SkiBike Tour 2010-11 - Les Contamines

Posted: Sunday, 2 January 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Taking a day trip to join "The Contaminated", what could it be? a French nuclear waste dump right next to Mont Blanc, no not possible, it is a small village, with a single telecabine offering access to a huge skiable area. Best of all skibikes can be used on all the uplift systems, except drag lifts (of which there are few).

I arrived on a gloomy cold morning at the base station, at the end of a narrow valley swathed in mist and clouds. According to their website, 1000m above us there was a day of Alpine Blue sky on offer and many miles of brilliant white snow to be enjoyed.

In theory it is possible to skibike at Les Contamines, The French Skibike Association, (Association Francaise de Skibob) have "L'Attestion de la Station" that it is permitted, but having assembled the bike and my bits yesterday, only to be denied access at Megeve, my paranoia was at an all time high.
Having checked with the lady at the telecabine turnstile that it was possible to "velo-ski" by showing a copy of "L'Attestion de la Station" downloaded from The French Skibike Association and recieved the reply "Oui, si vous achat le forfait...Yes, if you buy a ticket"...I headed for the ticket office poste haste.

Next I climbed the stairs, went through the turnstile and waited for an available 6 person telecabin, I piled in solo and got myself and the bike to just fit but the door jammed on the rear ski on departure. The attendant stopped the system and refitted the bike and me so the door would close, he was remarkably polite and said (rough translation) "I don't know what this things is, but we'll make it work, it's our job".
On reflection, the next time I use this facility I will carry the frame up and mount the skis at top station level to save fuss. There is the mid station "Etape" where you leave the first telecabin and enter a second stage Signal".
Note: having studied the map, it is possible utilise the nearby Montjoie chairlift then ski down the jonction run and utilise the jonction chairlift to arrive at Signal 1900 avoiding the second stage telecabine.

I chose the Montjoie run for walming up, using the Montjoie chair lift for uplift. This simple run follows the line of the ridge and offers some nice easy gradiants to find your footing before moving on to more challenging terrain.
It proved to be an excellent opportunity to meet and chat with other visitors who were curious about my skibike and skibiking in general. One, an avid mountain biker, recommend I move over to the Auiguille Croche side of the mountain and exploit its sunnier pistes, especially the Coins run.

Dutifully, I headed down the Jonction run and up the Jonction chairlift. The end of the coins run got me to the Nant Rouge chairlift and the pleasant and surprisingly fast full coins run.
Moving on to the Tierces chairlift, got me on to the excellent and fast Tierces run, this was so good, that I had quite a few goes. It had some interesting and varied combinations of steep gradients, roller coaster ridges and odd bumps to keep you entertained and on your toes at all times. Having taken it as fast as I dared, I then played with controlling my speed and keeping it in control on the icier sections which were somewhat slick to say the least.

It all gets a bit surreal when the air gets thin - source

I also took adjacent the run through the X Zone terrain park, trying out some fun banked curves and jumps, the snow was pretty skied away, which was my excuse for not "larging it" too much.

Unable to desist any longer I took the short Aiguille Croche chairlift to see the view from the nearby Aiguille Croche peak of 2487m, which is equivalent to 7200' . This has just 2 runs down to choose from; the Croche-black and the Aiguille-red. The Croche was a monster icy mogul field, whereas the aiguille was steep but flat.
I opted for the red run and got down where one poor skier had broken his knee (been there and done that it sucks).
I felt I could have done better and went back for a second and third run; by sticking to the sides of the piste where some snow still remained it was actually easier and safer than trying to exploit the full width.

For the first time since early that morning I meet up with my cousin and we made the run from the top of the Aiguille Croche all the way down to car park at Les Contamines an awesome descent of around 1500m, passing through thick layers of hill fog on route.

In conclusion, Les Contamines offered a dazling selection of runs from what, at first, appeared to be a very small village ski station. Riding a skibike presented no issues with niether the lift operators or the piste patrol.
Queing was almost non-existant, the pistes were well groomed, many, extensive and varied.

You would be hard pushed to cover the whole domain in a single day and thats before you venture into the adjacent back mountain area of Hauteluce, did I mention the views and the 1500m end of day run back to town?
If you aren't put off by the dodgy sounding name, this could be the next great undiscovered alpine ski domain.

Up where we belong? - Skibiker heaven at the top of Les Contamines - source