SkiBike Tour 2010-11 - Crest Voland

Posted: Saturday, 8 January 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

I have had Crest Voland in my sights for a while, it is a Skibob World Cup venue, when I mailed the tourist office about access for skibikes, the reply almost expressed surprise that I should even ask.
It is home to Berod Sports, a Brenter Agent with a large hire stock and is also the epicenter of the French Skibob Race Team.

I followed a familiar route to La Clusaz, then climbed over the Col d'Aravis, a favourite of classic car rallies to check whether your pampered MGB can tolerate the climb, my chav Ford Fiesta got over it with the aplomb of a South Londoner hitting the Purley Way to go shopping at IKEA.

The Crest Voland website depicts a cowboy leaning against a shack smoking a cheroot and there is a frontier feel to the place, although adding a cactus was definitely taking an artistic liberty.

Crest Voland - Welcome to the Wild Wild West

I can imagine that there is strict planning control, there is very little advertising, one chalet had a "for rent" sign carved in wood, there a few shops and no big corporate McDonalds or Starbucks presence.
I have made the comparison before with the criticism of France offering soulless supermarket skiing and would have to say that if Crest Voland is supermarket skiing, then it is Waitrose in Stratford-upon-on-Avon (that's a compliment by the way).

In the recent heat wave, it had rained on Thursday, even this high up. I sought a nice easy easy blue run for a gentle warm up, the Logere chairlift took me straight to the peak of Mont Lachat and onto the La Criee run.

An easy arse, it might as well been black, it was classic Scottish snow, the most crusty and hard I have encountered so far.
I was deafened by the sound of my edges grinding on ice, I'm sure I heard Dogs down in the village howling in response to the cacophony of sounds I was making.

Following the skiers code, I stopped on the piste where some poor kid was crying her eyes out, helmet half off, whilst mum tried to calm the poor tyke down and work out whether it was concussion or just the shock of a nasty fall. I quietly retrieved a ski and pole and offered my assistance, together we got the girl up and mobile; skibikers might go for the mean look, but the Hells Angels had a reputation for helping little old ladies to cross the road.

I moved around the hill to the La Gentiane run served by the Cernix chairlift, this West facing side of the hill had softened to a lovely buttery consistency and provided the most consistently enjoyable runs of the day.

In the afternoon it became relatively crowded and I moved to the North East expecting conditions to have softened, unfortunately the pistes had acquired a schizophrenic quality, what wasn't ice in the shade was slush puppy soft where the sunlight had reached.
I followed the signs for the Chardons run and found myself suddenly alone, oh dear not a good sign, stopping half way down I couldn't believe how narrow and steep the next section was, then realised the piste went to my right through a gully.
I don't know what happened next but my left footski detached itself and in spite of the built in ski brake (so much for them) slowly disappeared out of sight down the piste.

At that moment, for the first time in 5 weeks of skibikng, I felt well and truly screwed...I had a quiet moment to reflect on what to do next...

I attached the skibike to a piste marker with the leash (I knew it would come in handy sooner or later) and dispensed with the other footski. I walked down the side of the piste slope, aggressively stomping the heel binding flange to bite into the snow. I was constantly reminded that this was serious grown up terrain by seeing the bits of crud disappear down the fall line and into the wooded abyss below; finally I located and retrieved the missing footski.
Shit there go my footskis!
Carefully turning around, I now re-ascended the slope, this time kicking the toe bindings in to make a diy staircase back up.
Not wanting to repeat the whole "shit there go my footskis" expedition down the fall line, I found a level surface, to re-mount the skibike and advanced cautiously further down the piste; gingerly picking a line between ice, exposed rocks and vegetation.

I think that the Chardons piste should have been closed, or at least marked, if you can't get down on a skibike then for a non-expert skier it could really be dangerous.

Overall it was not the best of days, as I was opting for survival skibiking and not the elegant style I seek; but at least they didn't have to call out the helicopter; one poor skier was in a stretcher on the piste for over an hour whilst Mountain Rescue did an exemplary job of keeping them safe.

My poor old Sarf London Fiesta deserved a break from the endless hairpins and gradients of the Col d'Aravis and subsequent twisty run down to Bonneville. I took a flatter, but much longer 2 hour drive home via the beautiful lakeside town on Annecy.

I listened to France Inter (much like BBC radio 4

I picked up a forlorn looking hitchhiker 10 miles outside Geneva on the route home, a sweet old boy with failing eyesight, who could no longer drive, but wanted to continue living in his provincial village with little to no public transport. He cradled a baguette in his arms, dinner perhaps and trusted a totally mad foreigner to get him home safely.

We discussed the reason why the UK drives on the left and France on the right. Ploughing on in French, I tried to explain about medieval knights carrying swords in their right hands on horseback riding on the left of the road and Napoleon's left-handedness causing him to want to ride on the right, etc.
I made a detour to his village to drop him off, whoever you were French bloke, "Bon chance mon ami".

Heading into town I crossed the leaky Swiss border at least twice; I must have crossed it twice a day since I arrived, perhaps I have "Carte Blanche", I don't know what terrifies me more, the machine guns the Border Police wear, or their surgical gloves.

Crest Voland where the Wild West meets the Haute Savoie