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The avalanche report explained

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

French side of Geneva airport

Geneva airport straddles two countries. It is mostly Swiss but there is also a French side to the airport. The story about how this came about is available on this Wikipedia page. The French side is very small and VERY easy to miss. However, when booking car hire on the internet it may be that hiring on the French side is cheaper than on the Swiss. If I’m asked for advice I will always suggest car hire from the Swiss side from a convenience point of view. I’m writing this piece to help people who have hired a car from the French side. Particularly those that are heading towards the the main ski areas of the Haute Savoie (places like Chamonix, St Gervais, La Clusaz, Les Carroz, Samoens, Morzine and Chatel)

For the average slightly lost tourist hiring a car from the French side can lead to a stressful end to a holiday. BUT for the accomplished and alert traveller it will not cause a problem.

The first issue is that from the French side you cannot guarantee the hire car will have a Swiss motorway vignette. If you need to drive on a Swiss motorway then you’ll have to buy one for 40 CHF. You can avoid driving on a Swiss motorway, but to give you an idea of how ludicrous this is, the nearest motorway is only 200 metres from the hire centre!

If you are using a GPS the address for the French side is: Route Douanière, Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland or coordinates 46.233842, 6.111623

Leaving the French side of Geneva airport.

Actually, first you have to get there. All international or Swiss flights distribute luggage on the Swiss side. Only if you have arrived from France should you follow signs to France inside the airport BEFORE picking up your luggage. Unless of course you are travelling with hand luggage only, in which case you can follow the French sign straight away. There is more information on the GVA website.

Here is the Google route for heading to Morzine. You can see that the difference between taking the motorway or not is only a few minutes. Remember, I’m assuming you won’t have a vignette and that you don’t want to buy one! So all these routes avoid the 10km of Swiss motorway. 

https://goo.gl/maps/mv2i8oDM9H12

“Via D902” is the one.

From GVA to Chamonix you’ll add on 10 minutes by taking the route through Geneva that misses the Swiss motorway.

https://goo.gl/maps/iXynQZLVMaS2

For both Morzine and Chamonix once you leave P20 do the weird dog leg through the border (driving under the runway, round the border and then back under the runway!) then follow signs for Geneva centre. Once you hit the lake follow signs for Evian (if heading to Morzine or Chatel) or Annemasse (for Samoens or Chamonix), it can be a bit congested at times in Geneva but it usually moves. (Unless it’s rush hour in which case this route can add 45 minutes)

Keep your eyes open on that weird dog leg, reversing it on the way home is the hard bit.

Returning to the French side of Geneva airport.

On the way you’ll need to head through the centre of Geneva again. Then follow signs towards the airport. All the signs in Geneva point you to the Swiss side of the airport, and not to the French side. The trick when you get to the vicinity of the airport is to head for signs that say “La Faucille/Gex/Ferney”….whereas all logic would make you head towards Aeroprort/France…nicely illustrated here.

french side 1

You need to be in the right hand lane and head into the tunnel (under the runway).

https://goo.gl/maps/JkaXpTx8Vht

then get to the border, and take a hard left. See here. Above the sign that says Gex, it says “Aeroport secteur Francais”, unfortunately google hasn’t street viewed both sides of the road!

french side 2

https://goo.gl/maps/GQVZ5XoEQ2t

another little sign here

french side 3

https://goo.gl/maps/UrNhF7tQycx

If you miss those signs then drive 100m to a roundabout and then head back around to the border. It’s more obvious now.

french side 4

https://goo.gl/maps/cxDmCaihgrp

and then

french side 5

https://goo.gl/maps/t1jB9gudbVn

You are aiming to get onto this fenced road, a weird piece of France in Switzerland. Obviously a deal the Swiss came to with the French when they swapped land for the runway.

french side 6

https://goo.gl/maps/HSPcoB5KbcP2

Further links

Availability of all the car parks and prices here. For the French secteur it’s P20.

https://www.gva.ch/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-65/

Various versions of “how to get to the French side of the airport” are here.

http://www.chamonix.net/english/travel/rent-a-car-from-geneva-airport

https://www.carjet.com/blog/returning-a-car-hire-to-geneva-airport

http://web.onetel.net.uk/~dougmacarthur/FromGenevaAirport.html

Learning to Sitski

My brother Gareth was badly injured in an accident in Australia a couple of years ago. It’s left him with mobility difficulties, which means he can’t take part in sports like he used to. Gareth was a very keen and competent skier prior to his accident, and he had the opportunity last August to take part in a disability winter sports camp in Australia, which introduced him to the world of sitskiing. He made great progress during the 4 days he spent on the ski slopes, and was once again bitten by the skiing bug!

