SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Les Contamines

Posted: Saturday, 16 February 2013 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

This morning Paul was still a little frayed around the edges after yesterday's skibike lesson. He had planted his foot quite heavily whilst mid turn and thought that he might have torn an old operation scar; hence his choice to take a day off, sit in the spring sunshine and take it easy.

With so little time left before my return to the UK, work and reality, I am becoming manic due to the need to make the most of every moment. As with previous year's SkiBiker SkiBike Blog Tours it is only during this final phase that the "wins" arrive, on a daily basis, as my mind and body come together and deliver confident skibike and ski technique.

I wanted to revisit Les Contamines, a place I haven't seen for a couple of years and today was probably going to be the only remaining opportunity this season, with or without Paul's good company, in short I was gagging to go.

Les Contamines is situated in a remote location, very close to the Mont Blanc and near the border between France and Italy, it is a long drive from Geneva and even our base in Cluses is still nearly an hour away on small provincial roads. The village is a typical Alpine town, in many ways not that different from the days when Victorians came to enjoy the thermal spas at neighbouring St Gervais les Bains and the local farmers eked a meagre living from dairy farming and small holding activities.

Les Contamines - a remote location close to the Mont Blanc

There are two gondola telecabines providing uplift to the core of the skiing on the mountain above. Many of the runs are of the fast, rolling, wide "motorway" style, much beloved of intermediate skiers eager to add more kilometres to their experience. I opted to start the day by ski, as I had a lot of ground to cover with the minimum of faff.
I covered most of the available runs, luckily my memory served me well and I hardly consulted the piste map. I also visited the "back mountain" area of neighbouring Hauteluce, also covered by the same lift pass. The last time I visited this area was in near total whiteout and we ran out of time to make it all the way down to the base station. This time things couldn't have been more different, the visibility was perfect and there are some fun runs without any crowds on the Hauteluce side of the mountain. The lowest level is served by a reasonably large sized telecabin, perfect for skibikes and looking the double of the one installed at les Carroz.

I had repeatedly asked a number of different lifties what the situation was with skibikes and/or SnowScoots and they all said there was no problem. So with this in mind I headed back to the car park for a quick snack and a change of snow sliding systems. As the Contamines gondola lifts are of the old fashioned 6 seater (back to back) bubble design, I knew that a fully assembled skibike wouldn't fit. So to keep things stress free, I carried the frame and skis up separately and assembled them slope side. I then made my way further uphill via a couple of chairlifts, I was asked if I had a safety leash, but once I showed my system all seemed OK.
However higher up I was stopped by a couple of older looking guys in uniform who explained that skibikes were "Interdit" i.e. forbidden on the pistes of Les Contamines, I apologised (in French) and asked what was to be done? "Nothing" was their reply, after all it was 3:30pm and I was just short of the highest point at Les Contamines and had at least 1000m of descent at my disposal.
I knew this.. they knew this... what could they do about it, arrest me? I headed downhill, as this was going to be my sole run I took there words literally and avoided the pistes, making a great effort to take a particularly circuitous route, mostly under the chairlift wherever possible. It is such a shame when a brilliant ski station like Les Contamines makes a U-Turn on their previous decisions, it is even more galling that SnowScoots are deemed to be ok, but a freestyle skibike that it is so similar, isn't. How does that compute?

Les Contamines - SnowScoots are deemed to be ok, but a freestyle skibike isn't.