Our Trip 2005
By Ernie and Marjie DiRollo
Last year, having skied in Switzerland, Austria and Italy, we decided that we would stay in France. Our aim this year was to cut down on the distance travelled.
We skiied in Meribel, Les Arcs, La Plagne and Le Grand Bornand, part of the "Ski Aravis", i.e. La Clusaz area. During our first week a large contingent from the Ski Club were in La Tania, so there is no need to say a lot about skiing in the Trois Vallees.
We arrived in Meribel just as the snow arrived. Had we arrived a day later, I fear that we would have been stuck in the valley. On our first day, at Meribel, we had a problem with the snow. We found that we were happily skiing along when suddenly one ski would suddenly "brake". As we were a bit anxious, we had the skis rewaxed- this made no difference (any one who can explain please let us know) and so we packed it in for the day. We did not meet up with our ski club friends until the third day of their holiday, due to the falling snow. Being out for seven weeks, there was no need to ski in conditions of poor visibility.
On meeting up with the Club it was a pleasure to see old and new faces. After all these years it was a surprise to meet another "Ernie" and read, in the newsletter, an enjoyable report signed by the same, here's hoping that he keeps on writing.
We stayed on after the Ski Club left and even managed some "Ski de Fond" - the use of the circuits were free of charge. The pisted tracks run from the "Le Bouchard" Restaurant, near the Meribel Altiport. Altogether there are 100kms, in the "Trois Vallee" linking the areas. It would not have been difficult to get to La Tania on groomed tracks.
Having had two weeks at Meribel we set off for Les Arcs. From where we were staying we had a choice of bus routes. Most days we set off for Bourg and went up on the Funicular. On three days we went to Vallandry and had an enjoyable time skiing through the trees. In the middle of our stay at Landry (Les Arcs Area) we had the unexpected arrival of heavy rain. It had snowed heavily the night before and the roads had become difficult so it was quite a surprise to find that roads were suddenly clear! That night it froze, the next day the snow started to fall. We went up to Les Arcs and found that the cycle of weather had been the same as in the valley. Under the snow was thick ice, skiing proved to be a bit tricky with many people falling and getting injured. In Les Arcs, for the whole of our stay, the slopes were very crowded.
We now wished to ski in La Plagne. We had two options: use the bus to go to Vallandry and access La Plagne via the Trans Arc, or move to Montchavin. We chose the latter. The nearest chair was a 10 minute walk, up a very steep hill. Carrying skis up and down would have been a problem but for the fact that the ski shop by the lift had a secure ski room, key access, for which it made no charge. For the first four days we only skied the local area. Lots of super snow and, although most of the pistes were blue, we compensated for this by skiing just off the piste. Despite it being the school holidays there were no crowds and the slopes seemed remarkably quiet, due mainly to the fast lift system. This was quite a contrast to Les Arcs where we found much queuing and rather slow chairs. On day five we set off for La Plagne where we had no problem accessing Roche Mio and heading up to the glacier. It proved to be a wonderful day skiing on superb snow and once again were surprised that, although there were long queues, these moved very quickly. The next day we headed off for La Plagne to be stopped three times and have our passes checked. We had noticed that when going through the electronically operated turnstiles control lights flashed green, red, or in our case not at all, but still the turnstile opened letting us through.
We had reduced-cost day passes for the over 60s which probably explained why we did not get a "flash"! For anyone going to La Plagne beware of the Colosses poma lift - this has a very strong double kick, not for the timid. The aptly named "Rockette" double gondola moved huge numbers of skiers quickly up to the links with the Glacier and Champagny-en-Vanois. La Plagne seemed to have huge queues on both days, waiting times however proved negligible.
Having decided to reduce the distance to the Channel we now opted to ski in La Clusaz, except we never got there. We arrived in Le Grand Bornand to a new dump of snow. This is quite a small resort, but linked to La Clusaz and St Jean de Sixt by bus. We did very little of the actual pisted runs, due to the huge numbers that were on piste. Equally there were many people who, like ourselves, skied just off to the side. Here I suggest that the green runs should be blues, the blues reds, the reds blacks and the blacks black "double diamond". In other words the blacks were seriously black!. The skiing was very varied from lots of extreme mogul fields to gentle blues.
The skiing at Le Grand Bornand was very good, the scenery was spectacular. Of course by the time we got to this last resort we were very confident. With the new snow we were more often off-piste than on. For us this was quite an achievement. Ernie made the mistake of following tracks into the powder to find that he had followed a set of tracks to the edge of a huge ravine and then had to climb out. As some of you know this can be quite exhausting. On the day that the new snow appeared we got out the cross country skis and followed the 10 km track up the valley. We were very fortunate with the caravan site. The bus to the two Gondolas, which left from the same base, only took 5 mins, and ran every 15 minutes from the gate. The main village was a gentle 10 minute walk away. Being February, in a very well organized small family orientated resort, there were lots of children. Inevitably, on the lower slopes one was given the responsibility of accompanying a small child on the chairs. At times this proved a bit of a challenge.
Our two weeks in Meribel was not sufficient, we hope to go back next year for a longer period. Les Arc was fun. Assuming all is well we shall go back to Montchavin; there is so much we did not do in the La Plagne circuit.
We enjoyed yet another superb skiing season, with the snow cover right down into the lower valleys. Thanks to Dot and Tony for meeting up with us, and to the others, who put up with the problems this inevitably causes.
Here's to next season and hopefully good snow yet again.
As a footnote, we stopped for the night in Dover. This proved to be a bit problematic. Overnight we had a big dump of snow and in the morning, to get out, we had to fit our snow chains. Not quite what one expects in England!