Gareth came over to the Portes du Soleil for Christmas, along with the rest of my family, so it was the perfect opportunity for him to build on what he’d learnt in Oz, and was a new experience for me and the rest of my family to learn about!

Sitski Lessons

Gareth booked a week of sitski lessons with Tigrou, an ESF instructor in Morzine, and one of just a handful in the area qualified to teach sitskiing. Day 1 started on a dualski, with Gareth firmly strapped in to the seat, affixed to two skis. The skis had a set of bindings at the back for Tigrou, who maintained full control of the sitski throughout the lesson. Because the instructor has full control, this type of sitskiing is perfect for anyone regardless of the severity of their disability: children, people with little upper body strength, and even frail-but-thrill-seeking grannies! It is quite a white-knuckle ride, the sitski is seriously fast!

Day 2, Gareth transferred to a uniski, a sitki with only one ski on the bottom. With a uniski, the sitskier has a pair of “outriggers” instead of ski poles, which are like mini crutches with a small ski on the bottom. The outriggers help with balance and direction, much in the same way as ski poles. With this set-up, Gareth was able to control the sitski himself, with Tigrou skiing behind and helping out with balance and steering.

pic-1

Over the course of the next 4 days, we were able to explore the full extent of the Portes du Soleil, skiing together as a family, and with Gareth increasingly taking sole control of the sitski, and Tigrou helping out less and less. It was great fun, and brilliant to all be able to ski together, rather than have Gareth stuck on the nursery slopes like a traditional beginner skier.

It is quite possible to become and independent sitskier, and once you’ve mastered the art, the possibilities are endless. We’ve made a short video to give you an idea.

Like anything else. it can get extreme. The Winter X Games Mono Skier Cross footage is just insane! It would take a braver person than me to head down this course, well worth the watch!

Sitski alone!

After a couple of days off for Christmas and Boxing Day, we decided to go it alone, and took Gareth’s own sitski up to the nursery slopes in St Jean d’Aulps for a maiden descent! It turns out this was a lot harder than we thought! Our first obstacle was the draglift. A slow-moving button lift with a very gentle slope all of a sudden seemed pretty daunting! After falling off the draglift three times, we abandoned using the lift and resorted to pushing Gareth up the hill ourselves!

Getting back down the nursery slope proved just as challenging, the poor conditions meant that the snow has hard and icy, and the nursery slope was about a third of its usual width. With little space to get enough speed up to successfully make his turns, Gareth spent as much time on his backside as on his sitski! After a few more goes, we abandoned for the day and went for hot chocolates all round instead!

Not wishing to be defeated, the next day we decided to give Les Gets a go. Unfortunately, with very poor snow conditions and crowded slopes, we all found it challenging! (Although Gareth did manage to get both on and off the chairlift without an instructor and without falling over, which was an achievement in itself!).

pic from http://www.adapt-evasion.com/pilote-dual-ski/

We were lucky enough to meet Martin Lister and his son Matthew, who came to our rescue after seeing us struggle to help Gareth get down a particularly icy section; I think our confidence was really beginning to waver! Martin told us he had had many years enjoying sitkiing with his son William who had muscular dystrophy, and they had sadly lost William just a few months prior. Martin and Matthew offered Gareth some practical advice, and with Matthew at the reins, Gareth successfully navigated the last section of the piste. It was really encouraging to meet other families with experiences to share, and Martin and Matthew were very kind and helpful indeed!

Sitski practicalities

The practical aspect of “disabled” skiing was also new to us. On the whole, we didn’t encounter too many problems. We were pleased to find was that disabled parking bays were available at the Prodains lift in Morzine (and later in the week at Les Gets too), which made things much easier. We also learnt that for disabled skiers and a companion, a discounted lift pass is available, which was a real added bonus. More difficult was accessing some of the lifts once in the sitski. It’s difficult to get the sitski through the turnstiles without getting stuck! We mostly had to approach the chairlifts directly from the side (and jump the queue!), but over in Chatel, the “turnstiles” were generally much better, as they were set up to allow mountain bikes through, so the sitski got through with ease.

