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Queyras

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Resort: Queyras (Molines en Queyras/ St Veran)
Country: France
Domain: The Queyras is not a domaine but a Parc Naturel Regional (rather like our national parks). It is undeveloped and unspoilt with a scattering of villages. Many French people haven’t heard of it.
Author: Badpanda
Date: New year 2009/2010 (plus references to a short Easter trip in 2008).
Our holiday: We are a forty-something couple:-
XC - OK on any piste, moving onto non-groomed trails
Downhill - I have about 4 days experience, Mr Badpanda also has two weeks 18 years ago.
Website : www. Queyras-montagne.com –good for accommodation and webcams.
http://www.queyras-montagne.com/parc-naturel/glisse/espace-nordique/ski-fond/domaine-nordique/ouverture-pistes - state of XC pistes
http://www.stationsqueyras.com/fichiers/bulletin.pdf - state of DH pistes
Basics : In the Southern French Alps, nearest large centre is Briancon. Not the easiest place to get to –that’s why it’s unspoilt. Best airports - Turin, Marseille, Grenoble and Nice. Took us 4 hours from Turin in poorish conditions. There is a railhead at nearby Guillestre.
Once there, I have to say that a car (with snowchains) is extremely useful. But there were buses and if you choose your location sensibly you’ll be fine. We did several days without the car.
The terrain- XC : 240 km of trails with semi-groomed trails high into the mountains. They distinguish on the map (if not, that I could see, on the ground) between graded pistes and “itineraries” with the itineraries supposedly less groomed. Keep an eye on the website as to what has been groomed and ask around as to whether you need metal edged skis for various itineraries – we did everything in conventional track skis.
We only scratched the surface here. We skied up towards the Col Agnel valley from the door - a good first day and so beautiful as it snowed. A marvellous trip Arvieux to Souliers with a gite d’etape in Souliers for lunch at £10 a head. Les Charrieres traverse from Pierre Grosse to St V (beware DHers coming fast the other way) and the Les Loups up towards the Refuge Blanche, the only trail looking a little thin lower down - but almost Norweigan higher up. All these were roughly black or red level. There is a lot of easier skiing everywhere and it’s a great place to learn (I started here). I was very excited at the idea of XC boarder cross (?!) at Arvieux but we ran out of time. You can do the famous Tour de France cols but they recommend metal edged skis (hireable locally) and you need to be confident with death plunges off the edge – work those linked snow-plough turns!
The terrain DH – About 6 non-linked DH ski areas varying from the teensy to Molines/St V at 38km and about 30 pistes. About 120km in total.
St V starts at 2000 meters. Molines (but not St V) seemed busy on New Years Eve morning (but that’s a XC-er talking) but otherwise it was quiet to v quiet. Molines is more treed, usually shorter pistes, busier, warmer, softer whereas St V (which I preferred) is more open and exposed, so icier but quieter with glorious views to Mont Viso and les Ecrins.
It is mainly reds and blues - the blacks were closed. The ratings seemed weird IMHO, some reds were fine and some blues just rough precipices. I found our –alleged – green down to Pierre Grosse tricky even on DH skis - it was very icy and rough. (There are several easy beginner greens). I loved the long blues from the tops which are good for getting over any drop off/death-plunge phobia you may have. I’m not going to even comment on the piste map, we just asked people.
DH Lift system :. There is a single lift pass for all the parc so you can ski different areas in a day. There were almost no queues even on New Years Eve. It is draglift central, though. Just one chairlift in the place and the only way off is a sometimes busy short red. (Beware the teleski Amourettes in Molines; it threw us both off on different occasions into very steep thick forest.) Some drags are long (well over a km) so you have to concentrate. Liftpass about 100 Euros for 6 days in holidays, about 85 outside.
BTW you are under an hour to Vars/Risoul if you fancy large scale DH action.
The terrain – backcountry. Simply magnificent for snowshoeing. If you don’t have avvy skills/ equipment, you can do superb days up to the Col Agnel or the Refuge Blanche or Col du Longet (the one from Fontgillarde), if you check the avvy risk with the tourist office / ski teacher/ etc.
Loads of animal tracks and Mr BP claims to have seen an alpine hare. They have wolves too...
There are the usual resort snowshoe trails as well of course – and in lovely surroundings.
Its reputation for ski touring speaks for itself but we were told it’s excellent for beginners.
Highly recommend Espace Montagne Securite at Aiguilles. It has an automated avvy transceiver training park – you just turn up with your ARVA, turn the machine on and spend a couple of hours running around and sweating to see if you can find the body/ies in time– I killed Mr Badpanda once. They also have initiation ski touring and snowshoe touring trails there.
The snow : The Queyras is famous for its 300+ sunny days a year so snow could be an issue. Rather naughtily for a “nature” destination the DH has what they assured us were “eco” snow cannons, hmm. But both trips had plenty of natural snow. As there is such a huge range of activities, you can always find something to fit with the snow/weather.
DH Off-piste : No idea I am afraid. There were lots of people skiing between the pistes in St V.
The resort : Pierre Grosse, Molines proper and St V are full of fantastic old wooden chalets and no modern excrescences. St Veran is (honestly) un des plus beaux villages de France so you tend to pay extra. Our après-ski involved lying on the sofa with booze/maps etc but I don’t think we missed much debauchery. The tourist office in St V is very good and keen to get you out into the mountains. There was a range of “animations” over the holidays, particularly aimed at families.
There are many good guides and backcountry and cross country ski schools. It would be very easy to go on a days snowshoeing, rando nordique, ski de randonee etc if you wanted to get some experience before venturing forth on your own. There are of course DH schools as well.
I don’t know how much English is spoken as most people were surprised to find English people there at all. But we did hear another English voice this time ...
Food : There is a perfectly adequate Intermarche about 20 mn away. You could stock up at vast hypermarkets at Briancon on the way. Ate at Chalet du Villard in St Veran – excellent– fondues, meat grills etc.
Accommodation : We stayed in Pierre Grosse (a hamlet near Molines) – marvellously situated, quiet, spacious and superbly equipped 2/3bed gite (would sleep six in comfort) although no wifi. Typical Queyrassien hospitality– did not want paying in advance (or at all till the last day), no deposit, drove out to find us at 10.30pm and later helped us fit snow chains. We walked to the downhill and XC pistes - a 10 / 20 mn clamber in both directions. There was a free shuttle a few times daily to the main DH resort at Molines.
We have also stayed at Chalet du Villard hotel in St Veran, about 85 Euros a night outside school holidays for large room with self catering facilities, v comfortable and wonderful location. Out of our range now – £ disaster.
It’s an easy area to get accommodation outside the usual French Sat to Sat straightjacket. In fact, there is plenty of good accommodation. But book reasonably early if you want St Veran.
Costs: Very good value. Accommodation 380 Euros (plus a lot of heating and hot water for about 36 euros). Hirecar (HA with snowheads code) under £150 a week. Flights booked long in advance with BA about £80 each. It’s not expensive when you’re there.
Conclusion: Warning – we just love the place so are biased. It’s not a mainstream DH destination so won’t suit everyone. But if you want a winter sports holiday in unspoilt sunny (usually) Alps with friendly locals, limitless back country, superb challenging XC and a nice bit of DH, I know of nowhere better.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Badpanda, I used to climb at Ceillac above the little ski resort. The park is a beautiful place.
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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?
Badpanda,
Great report, an area I am thinking of visiting some time, have been to the Queyras park in summer but not yet in winter.
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I was down there at the same time, staying at Le Roux above Abries.

