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Timeout 2005 Skiing and Snowboarding in Europe (page 2)

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
France

I will cover the TimeOut resorts here, and I may come back for any that I have been to which are not in TimeOut (like La Tania or Brides les Bains)

Alp d'Huez

I get confused between Alp d'Huez and les Deux Alps because I visited them at roughly the same time. I think I skied in Alp d'Huez but only did some nightlife in Les Deux Alps due to weather.

Parking

There was some off road level parking for vehicles for free when I visited (main season) and I think there was also a dedicated campervan park spot out of the way of the main thoroughfare. I parked across the road from some loud bars, next to this odd looking lift which was a series of 5 cages where people would stand and the lift would take you across the resort area (rather than up the piste)

Skiing

I recall most vividly skiing down from Pic Blanc as it was very steep, and narrow. For some reason this makes my memory improve. The rest of Alp d'Huez skiing was fairly pedestrian, but it was certainly a great day's skiing in the sunshine.

Nightlife

This place was alive when I was there, and I started the evening in the internet cafe with a glass of beer. I ended up talking to twin frenchmen in the street, and we went for a drink in the Sports Cafe bar near the internet cafe. The barmaid was English, and I ended up feeding them some lines in english in order to get some better service. There was a band there, and some loud entertainment. The evening was starting well. I left after a drink (topped up several times with a hipflask), and later in the evening I ended up in some kind of disco/bar where there was some dancing/lights/loud music. It all starting to become a blur at this point, and luckily I had a digital camera to help me remember in the morning. It would appear I was taking photos of the barmen at that bar, but I cannot remember much about that now.

Eating in

I bought some fresh cheese in the local supermarket, and had some croque monsieurs with some tinned spam and some bread I had in the van. The van really stank after that, as I burned the oil a little cooking it in a frying pan. I also probably drank a full bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine), which was purchased either in Calais or Andorra. I filled my hip flask with pastis, and went out for the evening. (I was already well over the drink drive limit)

Anything else

The sports centre has a swimming pool, but you are not allowed to swim with shorts on, they must be "maillot des bains". I read the rules, then went off and got my speedo swimming shorts and went for a swim. I nearly got in the pool, before I was blocked and told I could not swim in them. I had a long argument with several assistants regarding the legality of what "maillot des bains" meant, and whether speedo swimming shorts (specifically designed for swimming) were "maillot des bains" or not. Anyway, one lesson you learn, is that there is little point in arguing with officials. They are always wrong, but you cannot win.

Chamonix

Parking

Chamonix is one of these ski resorts that seems to have a love/hate relationship with campervans. There are many out of town parking areas, where people seem to live permanently. The parking ticket machines are vandalised. Aggressive dogs are tied to the vans. I did not feel very comfortable there, although I did spend one night. I also went into town to post a postcard, and stopped at the side of the road next to the post box. While out putting the postcard in the box, 10 yards from the side of the road, a traffic warden came over and tried to slap a ticket on my van. I was back in time to behave very aggressively, slam the door shut, and drive away sticking my tongue out (or similar). I am still waiting for the ticket, even though I had an address on the van for him to send it. (it was a disabled parking space I was parked on for about 60 seconds)

Skiing

The weather was too windy, and no prospect of improving when I was there. I went elsewhere!

Nightlife

None sampled, I stayed in an out of town parking area.

Eating in

Probably had some other tinned food, or pasta.

Anything else

As it says in the magazine, not for beginners.

Courcheval

I have only stayed in Courcheval in a chalet in 1850. I have never driven the van there, as I would probably have gone to a lower resort like Brides les Bains in order to access the lift system.

Parking

I do not know, did not drive there.

Skiing

The Trois vallees region is massive, with plenty of challenging pistes. The Meribel sections can get hard and icy in the mornings, and cause sore feet if you ski it too fast in the morning. I learned to ski in Val Thorens, with a full three valleys pass. I still remember trying to ski from Cime de Caron in the first week, spending most of the time sliding down on my bum with my skis in front of me. I fell over a lot in the first week!

Nightlife

There was late night discos, techno music, and drinking every night when I was in a chalet there. (this must have been 1998) Drinking and dancing would go on until 5 am, and then breakfast at 9am. I did not feel too bad, and managed to survive it, but others looked very ill from de-hydration.

Eating in

Yes, lots of food and wine in the chalet. Potatoes, meat and vegetables.

Anything else

I cannot believe what a waste of money buying beer was in those days. It was crazy prices, and it just make you feel sick!

Les Deux Alpes

Parking

I parked right next to the piste in this resort. No charges! There was skiing, but the weather was too overcast for me to bother.

