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LIVE TR: Espace Diamant, 20th-27th Jan 2018 - now with photos

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Following in the footsteps of Layne's excellent thread, I'm going to be writing a live TR of our trip to Notre Dame de Bellecombe, France.

Where, you ask? Notre Dame de Bellecombe (or NDB) is part of the Espace Diamant ski area in the NW French Alps, next door to Megeve. With just under 200km of slopes it's actually one of France's biggest areas, putting it ahead of big names such as Flaine and Alpe d'Huez (which both massively overstate the size of their own areas) in terms of extent. You can find a piste map here.

We (me +1) are staying in NDB 1150 (there's also a 1350 and a 1450). The ski area sits between about 1000m and 2100m, and also includes the villages of Les Saisies, Crest Voland, Praz-sur-Arly, Flumet and a few other small hamlets.

It'll be no news to most SHs that there's been a lot of snow already this winter, and happily snow conditions looked great before we left - 100% of runs open a few days before, with over a metre of snow at the bottom of the slopes.

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that it's already Sunday. So I'll be starting the post with a late update about yesterdays shenanigans. Hope somebody finds it interesting!


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Tue 30-01-18 2:14; edited 3 times in total
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Hope it goes well, @denfinella - looking forward to your updates. I'm missing it already.....
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
SATURDAY

Today's travel plans were a little complicated: taxi to the airport, flight to Geneva, Ouibus public bus to Megeve (with a change at St-Gervais), then a pre-booked taxi to resort (just under 300 euros in total). With sheet ice on the roads in Glasgow following a mixture of rain and snow the evening before, heavy rain forecast for Geneva, and heavy snow in resort, the chance of complications looked pretty high.

Amazingly all the connections worked beautifully - taxi, plane, bus, bus and taxi all departed on time, and despite snow falling even in Geneva we arrived in a very snowy NDB at about 6.30pm.

Checked into our apartment without any problems and just had time to collect ski hire before they shut at 7pm. Take-away pizza to end the day - perfect! And it's still snowing.

The main street of Notre Dame de Bellecombe 1150 on arrival evening:


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Mon 29-01-18 23:38; edited 1 time in total
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Thanks Pam! And thanks for your help in planning some of this trip!

THE VILLAGE

NDB 1150 is pretty small, but has everything we need. We're at the bottom of the main street, a few hundred metres' walk away from the lift base at the other end. In between there are perhaps half a dozen restaurants, a small supermarket, two ski hire shops, tourist office, lift pass office, two bakeries, ice rink and a few other shops. The same family appear to own one of the restaurants, one of the hire shops, the ski school, the lift pass office (the letter accompanying our pre-booked passes had their name on), our accommodation... and I think one of them is also the mayor! It's that kind of place. It's also celebrating its 80th anniversary as a ski resort this year.

There's a free orienteering trail set up around the village which we hope to try out once the weather settles down.

Oh, and the skiing? The Espace Diamant's lift system isn't the most modern in the world, and this part of the ski area is the oldest part. In fact there, there's just a single drag lift into the slopes from here, with two other short drags serving beginner runs. It makes a change from the last few years we've spent in mega resorts. Some people would probably hate it Twisted Evil

As well as the drag lift, there are free buses throughout the day to a couple of the other linked resorts: NDB 1350 (8 mins) and - crucially - Crest Voland (10 mins). So, in our minds, it's a good base for the whole area. But we'll find out if that turns out to be the case.

Village church at night (worth looking inside too):


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Mon 29-01-18 23:43; edited 1 time in total
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I did warn you about that single drag lift - not to mention the scary two-way-two-man chair across to 1350...... the rest of the lift system is actually quite reasonable!! Well, except for the super-scary Seigneur drag in Flumet - you have to do that one. Just don't fall off - though "Si vous tombez" there are signs pointing through the forest. After an exciting hike you will land up on a mogully black run back down to try again. If you fall off towards the top it's trickier.... Laughing Bus to Crest Voland would be scenic... wink
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@pam w, yep you did warn us, it's not a problem for us - we've no problems with drags! Smile

SUNDAY
Snow turned to rain overnight at 1150, though dawn revealed that the snow line was only just above the village. Moderate snow forecast all day today with a freezing level of 1350, so the lower slopes would be right around the limite pluie-neige.