Fun skiing, dreadful weather.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Scarpa, I didn't mention the ice climbing as it seemed a bit OT (and the report was pretty long) but it has a great reputation. Ceillac is on the list for next NY.

T Bar, thanks, we are in the opposite situation! Wondering about summer, where did you go?

Bad roo (any relation?) - Haven't got to Abries yet (on list of course) - can I ask, were you XC, DH or ski de randonee? What's the area like:? Pity about the weather, did it rain? We got one day but spent it recuperating and doing transceiver searches.
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Badpanda,
Quote:

Wondering about summer, where did you go?

Stayed in Briancon and drove down, lots of great stuff all around.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
We skied at Abries, Ceillac, and Molines/St Veran plus did a bit of touring up above Valpreveyre.

Abries has a lot of potential. The ridge hike up towards Tete du Pelvas offers some decent steep skiing on the north-facing slope and the traverse between the two top drags has a short but fun shot on the south-facing slope although you'd need to be damn sure of snow stability.
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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!
Badpanda, The ice climbing varies from very easy to mid range stuff. I took a beginner mate and he was leading after 2nd day. The free standing pillar on Sombre Heros is still my best lead snowHead
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Right then, Queyras is now on the radar for March 2011! We like quiet, pretty places with lots of small resorts on one pass, so I reckon it fits the bill. The only sticking point is that the tourist office doesn't seem to list ski bus times. Can we reasonably expect to be able to ski all areas, should we base ourselves in say, Saint Veran? If the ski bus is not that useful, how scary is the drive up? Thanks, Liam
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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Draybs74, I drove from North Wales past Chester down to Ceillac in one go. Hitting the twisties in the dark is pretty scary until you realise that the huge drops without a guard wall down the sides are actually only 6 feet Laughing
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