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Saturday 12th March  X-Country / Ski du Fond

Gentle start to the day, and for the first time in seven days no sun! After breakfast on with the tight cycling gear trying to look like a hard arse x-country skier and down to Villeneuve to rent the kit. Skis are so damn light and the boots, are more like carpet slippers. So all was going well loaded up the van and arrived at the starte of the cross country "pistes" in front of us to find they were closed.


So back in the van and up to Monetier and off we went, at first felt a bit strange but soon got the hang of it and almost had a decent rhythmn going. Have to admit to thinking about doing it more often and was heard to say something about seeing if I could buy some kit at the end of the season!


Heart rate at times was in the mid 140's so a good workout. Ended up doing just over 10km, we chickened out of doing the red & black back as that involved a few steepish descents and going downhill on these skis is a wee bit nerve racking.


Might have to investigate the next step up which is skating x-country skis - watch this space!



From Elaine

Laughed so much today. We all splatted inelegantly and, often, at no speed. Gav was simply standing still when his arms whirled like helecopters and slowly he slid over like a cartoon character. But have to say, he got the hang of it really quickly and, as with most sports he tries and enjoys is talking about buying kit. Now have to get him on a horse.....!!



Anyway, after 10k today on ski du fond, and 3hrs hiking yesterday, Kathy and I are questioning whether we want to walk to The Frog especially as it'll be packed with a bunch of blokes will be watching rugby. And it's snowing.

Was snowing all afternoon - and still is. So all plans for tomorrow are changing. First lifts, I think, but skis or snowboards?


The Dog's Blag

Walkies are getting longer - and even more fun. Yesterday, went a long way with Herself and Herself's friend leavinng HImself and Himself's friend behind, and some more chilling.



Then I ran down with Himself to a bar where there were all these legs of lamb hanging over the fire. Just like my Great Gandpa Jacko O'Russell used to describe Sunday nights after his Travelling Van arrived near any farm.


And, today They put on even longer and thinner feet for a walk. Had to keep checking they were ok when they fell over like Bambi on ice. Nick isn't that impressed by my sleeping on the sofa and bed. Clearly, he says, I am a dog who doesn't know their place. Clearly, I do..!!



Friday 11th March  Col D'Izoard

Finally sorted our options for the day ahead, and a plan was laid.


Nick would go on skis for the first time since the early 90's (ski touring) and Elaine and Kathy would walk up, with Elaine having bought a new pair of approach shoes (she had to get some retail therapy in).


So we headed back to Laus where we were earlier in the week to walk up to the Col for lunch at the Refuge Napoleon.


Another really warm sunny day, and soon we had Nick skinning up whilst the girls forged ahead walking with Kiki.


Nick was gungho for some more technical skinning rather than just follow the track, and he did well. Though he made the mistake of going through some wet slush on the track when we rejoined it which resulted in skins getting soaked and then re freezing which means that the snow builds up on the base of the ski so at one point Nick had a metre of snow 15cms deep under his ski, so no wonder he found it hard going. We had to stop quite often to clear the snow, and was it hot at times!


We eventually made it to the Col and the girls had been there for quite some time.


After a decent lunch (another one) skinned up to the Col and took Nick into the powder, which had me asking the question after ten minutes "as to whose idea this was" as Nick decided to enjoy face planting more than skiing, all highyly amusing with shouts of encouragement from Elaine and Kathy at the Refuge below along with other people enjoying the specatcle.

A more nervous descent down the track and we arrived ahead of the girls into a superb Auberge / Gite in Laus, more from the Dog later on this


Thursday 10th March  Montgenevre

As we were picking Nick & Kathy up at Turin at 18:00 left for Montgenevre here at 11:15 and rolled up just before Noon as was the plan just as people were vactating the car park for lunch, so managed a premium position just by the lift office, great for Kiki.

The season pass we have lets us have three days in Montgenevre as well as three days in Claviere / Sestriere etc (Milky Way).

First run was so enjoyable as the pistes were no where near as crowded as Serre and was really good fun able to ski hard n'fast with out worrying about potential collisions.