Finding the right equipment is nigh on impossible too. For lessons, the ESF have equipment available, but I did not find a single ski shop in the Portes du Soleil that has sitskis for hire for Gareth to use for practice outside of lessons. Sitskis are very expensive to buy new (think in the thousands!), so it’s quite limiting for a beginner looking to improve on their basic skills outside of lessons. I was fortunate enough to meet Catherine Cosby of Ski 2 Freedom, who was very helpful. The Ski 2 Freedom foundation was set up to help facilitate access to alpine activities to any person with any kind of disability, anywhere in the world. Catherine is currently fundraising for a new sitski which will be made available on a permanent basis to anyone looking to sitski in Morzine. On the whole, Morzine is a pretty disabled-friendly town, so hopefully the addition of a permanent sitski will allow more skiers like Gareth the possibility to enjoy the mountains with as much ease as the rest of us! (If you would like to donate, you can do so via the Ski 2 Freedom website: http://www.ski2freedom.com/en/index)

 

 

 

Eco building in the Alps

I don’t suppose living in the Alps is that great from an Ecological perspective. Though as time goes on we are learning (actually, being slowly forced) to reduce our carbon footprint on the environment. Not many people think about this though, even with the government’s attempts to help (see the DPE labels). I’ve written about it in the past too (An Eco-Chalet in the Alps). Despite this I did have a customer say to me recently “I’m only interested in building a new place…for eco reasons”, maybe as time goes on it will happen more often? Though I’m not sure that building from scratch is that eco-friendly, despite the fact the heating bills will be less. The carbon footprint from the new materials might well outweigh the long-term benefits.

hot-house-1

I’ve been living in my house for 14 years and have only got around to upgrading the last remaining single glazed windows this winter. It’s never been a priority for me as I’m well aware that the pay back won’t happen for 20 or more years. I took the opportunity to take some infrared pictures to show the difference before and after. It was a bit of an eye opener. Not the difference the windows made but how much heat my house is giving off!

The first photo shows my house on a cold day (-7C), the ground floor is 60cm of solid (stone and rubble) construction with no insulation. The upstairs of my property was insulated when it  was renovated 30 years ago. They use hollow bricks with a small amount of mineral wool insulation stuffed between them. There is no vapour barrier and externally the walls are wood clad. The shocking thing here is the walls are 10C. The single-glazed windows are obvious on the picture and are only slightly colder (15C) than the inside temperate at the time (19C).

semi

I live in a semi-detached house. The other side of the property is a holiday home and was unoccupied at the time. The difference between the two can be seen above and is stark.

I have a few before and after photos of my house here. The first one shows the replacement front door.

 

These pair show the windows before and after.

 

back

The rear of my house has been renovated by us in the last few years. We added double glazed windows, some thermal plasterboard to the internal walls and some insulation to the floor. The room was barely habitable in the winter and now it is just fine. The heater is the same size as before! The difference is obvious on this picture. The window glass is about -4C and the walls are mostly above freezing. The weak point is the window frames.

I live next to a newly built house. It’s a “kit” house which is becoming the norm around here. The structure and walls are made in a factory, the house itself is then constructed quickly on site. The difference in economy is obvious.

modern

The outside of the house is pretty much at ambient temperature (it is not letting out any heat). There is one small issue around the garage door but that is about it! I mentioned this property in a blog I wrote a few years ago about building a chalet in the Alps. I’ve quizzed the owners of new properties like this and the energy savings are real. They are generally heated with electricity that powers an air source heat pump. The overall energy costs for a house like this are 30% of mine. So where I pay 300€/month for the heat+light for my house they pay 100€/month for the same sized building.

This traditional framed method of construction can be seen here:

new-build

A wood frame sits on top of a concrete base. The wood frame and the wall panels are made in a factory, insulation is added on site. The concrete is insulated inside and out and clad to taste. It’s an expensive and materials hungry form of construction. You can see a nice cutaway below. Stone cladding, beneath that 40cm of insulation, 40cm of concrete and some more insulation and plasterboard inside. No expense spared!

 

renovation

SIP Panels (Structural Insulated Panels)

I’ve mentioned these in the past. SIP’s are less materials intensive (and therefore cheaper), as well or better insulated as any alternative, quicker to construct (and therefore cheaper). I’ve noticed a few houses being constructed with these techniques around Morzine. Mostly by the aforementioned ECSUS Design using Kingspan products. In fact they have been building a number of chalets around the Haute Savoie. In the past their chalets have been quite simple. You can see an example of this on my article “how to build your own chalet” and in the video below. This doesn’t always have to be the case, as seen here …. https://www.youtube.com/chalet-build-montiond and on this new build in Morzine

 

Resources for renovations

Everyone knows that the first thing to insulate is your roof, after that you need to eliminate draughts. More often than not if you do a cost benefit calculation for making further improvements to a house the investment is such that any pay-back will be 10 years plus. Building costs in the Alps are such that the pay back can be even more. Here are a few UK specific resources that might help.

