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UCPA review: Argentieres, and Flaines Lindars

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
The UCPA review.
A litte late, but a summary of Christmas in Argentiere, and New Year in Flaine.

Accomodation - UCPA Argentiere
Travel - Eurostar to Paris, overnight in Paris, TGV to Bellegarde, bus to St Gervais, train St Gervais to Argentiere
(we usually get the sleeper from Paris, but couldn't get tix for that weekend, so a cheapish hotel near GduLyon and an early TGV - interestingly, first class on TGV was only a few euros more, worth it for more carriage space)

Accomodation - the UCPA is right next to the station, i.e. just across the carpark.
Trains are every 30 mins in daylight, so not noisy!
UCPA building refurbed last year, so all very clean and smooth inside. looks like a nice old hotel from the outside,
and a bit 'ikea' like on the inside.
Lift to all floors 0at the weekends, so easy
to move bags. Big basement and spacious ski/board rooms (segregate), modern boot dryers, easy access to outside
and meeting area.
morning meetings are staggered so no rush at breakfast and in boot room.
Food up to usual standards (although lousy coffee and jam - get local jam from the deli across the road)
We had a twin room - basin included, showers and toilets across the hall. toilets are single sex, so the girls were
pleased they stayed clean, but generally the whole place was kept clean by the guests.
Decent bar and ents area downstairs, some nice wine and local cider on the menu.

we did the 'offpiste guided' week - after the self-declaration, all 3 groups trouped up to Gd Montet and got 'harmonised',
we ended up, fairly, in the middle, but got 'swiss pierre' as the guide... who had been out in the sun a bit too much,
and talked a lot too much. However, I didn't get to ski much with him, as found a rock following him down one of the
closed runs and bust 2 bones in my hand.
Wifey skied the entire week, Pierre did a good job of finding 'offpiste' despite there being no new snow...

UCPA holidays include all kit if required - I took Rossi S3's, not new but in ok condition, had to get one binding replaced on day 1 as the
main metal track in the middle was bust. DO check your din settings - they won't necessarily set them to what
you ask for, and mine did not match across bindings. caveat emptor.
ARVA kit - shiny new Ortovox 3+ (although in our very unscientific search practice, it was not as sensitive as my Tracker)
new Ortovox poles and shovels.
They have a good stock of _proper_ touring kit, and also Nordic.
They also have snowshoes... which would have been handy on the walk up to the White Lake, a very scenic route accessing
one of the GR routes thro' the Aiguille Rouge national park. Plenty of snow up top, even if there was little in the valley.

Transfer day (27th)
Apparently there was snowmaggedon.... our train out of Argent was 45 mins late, had to wait for the snow-blower, but the connection was held in St Gervais,
we missed the Altibus in Cluses, and had to blag a taxi (80euros, and that was on top of the fare the other 2 paid to get to les carroz at
the bottom of the mountain.
Still, we got to Flaine on the allotted day... a little late.

Flaine Lindars UCPA
UCPA is in the main block across from the church, and 2 mins from the main gondola - great location, but looks like Colditz.
Apparently it used to be a Club Med hotel - but at least a decade ago. Not apparently refurbed since built - original curtains and
Much bigger than Argentiere, feeding time was noisy and a bit chaotic, more like a budget 'all inclusive'.
food of similar standard, but boy did they push the boat out for new year - canapes, napkins, the staff made a real effort.

Equipment - a notch up from Argentiere - I had a brand new pair of Rossi Sin 7's.... which after another week of rocky off and on
piste, were comprehensively trashed - I felt very embarrased handing them back.
Not so much variety/breadth of kit, and not such a 'family' feel as at Argentiere. one big boot/ski room, chaotic at meeting time.

season still quiet, but the Office had nice beer (Winter hoegarden), english staff, and prosecco by the glass, and there was also a nice place
on the main road just down from the UCPA.
The ski shop opposite, run by scottish dave, was also good for advice and equipment.
The supermarket has a very good selection of wine - just be careful, as the prices of adjacen bottles can vary from 15 to 150 euros