Skiing

None done

Nightlife

I decided to try the Avalanche disco, due to the fact that I never spent any money on skiing. So after a quiet drink on my own in a bar nearby (with my full hipflask of pastis), I queued up and went in. I took pole position at the very top seat in this disco, getting a full view of the whole area. As the disco filled up, so the effects of alcohol started to hit my brain at altitude (maybe it was the music). I then started behaving strangely, and chatted to a group of females dancing in sign language (I could not really hear them and they could not hear me)

We exchanged business cards, and I moved on to the main dance floor and made an idiot of myself. I was in that disco for several hours, before I decided I had enough.

On the way back, when I had given up all hope of finding my one true love, there was this young french female standing in the middle of the street staring at me. She asked me if I would go into the bar with her. (I think it was in French, but I was not sure what language I was speaking) Anyway, I went with her into this Brazilian bar which was heaving. I had a look around, she dissappeared, and I left. (she probably went to the loo, so if you are listening sorry I left, you were too young for me at that stage of my life)

Eating in

I definately ate something, probably more pasta and pesto with pine nuts and cheese. More than likely I had another bottle of champagne.

Anything else

I watched a rugby match in the afternoon in a bar the next day. I had a look at the sports centre, and the Yeti Grotto bar.

Meribel

I have this ticked off on the basis that I have skied there, probably had lunch, and driven there. I do not think I stayed there in the van, or in a chalet. So there is not much more to add to Courcheval.

Montgenevre

Parking

Plenty of free parking when I was there, and some electricty hook up points out of town too.

Skiing

It was very very cold, windy, and although there was some interesting skiing to be had, there was nothing memorable.

Nightlife

None

Eating in

I will have eaten well, and just slept.

Anything else

This is a town on the road to nowhere. The last stop before Italy!

Serre Chevalier

Parking

There are lots of free places to park along the Serre Chevalier resorts. There are four resorts, or lift start stations. All connect to the same ski area, but you can buy lift passes for separate areas or the whole area.

Skiing

The snow was not very good in any of the times I have visited, although it was skiable in places. It tends to get a lot of snow blown away in exposed areas, leaving large patches of icy hard stuff. However, there was moments I remember such as skiing off piste between trees and down a black run which was deep in powder. (I think it was the black from Pic de L'yret although it may have been the connecting piste which took you to the next ski area)

Nightlife

The nightlife in Monetier was either non existent or I did not go out. It was slightly more lively in Chantermerle, where I stayed several times. Briancon is more of a normal French town, than a ski resort. I went to the supermarket there, but did not sample any nightlife.

Eating in/out

The supermarket restaurant in Briancon was good for fresh vegetables and fruit, something you lack when you eat tinned food all the time. I did eat out once in Chantermerle, in a Tex Mex restaurant. On the way back to the van, I vomited and so it was a waste of money. I very much doubt that it was alcohol causing the vomiting, as I know the difference between too much alcohol and food poisoning. However, there is an element of doubt and so you make your own mind up. I ate on the slopes one valentines day, and had an enormous tartouflette with a caraffe of wine. The weather had turned worse, and I was resigned to stay indoors and just ski to the bottom of the slope after a long lunch. It was a great meal, but expensive.

Anything else

The evening I had the tartoueflette, there was a free music band and laser light show on the slopes. There was also free red hot wine, and free tartoueflette. I was rather well oiled that evening, and the music, free wine, and other entertainment was enough to make me start chatting up an older woman with a young boy. My clumsy first move was to say to the young boy "Je n'ai pas un grande mere", he looked confused at my amateurish French and she thought it was funny.

My later attempts at socialising, ended up with a lift home to my van from one car park to another from two french women (one of whom said she was a nurse). They both came in my van for a coffee, and some chocolate, then left their name and number.

Another time I was in Serre Chevalier, the time I was sick from Tex Mex food, when I got up in the morning the van would not start. No matter what I did, with all the portable charging tools, solar panels, jump starting from some French men, would get the van going. In the end I had to phone the local garage, and he came out an hour later when the weather was warmer. He could not get it started either, and I think he said that I had flooded the engine. Anyway, he towed me along the road, and asked me to bump start the van. Bear in mind this was a small toyota towing a large heavy peugeot van on roads which were compacted snow and ice! It started first time, and I did not drive into the back of him. He asked for trente euros, and I negotiated it up to quarante!

Tignes

Parking

I know a lot about parking in Tignes, as I have parked there a lot in many different car parks. For some reason I just kept returning to Tignes, perhaps it was the parking that attracted me? In the end, my favourite spot was free parking in Tignes les Boisses as it was away from everyone else. All the other campervaners stay in Val Claret and pay in season. I do not see the point when you can get the bus, or ski up from the lift across the road. I also once stayed in the heated hotel du golf, but the parking is on a slope and you have to use wedges to get your van level. Campervans cannot fit in either, as they are too tall. My small 2m van could get in most places. It was warm in there though, compared to staying in Val Claret where I recorded temperatures of -20 C inside the van some nights. (that usually meant it was -25 C to -30 C outside before wind chill factor)

Skiing

You cannot beat it for variety and quantity. It has everything you need, and you just come back for more. There is so much off piste that I have not done there. Especially over at le Fornet.