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/energy-efficient-windows

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-insulation/solid-wall

This is an interesting product for helping to insulate an older home. It’s an aerated plaster. An amazing idea from Switzerland but I fear it might be expensive.

http://www.fixit.ch/aerogel/?w=daemmputz 

 

 

 

Avoriaz and the magic snow

I’d been hearing lots of opinion about the skiing at Avoriaz over the last week. Most people will know that the Northern Alps is really struggling for snow at the moment. So it was a surprise to hear:

“Incredible, I could not believe how good it was”

“Really quiet and loads of runs open”

“I don’t know how they’ve done it”

avoriaz

I went up at the weekend to see for myself. It was all true and very impressive. I skied in Linderets and was sure there must have been over 1m of base on the pistes, all the way back to the carpark. In fact the run back to the carpark at Ardent was the best, I went down it at 11am, totally alone and still skiing the “groomers”. I spoke with one of the restaurant owners and asked where all the water was coming from. “Pumped up from Lac de Montriond during the day” was the response.

It’s not the first time that I’ve been to Avoriaz and been blown away by the work up there. It really does give an impression of being the perfect ski destination. It’s not perfect at the moment but it’s certainly not at all bad.

It made me wonder who is behind this slick operation. I know it’s the Compagnie des Alpes, I’ve heard the name enough but what or who are they?

The most relevant points seem to be the fact they own

Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry, La Plagne, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Les Menuires, Méribel, Les 2 Alpes, Serre Chevalier, and all of the Grand Massif (Flaine etc).

They are the main shareholders in Chamonix (37.5%) and Megève and have minority interests in  Avoriaz (20%), Valmorel et La Rosière (Sofival)

That’s all quite a mouthful. Basically they are the biggest player in the ski business worldwide. 30% of the worlds ski area revenue goes through them.

That’s not all, they also have an interest in the summer. They have the Astérix Parc, Futuroscope, France Miniature and the 4 Walibi Parcs

Overall they turnover about 700m€, with almost 5000 employees. As far as I can tell from this years 98 page annual report Avoriaz accounted for 37m€ of that and 6m€ in profit.

Further information is available here.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compagnie_des_Alpes

You’ll see that the Compagnie des Alpes is part of  Caisse des dépôts et consignations.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caisse_des_d%C3%A9p%C3%B4ts_et_consignations

This is a bank owned by the French state. Not something I think there is an equivalent of in the Anglo-saxon world. But certainly an interesting circular relationship between the ski industry and the French nation.

The Caisse des Depots is probably worth a book on it’s own. “Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and its subsidiaries constitute a public group in the service of the country’s general interest and economic development. The Group fulfils missions of general interest in support of public policies implemented by the French State and by local authorities, and it can carry out competitive activities.”

 

 

 

 

Les Carroz is pushing ahead pt 1

In fact, Les Carroz is pushing ahead with so many projects I’ll have to write two posts on this.

L’Oasis – Cool Zone

This might be old news for some. In fact many resorts are introducing themed areas like this (The Stash – Avoriaz) and they prove very popular indeed with the youth. In fact you can buy a pass in Avoriaz that just covers the Stash as for some it’s the only place they want to go.  For L’Oasis we have

A boardercross
Snowpark with more than 30 modules for all levels (jumps, kicks, rails, etc)
Ski Slalom slope
Video zone with 7 cameras that will make a film of your descent…plus wifi so you can share it there and then!
DJ & music (obviously)
Speed test slope

cool-zone-loasis

A new free beginners area on “Figaro” with a new moving carpet. These are great, there is one in Les Gets too, they often lack publicity. But if you are a beginner then paying for a lift pass is overkill for your first few days so these areas offer great value. Of course the resort will make their money back when you get hooked!

A new toboggan run. All the resorts are having to build these in for safety’s sake. Another great (cheap) way to kill time with the younger kids.

Loads of work to the slopes. More snow-making…widening of the Marmottes piste, L’Arete too.

A new 6-seater from Les Carroz 1500 to the Tete des Saix that replaces the two old 2 seaters!! (Gentianes and Airon).