Left the apartment about 8.45am and wandered up to the lift base, calling at the boulangere en route. As luck would have it, rain turned to snow just as we were walking up. But it was still quite windy even at village level (after an even windier night), so we didn't want to stray too far from resort, especially given the forecast for snow all day. And we were looking for trees.

A trip up the Quarts drag revealed that the snow was very sticky at village level, but fine only a little higher up. A trip to Crest Voland fit the bill, being 80 metres higher and with tree-lined slopes. And there was still time to make the (hourly) 9.15 bus there! We shared the bus with one other person - the first skier we'd seen today.

Crest Voland's slopes are mainly wooded, gentle and face west, north and east around a low hill. There are 2 fast chairs, a few slow chairs and several unavoidable drags if you want to explore the whole area. 100% of runs were open, and all seemed groomed under between 5 and 25cm of powder. We started on the sheltered, easier east side, and worked our way around as the wind died down a bit, though it snowed constantly all day. There was hardly anyone on the slopes apart from ski schools and ourselves, meaning empty runs and fresh tracks almost every run - brill! Very Happy

Powder on Nant Rouge (blue), Crest-Voland:


I made a slight reading error regarding consumption of breakfast: I thought the piste map marked "picnic rooms" where we could have our pastries in the warm and dry. On arrival at the top of the lift it transpired that "picnic room" was in fact "picnic area", and it was completely buried in snow, with only the very tops of the tables showing Laughing

Lunch at the main lift base was excellent: 9.90 euros for the plat du jour: a huge hunk of veal with tagliatelle, sauce and salad; most other mains between 8 and 15 euros:


When we go skiing we're not fussed on particular types of run, and instead prefer to explore the whole area. Getting round Crest Voland took the whole day right up to lift closing time, which coincides with the last bus back to NDB. This was rather eventful - the roads were now very snowy indeed, and one of the other shuttle buses had collided with a van while trying to rock itself out of a snow drift. Another minibus was was being given a pull by a 4x4, but the tow rope snapped more than once. There were several stuck cars making the narrow road even narrower, but the driver got us back in one piece.

Cooked our own dinner tonight and my partner is already sound asleep (powder skiing is hard work wink ), hence me catching up with the backlog of posts.

Today was a good advert for staying in a low resort: no wind troubles, and lots of trees for snowy days. Low is bad for tomorrow though: heavy rain with a freezing level of 2200m forecast. Any ideas?

Run of the day: Ballevard (easy red): varied, twisty, away from the lifts and perfect powder.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Tue 30-01-18 0:05; edited 3 times in total
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Great report really enjoyed it. Have any snow heads driven there? We have a megane and no winter tyres so is it an easy drive without steep inclines.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@ulesskier, thanks. The drive looked easy compared to many big French resorts we've been to. Autoroute to Sallanches, then a wide road, not too steep, through Megeve. The last 3 km to NDB 1150 is a normal mountain road with a couple of hairpins.

However, on our snowy transfer day the roads were white (even some slush on part of the autoroute) and a lot of cars were struggling. Some were putting on chains below Megeve, and if without chains or winter tyres you wouldn't have made it up the last 3 km.

Praz-sur-Arly (same ski area) is in the valley so you wouldn't have to do this last section.
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Welcome to SHs, @ulesskier. I've driven there loads of times. Normally winter tyres will get you there fine but you also need to carry, and be able to use, snow chains (as you do everywhere in the Alps). When the weather's like it's been so far this winter it's possible that you will be stopped by the police and not allowed to continue without chains. I put my chains on more often in two weeks over Christmas and New Year this winter than I had in the whole of the last three fairly snowless seasons.
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Thanks for the info. We have chains but have never had to use them but this year it may be difficult to avoid. We also prefer the lesser known resorts and not considered this area before so looking forward to the rest of the trip report.
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Quote:

Praz-sur-Arly (same ski area) is in the valley so you wouldn't have to do this last section.


