Monday, February 23, 2015

Let me introduce you to the Maurienne Valley!!!

The last wind episode that cut our last day short in the Vercors left some major scars on the snow around the mountain near the Rhône valley and around Grenoble. With Babiche back on track, we figured it would be better to try some other nearby valley that run perpendicular from the Rhône valley.

We left and did a first stop in the Lauzière massif. This submountain range lays at the confluence of the famous Tarentaise valley (in which you’ll find some of most renowned ski resort like La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes, Val d’Isère, etc...) and the much more unknown Maurienne valley.

We left Grenoble anything but early and following the obvious signs towards Celliers, we eventually park where the road stop to be plowed during the winter.
We had look at different options on the website Skitour , but we hadn’t really made up our mind. The parking lot was high and it seemed that there was multiple options from there. After hiking for a few minutes, we realized that a nice north facing face was still mostly untrack. That was our plan for the day. After 2 nice laps, we hoped in the car and start driving towards the end of the Maurienne valley also know as the Haute-Maurienne.
From the very end of the valley, you’ll find the nice and quiet mountain village of Bonneval-sur-Arc. Nothing close from the touristical mayhem of Val d’Isère even if only a few kilometers (by a close winter road) separate the two places from each other.
This little village kept the lay back pace that once would look up to for some relaxing holidays. With only 10 lifts and about the same amount of marked runs, Bonneval-sur-Arc is mostly known as a familiy destination. What is really nice about the family destination in Europe is that they are pretty often bigger than your local mountain. After a few warm up runs where we score really nice powder, just next from one of the very first chairlift, we went up to the highest lift.
As we were going up, we found a nice (almost) untouched area that look like it was reserved for our personal use!
We headed there not really knowing if the snow would be as good as it looked.
And luckily for us, the snow was not good, it was plainly GREAT!!!
After lapping the run 2-3 times, we realized that no one else was skiing it and the only tracks that weren’t there on our first run were our own!!!
It was kind of a weird feeling.
We didn’t need to hike at all to reach it.
We didn’t need to rush at all since no one else was using it.
We could just ski back to the lift after the run, without poling or hiking.
Nevertheless, snow was dreamy!!!
It happens once in a while that we have those days where I take so many nice skiing picture, that it is hard to decide which one to put up on the blog! Not wanting to work to hard, here is some raw skiporn!
Following that awesome day of skiing, we drove down to Lanslebourg which is the biggest town of the Haute-Maurienne. The lift of the Val Cenis resort starts straight from town.
There was much more people there than in Bonneval-sur-Arc even if the resorts are separated only by a few kilometers and are linked by a free shuttle. With the last snowfall dating about a week ago and with more people skiing it, we were both pretty surprise to still find some great untrack snow!
Here is Babiche rushing to get some freshies before I got skied by some locals.
After another great day of skiing, we headed out to check out the local cheese production. Since I got to France, I discovered the Beaufort cheese. This cheese is similar to Gruyère, but just better. I have never tried it before settling down in France and since then, it ranked on the top of my favourite cheese list.

Since that delicacy is coming from the area and is produce locally, it was then a no-brainer to have a look at the local production of it. There were 6000 cheeses in the warehouse, costing about 500euros a piece. Yes, this is 3 millions euros worth of cheese!!!
This is actually something that I really love about ski-tripping in Europe. You can get some world-class delicacy and learn about mountain lifestyle without having to cut out on the quality of the skiing you did during the day.

We kept driving down the Maurienne valley back towards Grenoble and stopped this time in Valloire. We hooked up with Nicolas Attal, a frenchie that I’ve met a year back in Montreal as he was looking for a good skiing plan.
Valloire is also considered as a family destination even if there are more than 150km of groomed runs to ski on. After a few laps on them, we headed out with Nico to check out the nearby slackcountry. After about 20 minutes of skinning on a flat ridge going East of the resort, we ended up on a nice run on which it was pretty easy to get some freshies.

We were both amazed about the surrounding mountain and the quietenest of the area. I’ve mostly only heard about the big skiing super-resort before this year, but I have to say that there is a lot to discover and some great under-the-radar destination in France.
We painfully had to decline the invitation to stay (and party) overnight since my Dad was arriving in Grenoble.
We drove back to Grenoble to pick him up and Amelie and drove back to the Maurienne valley to do a little backcountry the following day. We spotted a nice start from which it seemed to have multiple options. The parking from which we needed to start was around 1700m near the station St-François-Longchamp (that I learn the existence on that day...) From there, I thought we would have some good chance to still get some nice cold snow.

After 5-10 minutes skinning up, with the warm temperature and the harsh sun, we decided not to try the north facing slopes, but instead to go more towards the south facing aspect and try to harvest some corn.

Warm it was certainly for sure!!!

After a pleasant bread-salami-cheese snack, we were down for the harvesting! Snow was just perfect. With 5-10cm of melted corn sitting on top of a steady surface, we were all able to carve some buttery turns as you would usually dream on in April!

With Babiche leaving the following day, we drove back to Grenoble to enjoy a relaxing après on our patio!

Some more snow is on the forecast for Italy, so I guess that will be our next destination!

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