2nd week of 'guided offpiste' - after harmonisation, one french chap was despatched to the piste group, and the remaining groups were split
by language. We lucked out, and had 'jean-louis' - in his last year for ucpa, off to a well earned retirement, he was the sort of guy who
just engenders trust, can (and has) done it all, but doesn't need to brag. a true gentleman, and sensitive enough not to enquire what was
wrong with my hand, but polite enough to observe that my pole-planting could be improved.
For a few days after snowmaggedon, we were still doing decent untracked lines... and even on the friday, some concerted traversing and hiking
had us taking 10 turns down a virgin slope - truly a week to remember. The weather helped too - most days above the clouds...
Group ability was quite broad - a couple of 20 something hotshots who could do most of the routes with their eyes shut, down to a middle-aged
chap who was just about keeping up with us, and could have done with being a bit fitter. but we all enjoyed it.

By the end of the week (jan 3), the slopes were nasty - wifey went out on the last Saturday, and lasted an hour, as the night rain had
turned the pistes into concrete.

Flaine is as geographically challenging as it is architecturally challenging. at times (esp on the diamont noir chair) you go over some of the big
local holes - proper big, proper dangerous, and certainly not always visible - some of the signs warning of the offpiste dangers are serious, and some
are funny, but the dangers are very real. it is NOT like other ski areas.... I would be _very_ reluctant to go back as an offpiste skier without a guide.

Overall, I preferred Argentiere, both from ski variety and accessibility (Gd montets and le tour), latter accessible by bus/train, and also it's more like a
normal village, Cham is accessible if you want a big town, and there's more to do if you can't ski....
Only downside is that Cham valley seems to be surprised when it snows... Gd Montet was shut on snowmaggedon day, and le tour had 1 lift running....
although to be fair, they'd had at least 3ft overnight

nightlife is there if you want, but its more of a family resort - the 'white pub' is the main hangout, the nightclub didn't appear to be open much.
limited restaurant action bar the usual 'laminated menu' type places, although a couple of nice coffee spots, and 'pent a jules' just above the main gondola
has a funky little 'ski in' bar, which was good for a bit of quiet apres.

Feel free to post questions, I'll try to answer what I can remember.
snow report     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
nice report.

can you expand a bit on the holes at Flaine? are these (glacier) crevasses, or just big holes?
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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?
@hamilton, Cham wasn't so much caught out by "Snowmaggedon" (which is such an immense misnomer as there really wasn't that much snow, more of an "asshatwithnoideaofwinterdrivingaggeddon") as the fact that a modest to heavy fall, esp. accompanied by high wind takes time to make avalanche secure. Time that can't be hurried.

The delays in opening things up were, as far as I could see from where I was a. More ornless normal and b. Perhaps somewhat slowed perhaps by that being the first reasonable dump and so it was the first preparation on some areas, which may take longer.

Holes in Flaine are holes in the rock. No idea other than a guess at rock specific glaciation, but they are not crevasses. Can get covered up though.
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
I was Googling info for my son, who is considering "Electric Mountain Biking" with the UCPA.

And here, I find myself on Snowheads again.

I'm sure some of us Snowheads may do similar sort of stuff in our "off season".
Has anyone been there done similar of got the buff?
snow conditions     
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Are you referring to the lapiaz that cover the Flaine plateau?

These are treacherous in summer too!
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Interesting to read as these are the two UCPA centres I've been to. I went to Argentiere pre-renovation - it made the Flaine centre look like a 5* resort in comparison - but the craic was much better as it was full of crazy-but-well-behaved Swedes the week I went, in fact most of my freeride group were Swedes but they'd always talk in English when I was socializing or or skiing with them. Snow was better in Flaine on the off-piste week I did there but the terrain was better in Cham. May well have had Jean-Louis as guide in Flaine too, or at least a guide very much like you describe, someone I'd be very happy skiing with again. The guide we had in Argentiere was external and hired in for the week and while safe was a little uninterested.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Worth adding to the guide here if you have a minute: - useful to have more than one opinion on centres too.
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