It also has a fast lift out and the K-Bane which does the most awesome hotdog savoyarde. Nom.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@denfinella, Good choice. I like the ED, but have run into the rain/snow line issue several times around CV and NDB. NDB 1150 unfortunately has the most difficult access to the greater ED.

Crest Voland gives you the easiest access to Les Saisies if the weather gets a little better. My favorite parts of the ED when the weather is good are the higher areas above Mont Rond and the newer area of Les Saisies (I forget what they call it) on the backside of Mont Vores (not apparent on piste maps) with a detachable 6 pack (8 pack?). Stunning views of Mont Blanc. If you can get to Praz sur Arly for a day the skiing in the Cret de Midi and Ban Rouge area can be great.

You could also do the daylong loop of the ED, starting from 1150. It's really fun if the weather is nice. Beware the very long and nearly flat but very pretty green from Saisies to Cohennoz.
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The new lift in Les Saisies is the Bellasta. Good skiing there - I agree with @Pasigal that the top of Notre Dame offers some of the best skiing in the ED - around the Lac and Plan des Fours lifts. And very quiet. The main Saisies bowl is about the busiest part of the whole domain. The long descent to Hauteluce is worth a go in good snow - La Ferme du Chozal at the bottom is one of the smartest (but also the most expensive) restaurants in the area. Very upmarket vin chaud with whole almonds. One of the nicest restaurants is near the top of the Cret du Midi (fast 6 man from the bottom of Praz sur Arly). Le Petit Tetraz - you can see it from the top of the lift as you go up, but not once you've landed. Just turn right at the top. Very small - be there early.
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@pam w, Bellasta, that's it. You can do laps all day long on longish red runs with plenty of off-piste in between and the lift line is really fast, even if crowded. It gets a lot of sun in the afternoons IIRC.
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@Pasigal, thanks for the tips. Definitely hope to explore those areas when the weather improves midweek.

@pam w, thanks. I'll keep that restaurant in mind, though we've been tending to eat at a resort base for lunch as the prices have been a bit lower. I don't think this is the run you mentioned, but I was wondering if you know anything about the Près black (if it reopens later this week), with a navette back into the slopes. Is it worth doing, and any idea where we can find the bus times? I can't see them online.

I'll post about today later on.
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Good question about that Pres itinerary (not a piste) down to Hauteluce. I've never done it - but the snow would be good enough now, for someone who can cope with pretty varied off piste. It's probably been closed for avalanche risk. Might be best to ask in one of the ski school offices - they must take people down there and get a bus back.
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There are regular buses to Hauteluce - and the bus back must pass the pick up point at the bottom of the Pres itinerary. A case of standing in the road and waving, perhaps - there is often not enough snow to get right down the bottom so they probably don't regularly pick up there. N D de B is NOT well served for mountain eateries - there's only Le Cret, and it's fairly ordinary and pretty pricey. Praz sur Arly does much better. There's one lovely one in the trees down in the Arly Valley - can't be sure - is it "Les Montagnettes" - always had a good Plat du Jour there and it's small, pretty and friendly. Cosy inside on a cold day.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
The restaurant (sic) right under the Bellasta lift might have improved but it was pretty grim - just a cow shed, with a couple of locals who must be very well-connected to get the piste bashers to make a path to them (in fact, they probably drive the piste bashers). Some hilariously shenzi electrics, still looks like a cowshed (and an unromantic one at that) and cold, not good, hot choc at the same price as much nicer prices. Might have improved their act now though!
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In Les Saisies the cheapest lunch spot by a country mile is the café at the top of the nursery slope, beside the magic carpet lift. When it's cold and snowy there are limited indoor places, with heaters. Chicken wings, chips and a glass of vino for not very much money at all. The Chocolatine - down the hill (the building on the immediate right on the webcam looking down the road) also does nice quiches - and divine cakes! Warm and cosy. Good coffee. Probably won't be too busy in January.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@pam w, thanks, will take note, and avoid the Bellasta shed!