At the télécabine…thanks to their popularity you can now pre-book the heated ski lockers and they’ve added 4 more info screens.

The really big news is being announced tomorrow (Thursday 24/11/16). You can read what happened here.

 

 

 

 

Brexit and Alpine Property

Or Brexit and buying Property in the Alps.

I was asked on most days in the weeks following June/23rd what I thought the effect the Brexit vote would have on the property market in the Alps. Back then, it was too early to say. It might still be too early now. It’s tempting to say “Brexit! What Brexit?” as the reality is nothing concrete has happened yet. To save your time (and reduce boredom) you can have my main conclusion first”

The main result of the Brexit vote so far has been to weaken the value of sterling. Weak sterling reduces demand for properties in the Alps.

So if it’s all down to the exchange rate, it might we worth a look at the graph.

brexit

BUT, and this is often forgotten, in a period of uncertainty the sellers are more likely to agree to an offer AND buyers don’t feel under pressure to compete against other buyers. So all in all properties are still being bought and sold.

The current property market in the Alpes is more complicated than just Brexit and involves more or less of the following

  1. Trump. This looks positive for our market in the short term.
  2. The world economy (a retreat from Government bonds ref). This could be positive, see below.
  3. The upcoming French election ref. This will reduce activity on the French side of our business.
  4. Brexit. Dunno…

Trump.

Suddenly Brexit doesn’t seem so nuts. In context with the US and possibly now much of Europe it can be seen more clearly. Le Brexit was barely understood in France, but now it might be part of a pattern. It’s upset half of the US, which has seen an upturn in interest in European property from the Americans  already.

The World Economy.

The short term effect of the Trump victory seems to have led to a sell off of government bonds (due to the likelihood of interest rate rises), much of this cash is heading into equities (the FTSE and US indexes are both up), in our experience when they become overvalued, money often heads our way. 

The upcoming French elections.

This always leads to a hiatus in interest from French buyers, in the same way we experienced a big drop in enquiries just before the Brexit vote.

Brexit.

We don’t know, no one knows. Hard Brexit / Soft Brexit. We assume the second, but who knows? The reality is that non-EU citizens have always been able to buy property in France without issue. That won’t change. We have had some enquiries from people wanting to flee the UK to Europe. Not a flood, but some.

So the bottom line is there has been a reduction in interest. Not comparable to the period after the banking crisis but a reduction non the less. That is probably linked to the exchange rate.

My favorite thought is to remind myself. That despite the uncertainty and turmoil, the mountains will always be here, Summer, Winter, Spring or Autumn and that they are hard to beat.

c-de-c

 

 

Road bike routes in Morzine

Looking for road bike routes around Morzine?
Road ride routes from Les Gets?
Road riding from St Jean d’Aulps?

All the road bike routes in and around Morzine and Les Gets I am going to describe work equally well from these 3 towns. There are probably 20 main rides to choose from, all of which can be reversed plus an infinite number of variations, so there is no excuse to repeat the same rides over and over!

If you are new to road riding or new to the area and a bit nervous I suggest you don’t head straight for the big name cols. You’ll enjoy them more if you work up to them.

I have my own personal ranking system. I start with no cols and in a good year work through the ranking until I reach the Sportives at the end of June. Then usually I have had enough by mid-July and spend the rest of the summer in the pool! 2016 is turning out no different!

The main roads in the area are quite busy. Not as bad as in Chamonix or Megeve but still pretty unpleasant, especially in July and August. Most of the rides will avoid them if possible.

As far as map reading goes I suggest getting a modern bike GPS (I have a Garmin 520) and downloading the routes from Strava onto that. If you’d prefer not to use this technology then print out the maps and prepare to stop a lot! Though saying that the “Full Cols” rides have very easy navigation. The timings are the estimates from Strava. You might be faster or slower!

27/JULY…This is a work in progress, I’ve done 5 and will keep on adding….

