Category Archives: Skiing

Guilty Pleasure

March 7th; 2017

There’s something about skiing that gets under the skin – for me at least! I get all the pleasure of being up in the mountains – the stunning environment and the amazing feeling that skiing gives – yet I don’t have to endure all the hard graft of flogging endlessly uphill that is part and parcel of mountaineering. Mountaineering, of course, is more than that – but skiing, at least for me, is just unadulterated type #1 fun – mostly.

Mont Blanc from the Grand Massif

Mont Blanc from the Grand Massif

We’ve just been to Grand Massif – our third visit in fact. The Grand massif is the sprawling ski conurbation that encompasses Flaine, Vernant, Les Carroz, Morillion, Vercland, Samoens and finally, Sixt. It was easily the warmest visit – mainly we skied with open jackets and a thin baselayer only – even gloves were dispensed with at mid-day. We skied over from Samoens into Flaine one day only to be greeted by temps of 17 degs – yep, seriously warm. Not surprisingly, there was less snow than usual; sufficient, but definitely less. It’s dumped over a metre of fresh snow since we were there so the rest of the season should be pretty much assured.

There’s considerable development underway at Samoens; both in the village itself and at Samoens 1600 – the base for operations in that neck of the woods. A monster development in town is going to add a fair number of peeps, and pressure, to the infrastructure but not nearly so much as what is apparently a ClubMed development at Samoens 1600 where, so the word on the street has it, a c.400 bed development is partway through the procurement process. All the extra bodies will create the need for additional uplift, new pistes and – it is said – some re-modelling of the exit runs off Tete Des Saix @ 2118m where the two existing runs will surely be swamped under the burden of the new skiers.

The last run home from the Desert Blanc

The last run home from the Desert Blanc

Whether all this is positive or not depends on your viewpoint. It’ll undoubtedly be a plus for local businesses as well as those directly linked to the ski business. The environment will take a further hit and that’s the mute point I guess. Yet it can only be duplicitous to raise concerns about new development and turn a blind eye to that which has already been undertaken – after all, all the existing lifts and pistes weren’t dropped-in overnight by the ski-gods.

Interesting, Grand Massif was awarded the Green Globe in autumn 2016. In fact, Grand Massif is apparently the first ski area in the world to be awarded the Green Globe Certification. There’s some blurb on the back of the piste map related to said certification. Here’s what it says:

“Green Globe is an international certification programme which rewards the efforts of tourism businesses in their social, economic, cultural and environmental initiatives. The programme is built on a series of 40 topics set out in over 300 obligatory and optional criteria ranging from management to sustainable development… and is a firm long-term commitment since [they] have to present significant improvements every 2 years in order to keep the certification.”

So there you go. Something positive to offset the guilty pleasure of skiing in that area…

Deux Pain SVPOn-site bakeryOn-route to Samoens 1600On-route to Tete Des SaixLooking past Corbalanche towards FlaineTete Des Saix - Corbalanche panoMont Blanc from the top of Desert BlancThe joy of an open pisteDropping into MorillonThere's never a rush to start the final run homeTete Pelouse (2474m) above the Desert BlancSunset over Cluses on the way back from FlaineDown-town Cluses

Also posted in Travel

Feb 23rd, 2016: Three in Three

It’s probably not too far off the mark to say that many of us Brits usually throw our hard-earned cash towards Europe when it comes to skiing; the honey pots certainly aren’t cheap but the resorts are extensive and the sliding is typically good and reliable. The same, sadly, can’t quite (slight understatement?) be said of our home-land skiing.

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Great connies on The White Lady, Cairn Gorm Mountain

Scotland, undoubtedly the premier ski location in the UK, is exposed to the vagaries of the Atlantic weather systems which all too frequently inflict anything from soggy wet snow, low-lying clag and broken runs to savage winds, white-outs and icy runs. That said, the long-suffering Scottish ski industry appears to have had a proverbial leg-up in recent years thanks to some ‘harder winters’ of late. Die-hards continue to head to the Scottish hills whenever the conditions come good.

Sheffield’s recent February half-term, conveniently a week ahead of many others, amazingly coincided with a good forecast in Scotland; settled conditions with low winds, decent (cold but not Baltic) temps with overnight snow showers topping up the already established snow pack. It seemed almost too good to be true and rude not to take advantage.

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On top of Flypaper & Spring Run at Glencoe

Having skied before at Cairn Gorm we were keen to get to some of the other places – especially Nevis Range and Glencoe. Finally, we decided on a blueprint for the trip; kick-off at Cairn Gorm, then switch to Nevis and then finish off at Glencoe for our third and final day. Sadly, the Lecht and Glenshee weren’t showing sufficient snow/runs when the master plan was pulled together although that changed as the week progressed and they too were reporting decent sliding opportunities.

We arrived in Aviemore midweek and awoke to a considerable dusting of fresh snow – that in the valley too; things looked promising! For three consecutive days the conditions stayed pretty good and the skiing was good. Cairn Gorm and Nevis didn’t quite have sufficient build-up to allow so-called top-to-bottom skiing but both had a good chunk of their respective runs open. Back Corrie action was happening at Nevis, albeit for the suitably experienced and equipped. Glencoe however, was virtually fully open with every run good to go above the access gondola.To be honest, getting three good days skiing in Scotland in three consecutive days felt like a rare treat; defo not to be sniffed at. Sure, it’s different to the European experience, but as they say, “if you can ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere”!

Here’s a selection of shots snapped when I wasn’t sliding…

Welcome to Cairn Gorm Mountain!Looking down GunbarrelBottom of GunbarrelLovely connies on The White LadyThe Back Corries on Range Nevis - from the valleyRange Nevis access gondolaHome time - goodbye Nevis RangeAccess gondola at GlencoeView from Glencoe over to The BenLooking down Rannock Moor from the top of Meall a'Bhuiridh (Glencoe)Checking out the back off the top of Meall a'Bhuiridh The top of Flypaper & Spring Run at GlencoeHome time againRannock MoorBrew stop on the shores of Loch Lomand on the way homeLoch Lomand Pano

 

Also posted in Photography