Are you sure the Près run is only an itinerary? It's marked as a proper black on the piste map. If it's off piste (or unpisted) we'll avoid it as I bet the snow will be rotten after the rain, and we've no gear. It was open last week but probably closed for avalanche risk at the moment (the lift to the start is closed anyway).
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@denfinella, @pam w, I think it's just an itinerary. It was never open the three weeks we spent in LS over three years. Hauteluce is a charming village, however, probably especially pretty in deep snow.

Chocolatine is insanely good. Don't go there hungry. I could eat about 5 of their Savoyard crosses...
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Their almond croissants are also delicious. In fact, it's all delicious. And yes, that run down to "somewhere near Hauteluce~" is definitely an itinerary, not a piste. But the two reds (or blue and red) down to Hauteluce are well worth doing - there are two slowish chairs up but it's a very pretty ride.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
MONDAY

Well, heavy rain in resort, a forecast freezing level of 2200m and a 5/5 avalanche risk wasn't the best way to start this morning, but that's what we got. A slow start was on the cards and in fact we were just about ready to abandon any skiing plans, as given the avalanche level I was expecting (at least) all the lifts above the rain/snow line to be closed.

But 9am arrived and I was surprised to see that the ski area had managed to open 65/80 lifts and the majority of pistes. Meanwhile, rain at 1150 had turned to sleet, so we rushed through the morning routine in time to catch the 10am bus round to NDB 1350. Unfortunately the area beyond the Gueux chair closed just as we were about to go there, but that still left a handful of runs on all three sides of Mont Rond, with rain at the very bottom of some of the runs but snow above. This part of the ski area is mostly wooded, but less densely than Crest Voland. The hill is dominated by blue and red runs, which I'd say were in the middle of their gradings (unlike at Crest Voland, when they were at the easy end).

Snow was sticky where a significant amount had fallen since it had been pisted; otherwise it wasn't (too) bad. Light or moderate rain / snow for most of the day, but dried up for a period late morning and we even got blue sky for a few minutes late afternoon. Light winds and visibility was often good - much better than yesterday.

A surprisingly un-sticky Teux (blue) above NDB 1350:



Ski gear isn't completely waterproof though, and by lunchtime our gloves were wet and we were starting to get damp on our forearms. Another great lunch at NDB 1350: 14.50 euros for the plat du jour (3 big lamb cutlets, veg, chips and salad) and dessert du jour (some kind of tart).


After lunch the snowline seemed to have risen a bit, so we skied home via Mont Reguet for an early finish.

Spent an hour this afternoon looking around the shops and the beautiful village church, before the rain became very heavy for a time and we beat a hasty retreat! I think we'll stay in for dinner again.

Forecasts looking warmer and dry for the next few days, so we'll definitely try to head further afield. The vague plan is to head towards Bisanne tomorrow, then towards Bellasta / Ban Rouge when the pisteurs have dealt with the avalanche risk over there (that was the only main area to close today).

All-in-all not a great day, but better than I'd expected given the forecast!

Run of the day: Thuile (blue): long and wide with an open feel, along a broad ridge before dropping into trees.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Tue 30-01-18 0:07; edited 3 times in total
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Well done for getting out at all in the face of that forecast, @denfinella. Just been reading the thread about Tignes - not much open there!
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TUESDAY

Soon after taking the Reguet drag lift out of our home village we broke out from under the cloud inversion into the first proper sunshine since leaving the UK. And that's how it stayed (apart from a few patches drifting about here and there) for the rest of the day, with warm temperatures in the sun but still chilly in the shade.

pam w had warned us about the piste from Mont Reguet to NDB 1350, but we couldn't resist trying for a warm-up run. The flat start was no problem on hard-packed pistes, then a nice descent at which point we broke into the sunshine for the first time. Then things got a bit exciting. Firstly, a road crossing. The piste basher had pushed a strip of snow across but we still had to slow to walking pace to get across. Just as I was crossing, an angry dog came running round the bend and proceeded to chase me down the slope (which was annoyingly gentle at first so I couldn't get any speed up), snapping at my ankles for a good 100 metres or so until I could outrun it!! The dog then proceeded to do the same with my partner, who'd been watching with amusement until this point. Further down are another 2 road crossing before a set of steps needed to ascend to the lift base. Interesting indeed - though turned out to be about 30 seconds quicker than taking the parallel chair down, having watched a group get on at the top. Would probably do again tbh, though I gather it rarely has such good snow conditions.