No cols
Tour of the Villages, 36km, 820m
Bioge and back via La Vernaz, 46km, 780m
Terramont and Jambaz, 37km, 710m
Mine d’Or and Lac Montriond, 26km, 700m

Half cols
Corbier and Grand Taillet 43km, 1100m
Grand Taillet, Plateau de Gavot and Evian
Encrenaz and back via Les Gets
Megevette circuit
Col de Feu/Moises/Cou

Full cols
Joux Plane
Avoriaz
Ramaz

1.5 cols
Encrenaz + Ramaz
Vallee Verte Col + Ramaz
Megevette + Joux Plane
2 countries
Tour of the lac

2 cols
Ramaz + Joux Plane
Ramaz or Joux Plane + Avoriaz

Sportives

Morzine-Montriond short Sportive (1.5 cols)
Morzine-Montiond long Sportive (2.5 cols)
Avoriaz + Corbier + Megevette + Joux Plane

Rides with Kids

Lac Mine d’Or
Ramaz and back!
Rhone Valley cycle route
Round Lac Annecy

Road riding in Morzine with No Cols

These are perfect leg stretchers or early season rides. They enable you to get in some time in the saddle without having to slog over the cols. I do a few variations of these to kick off my season.


Tour of the Villages 36km, 820m, 1hr46m

 

all the villages
Strava Route https://www.strava.com/routes/5761871

Includes Morzine, Montriond, Essert La Pierre, St Jean d’Aulps, Le Biot, Seytroux, St Jean d’Aulps and Essert Romand. Remember to take the back roads through St Jean d’Aulps in both directions, it keeps you off the main road and means you get to ride past the Abbaye too. You can cut the ride short any time you want and ride home on the valley road.

Coffee – Morzine, and 50% of the time Le Biot and Seytroux

Water – Le Biot, Essert la Pierre, St Jean d’Aulps and Morzine!

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Bioge and back via La Vernaz 46km, 780m, 2h15m

 

bioge and back
Strava route https://www.strava.com/routes/5761999

You can add or subtract as much of the main road as you like, the more villages you add the harder it gets! The route described here has is a happy medium. The climb from Bioge had to La Vernaz is lovely and quiet. If the road between Jotty and Bioge is closed for rock clearing (normally in June) then forget it.

Coffee – Morzine, Jotty (best place on this ride) and 50% of the time Le Biot and Seytroux

Water – St Jean d’Aulps, Le Biot, Essert la Pierre but the best spot will be Jotty.

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Terramont and Jambaz, 37km, 710m, 1h50m

 

Terramont and Jambaz

Strava route https://www.strava.com/routes/5762204

This route can be ridden from St Jean d’Aulps (add 20km) or Morzine (add 36km) but to keep off the main road many people drive down to Jotty and leave from there. This gives access to the Vallee Verte and many many variations. It’s quiet and the hills aren’t too long, quite possibly some of the best riding in the whole area.

Coffee – Jotty, Vailly, Lullin (best option) and Bellevaux,

Water – Lullin, Vailly
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Lac Mines d’Or and Lac Montriond, 26km, 700m, 1h15m

mine d'or and montriond

 

Strava route https://www.strava.com/routes/5762361

This route visits two of the most picturesque spots in the area. Both rides are “up and back” which aesthetically many will have an issue with. They do however offer the advantage that if the going gets too tough, you can just turn around and free wheel home. The last bit of the climb to Lac Mines d’Or is steep, much steeper than the climbs on the famous cols nearby. So if you manage it OK, you’ll not have to deal with anything worse!

Water – available at both the lakes.

Coffee – available at both the lakes, according to the season.

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Road riding in Morzine with half Cols

Before heading out on a full col why not try a half one first? There is no point in getting upset and tired…


Corbier and Grand Taillet, 43km, 1100m, 2h15m

Corbier and Grand Taillet

https://www.strava.com/routes/5762572

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terrace in chatel

Chalet renovation in Chatel

I love before and after photos, they could be of anything really, in this job I occasionally get given the before and after images of properties we have sold that go on to be renovated. The images I have here are of a chalet renovation in Chatel. On the face of it this property was not old, it was a good solid construction from 1995 in a superb spot. It conformed to the tastes of the time, in those days many of the properties were split into small apartments that where easy to rent. Usually with a “master” apartment for the owners.

Today we have these properties for sale at around 6 or 700,000€, whereas in 2016 people are looking for the “ideal” chalet but are willing to spend more like 1m€. So they’d like a 4+ bedroom chalet, big enough for their family and guests, conveniently located with great views. So what do you do when you can’t find what you are after? When you can’t even build from scratch because all the best land has gone? Find a donor chalet and start again.

This project was based on Chalet le Belvedere in Chatel. Priced at 690,000€ and sold in the spring last year. A year later the project is finished. 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, bigger balconies and with internal stairwells instead of external access. The original details from our website are here. With the original picture and it’s finished state.

 

 

I’ve talked about how much this will cost, how we can help and given some examples of more chalet renovation projects at the end of this article. To start with I have some of the before and after shots I mentioned.

