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LIVE TR: Evasion Mont Blanc (St Gervais+), 19th-26th Jan 2019

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Happy Thursday everyone. I'm counting down the days until this weekend's ski trip, and will again attempt a live TR. This year we're trying "Megeve on the cheap" - which actually means renting an apartment in nearby St Gervais. Toofy Grin I'll add photos and a cost breakdown at the end of the holiday, but in the meantime I'll try and give updates via my phone throughout the week.

St Gervais is a low spa town (850m above sea level) just off the Autoroute Blanche between Geneva and Chamonix. A gondola links into the extensive Megeve domain, which claims >300km of pistes connecting St Gervais, Megeve, Combloux and La Giettaz (piste map here). A 7-day Evasion Mont Blanc ski pass is a bargain at €240 - a day free when bought in advance - and also includes nearby, snowsure Les Contamines (piste map here). A very early outbound flight and a very late return flight coupled with a short transfer means we should get almost a full day's skiing on both arrival and departure day, notwithstanding delays. Having a hire car will help, and it will also be useful for accessing various parts of this big but fairly disjointed ski area. Snow conditions look pretty good following last weekend's mega-dump; just a handful of runs are closed, and they're getting another little top-up at the time of writing. The weather forecast for the next week is cool but otherwise uncertain - looks like we might get a bit of everything.

All being well, I'll tune in again on Saturday evening with an update from our first day back on snow since March! In the meantime, if anyone has any restaurant recommendations either in the town or on the mountain... snowHead

Links to last year's TRs:
Jan 2018: ND de Bellecombe (Espace Diamant)
Mar 2018: Ponte di Legno (Passo Tonale)
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Looking forward to reading this @denfinella.
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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?
@denfinella, I might see you in le grange ( the best pub in town) as I fly out Friday.
You are correct about the short transfer, I get the 17.50 flight on a Friday, ski all day sat, sun & mon until 13.00 then grab the 18.00 flight back. I do this several times a year so got it down to an art.
Enjoy & look out for the free massages at top of Mont Arbois this weekend
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You need to Login to know who's really who.
I've not been for a few years but I like the Roselette resto in Les Contamines. Lovely cosy upstairs if it's too cold outside.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
The Roselette is my personal favourite in Les Contamines but I have 3 other strong recommendations for eating on the mountain:
The Buche Croisse (just above the chairlift of the same name down hill of the Roselette is very nice - very attractive chalet, good food but a bit more expensive
La Taverne de Belleville (near the bottom of the Hauteluce bubble - look for the sign) has a great atmosphere, big wood burning stove, good food (croute and pasta both very good) and reasonable prices. At NY I propped up the bar waiting for a table talking to a French bus driver about brexit and the proprietor produced a platter of oysters for us to share gratis. Top man!
The Auberge de Collombaz requires a little more adventure because it is off piste. You can likely ski down a snow covered road from the bottom of the Grevetaz drag (or ski down from the Veleray area above if you are confident off piste). You ski out down a snow covered road to near the Lay bubble. The food is AMAZING - the best mountain food I have eaten outside Italy. But make sure you book - the husband cooks and his wife runs front of house. I like her but she can be fierce and takes a dim view of people turning up without a reservation! Snow conditions permitting you can walk up (or get a horse drawn sleigh) and sledge down if you fancy trying it without off piste antics.

Around St Gervais I like:
Fleche d'Or hotel at Bettex midstation - incredible views from terrace or big windows in restaurant. Good omelettes, dish of the day, salads, etc for lunch.
Pizza place at bottom of Communailles drag - cozy, good value
Little stone chalet just off the piste below the Monts Rosset chair - pretty and rustic, good fondue and desserts

have fun!
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You'll need to Register first of course.
Saturday - arrival

Whew! It's been a very long day. Starting with a 2am wake-up alarm Shocked we were at Edinburgh airport in good time for Wetherspoons after security... and almost as importantly, our 6am flight. Took off and landed on time, with a grandstand view of the Alps beyond the low cloud over Lac Leman. We also got a good view of the Jura resorts from my window - I think this is the first time the weather's been clear enough for us to see them! A queue for passport control and a further delay for baggage slowed things a bit, but having since heard about the shenanigans at Grenoble today, I think we got away lightly.

This is the first time we've hired a car from Geneva airport, and we were welcomed with a slightly scary upgrade from a manual mini to an automatic, bulky and brand new Renault Scenic with all mod cons. We're treating this as good news for now, but depending on how difficult parking during the week is, that may change! Laughing

Easy drive up the Autoroute Blanche apart from a short queue for the border, with Les Gilets Jaunes waving us through the most expensive of the two tolls. Total toll cost: €1.90. Stopped to pick up lunch and a few groceries at Carrefour in Sallanches - isn't it funny how the more of a rush you're in, the harder a supermarket is to navigate? wink

We'd booked ski hire in Combloux as it was significantly cheaper than St Gervais. Arrived after a straightforward climb up the hill from Sallanches at about half 12 (free parking close to the centre of the village), and the shop owner was kind enough to give us our skis immediately, even though we'd technically only paid from Sunday. Now, on with the skiing!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Saturday - off to ski in... Cordon!