After that we headed up to the top of the domain at Bellasta, via the Lac chair. View from the top...


Nice cloud inversion:


Amazing amounts of snow at the top of the Bellasta chair!


...before slowly working our way across to Les Saisies, enjoying the sun. This is all served by chairlifts (mostly slow ones), with a good variety of scenery and gradient, though many of the reds are at the easy end of their grading.
We particularly liked Drosera (blue) and Cave (red) down to the Bellasta chair, Borlat (blue) down to the Douce chair, and the long, genuine red down to Hauteluce village at 1150m.

Cave (red):


Looking into the Douce/Grattary bowl from Daoust (red):


Looking down to Hauteluce from Lanches (red):


A real mix of snow conditions: generally hard-packed where pisted, but better at the very top (which had avoided the rain) and starting to get a little heavy on the few south facing slopes. Anything that wasn't pisted was terrible after the rain, which ruled out all the blacks and a few reds.

Rain-affected off-piste under the Jorets chair:


Blanchots (green) above Les Saisies:


Lunch was at the café at the top of the Les Saisies magic carpets, recommended by Pam. 6 euros 50 for wings and a huge pile of chips? Yes please!


After lunch we explored the very scenic blues down to Bisanne 1500, and some of the steeper, deserted but rather featureless slopes under the Chamois chair here:


We then headed across to Crest Voland via an exceptionally long and beautiful green run. The plan had been to have a go on the luge run in Crest Voland before the last bus back to NDB... but it turns out you're not allowed to do it in ski boots Sad

This evening the village hosted a torchlight descent by the ESF (quite atmospheric as low cloud began to roll back in) followed by vin chaud. All free of charge - excellent.

NDB's restaurants seem a little on the expensive side compared to the other villages, but we found one with slightly lower prices for our big evening meal of the week: viande à la pierrade, which was raw beef, chicken and duck which you cook yourself on a hot plate. Not really deserved after a big lunch, but very tasty Smile

Off to the Ban Rouge sector tomorrow morning, and then hoping to "fill in the gaps" of the rest of the high slopes which we couldn't do today, if they get pisted overnight. But I had a plan yesterday evening too and didn't stick to it, so who knows?


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Tue 30-01-18 0:31; edited 2 times in total
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Nice report - thanks for the updates!
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
You're doing well, Denfinella - getting round despite the weather. Glad you've had some sunshine. snowHead
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
WEDNESDAY

Cloudless skies at dawn with no valley fog today, which meant we could see the view from our apartment balcony the first time! To maximise skiing time we picked up a pile of food from the boulangerie before setting off, and every chairlift became a minor feast - breakfast and lunch.

We basically stuck to yesterday evening's plan: high-tailed it through Flumet and Praz-sur-Arly to Ban Rouge (for the first time), then slowly worked our way across to Les Saisies via all the pistes we'd missed yesterday. Snow started firm after an overnight freeze, and we were mostly on east and north facing slopes so they stayed that way.

We really liked the steeper runs around Ban Rouge, but they were a little let down by some poor pisteing, with deep grooves / ridges in between each piste basher track. A fast chair would also be welcome here, as it's a long lift and serves a large number of runs.

Distant Megeve from Ban Rouge (red) above Praz-sur-Arly:


View of the Trois Coins area from the Ban Rouge chair:


Fantastic views of Mont Blanc from this side of the ski area:


Further across to Bellasta and beyond, almost all the runs that were closed yesterday were now open, and we finally came across an open black - though the unpisted top half had a nasty crust. Jonction Praz (blue) has several flat or even uphill sections - one to avoid:


The Bellasta side of the hill was hot work in the sun; on the other side, the shady reds under the Plan des Fours chair were the complete opposite, with signs warning about ice. Above Les Saisies, the Perdrix black was just about the easiest black we've ever come across:


At about 3.15pm it was time to head back across to NDB. Except the Grattary/Douce lift had broken down and the link was closed... Yikes! Fortunately we still had time to ski to Crest Voland (via that long green again Smile ) and catch the bus home. Not so good if you were based in Praz-sur-Arly though...

