Thursday, January 29, 2015

A chainless RV is a useless RV!

For the next two weeks, I planned a trip around the Alps with my good friends from Quebec. We rented a RV from a guy about an hour from Grenoble. I picked it up and drove to the airport to pick them up. We were trying to build up from our previous misadventures of 2011.
The boys landed in Geneva according to the plan with all their luggages. 
The best snowpack and weather forecast seemed to be in the northwestern part of Ticino (the Italian side of Switzerland). 

With the recent explosion of the Swiss franc, it made sense to load up on supplies in France. After a 2 hours grocery, we were finally all packed and ready to roll.
The road conditions were certainly not the best with some snow falling in the plains of Switzerland. The boys were not paying much attention since they were catching up from their previous sleepless night. We eventually stopped near the northern entrance of the Gothard tunnel on our way to Airolo.
The following morning, we drove the last kilometers that were separating us from the good snow and at the end of the 17km long tunnel, the snow was there.

We were fairly excited and figured the Val Bedretto valley will probably offers us some good options. After a few kilometers, we stopped to put the chains on. 

First one got on in a minute, but we weren’t able to put the second one on. 
We tried for 30 minutes moving the RV back and forth and taking the chain on and off. 

We eventually took the already put on one to compare the two to realize that the chain that were coming with the camper have been previously broken and badly repaired. We unsuccessfully tried to repaired them and had to set up for another option. 

We spotted some ski tracks coming from the Val Canaria and with not that much time to look for another option, we put the skins on and started to hike up. 
Being new to the area, we didn’t had much idea of where we were going and eventually spotted a treed ridge on which we thought it would be nice to make some turns. The wind was really strong at the treeline and we figure it wouldn’t be interesting to go any higher. 

Snow was fairly crappy near the top, but it got better a bit lower down. 

After a few good turns, we try to figure some good skiable tree run on the way down, but it was mostly a tree-smashing-marathon, that needed to be rinse with some mulled wine (gluhwein)...

We tried to get some new chains the following day, but there was none in town. A garage offered us to order them and to come pick them up by the end of the day. Since the snow coverage was getting thinner and thinner going down from Airolo, we bought a single ride up and figured that it would be nice to give a try to the backcountry near from the resort. 

As we were going up in the tram, Jeff realize that his skiboot looked weird. We then realized that the top-piece was broken. After a quick fix, we left him and headed out to check the snow conditions. 
We had to look for some wind protected aspect to find good snow. Anything that the wind could have hitted was hard and crusty. After poking around, we eventually found some good snow on which we managed to carve some nice turns. 

After a few good laps we went back to the RV to go buy some new chains. 
The following day, we all had in mind to go check out the Val Bedretto since it was our original plan. With beefier chains, confidence was maximum. We drove until we found some snow, stopped to put the chains. Start driving and after about 2m (that is 6feet), one of our new chain broke...

We were all bummed and pissed. We drove back to the car dealer to expose our point and he said that he would return them and if he gets a credit (which can take around 2-3weeks, it would send it by bank transfer... We haven’t heard from him yet...

We went back to the area located lookers left of the Airolo resort to make some more turns. We found some good openings through the trees and manage to get some not super deep but smooth turns. 
A bit sick of not being able to drive on the road around Airolo, we left to try something better. 
After a long internet stop and some debates during which Jeff bought some new boots, we figured that driving towards the Swiss Valais could be a good option.
We stopped near Gruyère (home of the famous cheese) and figured that we would finish the road the following morning. 
As we were driving towards Martigny, we saw some nice looking lines on the Fribourg Alps but we ignored them since we thought it would be better in the Valais just 30-40km from there. 

As we were entering into the valley, we realized that we probably made a mistake and that it would have been better near the Fribourg Alps. We drove up to the Col de la Forclaz, since it is one of the higher point from which you can start skinning. 
Even then, the snowpack was less than 30cm and most of it was unpack snow. 
We skinned up anyway even if rocks and the surroundings were really not looking good. 

We eventually stopped on the first plateau, got some panoramic photo and eventually start to ski down and try not to ruin our skis. 
We made it down safely following our skintrack and then drive down to Martigny to try to make a plan. 
With some major snowfall on the forecast for the nearby Chamonix area and dry road, we figure it would be better to drive there and wait for the snow to come. 
With all the weather forecast calling for a major dump, hopefully it would be right for once!
Snow is on its way!!!

1 comment:

Rene-Martin said...


Happy turns Evans