Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snow, skis and winter fun in the French Alps.

After a long pause, I feel like I owe a few posts on my blog again.  This time I'll give you a little update on our very recent winter activities.  This winter season has been rather unusually warm here in the French Alps as many of you know and even by mid January there was barely any good snow in the mountains.  While it was possible to go to the bigger resorts, it was not really worth it because they are further, more expensive and the snow was not of such a good quality (mostly icy or technical).  The cross country tracks also turned to pure ice and they were slowly but surely melting away.  Some races were even cancelled...

It looked like this winter would be a bit of a ski disaster and would pass by without those powder days and so I started jogging more frequently.  I guess there are always other sports one can do.  To our surprise and joy, end of January finally brought us that white fluffy stuff.  And not only to the mountains but also to the city.  And it stuck on!!!

My evening meditative walk in the snow...

My favourite jogging path close to our house, looking very different now.

First blossoms caught off guard by the snow.


Even though this resort is not super close to Grenoble, it is still relatively close to visit for the weekend.  Serre Chevalier is quite a popular resort located in the French Alps near Briancon.  We decided to go there on a little weekend family trip even though it's a bit of a drive (2hrs) and one must cross over a pass in the mountains where it's usually stormy and challenging to drive through.  The views were quite spectacular on the way there....

On the way to Serre Chevalier.  Winter wonderland.

The chain-up area.  Ironically we are entering the Cote-D'Azur department.

Col de Lautaret (the pass I mentioned)

Our plans were to first head to the spa in Monetier-les-Bains, where we chilled out for 3 hours.  Then we went to Jakub's friend's place to sleep over.  Raphael was a really nice host.  He and his wife made us some real nice guacamole and chilli dinner, while we sat by the little fireplace, chatted and drank beers.  Anna was busy playing with his daughter and once in a while tried to pet their crazy fat cat (which is apparanently probably related to Garfield because he's lazy and likes to eat pizza).

Monetier-Les-Bains Spa.

On Sunday we headed out to Serre Chevalier for some skiing.  There was some powder around but it was really cooooold out there.  -10C with wind.  I always have frozen toes and today was also that kind of day.  I forced myself to hike up one of the pistes while the others did an extra run to make myself so hot until I was sweating and my feet were nice and hot.  After that, I had no issues. :)  We had a pretty good time skiing but Anna's friend was super cold really soon and she faced a huge dilemma.  She was frozen and miserable but at the same time she did not want to say goodbye to Anna.  So her dad gave her his gloves, then his down jacket and eventually she was so bundled up you could barely tell who's inside there.  After visiting a village of authentic Nepalese huts where we warmed up over a stove and tea, we continued to ski a bit more.  Finally it was really time to say goodbye and we headed home.

Tommy, the free rider.

Anna and her new friend.

Serre Chevalier views.

Chair lift views...

Anna and her friend in her dad's jacket.

Don't know what these guys were up to.


After getting back from Serre Chevalier, we had a huge snow dump in Grenoble and surrounding local mountains.  Even though my quads were still recovering from the weekend I could not resist and we all went to Villard de Lans for a half day skiing.  It's roughly 1 hour from our house, located in the Vercors mountain range.  I'd say it's my favourite place to go nearby as it is relatively family friendly and you can still find some nice off piste skiing there.

Anna did some powder skiing last year but she was really not too much into it back then.  She also had smaller skis which would bury in the snow so it was more hard work for her than enjoyment.  This year however, she had bigger skis and managed to ride the powder nicely.  It was funny watching her learn and play with the snow.  She fell a few times by accident and few times on purpose, since it was like falling into pillows.

White out.

Anna's first real powder skiing off-piste.

Tommy, such a natural.



Another of our favourite resorts to visit is Les Sept Laux, which is also roughly one hour away but in the Beledonne mounain range.  I would say this is a resort for more advanced skiers.  There is a snowboard park there, ski cross track and some black off-piste runs.

This time around, I went there with my co-workers, but we drove up there separately and it turned out to be a challenge to meet up.  My sense of direction is not so great and they got delayed a bit, etc.  so by the time it was lunch we still did not manage to meet up.  Finally in the early afternoon, one of my friends recognized me and we managed to get a few runs in....

It's days like these you really appreciate the mountains because you leave the gross, grey and cold city to end up being above the clouds in the sunshine with spectacular views.

Grenoble buried down there somewhere.

Looking down into the valley on the other side of the resort.

Lahari and Wiebke, my buddies ;)


The closest resort to our home is Lans en Vercors.  The resort is small'ish but good enough for the day.  It is cheap because it only has the platter lift, but that is no problem for us.  The only disadvantage is, that it is lower, so sometimes there is not enough snow there.

This year I only went to the cross country tracks in Lans en Vercors.  When my mom was visiting we hiked up to the auberge d'Allieres and while one of the kids was sledding, the other one went on the track with me.  We had gorgeous weather and we soaked up those sun rays!

Heading to the auberge.

Anna and Tommy were both very disciplined skiers that day.

With Grandma...

Catching those last sun rays!


This resort is also roughly one hour out from Grenoble (IF the road is clear), it is much larger than our "local"ones and it is more expensive.  Sometimes you also find yourself stuck in a traffic jam going there and back.  This weekend the temperatures were rising so we decided to go there since higher up the snow quality would still be good.  And indeed, it was.  The pistes were super nicely groomed and the weather was balmy.  I would rate this resort as good for family skiing but not something we could afford every weekend.

View from the very top (on the Glacier)

Great visibility.


Our house.

Our Drive Way

Our garden.

OK, so those snowy photos of our house are from January.  Right now actually the garden is full of spring flowers and we're supposed to have 19C next week.  So sad the snow season is going to end soon....

Hope you enjoyed it!