A quiet night in now after a long day. Tomorrow might be the last sunny day this week, so Les Saisies probably... any other recommendations for lunch around the village?

Run of the day: Retour Crest Voland (green) - we've done this twice now and it was excellent both times. Long, quiet, good snow and a perfect gradient for enjoying the forest without having to pole.

P.S. Crest Voland and NDB were both amazingly quiet today and yesterday: most runs still looking they'd only just been freshly pisted even at the end of the day!


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Tue 30-01-18 0:50; edited 1 time in total
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@denfinella, Crest Voland felt busy to me today, there is a winemakers festival here this week.
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@rjs, oh really? To be fair we only actually passed through it at about 3.30pm on the way home. We guessed it'd been quiet based on the state of the pistes - many still looked like they'd just been pisted!
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Poster: A snowHead
THURSDAY

Another day dawned crisp and clear in the Val d'Arly. And it mostly stayed that way, though dark clouds gradually approached from the west and finally blocked out the sun just at lift closing time. It was a touch cooler than Wednesday with a noticeable breeze on the summits, especially late on.

Time to head back to Les Saisies - we'd skied the higher parts of the area but had so far neglected the runs served by the fast Covetan, Chard du Beurre, and Bisanne chairs. First though we had to face what we now call "the dog run" down to NDB 1350. We had our poles at the ready to fend off any angry shapes flying towards us, but mercifully the dog was nowhere to be seen. Even better, all 3 road crossings had had snow pushed across them.

Despite a couple of wrong turns by yours truly, we made it across to Les Saisies before half 10, and spent a few hours exploring the (very) flattering and busier runs on the Bisanne side. The 2 blacks had opened: Kamikaze hard-packed, Bouquetin soft, both straightforward but enjoyable.

Cascade & Alpage reds from the Lac chair:


Rhododendrons (blue) above Les Saisies:


Kamikaze (black) on the far right of the map:


We skied past quite a few restaurants with un-appetising or expensive menus, before lucking out at the Yeti at the bottom of the Lègette chair. This had an amazing all-you-can-eat grill for 13 euros 90 (service included), consisting of unlimited chips, salads, and several meats including steak, sausages, pork and chicken, some cooked to order. Fantastic!

That pesky skiing business beckoned though, so back to a few runs around Chard du Beurre. Then a snag: the essential Douce-Grattary chair had issues for a second day in a row, with everything roped off beyond Roche Blanche. Fortunately the pisteurs were letting anyone from Notre Dame under the rope. Bizarrely they were running Douce-Grattary in short bursts at 30 minute intervals, closing it in between. Luckily our arrival (at the back of a queue) coincided with it temporarily working again, letting all us 30 or so Bellecombites back to the right side of the ridge (and a similar number back to Les Saisies in the other direction) before they shut it again.

Back in home territory, we had a go at more of the blues and reds below the Plan des Fours and Lac chairs - which would probably have been graded red and black in Les Saisies! We stayed out on increasingly dark and empty slopes before just making the last lift up from NDB 1350 to Mont Reguet for the short ski down to 1150.

This evening we tried out the village's free orienteering course (you need to print out a leaflet to stamp as you go around). It won't set the pulse racing, but it's a good way to explore the village (who knew it had a library?) - though one of the markers was annoyingly missing. Dinner chez nous again.

Not quite sure what the weather will do tomorrow, but Flumet and the lower part of Praz-sur-Arly are weatherproof (unless it rains heavily!) and still unexplored...

