What is the Spartan Race?

An assault course or "obstacle race", from 4km to 42km. It started 10 years ago in the US and is now franchised to 14 countries. France and the UK have half a dozen races each a year. But of course across Europe the number of accessible races is huge, there is one or two running every weekend throughout the spring and summer. In the US there is even a spin-off TV show!

 

 

In Morzine this year around 8000 are taking part, on the Spartan Sprint, Super Spartan, Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast. The 42km Ultra has 60 obstacles and the winners will cover this in 7 hrs, I guess the last people to cross the line will take 12hrs or so!

 

 

The obstacles seem to involve plenty of rivers, slippery walls, steep slopes, spear throws, monkey bars, ropes, more ropes and if you fail any obstacles the penalty is 30 burpees. From what I saw some of the harder obstacles are almost impossible to complete when tired so that will mean a lot of burpees! The last obstacle to cross is a fire jump!

 

 

Running each event is a huge undertaking, permanent staff and volunteers have to muck it to build the 60 obstacles and manage the event across the weekend. Entry fees for the competitors range from 40€ to 240€ depending on the length of course.

 

 

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Back in April 2009 I first wrote about the proposed lift linking Morzine to Prodains (and then Avoriaz)...AKA "l'Express Morzine-Avoriaz". It was part of a clutch of integrated projects the Mairie was proposing. The Department's application for the Winter Olympics failed and it was suggested the l'Express Morzine-Avoriaz would fall by the wayside with that.

In that earlier blog I listed the projects.

1. The current Prodains lift is due to be replaced, it is old, inefficient and some say it is condemned thanks to the fact it sits (just) within a rockfall zone. NOW DONE.

2. The whole of the Prodains area need redeveloping, it was too busy for the current infrastructure. SOME OF THIS WAS DONE AS PART OF #1.

3. The county (Haute Savoie) has just won the opportunity to bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. WE LOST OUT TO PYEONGCHANG..it's next year!

4. Avoriaz is just starting a fairly major expansion and remodelling. We have some of the new apartments for sale. NOW DONE.

However despite this the Morzine to Prodains project continued to chug along. In 2013 they produced a video presentation.

 

There have been various local objections but the Mairie and most everyone else I speak to is still behind it, last month a question and answer article appeared in one of the local papers.

http://www.lemessager.fr/chablais/a-morzine-la-creation-d-un-telepherique

In short the article says.

1 . The Express Morzine-Avoriaz will form part of a massive redevelopment on the parking area between the Post Office and the Rue du Bourg. This will include a new bus station, parking and social housing.

2 . The link will cut down on the 320 bus movements and speed up getting from Morzine to Avoriaz. It's planned for 2020/21 and is projected to cost €50 million.

3 . The operating company for Avoriaz will pay for it.

4 . There are plans to extend Avoriaz beyond what was done in 2010, another 2,000 beds, thanks to Club Med and Pierre et Vacances.

So it is obviously still on the cards. Locally the Mairie is pushing the environmental and the business case. Both these arguments hold a lot of water with the local Regional government. In addition the Mayor is making the point that Morzine is in fact a business. Last year's poor snow season is helping further this argument. For a skier staying in Morzine the quicker they can get to Avoriaz the better!

In other news.

The Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil reports 107 million CHF of planned investment over the next 10 years. More information here.

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/Les Portes du Soleil pg 58

Les Gets Mairie has approved almost €9m of work for their area. The bulk of which is the replacement of the main Ranfolly chair.

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/Les Portes du Soleil pg 54

The liaison from St Jean d'Aulps to Les Gets is still being discussed in the face of considerable environmental opposition.

http://www.lemessager.fr/chablais/liaison-les-gets-saint-jean-d-aulps-necessite-ou-heresie

 

 

 

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E-bikes (Electric Bikes!) are big news in the Alps. In fact they are big news across the bike industry. For a start it is a growing sector and industry always craves growth. The latest figures I can find from bike-eu.com make it look like 23% of the 325,000 bikes sold last year in Switzerland were e-bikes, bringing the total number of e-bikes in the country to 400,000. It seems that these e-bike sales are in addition to the regular bike sales.