Still a fair amount of untracked to be had, though would involve some hiking which was not on the cards with the Mrs as I did not know the area that well, even though have done it with guides on numerous occasions, plus we were not tooled up!

As you can see from the photos did do some interesting stuff though pretty well all skied out, but did find the occassional decent powder stash so turned out to be another good day.

Finished the day of in a superb Tratorria / Cafe I know in Claviere that just happened to have a rock solid WIFI connection hence we uploaded the photos first.

Left for Turin at 16:30 and drove through the airport at 17:50 just as Nick & Cathy were walking out, superb timing, only marred by me nagging away on the journey back & missing the turning and ended up heading into central Turin!

Roadside Pizzas for dinner, and they were great!

From Elaine

Arrived at Montgenevre and blissfully uncrowded so thought, hey, here we go for some nice piste cruising. Oh, forgot we were on Baylis Tours. I think we did 20 per cent on piste, the rest was down anything that might have a gram of powder. Hence found ourselves down a very narrow gully (as in shown in the off piste landscape picture) and down some really steep stuff. Now looking forward to some alternative snow adventures with Nick and Kathy. Just seen Nick in his Spanx skipants! Can't wait for tomorrow.....


Dogs Blag

Got a decent walk this morning and then off in the Traveller Van, and ended up in some other white place. Seemed to recall having a nice sleep in the back of the van wrapped up in Himself's duvet jacket. Then it all went berserk when they returned and another Jack Russell look alike dog along with a little girl turned up and we all had some fun n'games.He was from the Italian side of the Jack Russell  clan, Tony Soprano Russello who thought he was the man's bollocks...


Though Himself was quite generous with some doughnut thingy that had dried grapes in that I did not much care for. The pizza later was much better, though Nick and Himself kept putting hot chilli sauce on the bits they gave me.....I'll get my own back on them later :) "


Wednesday 9th March  Col du Galibier
Woke early and took a look outside as to what the weather was doing and looked like it was going to be another blue sky day, and no wind.

Came back into the bedroom to try and enthuse the “bitches” to wake up but no immediate joy:)

Eventually left the house around 08:45 and there was quite a frost on the car. Drove up towards Col du Lautaret and there were no parking places available where we normally park up. So had to turn round and park up outside the Gites.

We started off at 09:30 and when we climbed up on to the flat section where people park up the slope in front must have had about thirty ski tourers in front of us climbing up.

Fortunately they nearly all headed off towards Pic Blanc and Trois Eveches so we were left on our own climbing up towards Galibier.

Good training for the Mrs who is getter used to skins and we came across a couple of technical traverses so all good practice.

No wildlife this time, though we did see various people who had obviously taken a wrong turn, and for them it was going to be a fair descent for them to get back on track, in the end they didn’t bother climbing back up.

Stopped off at the Refuge Galibier and pontificated over where to head for, I was sorely tempted by the little summit we did last year (which had a good North facing powder stash on it) though was a more technical climb, and there again I had never been to the Col, so we opted for that.

Elaine did not come all the way and I climbed up the last section which was quite steep and demanding around 12 kick turns and reached the top ridge which put me around 75ms above the actual Col where the road goes over and as you can see some stunning views.

Descent down (12:30) was not fantastic though we did ski some classic Spring snow that turned to crud very quickly if you did not keep in the right aspect, as although it was sunny the air was cold, and where you would normally expect the snow to “turn” by the time of the descent it was still quite hard.

Back down we headed up to the Café at the Col du Lautaret and bumped into an old friend who lives each season in La Grave as his Café in Stockholm is closed in the winter. (Note to team – have invited Matts to join us for our week if he feels the need J )

Then Therese came out, so group photo.

And then Robin (local Guide) turned up as well, was quite envious about what his group had done earlier L

Good news is that he says it’s going to snow next week, don’t know where he got that info from, so hope he’s right. He’s off to Queyras tomorrow.

Another good day in the Mountains.......Montgenevre / Claviere tomorrow as we're picking some friends up at Turin late afternoon.