Edit: nearly forgot, Run of the day: Grande Combe (blue) on the quieter skiers left of the Bisanne chair. Easy, deserted, good snow, and some fun rollers.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Tue 30-01-18 1:00; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Sorry I was partying last night and didn't come up with a lunch recommendation. If in Arly Valley tomorrow I'd recommend the one in the trees - Montagnettes IIRC. Or up higher Le Petit Tatraz on the right atthe top of the Cret du Midi.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Ha! The dog run. They are the friendliest mutts ever. They're just guarding the restaurant. Say hi and they come a tail wagging every time Wink
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@Flinnster, haha really? Wouldn't have guessed - then again, I don't speak Dog French wink

@pam w, thanks - we had a look at both of these, but ended up somewhere else (see below).


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Tue 30-01-18 1:01; edited 1 time in total
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
FRIDAY

Some of the weather forecasts had been predicting light snow today, but despite cloud in the distance in most directions, we had a mostly sunny day. Low cloud gradually started rolling in about 3pm, and by 4pm it was a real pea-souper. No real precipitation yet though.

After a relatively late start for us (on the lift at 9.02am wink ) we headed back to Praz-sur-Arly to explore the runs beneath Cret du Midi, and then Flumet in the afternoon. The lowest slopes hadn't really refrozen overnight, so were a little softer than the previous day (a good thing) - and being north facing, didn't get slushy either.

The runs in this part of the ski area are mostly of two types: flattish traversing routes (green and blue), or steep runs straight down the fall-line (blue, red or black). So blue runs skiers beware - you don't know what you're going to get. Quite a few runs around the resort bases have road crossings (though with snow pushed across them) - an interesting extra hazard. We spotted a few bare patches low down in Flumet where water was running under the snow. These were the first we'd seen all week.

Lievre (blue) above Flumet:


Some of the highlights of the day: the 950m-vertical run from the top of Ban Rouge to Praz-sur-Arly; short but beautifully pisted blues off the Varins drag; GBU (red) and Aigle (black) down to the Seigneurs drag lift. Oh yes, the drag lift: exceptionally long and steep (especially for the last section, where not even a piste basher can make it up), though we reckon not quite as bad as the Bois drag in Flaine, which launches you into the air.

Lunch was at the base of Seigneurs, and was again excellent. 14 euros 50 for a buffet of entrées, plat du jour, a choice of desserts and coffee!

Friday lunch's plat du jour: a French take on Welsh Rarebit!


With the slow lifts around this sector it was approaching 4pm by the time we'd ticked off all the runs, so we had a slightly early finish as the fog thickened. Takeaway pizza to celebrate / mourn our final night... but a bit more skiing tomorrow. How far we get depends on how daring we are about getting back in time for our transfer!

Run of the day: Aigle (black). Probably the first genuine black we've come across this week. Icy but very smooth, and nice to tackle without lots of other skiers in the way.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Tue 30-01-18 1:06; edited 1 time in total
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SATURDAY

With a late flight back to the UK today we got nearly a full day's skiing. Sunny from the start, with a cloud inversion right down below about 1000 metres. After checking out of our apartment (they also kindly looked after our suitcases), headed up to the lifts in time for 9am opening.

Spent a while trying out the slopes above Mont Rond - which we'd partially explored in the rain/snow on Monday - before heading across to Les Saisies again. All the runs from the top of Mont Rond were excellent, with the faintest dusting of fresh on a pisted base.

Thuile (blue) above NDB 1350:


Interesting scenery on Vores (red):


Plan Dessert sector seen from Vores (red):


Another cloud inversion:


NDB 1350:


Back to NDB 1150 for 2pm, taxi to Praz-sur-Arly at 2.30pm, then a gourmet galette each for lunch (8 euros or so). Ouibus was bang on time, dropping us at the airport 3 hours before our flight. The snowline has crept up significantly since arrival day, now sitting just below Megeve. Geneva Airport as expensive as ever, but queues for check in / security a bit better than usual. Fingers crossed for an uneventful journey home.

Into the valley fog for the last run of the day: Verdette (red):


Gourmet galettes in Praz-sur-Arly:


I'll post again with some info about our accommodation and final thoughts about l'Espace Diamant below.