 

 

The whole idea with a project like this is to start with the right location. The views are some of the best in Chatel and it’s on the ski bus route so going skiing is a doodle.

 

 

The kitchen, in fact there were 3 kitchens before, now there is only one.

 

 

One of the bedrooms, in the original chalet there were 5 bedrooms, now there are 4.

 

 

Not really a before an after, but it certainly gives an idea of the process!

 

Some more images below.

 

So after all this work, was it worth it? Well as our agent Ed Ockelton says “I wish it was for sale, it’s now one of the best chalets in Chatel, easily worth over a million”.  The chalet renovation was coordinated by Liz Ockelton who worked with a local building firm (all details further down), Liz says an internal renovation like this will cost around 1,400€/m² and that is before it is furnished. So it is clearly possible to end up with “one of the best chalets” in the area for the right price. For most people they are creating their perfect place in the Alps, but if your goal is to make a profit then you’ll have to think very carefully about your budget and the finishing touches too.

We have 2 chalets we can suggest that would be ripe for this type of renovation, both closer to the ski access and both bigger.

Chalet la Chapelle, in La Chapelle d’Abondance,
600,000€, walking distance to the ski lift, 225 m²

Chalet La Joly, also in La Chapelle d’Abondance,
745,000€, walking distance to the ski lift, 270 m²

Interior design works:
Liz Ockelton – Make Space Designs
http://www.makespacedesigns.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MakeSpaceDesigns/

Building works:

Alpine Renovation SARL
https://m.facebook.com/AlpineRenovation

Family friendly mountain biking in Morzine

The Portes du Soleil is one of the best places to go mountain biking in the world. I’ve biked in a few of the other best places and they are all great. I ran an MTB company from Morzine for 10 years (Endlessride – it is no longer!) and between them our guests and our guides have been to ALL the great places on their bikes. We never could decide where the best place to go was. Morzine was on the list though.

But is it a suitable places to go if you are a beginner? Or have a young family? Is there any family friendly biking in Morzine? We would usually guide families and beginners full time. We could keep them safe but we knew that without local knowledge a beginner could find themselves out of their depth in moments. We saw it every day. Since we started our in the year 2000 the situation has improved bit by bit every year. 16 years on the Portes du Soleil is a very different place. There is no escaping the fact it is orientated towards the downhill rider, despite this the various tourist authorities have tried to soften things a bit to appeal to their preferred customer, the active family. The best evidence of this is the Multi Pass. 2€ a day to swim, skate, play tennis and use the lifts (to go walking, not biking!!)

ecureuils

Les Ecureuils, start here, if this is too much go back to the Dereche

 

Morzine itself doesn’t have the best family friendly trails. Chatel and Les Gets do. It does site in between these two towns though, so for the most variety it may well be the best base. If you are not sure, and this can often seem a bit overwhelming, then hire a qualified MTB guide. At least to start. I can recommend some. Just ask! Otherwise read on…

Morzine/Les Gets

The most family friendly MTB trail is the footpath that runs up and down the river. No ski lifts required! It starts by the outdoor swimming pool (and new skate park) and runs on both sides of the river. Called the Parc des Dérêches it is suitable for all ages and almost flat. The easiest longest circuit in the park itself is 10km, it’s easy to extend beyond this on the well sign posted path towards St Jean d’Aulps and even then (take a map for this bit) on to Le Biot, 95% off-road and suitable for everyone. From Morzine to Le Biot and back is 28km, it is a “there and back” ride unless you are happy riding on the road. And for most families I would recommend against this. It is too busy. It’s also a great wet weather alternative to using ski lifts for more experienced riders. Just watch the wooden bridges when it’s wet! The picture below is the start of the route. The full route is available on openstreetmap. Or the paper map Morzine IGN Top25.  You can even get the IGN map online now too.

dereche

The Morzine section of the best family bike ride in Morzine, the Dereche, the red arrow points towards St Jean d’Aulps

The Morzine and Les Gets MTB maps are available for download here. A high res image is below.

morzine

Some more ideas for the family on a bike. The following are “itinéraire”, so not marked and patrolled routes. Starting in Les Gets.

Route A “Boucle des clarines“, 6km on Mont Chéry in Les Gets. Very easy, wide open track, great views on Mt Blanc. I have never made a specific trip just to do this. It’s there anyway, the Route B that seems to follow on from this is a road. A quiet one. So for a really basic family trip, take the Mont Chery lift, ride route A and then descent back to Les Gets on the road via Mt Caly.