From Elaine
Pretty good Baylis Tours today in spite of being woken up by Chief Guide so as to get a parking space (what are we commuters?!). As it happens snow wise it may have been better to have had a lie in and gone later. Happy to say that Compeeds stayed in place, although after two and a half hours hiking I could definitely feel the blisters!

Some really nice snow going down, some definitely not so nice! Tough turning with any elegance – oooh and even saw Baylis on his butt on a cruddy, grass strewn but gentle slope!  Also tweaked my knee which up to now has been completely fine. So not able yet to resign from The Wounded Knee Club..

The Dog's Blag
Bit of a hangover this morning when Himself rudely woke us up. Had a gulp or two of beer last night at the Best Bar In The World, which Pooch told me all about: Mojos. Also ate a beer mat and some crisps. Must be careful with the alcohol or I'll get a red nose like my Uncle Whiney Wino Russell.  

So slept all morning 'til they came back at around 2pm. Made a pig's ear out of lunch (really, it was a pig's ear!). Then I wanted to go for a walk or play but all They wanted to do was doze. Got my own back on Himself when he was sleeping on the sofa by tossing my food nuggets around the room and yapping as ear-piercingly as I could sounding like my brother Arthur Tail Russell when his tail was docked.

Note to RSPCA, Dog Lovers and Old Grannies – he was actually just pretending it hurt so as to have us siblings' rations of bread and milk!!.

Tuesday 8th March Bit of hiking and a bit of cycling
Hopefully photos now added (though I can't see them due to Internet issues!)

Was hoping to go touring again today leaving Elaine to nurse her blisters, not that she's listening to me about how to treat them, I mean what do I know about them?

Forecast was for cloud today and sure enough when I looked out at 07:30 there was a fair amount of cloud around, not worth touring as we would not get the thaw for the spring snow so I decided to pass.

Once we'd had breakfast and were pontificating about what to do, Elaine made the suggestion of going up and doing a little hike to the left of the new Vallons chair, and as the sun was making an appearance seemed a good plan.

We took the new four man chair up and we could see some untracked, so once at the lift we booted up a ridge carrying our skis then skied down a little and then booted back up with Elaine not going quite as high. Snow was cold but with a crust at times, but still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, in fact we did it twice with Elaine and I deliberating who had the better lines!

Last year we would not have had to hike that as you could access it via a lift, but they dismantled that, so was only a 20min hike and that included a bit of faffing, so not too bad to get a "little" untracked in, but no where near as sweet as yesterday!

Back home for lunch, and I decided that a bike ride was in order, so post bowl of soup and bread, into bike kit, set bike up and peddled up to the Col du Lauteret. One hour 7mins 30secs to do the 11miles up there (av hr 160) and then a damn cold 28mins back down to where Elaine was with Kiki.

Stopped off at the Cafe at the Col to see Marie Therese who we've known from La Grave days but it was here day off, again!

From ElaineThank God and Gavin's history of woosy feet for Compede. Boots not too bad hiking up and certainly worth a little pain to ski down the fluffier stuff. Pistes were packed with families so cant wait til next week when all the half terms are over. Should be v quiet out there.

Had to really do a half day at the office, catching up on work things so let Baylis take off on his bike and walked Kiki to the Aigle bar where, while I worked for 2 hours, she was entertained with a tennis ball we found by various young staff members obviously missing their dogs back home.

The Dog's Blag
Such a good move bringing the Travellers Van here. I'm having the life of Riley (third cousin on my mother's side)! Slept all morning, went for a walk this afternoon with my old tennis ball (except it smelt a bit garlicy). Have made lots of friends as we Travellers' Dogs do (what's not to likey?) and played all afternoon. Just had  a Traveller's Feast: piece of biscuit, fried steak fat, peanuts and milk. Not all at once, that would be disgusting, like the cigarette butts I keep picking up thinking they are cheese.

For those who dont know me, I should explain that my family comes from somewhere on the road in Kent; I was discovered in the Friday Ad and picked up from the back of a car in MacDonald's car park at Gatwick. I have a history as colourful as Himself's new ski pants.