By the time we'd sorted ski hire and everything else out it was about 1pm. Instead of paying €30+ for 3 hours' skiing at Combloux, I'd hatched a plan to get back into the swing of things at neighbouring Cordon - a pretty village at 1000m above sea level a few miles northeast of Combloux. The access road (and road to the car park, which is at mid mountain) is quite narrow with a few hairpins). This is a family resort with only 11km of low slopes all served by a handful of drag lifts, but this was more than enough to keep us entertained for the rest of the day, with an afternoon lift pass costing just €15.10. The area used to be included in the Evasion Mont Blanc pass, but due to a dispute with the other component resorts, they're currently not part of the club. You can look at a piste map here.

Thanks to heavy recent snow and artificial backup, all nine pistes were open with full cover and mostly dry, cold snow (just a little hard at the bottom where it was predominantly artificial). The nursery slopes were being well used - it strikes me as a good place for an affordable first holiday with children. Beyond this, there's quite a step up to the rest of the area: a solitary blue boasts the full 550m vertical, but it has a couple of short pitches which border on the tough end of the grading. The rest of the slopes are all red, though mostly fairly gentle, through trees except at the very top. With most people on the nursery area, the reds were all nice and quiet - especially from 3pm onwards. Sunny weather helped make things extra enjoyable, though it was noticeably cold in the shade (temperatures probably below freezing at all levels).

Finished up sometime after 4pm and drove to Megeve to try out the Alpine Coaster before it closed at 6pm. Parking is free by the lift base after 4.30pm. The coaster was good fun, and we wandered into town to ogle at the fur coats, fancy shops and food prices before driving to our more humble dwelling in St Gervais (more on our accommodation tomorrow).

Takeaway pizza for dinner from Tout le Monde en Parle - recommended, and the "Geante" size pizzas are half a metre in diameter!

Run(s) of the day: Les Chars (red) swerves in and out of the trees quite dramatically - a fun little piste. On the other side, Les Fieux (red) was lovely and quiet, and the bottom of it is the steepest run in Cordon by quite a distance. It leads onto La Pirolaine (red), which had lots of tufts grass poking through on the top section (still easily skiable though) before narrowing to a scenic forest track.

Tomorrow: possibly Mont Joly and the surrounding high terrain, as the weather may be deteriorating as the week goes on, but we'll see!
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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!
St Gervais - resort & accommodation

St Gervais is a town on three levels: Le Fayet in the valley at 550m has no pistes but a cog railway into the Les Houches ski area (not on the Evasion Mont Blanc lift pass).

Up at 1400m is Le Bettex - handy for the slopes but a bit isolated (and a steep, windy access road).

We're staying in St-G les Bains at 850m - this feels like a proper town, with the centre on one side of a deep gorge and the gondola base on the other. So you have to choose between convenience for the town and convenience for the lifts (though being close to one of the two bridges over the gorge helps). There are free shuttle buses to - and free parking at - the lift base; there's also a free underground car park in the town centre. A long red run follows the gondola down, but I gather it's rarely open and a bit " interesting". Its currently shut but looks nearly ready to open.

The shopping district has several restaurants, two supermarkets with relatively reasonable prices, church, town hall etc. Pop into the tourist office for a WiFi account which is also useable at a couple of places on the slopes.

Our apartment (our first foray into Airbnb) is on the town side of the gorge, about 5-10 mins (with skis) from the bridge; it is however up a short, steep hill which is tiring at the end of the day and might be interesting after snow - for driving and walking down! It was cheap, so we were expecting small and basic, but it's actually a decent size (technically sleeps 5 with a sofa bed, bunks and a pull-out bed). The shower has no wall fitting - a pet hate of mine Twisted Evil but otherwise we're happy with it given the price.

More about today's skiing shenanigans later!
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Sunday - Rochebrune & an expedition to Cote 2000

A very weak weather front arrived over St Gervais overnight, with a cloudy but dry day forecast. We're saving treeless Les Contamines for the sunniest days, and Mont d'Arbois (and its gondolas) for the snowiest days, so we headed across to Cote 2000 from Rochebrune. Just getting to Rochebrune entails 3 gondolas, a cable car across a minor valley above Megeve and the long Mandarines green run (a nice warm up), so a poor ratio of runs to lifts for the first hour! The hillside between Rochebrune and Cote 2000 is mostly wooded, though more open at the latter. The lifts are a varied mixture of gondola and cable car, fast and slow chairs and a couple of unavoidable drag lifts - Lanchettes in particular is long and quite steep (good reds along it though). The lift network is laid out a bit awkwardly in the middle sector and some piste map ambiguity doesn't help. Plans have been announced in the last couple of days to remodel this area, with two new detachable chairs in different locations to the existing lists (check the Megève FB page for a video). The terrain is mainly of intermediate gradient: most of the greens in this sector should really be blue, while the blacks aren't much steeper than the adjacent reds.

