Variable spring conditions in Courchevel

13th April 2010, by Chris Gill

Editorial son at the top of Signal, above 1650, on Monday

Editorial son at the top of Signal, above 1650, on Monday

It’s always difficult to know what to expect on a late-season trip to the Alps. Will you be wearing T-shirts and sunnies or multiple layers and goggles? Skiing powder or slush? This week in Courchevel the answer is: all of the above.

So far we’ve had no serious snowfall and no serious sun-lounging, but a wide range of in-between weather and snow conditions. We had lunch on an adequately sunny terrace today (at the excellent Bouc Blanc above La Tania); but as I write, in the late afternoon, the second apparently serious snowfall of the day has fizzled out – like yesterday evening’s.

The cover on the pistes is good, but the conditions highly variable. With the weather coming from the north and plenty of cloud about, temperatures are not high by April standards – but high enough to produce slush below 2000m in the afternoon, and of course rock hard runs in the mornings. Of course, on sunny runs it’s vital to time your descents carefully.

The high, shady runs are in pretty good shape. Probably the best snow of the day – something like the packed powder you hope for – was on the red Roches Grises from the Creux Noir chair in the late morning. The black Combe Pylones on Vizelle and Dou des Lanches above La Tania were in good nick after lunch, too.

So was the blue Cretes run at the top of the ridge where Couchevel meets La Tania. My wife Val and daughter Laura would have enjoyed doing some loops on this run, using the adjacent chair of the same name. But no, that wasn’t possible. Courchevel has decided that its late season guests can manage perfectly well without this lift – and about 10 others. They stand idle, while we mould our plans around the lifts that are open.

Next weekend, for the final week of the season, a further dozen lifts will close – but at that point the price of a Courchevel lift pass will drop from €190 to €133. Fine. That seems a reasonable deal, that you may or may not find attractive (though I have to say I can find no information on the resort website to say which lifts will be closed). What is not attractive – not acceptable, even – is to close selected lifts that visitors are expecting to use, and to continue charging the full price.

I have other grumbles, too. The piste grooming for which Courchevel is famous is simply not up to scratch this week. Yesterday my wife and daughter had to be led off-piste to avoid an unpleasant steep stretch on the blue Grandes Bosses run that consisted of rock-hard moguls. The sort of thing you might expect in Bulgaria, but not in Courchevel. The run was groomed today; too late to prevent damage to the fragile confidence of blue-run skiers finding their feet.

Naturally, I’ll be putting these complaints to the tourist office and lift company. If they have a response that is of interest, I’ll post it here.

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