Monday 7th March Col D’Izoard / Refuge Napoleon
Well having gone to bed early on the basis of getting up early we failed miserably!

Think we left just after 09:00 ready for s63 Content-Disposition: form-dare taking Kiki again with us.

Plan was to see what the route up to the Refuge Napoleon was like on the basis of Nick & Kathy coming out in a few days time and they quite like the idea of hiking up on snow shoes, skis or whatever, and I wanted to see what the downhill options would be. i.e too flat or narrow for a snowboard, too far on snowshoes, or ideal for x-country skis etc


I knew that the area we were going to was a Mecca for x-country / ski du fond and sure enough when we parked up at Laus it was quite busy. As we were preparing our kit a coach load of little one was walking back with their x-country skis!


I had a brief chat with a couple of people getting ready to skin up (carrying a baby) and they confirmed that to the Refuge is was quite gentle and would take a couple of hours.


The great thing about being out here for five weeks is that we get to do “stuff” that people on one week’s holiday would not want to do, because quite rightly they want to ski hard n’fast etc


The route up to the refuge was the road that in the summer has many cyclists / motor bikes on it and it is a classic climb. The road is in effect “pisted” in that on one side is a x-country track and the other side is for walkers etc.


In the evening you can have dinner at the refuge getting taken up by snow mobile, so the track is quite hard packed snow, so there were various modes of uphill kit being used. Snowshoes, x-country skis, touring skis/skins and probably the fastest and easiest, good old fashioned walking boots!


As it was yet another beautiful day there was a steady stream of people going up, and amazing to see how many people in their twilight years were making a day of it.


Often you can take a more direct steeper route through the trees for a more demanding climb missing out a couple of hundred metres of “piste” and get the heart rate up (max 166, overall average 133).


As I was climbing up there were a few people on x-country skis really pushing it hard up the track, pretty damn impressive!

I eventually made it to the refuge with Kiki whist Elaine was further back taking the views in J.


Once there I allowed us to have a “lunch” all the time looking at the potential to lay some tracks in the fine powder where a few others had been.



So leaving Elaine at the refuge I climbed up to the Col and then up a ridge, once there I went into downhill mode and set off, though after a few turns became acutely aware that a cliff was calling me to come over it, so I politely declined it’s offer and took another route down.


Very nice day!

Elaine's Blog

Ouuuuuuch! Have blisters. For the first time with ski boots. Could have something to do with walking uphill for two hours with skis on. Beautiful day though walking up through the woods especially as there was a restaurant with chocolat chaud at the end of the rainbow.

And I elected to stay in the restaurant with Kiki while Baylis headed up again to do the powder in front of us. I had video mode on the camera as he came down and almost straight over a cliff edge. No wonder I got camera shake so we can't use the film


Best bit, back at the van, changing into my luxury fur lined Kau boots. Pure foot heaven.


The Dog's Blag

Slept like a dog last night – well how else would you expect me to sleep. Like a man maybe, snoring my head off


Went for a trip in our Traveller Van and, amazingly, no trees, bridges or clouds crashed into us. Then They faffed a while and we set off across the white stuff. Himself and I took some short cuts straight up hill and left Herself behind. Met more Frenchies who admired me and said I was Tres Fort. They should see coz Tyson...


Then we headed downhill and Wowzer can they move on those long feet. I'm gonna be as fit Bones O'Russell, the butcher's dog....


Didn’t think we’d be doing that!

So back on the piste, and have to admit was dreading it, as first thing in the morning I took Kiki out for a walk to get the bread and was amazed at how busy the resort was with cars parked up outside every apartment block/chalet.


When we were here in January it was so quiet and last year in March it was the same, but as Easter is so late this year the half term holidays have moved back with the net result that we’re here in a really busy period as we knew from the drive down!


At first we were pleasantly surprised at how quite it was on the main lift up from us (Pontillas) but as I guessed correctly that was due to Sunday being Club Med’s changeover day.