Quite busy for late January (i.e., we were sharing the pistes and gondolas with other people, but always had our own chair on the chairlifts), but lowish temperatures kept the runs from bumping up. Some thin spots though which wouldn't do well if it got warmer. The sun tried to break through (apparently there was an inversion at 3500-4000m!) but didn't really succeed; fortunately light wasn't flat.

Soon after midday we'd finished up at Cote 2000 and worked our way back towards Megeve, with a late lunch at La Staduel by the bottom of the Grand Champs chair. We're using the fantastic Stanford Skiing online restaurant guide, which informed us that this was one of the cheapest restaurants in the area excluding snack bars, but it was still double the price of similar restaurants in the neighboring Espace Diamant last year. €18 roast chicken (plat du jour) and €19 grilled ham - both very good though, with big portions and quick service.

Spent the last 90 minutes trying the runs off the luxurious Arpette chair (fun runs but a bit short) and the Caboche gondola (longer but you have to take your skis off after each run) before it was time to head back to St Gervais. Last lift up from Megeve is 4.45pm, which is quite generous for this time of year considering it's a long lift.

Managed to miss the 5.05 bus back into town from the gondola base by a couple of minutes, and there's an annoying 40 minute gap before the next one (they're very regular earlier in the day), so had to walk back - including the steep uphill at the end. Whoops! Carbonara for dinner in the apartment this evening. Two big meals in a day... well, we're on holiday Blush

Run(s) of the day:

Probably Stade Descent (black) at Cote 2000. Wide and not too steep, but some exhilarating crests and sharp bends, and you can get some decent speed up. Also liked scenic Jardin (blue), winding Sallanglaz (red) and longer Lanchettes (red) - the last two served by drag lifts so pretty quiet. Avoid Echappatoire (blue), which is unnamed on the piste map but starts at the base of the Rochefort drag and joins onto Jardin. This is nearly flat and even has a couple of uphill sections.

Tomorrow: is forecast to be the sunniest day of the week, so seems to make sense to go to Les Contamines. Let's hope everyone else doesn't have the same idea! Laughing Will try to use one of the helpful restaurant recommendations above for lunch.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
@denfinella, We also thought Cote 2000 had the best runs in Megeve proper. But yeah, a lot of up and down to get back to the St. Gervais said.

Regarding the walk back to your place...you have a car, correct? Why not part at the bottom of Bettex gondola? There are about 700 spaces and since it's not a holiday week you should have no problem finding a spot.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Pasigal wrote:
@denfinella, We also thought Cote 2000 had the best runs in Megeve proper. But yeah, a lot of up and down to get back to the St. Gervais said.

Regarding the walk back to your place...you have a car, correct? Why not part at the bottom of Bettex gondola? There are about 700 spaces and since it's not a holiday week you should have no problem finding a spot



...and I completely agree with you that on-mountain food is 1.5-2x that of ED...but it's heaps better. Nonetheless we packed picnics for the salle hors sac at freddys...
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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.
@Pasigal, yes we do have a car, which we'll probably use to get to Bettex later in the week. In the morning walking isn't so bad (downhill), but it's a pain at the end of the day when it's uphill with tired legs.

We had some decent lunches in the ED (and some average ones), but today's lunch was decent too and we'll see if that standard is maintained. We quite like a restaurant lunch to get a proper break in the middle of the day, but we generally cook in the evening.
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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
@denfinella,
I really wouldn't drive to Bettex - much better to park at the Gondola in St G and get the lift up. Parking in Bettex is very limited and you have to walk uphill to the lifts.
We stay in Les C but often meet friends in Bettex - we always park at the St G Gondola.

You haven't mentioned St Nicholas? It's rather sweet and the skiing from Epaule is very atmospheric. Also the skiing of the Croix de Christ lift is good.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Oh and lunches are much better value on St G side than Megeve side. I remember paying Euro 32 for sausage and mash somewhere above Megeve....

I'd say Les C is a similar price to St G places but generally better food (at least in the places I recommended above).
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@jedster, I meant park at the base of the gondola to Bettex, which they call "St. Gervais-Bettex." Definitely not up to the midpoint.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
makes sense - I was reacting to @denfinella, saying "yes we do have a car, which we'll probably use to get to Bettex later in the week"
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