SkiVt-L France 1996 Edition: Val Terces Day 1
NOTE: Recently, POWDER magazine "uncovered" this resort, but they changed the name to "Val Terces" to try and hide it's location from the
masses of punters who might come and ruin it. I have follwed suit, albiet with perhaps a few two many clues.
At last, some three days after leaving Burlington,
we donned our skis and headed out to explore the unknown.
Briançon anchors the southern end of
a ski domain known as Val Terces: a mid-sized French resort
comprised of a dozen villages and hamlets strung out along the
edge of the French National park of the Écrins mountains.
The skiing at Val Terces is pretty evenly distributed along
a 15 km corridor between Briançon at one end and Monêtier-les-Bains
at the other. There's a somewhat greater concentration of pistes
in the middle and a pretty consistent 4000 foot vertical drop
The lift system at the Briançon end
is the most recent of the lot and is anchored by the Télécabine
du Prorel: a two stage 12 person gondola rising from the town
at 1200m to an altitude of around 2300m. We hopped aboard at around
10 AM, rode to the top, and cruised back to the bottom. Nothing
like a 4000 foot vertical run as a warm-up.
The snow was pretty darn good, albeit a trifle
worn. Down into the city, cover was a bit thin, saved only by
the presence of a battery of snow cannons. Up again and down into
the next village of Chantmerle, it was a different story. The
snow, while still worn in a few spots on the piste, showed signs
of old but yet untracked powder still left from the last storm.
The situation looked promising...just a few inches of refresher
fluff on top, and we could be talking some serious face shots.
We managed to ski as far as the central village
of the resort before we had to about face and scurry back to our
car. The final run back was a bit of a snoozer, but probably all
we could effectively handle after a long and exhausting day.
Vickie's mouth was agape pretty much from
start to finish. Everywhere she looked, there were these huge
mountains. Around every bend was yet another monstrous valley
filled with pistes and lifts. Even lunch, held in typical French
alpine style, was to be marveled at: scores of sun worshipers
flopped back in their lounges; waiters carting about unlimited
beer, wine, and Perrier; even a singer and electric guitarist
duo providing some decidedly American Rock and Roll - about the
only English we heard that day.
Worn to a frazzle by our first day on skis
in two weeks, we crawled back to our little Renault and drove
to the other end of the Valley. The sporting lifestyle was ubiquitous:
we drove past the hotel owned by World Cup Downhill champion Luc
Alphond's family, following a route covered by this year's Tour
de France riders. Soon we arrived at the old village of Monêtier-les-Bains
Of the four clusters of hamlets that comprise
Val Terces, Monêtier is the oldest and most authentic.
This is no purpose built resort, like Tignes or Val Thorens -
many of the buildings date back to the a 5th century, and they
really look it, too. The streets, for the most part, were no more
and seemingly rather less than a car width wide, twisting and
turning in a manner more suited to ox cart than Oldsmobile.
At the center of it all lay the Hotel de l'Europe,
a small 31 room hotel, bar, and restaurant. Our host had our Faxed
room request and key waiting for us at the front desk. He was
quite the character, fluent in English but French through and
through. The walls of the hotel strongly reflected his love for
the hunt, featuring trophies from the local mountains as well
as from Poland and New York's Adirondacks. The waitresses at the
bar presented a stark contrast: young, attractive, and thoroughly
British. From aprés ski drinks to table d'hôtel to
petite déjeuner, this place charmed us through and through.
Send comments to
Wesley Alan Wright
Last update January 22, 1997