Once up at the top it was ok, but I’m just use to not too many people skiing around me. We skied over on to one of our favourite runs and that too was busy. Think I’m paranoid that I’m going to take someone out as they suddenly for no logical reason turn in front of you or just stop or that some out of control idiot is going to wipe me out.


It was just not relaxing skiing with eyes in the back of your head and trying to look in your wing mirrors, that’s if you had them!


We skied the morning and Elaine could sense I was none to happy, so we said we’d take Kiki for a walk in the afternoon and put the skins on the skis and go for a gentle “tour” up from Le Pont de L’Alpe to the old summer village of L’Alpe du Lauzet to suss it out for friends who are coming out later and want to go out on snow shoes with maybe a board on their backs.


So into “Touring” mode, which I did not think we’d be doing on the first day. But was good to suss out Elaine’s new boots and the little matter than although she’s done a fair bit of touring with a snowboard she has not tried it on skis, so the whole skinning thing was new to her!


We parked up and put the skins on, as we were doing that a group of skiers came down just as we were taking Kiki out of the van, at first I thought the “Guide” said we could not take, or it was not wise to take a dog with us, probably the sensible thing really!


But he was saying how good it would be for the dog, especially a hardy little Jack Russell and he and the rest of the group were really enthusiastic!


We did explain that we were only going for a little walk though; well that’s what we thought J

Was a fair few ski groups that we came across coming back down as we were going up and they all were highly amused on seeing Kiki with us. In fact we were not the only people with a dog, another group who had obviously come from the Col had a large Doberman with them and the dog was running after the skiers.



Now up to this point we did not actually think of going any higher than the old village as we thought Kiki would not be able to cope with the conditions, but on seeing the other dog, and ignoring the fact it was probably 100 times the size of Kiki we carried on!


Once pass the old village we carried on a little further and in total climbed for just over an hour doing 400ms.


And it was worth, scored some very nice turns in some classic spring snow, so much better than this morning, and made even better by having the dawg running along with us.


So making plans for tomorrow now based on the weather and just how far I can get away with in taking Elaine and Kiki on another tour J

Elaine’s Blog
Blue sky, pistes in great condition but a tad crowded so I was happy to do some exploring this afternoon and thought, if we take Kiki it won’t be tooooo far/steep.

Hah. Forgot that we would be on Baylis Tours. So after getting the hang of putting very sticky strips on my skis and walking in hard boots (as opposed to carrying the snowboard) we aimed straight upwards with Kiki skipping in front.

After an hours boot camp march when Baylis FINALLY decided we were high enough, we skied down in really nice snow with Kiki going like the clappers to keep up.

She is now fast asleep on the sofa! Hmmm, might join her.

The Dog’s Blag
Oh My Dog, they left me this morning. ON MY OWN! This is the first time in my life I have been alone, without even Mama Pooch to snarl at me. I thought about chewing their socks or some chair legs but then decided to look out of the window and wait. Then, oops, fell asleep and woke to the door opening.

Later we went out for a walk. Up the white stuff. Met some gnarly French people who said I was very A La Mode in France, as in fashionable. Just wondering if I have puppies, can I sell them over here? Well, that’s what my great aunt Jackie O’Russell used to do, sell her litter to the highest bidder.

Himself and Herself were pretty slow going up with those long feet. I could run around sniffing rocks. Wowzer, garlic pee. Then they stopped and faffed around for a while before turning around and heading back. And did those long feet move! I felt like great grandpa Rover O’Russell chasing the caravan up the M4 from Bristol.



Going to sleep well tonight. In THEIR bed, because this traveller dog needs some home comforts after today.

Saturday 5th March

In the old days seemed that all the Belgians drove at 160km plus in their black BMW's right up your backside, now they still speed, whereas the French are much more aware of being caught by cameras / radar, and now instead of black BMW's they all drive black 4x4's flat out. Though as my brothers French friend said as soon as they get to the mountains they have no idea, which I suppose is due to the fact that Belgium is quite flat! Anyway tis generally accepted that they are bad drivers, nothing like a bit of Top Gear racism to get the blog off to a good start :)

La Grave - great for beginners especially children!
So bet you always though that La Grave was for gnarly hard core skiers / boarders.