Run of the day: Thuile (blue). A wide ridge with great views before a steepish blast into NDB 1350.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Tue 30-01-18 1:38; edited 1 time in total
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
ACCOMMODATION

We'd certainly recommend our apartment this year. We booked directly after spotting the studio on booking.com; at just under 250 euros for the week it was a bit cheaper than we usually pay.

The location was great: directly above the InterSport (where we hired skis from) in the centre of the village, with the supermarket and boulangerie a minute's walk away. Ski lift about 5 mins walk (uphill).

The studio theoretically fitted 4. That would have been a squeeze, but it was fine for 2. Free WiFi and a newly refurbished bathroom were both very welcome - as was the fact that we could leave our bags with the owner while we skied on the last day. PM me if you'd like any more info.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@denfinella, well done on the thread. I've had the lergy all week so not felt well enough to comment!
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Great info here, thanks! We're staying in Praz sur Arly middle of Feb (half of France is off that week... rolling eyes ) and will be seeking out some of your recommendations for lunch spots!
I read somewhere that the free shuttle has been extended to Megeve from Praz sur Arly...does anyone know?
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Thanks Layne Smile hope you're feeling better now! @teledemon: hope it's not to busy for you, but looks like there'll be plenty of snow! Can't help with the bus info, sorry.

Closing thoughts & ski area summary

These thoughts are in comparison with our last 4 ski holidays: Feb 2014 Soll, SkiWelt; Jan 2015 Alpe d'Huez & Les Deux Alpes; Jan 2016 Les Carroz, Grand Massif; Mar 2017 Belle Plagne, Paradiski.

Taking everything together, this was probably the most enjoyable skiing trip we've had in the last 5 years. 5 days of sunshine and 1 powder day was more than enough to offset 1 day of light rain. Snow conditions (on piste) were excellent with 98% of runs open, no bare patches apart from at the very bottom of Flumet, and very little slush or ice. We were very happy with accommodation, ski hire and transfers, all of which were remarkably hassle-free and very reasonably priced. Restaurant lunches were easily the best (in quality and value) we've seen in any resort. We always ate at the various resort bases, as "mountain" restaurants tended to be more expensive.

In terms of the skiing itself: we found the Espace Diamant very varied with a great selection of genuinely interesting, scenic runs. The lower, steeper, shadier slopes of the Val d'Arly contrasted well with the higher, gentler, sunnier slopes of Les Saisies. Piste grooming and signposting was generally excellent, though grooming not quite as good above Praz-sur-Arly. What we loved most of all were the exceptionally quiet pistes away from the Les Saisies area. Many of the runs still looked freshly pisted at the very end of the day, and we often had whole runs to ourselves. Every lift was ride straight on with the exception of Bisanne and Chard du Beurre in Les Saisies, which occasionally had queues of up to 2 minutes.

Things some people might not like:
- the lift system includes a lot of slow chairs (and a few long draglifts above Flumet, Crest Voland and NDB 1150). Inevitably that means a little more time spent on lifts, and a little less skiing time. No gondolas or chairlifts with weather protectors wasn't ideal for our rainy day, as there's nowhere to dry out.
- very few black runs which really deserve their grading. The pistes in Les Saisies in particular are very flattering (blacks that could be easy reds, reds that could be blue, blues that could be green) - fantastic for beginners and early intermediates though. There's a clear step up when moving to similarly graded runs in the Val d'Arly part of the area. Not an issue for us.
- mountain toilets are almost exclusively of the "dry" kind, with no flush or running water. Also not an issue for us.

Taking all this into account, as a ski area we probably rate it below Flaine but ahead of La Plagne, Alpe d'Huez, Les Deux Alpes and the SkiWelt. So we really did love the area: Link to piste map here.

Costs (total for 2 adults):

Flights (EasyJet GLA-GVA, incl. 1 hold bag): £194
Transfers (Ouibus to/from Megeve or Praz-sur-Arly, then taxi): £161
Accommodation (4-person S/C studio, easy walking distance to lifts): £212
Lift passes (full area, 7 days): £424
Ski & boot hire (7 days): £103
Total: £1094

(All booked independently - no package)


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Tue 30-01-18 1:12; edited 3 times in total
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