SkiVt-L France 1996 Edition: Val d'Isere Day 1
Our friend Josh decided to take a chance and
ride down to Val with us and find a place to sleep upon arrival.
We arrived at our hotel, le Chamois d'Or, just in time for half
day lift passes. They had room for Josh, too, right across the
hall from us, so we unloaded the essentials from the car, jumped
into our boots, and power walked to the Cable Car Solaise.
The weather was hard to judge: the Rocher
de Bellevarde was socked in clouds, and the Tête de Solaise
didn't look much better. The valley in between, however, was bright
At the top of Solaise, it was a different
story. Sunshine invited us down the backside into the Col de Madeleine
and the Madeleine chair lift. Up, down, and back up the Cugnai
chair. Down to the Glacier lift, up to the Leissieres chair, which
carried us up over the Leissieres ridge and back down the other
side into the Vallon de l'Iseran - and another cloud.
The snow was pretty good everywhere: quality
packed powder on the pistes, some chopped fluff just off them.
The terrain, however, was a bit flat and the runs all too short.
Down in this new valley, partly sunny and
partly foggy, we managed to find another gondola station. We rode
it up into a bright sunny bowl, the highest at the resort, atop
the Glacier de Pissaillas.
The skiing here was superb, and the view even
better. Uninterrupted mountains, and for as far as the eye could
see it was a sea of blinding white snow. The French have a phrase
for this: "Avec les anges," literally "with the
angels," but more like "on Cloud 9."
Unfortunately, by now it was 4:00 P.M., time
for these angels to head home before the lifts closed. We felt
like we had done little but ride lifts all day. Another Killington
experience: not much vertical, but plenty of horizontal.
So down we went, following a piste that serves
as a highway in the warmer months. This road was to have been
another Tour de France route this summer, except it snowed so
hard they had to bus everybody around the pass to a shortened
race starting in Monêtier. Down we went, to the upper terminal
of Le Fornet télécabine. Here, there were two choices:
the Forêt (Forrest), a black piste under the cable car;
and the Cognan, a blue that meandered way out and around. Funny,
but the sign by the Forêt said closed, but there was no
rope. What could we do? Josh and I waved good-bye to Vickie, and
then barreled straight on down.
Just awesome, and well worth the wait. Trees,
bumps, and rocks. Did I say another Killington day? This was a
little bit of Mad River Glen, à la français.
Great skiing, followed by giant bottles of
German brew by a roaring fieldstone fireplace. Life was good.