As you can see from the photos that is a load of old bollox :)

The photos are actually taken at Chazalet which is above La Grave village at 1850ms on the same side, facing La Meije and the Girose Glacier.

We'd driven down from the UK yesterday spending the night at my brother's who lives in the Chartreuse, near Les Echelles, some 40km North of Grenoble. Traffic yesterday was full of Belgians and bearing in mind it was a Friday I thought today could see some major problems with the holiday traffic. This was sort of confirmed late last night when a friend of my brothers travelling down to Serre Chevalier rang up to say it had taken them five hours from Grenoble and they still had not gone over the Col du Lauteret.

So we decided to take the D roads from where he lives into Grenoble center and then take some more D roads to Vizille via Uriage avoiding 98% of the traffic, we joined the main road after Vizille and by there the traffic was not a problem, though coming the other way was nose to tail all the way from Bourg Oisans, never seen it as bad as that. Avoiding the traffic though meant that we would have arrived in Serre too early to get the keys so we thought we'd have a drink up at Chazelet in the sunshine.

Chazelet is a really cute little station, about seven or eight lifts, and very busy this time of year still being French half term and a weekend. We often go touring up there, buying a one lift ticket to get up on the plateaus and then skinning on from there.

Right papers to carry in the Car when driving in France

Few years back a girl we knew working out here (Serre Chevalier) was pretty distraught as her boyfriend had just been pulled over by the Gendarmes and she'd come back to get some money out of the cash machine as he was being fined for not carrying all the correct paper work in the car. She also explained that the Gendarmes also check to make sure you have a high viz jacket that you can access as a driver without needing to get out of the car.

So today just outside Bourg Oisans I was pulled over. First document I gave them was my registration document, then my license (a very old paper one that had him initially a wee bit mystified) along with my passport and finally my insurance  certificate. He didn't ask me about the high viz jacket as by then he'd sussed that I knew what to carry etc!

So be warned, I'm not so sure about the registration document, but I was told that you had to carry that as well and the Gendarme did read it and compare the detail on that with my license / insurance certificate etc

The Dog's Blag

Oh A Traveller's Life For Me! My great granddaddy, Rover MacRussell would be sooo proud of me. He always used to say there's nothing like sitting in a van watching the world go by (though, great grandma says that more often he was running behind it). He didn't tell me that the world would go by sooo fast. Everything comes towards you so quickly,it feels that the trees, bridges, clouds are going to crash into us. Which is why my Road Trip was more of a Hidden Under The Down Jacket Trip.

By the tinme I emerged this morning the ground had risen up into what are called mountains and, when we stopped, it was all white and cold. Here, people do not walk normally, but they slide on really long feet.

We had lunch. Oh Traveller Dog Heaven. Following our family motto, Take What You Likey, I cruised under the tables and had a banquet. Chips and chewing gum, what more could you ask for? Himself put this helmet thing on my head which I thought Uncle Rocky Russell could do with.

This morning, at Himself's brother's house I actually chased a small hairy meowing thing - cousin Tyson O'Russell would have laughed. Suddenly the cat was as tall as a shed and had wooden sticks on its head. I didn't hang around too long though apparently Himself thought it very funny that the cat had vamooshed to be replaced by a stag. Twice removed (because he was a tad bad tempered) cousin Jock Russell would have had him for breakfast.

Then we arrived at this place and Himself and Herself went up and down, up and down these steps taking EVERYTHING OUT OF THE VAN. How much easier to leave it in there and we could sleep there cuddled up together for the night and move on tomorrow. Anyway, I have quickly staked my claim to the bed in the end room on top of three folded duvets because great uncle Slack Russell always said Snoozers Losers.

Herself says I will have to move when Nick and Kathy come but I'm reckoning that they will share because that's what my rellies have done for years. Nick will love it, cuddled up together.




Categories: Ski Touring, Off Piste Skiing