I've been a two-wheel fanatic since my youth and I find this pretty logical. E-bikes are democratising cycling, making it available to all, not just the fit. That is especially the case in the mountains. I've just spent 6 days cycling across the Alps to Nice and kept thinking that with an e-bike this trip would be open to everyone who is willing to ride a bike. Unsurprisingly I saw plenty of people doing just that, the IGN map I had was adapted for e-bikes too.

The Portes du Soleil is working hard to promote e-bikes, they have been for a few years, 20+ shops have them for rent, most of the information you need including a map is on this webpage

http://en.portesdusoleil.com/summer/electric-mtb.html

And this year an e-bike festival.

http://www.morzine-avoriaz.com/agenda-bikelec-salon-international-du-velo-electrique.html

My usual advice stands in this area. Unless you are a confident bike rider heading off the road onto the trails comes with some dangers. I recommend hiring a guide to start with. For the intepid I have highlighted some of the easier trails in the Portes du Soleil area here:

http://blog.alpine-property.com/2016/05/24/family-friendly-mountain-biking-morzine/ 

Each year the Portes du Soleil hosts a huge MTB event called the "Pass'Portes du Soleil" I've always taken the opportunity to have a free go on the Lapierre e-bikes that are available for demonstration. This year for the first time there is an e-Pass'Portes route. In fact they have taken one of my favourite routes and added in a couple of lifts for good measure. It'll be a great day out if you get a chance!

Some people don't see the point of e-bikes, here is my take on the pro's and cons.

Pro's

  1. They mean you can MTB in the mountains without lifts, so out of season, late in the evening or out of the area. That can save you 27€ a day on a lift pass!
  2. They can bring a disparate group of abilities together. The fit ones won't have to wait for 20 min at the top of the climb....and then announce they are ready to go 10 seconds after the less fit have arrived!
  3. As above for couples that want to ride together. They no longer have to use a tandem!
  4. Biking is a wonderful sport that some people shy away from because of lack of fitness. The e-bike can solve the problem.

Con's

  1. E-bikes are expensive
  2. They are heavy
  3. E-bikes are almost a motor vehicle...and with that in mind could cause issues with other users of our wild spaces.
  4. Once you have ridden one, getting back on a normal bike seems like hard work!
  5. They are a rapidly changing technology, next year's e-bike will be better and cheaper than this year's!*

* I have hired a bike each year for the last few years and each time I have thought...they are "nearly" there. This year I used a 2017 bike and I think the manufactures have nailed it. Beyond the weight of the bike (which you don't notice when riding) and the range (I rode 30km and ascended 700m), I could not think how it could be improved.

*I have just seen that Bosch (one of the main manufacturers of e-bike motors) is adding ABS...http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/e-bike-abs-braking-50226/ ...it looks like you can always make something better!

 

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Route des Grandes Alpes

700km, 16,000m of ascent, 42hrs of riding

You can choose to do it over any time period that suits. We did it in a week. I know of others that have done it in half that time. Most people take along a vehicle as support, we self supported our trip and stayed in hotels and b&b's, a small minority carry camping kit!

The official website is here.

http://www.moveyouralps.com/fr/route-des-grandes-alpes/itineraire

The map you need is here

https://ignrando.fr/boutique/route-des-grandes-alpes.html

If you can use a map then stick with that, we only made one minor error over the 700km. If you aren't good with maps then load the route onto a GPS.

Our route started from home in St Jean d'Aulps, though normally you'd start 25km down the hill in Thonon Les Bains.

My tips...

#Don't start with such a big day like we did.
#Consider a rest day.
#If a 47km climb (Col d'Iseran) or 35km (Col du Galibier) isn't your thing then you can split these days in Val d'Isere and Valloire respectively. Most guided groups do this, most purists will want to climb these without an overnight rest!

