen a cloud all week and it's been so warm (hot), have given the guys a good time me thinks, showing them how to make the most of the mountains, and it's not just about skiing!
Today (Friday) been over in Italy (Sestrierre) and snow was good.
Highlight of the week for them was (Thursday) their first ever tour. with an old guide friend, Stefan Palm. In hindsight not the best of routes, but the guys will not be forgetting it in a hurry. Nigh on 1250m vertical in just over seven hours. Encountered just about every snow condition. Long walk up to the snow and a very long way out, and was the air blue at times with rattles being thrown out of the prams as they sunk up to their waists in snow trying to walk out on the flat at the end of a schuss.............but then after that they had one hell of a descent!
Below - the bowl where we toured up to - not a lift in sight or anyone else
The Clients Blog
See these mountains there are no lifts on them. Thursday started after drinking until 12 on the Wednesday, up at 6am then hiking from 8am till 12.30. By 1pm we were fed then Mark gave the battle cry of lock and load. The three of us dropped into the steep powder bowl (see video) you can see the steep bowl in the center of the picture above.
Wednesday hacking around on the piste in the morning then went up to the Col du Lautaret to see the Snow Kiting set up. Basically easier to learn on snow with a kite as they get going in only 5mph of wind. Might have to give that a go, and the guys are well up for doing a full day when they come back.
Arrived here Sat and decided to have a quite night so no going down into the land of WiFi.
Sunday met up with the guys, Nick Burke, Nick Suckling and Mark Hutton as they arrived on an early flight that enabled them to get a half day in. So had a good afternoon showing them around and then followed through with the plan of watching the rugby in the Frog.
The Frog is run by an ardent rugby guy, Xavier and his Scottish wife Dee, and their son. Now I’ve had to endure three years of seeing England get beat by either the French or the Scots, (can’t remember exactly) so it was a great session in there late Sunday afternoon with two groups of supporters, and when we scored that final try, it was so sweet!
Conditions are superb for a week’s piste type holiday. Not a cloud in the sky and great spring snow conditions. For me getting back into it I’m not tempted by any off piste action as there is not much to be had – if I was fully 100% then we’d go off touring to find some spring snow, but even higher up the snow had taken a canning from the high winds of a few weeks back, I’ve never see some of the classic peaks, such as Pic Blanc so bare. The Cucumelle does not have any snow on it!
I’m skiing with a rock solid brace of each leg, confidence not an issue and am skiing at speed. Few tweaks and clicks and know that I’m not 100%, the walk up an down the stairs to our apartment makes me realise all is not well, but seems to be ok on a diet of ibuprofen / paracetamol and then sitting with an ice cold wrap when I get back!
The guys are lovin the conditions and the being shown around. I’m having a day off today, as I have a fair bit of work to do and even more having just picked up my email, was hoping to do a little cycle later, but now not so sure.
Plan is for tomorrow to do a road trip over to Sestrierre where they had snow last week.
And then give the guys a mini adventure on Thursday – have an old guide friend mate, Stefan Palm, and we’re going to be heading off into the Queryas. So need to get them rented snow shoes, poles and the like, whilst Stefan will have all the transceivers, shovels and gear for them.
Know Mark’s a tad nervous about the thought of walking up, but sure by the end of the day he’ll acknowledge how good it is – we’ll take it nice and steady and stop a lot.
Also been playing with the GoPro......
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming - all amazing spring news unless you are in The Alps skiing! But, all credit to Serre Chevalier, the pistes are in perfect condition all the way down to resort level - it's just that the off piste is now like a piste too and non existent through the trees.
We have been out with the Three Dudes on the Piste from Worthing - Nick, Nick and Mark - doing a Baylis Tours guide around the resort at fairly high speed (well, it is for me!) with, mercifully, some fuel stops for coffee, etc. And, YES, he's back. Baylis is on his skis, blasting....but thank you, Ski God for not providing any distractions like fresh powder on cliffs down Montagnolle. There is a plan for a day tour on Thursday but, hopefully, the worst injury will be blisters - or sunburn!
THE DOG'S BLOG
I like France a lot as les persons here keep smiling at me and pointing and saying I am that famous chien from The Artist. Feel more like The Piss Artist,, this morning, as a little hung over from too much beer, last night, at the Best Bar in The Alps, Mojo's.
It was a long road trip to get here - hmm, how shall I describe it? The scenery was not that magnifique - from my position on the floor of the van where I prefer to travel because the countryside rushing towards us and the trees and bridges threatening to land on our heads, freak me out. So much happier when the world stays still...
Good to be back chez our French home, up the high hill where tennis balls appear under trees and make me squeak with excitement. I have nabbed the nice big double dog's bed, but for some reason They keep trying to sleep in there too and kick me out. Sacre bleu, it's a Man's Life.