Ski, Sun & Mountains

Mar 6, 2011
Mid-March- most Parisians are back to their usual Metro, boulot, dodo from winter vacations. For us though, it was time to get out of the city and head to the mountains. Longer days and warmer weather, most definitely the best time to hit the ski tracks in the Southern Alps. We took the train down to Lyon, met Emma’s parents at the airport, rented a car and drove to Briancon.

Day 1

We were all stoked to get our week of hiking started! First direction was the Cerveyrette valley for a day of Nordic skiing. As usual, the weather was just perfect and the ski slopes had just been fixed the night before. We started off with a rough climb, which later got a lot smoother as the track was following the valley and climbing slowly till the Refuge des Fonts at 2000m. We stopped to snack there and enjoyed the incredible views all around us: we could see the majestic Pic Lombard (3000m) just in front of us. After the break, we got back on our skis, and slid all the way back down to the car. So rewarding (and fast)! 

At home we could smell the traditional mountain food from the doorstep- Tartiflette a la maison!

Day 2

The plan for the second day was to go to one of the most beautiful valleys of the French Alps: La vallée de la Clarée - 30 km of authentic alpine villages that are untouched by the mass tourism. We started our day in a small village called Nevache (alt.1600 m) and our goal was to ski 11 kilometers to reach Laval at 2000m. Doesn’t seem much in altitude, but trust me, on cross country skis it’s a whole lot of climbing! 

Finally, it took us somewhere around 3-4 hours to get up and only 30 min down...

Day 3

On our 3rd day we switched our skis to snowshoes and headed for Park national des Ecrins (Ecrins National Park). It consists of peaks up to 4 102 m (Barre des Ecrins) and offers trails with magnificent views. 

The first hour was a climb in a forest to reach a plateau with a lake. That’s where the treeline comes to an end and a steep push towards higher valley starts. We had done this hike in the past summer with Emma, so we knew what to expect. The only difference was that this time the slopes were covered with snow, and so instead of climbing an easy zic zac path, we had to push up in a straight line...

All of us got up the slope and we had a lunch overlooking the Barre des Ecrins and the 4 km peaks. 

The evening was reserved for a local spa & sauna complex- only to find out that I was banned to get in (‘cause of my swimming pants?!) and well, long story short, I got to wait outside (pissed in the cold) as the rest of them was also out BUT in a heated pool!

Day 4

After a well-deserved, relaxing night in a Spa…we headed to the Italian border (8 km from Briancon) for cross country skiing. Montgenevre- Claviere is actually more known as an alpine ski resort with bunch of cottages, hotels, restaurants, shops and so forth. We decided to have a slightly easier day in terms of exercise, and got around some tracks that didn’t require too much effort. The best part was the view(s) down to the valley(s) below…

Day 5

After 4 days of outdoors, we wanted to chill with both families together and decided to drive to Gap. We strolled around the town and had a good traditional lunch in a cosy cave-like restaurant.

On our way back we cruised around the area checking out the rock formations, Les Demoiselles Coiffees, as well as the panoramic views over the Lac de Serre-Poncon (a huge artificial lake).

Day 6

For the last day of outdoors, we headed to a trail that would end overlooking the Glacier Blanc. We packed our snowshoe gear and started walking up towards Ailefroide village. We could walk all the way till the village with just our trail shoes and t-shirt on- but then we reached the snow. This village is actually only inhabited summer time and consequently it was pretty deserted (to be exact, one bar was open). Additionally during the winter it gets frequent avalanches on its principal road, so it can be hard to reach...

We had a good walk with snowshoes up to the point where we could see the starting point (summer) for the Glacier Blanc trek. On our way down we wished badly that we would've had the skies on, as so many people on ski touring passed us by (backcountry skiing that cuts across both an Alpine- and Nordic forms). As we got back to Ailefroide, we naturally did go to that one ‘n only bar on the mountain and got some fresh beers! Chin chin!

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