Day 1, St Jean d'Aulps to Beaufort
121km 3,036m, 7h30
Col de la Colombiere, Aravis and Saises
https://www.strava.com/activities/1026867342
Day 2, Beaufort to Lanslevillard
123km 3,440m, 8h46
Cormet de Roselend, Iseran
https://www.strava.com/activities/1028482032
Day 3, Lanslevillard to Briancon
113km, 2,153m, 6h19
Telegraphe and Galibier
https://www.strava.com/activities/1029738653
Day 4, Briancon to Jausiers
Col d'Izoard, Vars
94km, 2,255m, 6h
https://www.strava.com/activities/1031659585
Day 5, Jausiers to Valdeblore
90km, 5h26, 2,016m
Col de la Bonette
https://www.strava.com/activities/1033081333
Day 6, Valdeblore to Nice via Menton
Col St Martin, Turini, Castillon, Eze
116km, 6h25, 2,307m
https://www.strava.com/activities/1034522066
Day 7, 8hrs on the train back to Thonon and then a ride back up to St Jean d'Aulps
25km, 1h, 424m
https://www.strava.com/activities/1036609383

 

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I've been asked a number of times recently about the current state of the property market in the Alps. Periodically I write my thoughts down on the subject as a reference and this blog is as good as place as any to carry on with that.

If you need to save time...just read this....the current market feels like a good balance between buyers and sellers. The French are buoyant but new British enquiries are hesitant. Long term British searchers are making the most of the good supply of properties and thanks to this we are agreeing a plenty of sales.

Some history.....I've been in this business now since the year 2000. Since then I saw a steady rise in interest in ski properties in the Haute Savoie until we hit the top of the market in 2006/7. It felt like a bit of a bubble back then and with the benefit of hindsight it was! The Banking Crisis hit at the end of 2008 which brought everything to a grinding halt for 6 months, a slow recovery followed until 2015 which was boom time again. Brexit hit in June 2016 and the market has been taking stock since. It's not been like 2009 by any means but the interest has certainly ebbed and flowed somewhat over the last year.

In brief:

  • The French are buoyant. In general they are genuinely pleased with how the Presidential election went and they are positive about the parliamentary elections this Sunday. The feeling is that the country will get behind Macron and "En Marche!" to give him control of the Parliament. He has various reforms planned to boost the economy which all bode well for us. We shall see! All this optimism has led to an up turn in contacts in French. For reference we generally work 50/50 Franco/Anglo, at the moment that's more like 60/40 to the French.
  • New Anglophone enquiries are flat compared to 2016 and down on 2015. This is normal in the run up to an election. The vote is tomorrow and (IMO) the result is too uncertain to call.  The pundits seem to hand it to the Conservatives. If the Conservatives win that will probably stabilise things. Otherwise it is "wait and see".
  • BUT, Anglo clients seem to be securing deals at the moment. We've signed a record number of offers over the last couple of weeks. These are with people that started their search some time ago.
  • The Spring is traditionally the time when we get a surge of new instructions. This Spring is no different. We've put one new property on the website everyday for the last few weeks. Some of them have gone under offer already. Click here for a list of our latest new properties.
  • New building projects are flying up all over the Haute Savoie. Keep in mind that these projects take 18 months or so to get off the ground so this is a result of the boom market of 2015.
  • Overall I would say that the market is more buoyant under €500,000, normal up to €1m and then the €1m+ buyers seem to have gone a bit quiet.
  • The £/€ exchange rate is always one of the most important factors. It seemed to have stabilised around 1.17 but recently due to the uncertainty in the outcome of the election has slipped to 1.15.  For reference you can see that here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business/market_data/currency/11/13/twelve_month.stm

My thoughts in 2014

St Gervais market report

2013

Alpine Property market report

2011

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/french-property-market-2010/

2010

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/property_market_alps_france/

late 2009

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/state-of-the-market/

early 2009

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/spring-alpine-property-market-review/

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Buying or selling property is not supposed to be a gambling game. It's bad enough having to deal with the vagaries of the property market in your own country. It's worse when buying or selling across currencies. For someone based in the UK who is thinking about buying or selling a property in France, the Sterling to Euro exchange rate is yet another unknown to include in the equation.