Route D “Tour de Mont Chery” is more like XC mountain biking. 13km and highly recommended. Family friendly, like a blue route at a UK trail centre, as long as the family doesn’t mind heights! Marked as a “Zone technique” on the map. We used to refer to this trail as “the dangerous trail”, thanks to the warning signals.  The tricky section does often close due to landslips.

Route F “Tour du plateaux de Loex“, a black route! Probably because of the distance (14km) and the fact you will need to be more self sufficient and may end up consulting your map. If Route D went well, then technically this will be fine too. Be careful, a wrong turn down to the Samoens valley will end the day in tears. The easiest way back to Les Gets will be in a taxi!

As far as the actual MTB “pistes” go, start with #1 “La piste des Ecureuils” – “the squirrel piste”, AKA “The Family DH“. It’s a beauty and is a perfect introduction to the type of MTB piste the area has to offer. If you struggle on here then don’t move on from the green’s. It’s so good the full on DH brigade love it too, which is fine if they give the families a wide berth (they often don’t), so beware when stopping to admire the view and get off the piste and out of their way!

#20, the return from Les Gets to Morzine should be OK. It’s marked as a red. Probably because of the steep section after the Atray restaurant (stop there for a drink!) though you can always walk this section. The best easy route home from Les Gets to Morzine is probably #24  “Morzine par Les Mouilles“.

#22 or #23 are your best options from the top of Pleney, both blue runs, these both have berms and steeper sections though. My preferred choice is #22. I think #23 is slightly harder and often a bit wetter. The best of it is over by the time you get to the Cherche Midi car park, from here you can keep going until you get to Morzine or turn left and head back to Les Gets via the road of the “Morzine par Les Mouilles” in reverse.

The liaison with Les Gets is a strange one. It’s marked as a red and justifiably so. If this is going to be too much then (and you’ll need a map) start down it but nip on to the road at Nabor and roll down to Les Gets from there. You can carry along it, the route is straightforward but it’s hard not to get sucked into the main Les Gets downhill, somewhere you don’t want to be with a family!

Avoriaz/Chatel

From Morzine this is a day out. It can be shortened by taking a car around to Linderets. I’ve described it from Morzine itself. Head up the Super Morzine telecabine and then the Zore chairlift. At the top there is a wide, smooth and sandy track that leads towards Avoriaz. After a few km you’ll arrive at the Col de la Joux Verte. From here the MTB route is well signed posted but probably too hard for most children. The safest thing to do would be to descent the road to Linderets. From here the Chaux Fleurie chair leads to the Chatel bike park.

Avoriaz

Chatel MTB piste maps are available for download here. Start off on the green run, Panoramic, one of the classics of the area. Not to be missed. For most this is enough. For some this is already too much. If Panoramic is your limit when you arrive at Plaine Dranse head back up the lift! If you think you can take a little more then head down the blue run, Serpentine. I’ve just spotted Eterlou on this years map (2016), it’s marked green, either it is new for this year or I’ve missed it. Either way I can’t offer advice yet. I’ll check it out when the area is open at the end of June.

chatel

Getting home from Chatel is another of those little issues that a family MTB team can face. Especially if green runs are the limit. The easiest option when stood at the top of the Rochassons chair is to hike up a few metres to the Fantasticable (marked as a red circle on the map below) and then take the path signposted towards the Mossettes. This will take a big dog leg back on itself, signposted for Linderets. Then stick to the path marked GR5 back down to the valley. This is a winter ski piste lower down, fairly steep and gravelly, not ideal but it is the easiest way.  I’ve highlighted the path to take in red. I’ve also marked an obvious blue run called Chesery with a tricky steep start and then a black run, Toboggan which is aptly named. These are the “official” ways down.

Avoriaz return

 

Remember walking with your bike is better than falling off your bike! From Linderets the best route back to Morzine is to ride down the road, yes the road (at certain times of day it can be a bit crowded) descend from Linderets to Ardent and follow the signposted bike route around the Lac Montriond back to Morzine.

So that’s enough to keep you going for 3 or 4 days. One last tip, you’ll notice most people are wearing protection, knees and elbows and full face helmets. For the riding I have described you’ll need a helmet, full finger gloves and I recommend some knee pads too. They will mean that if you do fall off you will probably be able to ride the next day. Without them you’ll loose so much skin that cycling will seem far less appealing!