Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ok,so this is not really running but it was outdoors, exercise and included a little bit of running. We were keen to make use of the fact that we were now not restricted to school holidays. It meant a quiet crossing from Dover, not needing to blast down the autoroute and best of all quiet pistes.
We found a good route from Dunquerke and enjoyed the villages and scenery. Despite mistakes in Reims and Dijon the journey went well til dark whwen we both found the rain, dark and approaching headlights very tiring. We finished off the journey the next day. We did a big shop in the valley and then headed up the mountain.
Les Aiguilles D'Arves and distionctive cat's head
The police were at Fontcouvert as usual demanding we all put snow-chains on although we could have made it the gateway of the caravaneige without. Patrick had cleared the upper carpark and there were only a couple of people on the whole site. We spent the afternoon on a walk into town and got organised with lift passes.

The snow looked fine and better than the reports suggested. We know the resort well and had a great time. The weather varied from warm and sunny to the deep cold ot temperature inversions and to low cloud and gloom.

We even had one day of fantastic ice halos.

 Most days we had a picnic outside but right at the bottom of St Colomban we found a brilliant heated salle d'hors sac.

It snowed enough to freshen up many of the pistes and even to give good powder. The resort was empty enough that we never queued and the snow lasted well. We even found O kites put out to persuade one group to visit all far flung parts of the resort.

Our only gripe was that they did not open up Grand Truc but other than that I reckon we skied every run at least once.

By the end of the 8 days we were tired and ready for a change of scene. It was amazing not rushing and trying to make the most of every single minute on the pistes.

 It needed more snow now and we wanted to explore new pist we had almost got thr 70 runs for Bob's 70th already (damn those that shut Grand Truc). Time for a return to the valley floor and to go exploring. My skis were certified a sucess- faster on the piste than before and brilliant in powder off piste.

With no new snow forecast yet and time on our hands we agreed to explore far up the Arc valley. I had found info on a caravaneige in Lanslevillard that sounded very promising. Compared to Camping du Col the site was crowded but it seemed mostly older retired people and not all that many were skiing. The site was brilliant. Easy walking distance to lifts, local ski bus on doorstep, free valley ski bus close by, HOT showers, lockers in the ski room, undrefloor heating in the showers and a loung that was luxurious.

 Plus it was the cheapest caravaneige we have stayed on. We'd had a day off moving so I was keen to ski the next day.

The vis was not great but we had a good explore on totally new terrain and found a warm salle d'hors sac for lunch.  The pistes were wide and although there were not many blacks some of the reds were steep.The cloud was low and although the pistes were well covered the snow was packed and needed freshening up. The next day Bob walked up to a hut on the south facing side of the valley and I skied and explored further.
Yep, Cat's Head again but from the other side
I was intrigued by the Col du Mont Cenis, partly I think because we had planned a hut walk from their last summer. It was a wild and windy place where the snow had been scoured off parts of the piste and pilled into deep drifts in others.

 By the end of the day I had been on almost every lift and run and had even found powder and off piste at the edge of the resort.
The snow we needed now arrived and it was time to give the pistes a rest. Bob and I walked up the valley on the chemin du petit bonheur and managed to get as far as Bessans.

Bob used his snow shoes but I did not sink too much. On the outskirts of the village we met a whole range of pisted paths and ski de fond tracks. The village itself seemed asleep but we located the hire shops and ski de fond centre complete with international biathalon course. We also found a very welcome bar for a vin chaud. We were reluctant to return by repeating the same route and the map showed an alternative on the other side of the valley. What it did not show was that this route was walked much less, was mostly un-pisted and had very deep snow. We were also face into the snow storm now.

At one point I spotted a wide track of more packed snow. Once I got there I realised it was the main valley road and just had not been cleared yet. Not that this stopped the valley bus from hammering through. We had a further adventure on a tiny path above Lanslevillard but made it back to the van in one piece. The snow continued so the next day we took the bus back to Bessans and Bob went snow shoeing while I tested out my ski de fond skills.

The amount of snow was defeating the piste machines so some bits were hard work until he caught up. I think I could get into this as a sport and it would be great cross training. The snow showed few signs of stopping so Bob descided it was a waste to buy a lift pass. Me, I'll ski in anything though and always assume the weather will improve at some point.

 Low cloud and snow continued so I spent a day running. I started with what I thought would be down the valley. Ha ha. I started across virgin snow which was hard work, gained an empty green piste which was great and then began the sure but steady rise to the col before I could drop over to Termignon. I got some funny looks as I was dressed in running tights but goretex Speedcross and seal skin socks did the trick. From Termignon I wanted to explore the side valley. I checked out the tiny caravaneige but it was under deep snow and only had one customer. The whole side valley seemed under drifts and after an hour of struggling through knee deep snow at best and thigh deep snow in places I turned back.

 At least it just brushed off and I was not wet. I ran round the village- a quaint mixture of old hotels on the roadside and small modern apartments nearer the lifts. The village navette is horsedrawn. The deep snow had tired me out so I decided to get the bus most of the way back. Luckily I waited in a bar and got chatting. I had forgotten it was Sunday and lamost missed the last bus up the valley. I could have run back but Bopb would have wondered where on earth I was.

  Getting the bus and then running the last bit allowed me to explore two more villages on the way. A clearer day allowed us to explore the rest of the resort. We worked our way across to the slopes above Termignon and had a very pleasant surprise.

It was deserted and had some of the best snow we had seen for days. True the button tows were exposed and very long but the pistes were superb. We could not understand why others had not ventured there.
Our attempt at another hut walk was less sucessful. The walk itself was great and we followed a well trodden steep path. Suddenly all footprints stopped, they just vanished.

We tried to find the trail but even though we spread out there was nothiing. We tried just going direct but after 30 minutes had made very little progress in deep powder.

We had lunch and decided it was not worth the effort. Frustrating but nevermind. We enjoyed the snow and the walk back. All this snow was good for the pistes and we had another wonderful day high above Termignon before skiing back down a very long looping blue. It is so long most people take the chair back and it even has a warning at the top of how long it will take.
Our last walk involved a chair lift from Lanslebourg. It allowed us to walk past all the husky rides which was busy and tnd then using the summer road as a rough guide we headed south for the Italian border. The sign said the route was closed but it seemed perfectly safe, just not pisted. We saw nobody else for hours.

We did not quite make the border but we did get to the summer museum and visitor center. A tiring day. Before leaving the resort we also enjoyed a wonderful meal and celebrated my retirement with Euros from friends at work.

It seemed strange to have walked, run, explored the evening markets and practiced ski de fond but the valley is a great place for multi-activity.
It was time to start heading back. What we had not yet done was tested the van wild camping while we skied. We drove to Orelle and went for a walk. The caravaneige looked closed and anyway it was too far from the lift and there was no bread shop. The lift car park was huge and although the camper van section was in deep snow the coach area was almost empty. The van heater worked well especially when supplemented with some gas. The Orelle lift is long but it takes you right up to the 4th valley and the link to the top of Val Thorens. I skied alone the first day as Bob did not fancy the low cloud. After the first run where I was almost sea-sick things improved and I had a wild day refreshing my memory or the resort. Wierd in places- where else do use standrad metal escalators to get to the lifts but superbly long runs and amaxing snow.

 The bad weather had obviously put most people off and the slopes were empty. So were the lifts so I was able to eat my picnic in the gondalas. Saturday would be our last day and I hoped Bob would come with me.

There were even less people as it was change-over day and as we ascended from Orelle we shot up through a huge temperature inversion. What a superb last day of skiing. Bob had done many more than 70 pistes and had been on well over 70 lifts.

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