Currency brokers can help smooth out some of these issues. At the outset they can be considered as a way to save money over the exchange rate your bank might offer. They can also help by hedging against currency fluctuations.

In this scenario I am thinking about a seller with 350,000€ to repatriate from their French property. For whatever reason they have decided to sell up in France and take the money back to the UK. It's not their fault that Brexit has caused the currency market to go haywire. But it can work in their favour. The weaker the pound is, the more their property is worth in £ sterling.

Take a look at the graph below. Our fictional sellers accepted an offer on their property in November when the exchange rate was 1.12. They would end up with £312,500 back in the UK.  But in fact it took a few months for the sale to conclude at which point the exchange rate is 1.18. This equates to only £296,600, a net loss of almost £16,000 and all because of a fluctuating exchange rate.

A currency broker could help in this situation. If a broker is approached at the time the offer is accepted they would take a 10% deposit to secure the current rate. If the sale falls through between this point and anytime up to 2 years in the future the money can be sold back to the market. There would be no penalty as long as this happened at or above the rate that had been secured.  That's what happens in the scenario above. However if the rate drops below 1.12 then the seller would have to compensate the broker for the difference. On the bright side, in that situation the property would have a paper value in pounds £ of even more than it started with!

 

euro graph

We've worked with the same brokers for over ten years. Let us know if you'd like us to contact you to discuss this.

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One of the properties we have for sale has been featured in French Property News this month.

chalet in chatel

There is a lovely article about how the current owners started a chalet business from the property. You can see the full article here.

FrenchPropertyNews Mar 17 real life

Full details about the property are here

chaletfreinets_2

Chalet Freinets in Chatel, 1 375 000 €uros

https://www.alpine-property.com/chatel/chalet-freinets/2926

 

 

 

 

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New for 2017, Trail Running in the Portes du Soleil

400km of signposted trails with 48 different routes across the 12 towns and villages of the Portes du Soleil. This is a big project that should be ready for summer 2017. It is one of the results of the drive by tourist offices around the Alps to diversify from a focus on alpine skiing.

It's a great idea. The Portes du Soleil is ideally suited to trail running, it's not a new activity, in fact fell running has been around forever, it is however a new idea to "package" it like this, providing signposting and resources to open it up to more people.

There is a website up and running http://tracedetrail.fr/fr/portesdusoleil and there will be leaflets available in the relevant tourist offices. An app is available for iOS and Android that will help with the mapping and tracking of each trip.

http://trailconnect.run/fr/applis-de-territoire/trail-running-portes-du-soleil/

trail runnin

 

The trails are all graded from easyish valley trails to some fairly extreme "skyrun" trails

TRAIL RUNNING X

It looks like they have wisely missed out an obvious candidate for the "Skyrun" routes, the "Roc d'Enfer" pictured below.

trail runnin_5

This is all part of a bigger network of Trail Running centres that can be seen here.

http://tracedetrail.fr/fr/user/portails 

There are already a couple of trail races in the area

http://en.morzine-avoriaz.com/agenda-hauts-forts-trail-race.html

and this

http://www.traildescretesduchablais.com/

and of course the crazy KMV in Montriond now in it's 7th year

http://www.savoie-mont-blanc.com/offre/fiche/kmv-de-nantaux-portes-du-soleil/196583

 

 

 

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We got featured twice in French Property News last month (February 2017).  Once in the "Ask the agent" feature and also a couple of properties in their "On the Market" page.

Click on the links to see the articles. We are in March's issue too, but you'll have to buy that to see the article (any good Newsagent or from their website) or wait until next month when I'll publish it here.

