Thursday 25 March 2010

Haute Maurienne

It should come as no surprise that the Haute Maurienne is rather lovely and has some cracking skiing. One valley south of the Tarentaise - Val d'Isere, Tignes and all that - and bordered by the magnificent Vanoise national park, it's bound to be good.

Bonneval, at the head of the valley, is the most intact example of an old stone-built village you could hope for. Some of the buildings have been superbly converted into very nice places to stay but don't plan on driving to the door unless you're travelling by donkey.

If cross country skiing is your thing, you could hardly improve on the 80km of trails around Bessans where you can also shoot stuff (it's a biathlon centre). But why bother with the valley floor when there's great access to big peaks and glaciers in every direction? The pictures show our climb to the 3356m Signal du Grand Mont Cenis, followed by the descent - wild glacier, cliffy gullies and then open meadows - which brings you neatly back into the ski domaine and back to base after 1800 vertical metres of excellent skiing, and not another soul: we didn't cross another ski track all day. Also good were a couple of routes from Bonneval - a slightly hairy entrance into the Vallonet after booting up from the top chairlift, and the traverse across les Cordettes - an immense open snowfield - followed by the descent following the Andagne stream down to the valley floor. 

Back down the valley, starting from the resort of Aussois, is the classic descent from the Col des Hauts on the southern shoulder of the Pointe de Bellecote, down into the valley of the Ruisseau de Bonne Nuit. It would certainly be 'good night', forever, if you were caught in one of the monstrous avalanches which thunder down this stream bed. If it's safe to do so, you can ski right down towards Termignon, but when it's not feasible you can cut round through the forest and out onto a track back to the road. Whichever way you go, it's an amazing descent in return for just about 500m of booting or skinning. For guiding throughout the valley, Regis Burnel is your man. 

Sunday 21 March 2010

Just down the road...

How much great skiing can you have on your doorstep before it gets just plain greedy? Within an hour and a bit by road, there's all of the following, though I don't think it looks like this anymore since temperatures went up by about 20 degrees and the monsoon set in. Still, thanks for the memories. 
And in case you want to check them out for next season, we skied Belalp, Lauchernalp, Anzère and Bruson and posted about it here in the TimesOnline.