Nightlife

I have been out late some nights in some bars and clubs. The skittle alley, and other establishments. It does not strike me as a particularly enthusiastic party town. It is kind of a reluctant apres ski, and is probably more young people orientated. Certainly the number of ski schools in that area with a load of dwarfs in helmets travelling at 100mph is extraordinary.

Eating in

Ooh, lots to eat. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. Potatoes, and ham. The Spar in Tignes is popular with me.

Anything else

If you are served a small cup of coffee in the Carline restaurant cafe bar (self service) by a waitress called Angelique, then give her a big tip from me! Smile The place may have changed its name since I was last there. It is the one place to the right of the lift pass office by the furnicular, in Tignes Val Claret.

The sports centre has some great saunas and jacuzzis. It also has a couple of squash courts, and a gym. I used to play squash, but I never took my racquet and shoes there.

One day when catching the bus from Tignes Val Claret to Tignes les Boisses, an english nanny and two under 5 year old french girls got on the bus and sat behind me. One of the young french girls said to me, "Ou est votre grand mere?" I really did not know what to say, other than laugh. I then said "Elle est mort"

Val d'Isere

This is one place I just keep coming back to.

Parking

The campervan car park in La Daille was closed, shortly after my penultimate visit. I visited there many many times, and on my penultimate visit I laid a tray of cocktails out which I had picked up in Andorra. These were for the other campervaners, or whoever decided to take a Gratis drink! It was perhaps a foolish thing to do, as young children might pick one up and break the ice and drink it. (plastic glasses) Do your children take drinks lying on a bench in a car park, and drink them? Well, one or two were drunk by the neighbouring family in their campervan.

People in campervans now have to stay in the main car park, or where the helicopters take off where the buses park. I think it is still free in the open air, and in town the car park underground is not free. They do have a 1.9 m headroom limit, so you need a small van.

Skiing

What was said for Tignes is pretty much the same for Val d'Isere, it shares the Espace Killy, and I tend to ski it all.

Nightlife

I found it easiest to go out here on my own, and just spend time watching and doing Karaoke, or people. Watching big screens, and chatting to people in bars. I have been here many times on my own, and with others. I have also eaten out in some of the best restaurants, spent new years in Dicks Tea bar, cocktails in La Face cafe.

Eating in

I tend to go shopping in the supermarkets for the french bread with cheese and lardons. Anything with cheese on it is good for me.

Anything else

It is fundamentally the skiing, but the swimming pool and sauna is not bad too.

Val Thorens

This is where I learned to ski.

Parking

I have parked here, on a day trip. I left after the skiing. The parking was free, and plentiful during the day. It was also very busy as there was a car on ice rally when I parked.

Skiing

What was said for Courcheval, Meribel, and Brides Les Bains (which is not in the Time out guide), goes for Val Thorens.

Nightlife

There is nightlife here, as I have stayed self-catering in my first week skiing. There are karoake bars, irish pubs with singers who are "incredible assholes" (this is a comment from a female who took the singers microphone and said he was an asshole due to a not politically correct comment about gays). There are also discos, and Scandanavian people and Italians are prevalent in the discos here.

Eating in

Self catering was good. It is difficult to accomodate people who are sensitive, picky, and awkward. Perhaps that is why I went skiing in a van on my own. I am not that fussy really, I eat most things.

Anything else

Ski in good weather, and you will not have many accidents. The same can be said for driving. I sold my van for £0 when it no longer worked and I had trashed all the electrics. A) the windscreen wiper motor broke when it had too much snow on it B) I short circuited a leisure battery in the back of the van, which shot a charge through the control box and had to be bypassed. C) mice ate the wiring when the van sat on the drive for a long time D) the van rusted due to too much skiing E) It was fairly knackered when I bought it, even though it had only done 30,000 miles (doubled to 65000 when it left me) F) It had no original keys, all lost, only one copy remained G) The engine had oil coming through the air intake (I have no idea what the problem was) H) It was rusting and the brakes although serviced in 2005 were by 2008 becoming rusted and needing replacing. People still sell these vans for money on ebay, I think they are a liability and anyone buying one from me would only complain about it. So I sold it for £0, it cost someone to take it away!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
In the link below there is a picture of the van parked in the free car park in Tignes les Boisses.

http://www.snowmediazone.com/the_zone/snowheads-personal-galleries/p24188-van-exhaust.html

Lunchtime in Val d'Isere on piste somewhere

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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?


Bumpty bump post!

This was that car rally in Val Thorens on my day visit there.
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
Don't wish to appear too picky but there's no such place as Courcheval! Very Happy
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
My mistake, I assumed the cheval part was due to some horse link to the area, as I knew how to spell that. I won't edit the post, and I will allow your correction to stand.
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