In the "ask the agent" bit I think they caught me at a bit of a low moment just before it snowed in January! Now we've got some snow the response would be more positive !

"interest has picked up again, and the buyers in the market are serious. In fact the ratio of buyers to browsers is as good as it gets. Couple that with a willingness from the sellers to negotiate a little and the market is ticking along fine".

ask the agent

 

on the market

 

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The avalanche report is a great place to find unbiased information about the snow conditions and the weather forecast. Obviously it should always be the first port of call before a trip off piste too. It's updated at 4pm each day. So it's ready to be checked the night before a trip out. The forecast is made by real people using real observations and not by a computer model that is taking a guess!

There is a separate forecast for each region. I'm concerned with the Haute Savoie, AKA the Alpes du Nord. It's all accessible from the following link.

http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/bulletin-avalanches

Here I will deconstruct the forecast for tomorrow. Wednesday February 8th 2017.

 

avalanche forecast

You can see the region is split into 3 areas. The Chablais, Mont Blanc and the Aravis. I'll choose the Chablais because that is where I live. Tomorrow you can see the risk of avalanche is 3 (marqué), this translates as "considerable". This is the level at which most people get hurt! When it gets to 4 (fort / high) or 5 (trés fort / extreme) skiers tend to worry more and take conservative decisions.

  • To be more precise its level 3 at over 2200m metres and level 2 under that height. So basically it's 2 in 95% of the Chablais. The flag for 3 will fly in the resorts though.
  • There is also an avalanche "rose", that's the compass symbol. This attempts to let you know if there is more risk on one side or other of the mountain. This often happens because the danger will depend on the wind direction on the preceding days. In this case the risk is the same on all aspects.
  • Finally there is a short description of the hazard. So in this case some small to medium avalanche might release spontaneously. Whereas a skier could release anything. This is important because skiers are generally buried in avalanches they have released themselves.

The next stage is to click on the area that concerns you to get the forecast in detail.

avalanche forecast 2

Here there is more detail on the stability of the snow cover.

  • Spontaneous avalanches: some releases are possible on the very steep slopes/couloirs/changes of slope in the form of a flow or a crack (slab). The size of these avalanches will often be small but could become quite large in the cold areas that have not yet slipped since the snowfall on the weekend.
  • Skier released avalanches: A big crack (slab) is possible on the less steep slopes, not sunny, and not effected by the strong wind on Saturday. Be careful on the ridges and changes of slope angle in various aspects.

That is a bit of a mouthful. Worry not, the next bits have more pictures.

 

avalanche forecast 3

On these images you can see the actual amounts of snow that fell at 1800m and the forecast amounts.  Also the weather forecast for Wednesday, it looks to me like light snow all day, the rain/snow line is starting at 900m and dropping to 700m. The wind starts out from the NW and then strengthens from the NE. Wrap up warm, that's a windchill of less than -10C!

avalanche forecast 4

  • Here is a pictorial representation of the snow depths on the north and south side of the mountain. You can put your skis on around 800/1000m, once you get to 1500m there is a really decent depth of snow which is starting to settle. Tomorrow you can expect fresh snow all day and a bit of a north wind.
  • The "tendance" is always interesting, here they predict the risk will remain the same on Thursday and drop (become safer) on Friday.

The next bit of the avalanche forecast is new. It gives the history over the last 6 days. You can see how it was warm last week and has cooled off a bit since then. It also charts in blue the rain/snow line and how it has fluctuated as the two fronts came through.

The second chart shows the wind speed and direction. You can see that on Saturday the resorts had 100km/hr winds over the tops. Anyone skiing that day will confirm that 90% of the lifts were shut! It's significant from a avalanche point of view though, these winds will have built up accumulations of snow on the lee (sheltered) slopes, in this case a SW wind...means slabs on the NE slopes.

 

avalanche forecast 5

The final charts are self explanatory. Showing the evolution of the avalanche risk and the snow depths.

So there you have it. The avalanche report. A mine of information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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