Cross-Border Skiing from La Rosière

The fine weather has followed us to La Rosière, whose snow cover remains surprisingly good despite the long period since the most recent falls. It’s just as well, since we headed off yesterday in high spirits to ski over the Franco-Italian border to La Thuile.

Our previous attempt had been thwarted by mist and high winds, not a happy combination. This time, though, we accomplished all we’d set out to do and more, including a pause for lunch at Lo Riondet, in every sense the definitive Italian mountain restaurant. In summer it’s beside the road over the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass, but in winter the road is transformed into a long, sweeping cruise for skiers heading to La Thuile and the Aosta Valley.

Not that we took it easy all the time, you understand. La Thuile isn’t exactly novice territory, and we dropped in via a steep Black piste and a couple of entertaining Reds which took us through pine forest.

We had a fantastic day, skiing much of the area’s varied piste network, all of which is set among the most dramatic mountain scenery we could wish for. The adventure finally concluded with a glorious run back to France against a lazy,  sinking sun.

Once back in La Rosière we knew exactly why this place is so popular with British visitors – and many other nationalities, it seems. And we’ll see a little more of it today, just in case there’s anything essential we missed first time around.

Our thanks to La Rosière’s Office de Tourisme and to our friends at Ski Collection for organising our visit, including our stay at the excellent 4* Le Refuge.

Valfréjus: more great Alpine snow…

Maybe like us you know the name, but little else about this great ski area in the Maurienne Valley of the French Alps. Well, our knowledge has just expanded considerably, after we spent a day skiing around the varied slopes we’d been itching to try for some time now.

Brilliant sunshine (and a shiny new high-speed gondola lift) minimised the effects of the early morning bitter cold, as we climbed from the village to the Plateau d’Arrondaz. Even before we emerged we knew that we’d found another great snow-magnet, and one which can hang onto what it receives until the next falls.

It didn’t stop there. An onward chairlift haul to the Punta Bagna (2737m) rewarded us with a vast snowy panorama of the surrounding mountains, both French and Italian. If the long-term plan to link to Bardonnechia ever comes to fruition Valfréjus is certain to be one place we’ll all be doing much more than merely hearing about.

As it is, the 65km or so of groomed terrain are varied enough to keep us entertained, and on our toes too – there are some longish steeps to go with the expected Red and Blue-graded cruises. Add a nicely planned (and maintained) village and you see why we’ve come here specifically to add Valfréjus to our expanding list of Independent Resort Reviews.

Next stop: La Rosière – and another foray into Italy.

Orelle: rapid access to skiing in Val Thorens…

Today we drove down to Orelle in the Maurienne Valley and took the long ride skywards on the Trois-Vallées Express gondola lift. Around fifteen amazing minutes later we stepped out onto soft powder snow and knew that this was going to be quite a day. And it was; a simple onward chairlift ride took us to an unforgettable overview of Val Thorens.

The sky was steely blue and the quality of the snow beneath our skis confirmed that we had indeed landed in Europe’s highest ski area. For the next few hours we toured the highest peaks, skied some epic descents and found time to enjoy our best-ever on-mountain meal in La Fruiterie.

Working our way back towards our starting point offered an opportunity to ride the Cime de Caron téléphépherique, still the world’s biggest and highest cable-car. From the summit we gazed, awe-struck at our surroundings before blasting down the Black-graded Combe de Rosaël piste. At the bottom, feeling elated at having accomplished this testing descent, we took just one more chairlift ride to ski some of Orelle’s own excellent terrain, before boarding the gondola back down to Orelle. You wouldn’t believe half of what we saw and did,  so we’ll be supplying photos – stay tuned…

We Ski Montgenèvre and The Via Lattea

In case anyone is wondering where all the snow is in the Alps, I can tell you that a major chunk of it is currently lying in Montgenèvre and across the Italian border in the Via Lattea.

We’re primarily here to discover the brand new Chalet des Dolines 4* Résidence in Montgenèvre, as part of a press visit hosted by MGM Constructeur, whose latest creation raises the bar still higher for accommodation in the French Alps.

The skiing is likewise superb. Montgenèvre, had already become our favourite ski area, and today we finally got the chance to ski across the border beyond Clavière, Cesana and Sansicario to reach Sestrière and Sauze d’Oulx. Doing so in the company of Antoine Deneriaz (Men’s Downhill Gold Medallist at the Turin Olympics) was an inspiring, if humbling experience.

Maybe that’s why we covered more distance then we’ve ever packed into a single day’s skiing. Anywhere. The snow, although hard in more exposed areas, was both plentiful and, well… quite beautiful, really. See above.

Tomorrow we do more skiing around Montgenèvre, before departing for Orelle, where we’ll be testing the back-door gondola access to Val Thorens.

Bon Ski!

Roger & Julia

Skiing in Chamrousse

For the past two days we’ve been skiing around the terrain of Chamrousse, something we really should have done long before now. We’d been uncertain about the timing of our visit, but any fears we might have had about snow conditions proved largely unfounded – all but the lowest sector of the terrain remains open and is perfectly skiable.

Day One found us getting our bearings with an ESF ski moniteur (always a good plan in a new area) and noting those runs we were determined to ski again. Why? Well, yesterday was memorable for the mists – low coud, really – which hung around the valleys, creating a magical above-it-all sensation.

The downside, though, was dropping into less good visibility lower down, where those undecided about whether to take the gondola ride were clearly unaware that there was brilliant sunshine up there.

So, today we did it all (or some of it) again, this time substituting the Women’s Olympic run for yesterdays Men’s version, along with exploring the wealth of entertaining link runs on offer.

Highlights? Definitely the beautiful, wooded sections, which gave us a real sense of being very much in The South…

Next stop: Montgenèvre.