A mixed week in the Trois Vallées

14th February 2014, by Chris Gill

Courchevel n Wednesday – quite a lot more snow has fallen since

Courchevel n Wednesday – quite a lot more snow has fallen since

As everybody knows, the heaviest of this season’s snow has hit the south side of the Alps, delivering the biggest falls in a generation to parts of the Dolomites, for example. But don’t get the idea that everywhere outside Italy is bare of snow. I arrived in La Tania very late on Monday night to find gratifying amounts on the chalet roofs.

There was also enough on the roads of La Tania’s hilly chalet quarter to make me wonder whether I had been wise to decline the snow-chains rip-off at Geneva airport. Happily the hire car’s winter tyres and traction control did the trick, as usual, and we got to Ski Amis’s chalet Balkiss without difficulty.

Chalet-boy (I use the term loosely) Andy was cheerfully shovelling snow to ease our path as we arrived, and amazingly he had managed to save some of cook Anne’s fabulous apple cake to form a delicious late supper.

Chalet Balkiss turned out to be a very comfortable billet. The key feature is the high-ceilinged sitting room, with sofa seats for all 14 guests. That and the terrace hot-tub, which enjoys good views across the valley.

A useful few cm fell overnight, but Tuesday turned out to be a pretty sunny day, and I spent a relaxed morning cruising the pistes above La Tania. The new six-pack that replaced the Praz-Juget drag and the top half of the Bouc Blanc drag for this season is a great improvement, of course, but the removal of the Cretes chair along the ridge separating the bowl of La Tania from Courchevel is regrettable – it was a great place for blue-run skiers to do laps to practise their skills on good snow.

Tuesday was just warm enough for me to be persuaded that our lunch at the reliable and affordable Bouc Blanc above La Tania should be on the terrace. Wednesday was even sunnier but a bit colder; when we stopped for a late morning drink, we managed two minutes on the terrace before retreating indoors. Later on, though, we braved the evening chill for a session in the chalet Balkiss hot tub.

Wednesday morning delivered some fabulous skiing – highlights were an early run down the Dou des Lanches black, which was beautifully groomed and deserted, and then the red Combe de Saulire, where the corduroy had been erased but replaced by a layer of powder thrown up by the first hour or two’s skiers. Bliss.

While at Saulire I took another look down the relatively new and seriously black Couloir Tournier, underneath the similarly new gondola from Méribel. I’m waiting for enough snow cover to make the couloir skiable from the top, but at present the entry involves going half-way along the awkward ridge towards the Grand Couloir. Not my idea of fun.

On Thursday the snow returned, sadly involving rain at village level. And over Thursday night there was a fair dump, laying an excellent base for half term week next week, but also delaying the opening of the high lifts until late morning or even later.

Unfortunately this disrupted my mission to check out the Creux piste at Courchevel, which after many decades as a red has been reclassified blue. Has the steep top section been remodelled, I wonder? Or is this just a marketing ploy to create a ‘blue’ route from Saulire to Courchevel? I’ll be going back in March to see.

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