Practically perfect pistes in Megève

21st February 2016, by Chris Gill

Chris, Kathryn and John ignore the White Mountain. Photo: Ben Riley

Chris, Kathryn and John ignore the White Mountain. Photo: Ben Riley

I’m now on a short cross-border tour centred on the Val d’Aosta in north-western Italy, but starting in the most French of French resorts, Megève. Later in the week we’ll be popping over to Zermatt in Switzerland, too.

Photographer Ben and I arrived on Friday evening to find Megève looking gratifyingly snowy. We were just in time for dinner with John and Kathryn Kinnear, who run Stanford Skiing. We are staying in their chalet Sylvana, a characterful and creaky old hotel in a good position close to the Rochebrune cable-car accessing one of the three sectors of Megève’s extensive skiing.

Saturday dawned grey with light snow falling, and stayed that way all day. Naturally we started our exploration on Rochebrune. The combination of changeover day and inhospitable weather meant few other customers for the lovely soft corduroy.

We enjoyed an excellent hour or two on the blues and reds here – skiing some slopes virtually alone – before getting the ski bus from Cote 2000 at the far end of the sector to the lift base of the larger Mont d’Arbois sector.

Our target for lunch was the cute little Refuge de Porcherey on the back of the hill where we enjoyed a simple but satisfying two-course fixed meal plus tempting tarte, and ran into Alex Perrinet, a top-notch mountain guide who first introduced Mr Watts and me to Megève’s rewarding off-piste terrain [cough] years ago.

Then it was time for some good long runs on several flanks of Mont Joux and Mont d’Arbois before making for home. Dinner in the Sylvana was excellent, centred on duck confit.

Sunday dawned clear and warm, with the temperature on the chalet terrace well into positive figures even at breakfast time. We met John and Kathryn at the base of the third sector, Le Jaillet.

Today the corduroy was rock-hard at first, but soon softened where caught by the sun. Not surprisingly, the pistes were much busier (it was the start of the Paris holiday fortnight, as well as attracting day trippers from Geneva) but never became unpleasantly so.

We enjoyed prettily wooded, easy, long, sunny runs towards Combloux before setting off on the long link to La Giettaz, where the slopes are quite different – shady, tough reds and easy groomed blacks. Rewarding stuff, despite the entirely slow lifts.

Despite the high temperatures, the pistes remained in good shape throughout, with the conspicuous exception of the very sunny home run. This was closed, and rightly so – we rode the gondola down over lower slopes virtually bare of snow.

Our drive to Champoluc in the Monterosa Ski area took over three hours, thanks to a jam on the autostrada. The village and the mountains are not looking notably snowy but we’re told all the pistes are open, so we’re looking forward to renewing acquaintance with them over the next two days.

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