Saturdays don’t get much better

6th February 2010, by Chris Gill

After a bright start, snow by lunchtime

After a bright start, snow by lunchtime

I’m at the beginning of a week’s stay in Bourg-St-Maurice, the valley town at the end of the railway line to the French mega-resorts, below Les Arcs. Together with photographer/minder Ben Riley, I’m aiming to find out whether BSM works as a base for a six-resorts-in-six-days tour, or whether it is better thought of purely as a cheap base for Les Arcs, only seven minutes away by funicular railway.

Today, Saturday, we were in Ste-Foy, on the road up to Val d’Isère and Tignes. Ste-Foy is seriously misrepresented by its vital statistics – 4 main lifts, 32km of pistes. But those 32km are of exceptional quality, and the resort is also highly regarded for its off-piste terrain, both within and without the main ski area. What’s more, the lower half of the area is in trees, so it made the ideal spot for our first day, with snow forecast on and off.

Snow on and off is what we met on Friday, after flying in to Geneva. Bourg SM was as snowy as I’ve seen it in quite a while, and when we staggered back to our excellent Peak Retreats/MGM apartment after a late evening pizza the flocons were again drifting down. So we were hoping for a good day at Ste-Foy. We were not disappointed.

The pistes were close to perfection – packed powder wall to wall – and what’s more were practically deserted. On many occasions during the day there was no-one else in sight as we carved down the mountain. A particular delight that we discovered in the afternoon was the broad red Arpettaz, in the upper part of the forest: it had been closed for racing earlier in the day, but skiing past it we noticed the “fermé” sign was no longer across the piste, but off to the side. “Shall we?” “Well, why not?” Why not, indeed. Three inches of powder on a deserted, virgin groomed piste at 3pm. Yum, three times.

The off-piste was fab too, to the extent that we were able to explore it. By the time we felt up to it, after phase one of lunch, visibility above the treeline was rubbish (whereas there had been some sun in the morning). So we contented ourselves with excursions from the pistes around mid-mountain; there are plenty of opportunities for that sort of thing here. Having considered the usual “neck-deep, thigh-deep or knee-deep” categories, we had to settle for the last, but we have no complaints.

Not a perfect day, but the judges are showing nines. And followed by England trashing Wales on the telly – Saturdays don’t get much better. (Sorry, Welsh readers. I’m sure you’ll beat Scotland.) With blue skies forecast, we’re off to Val d’Isère and Tignes for the next couple of days. Watch this space.

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