La Clusaz - Turn To The Dark Side

Posted: Monday, 3 January 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

The last resort I wanted to visit in the current tranche was La Clusaz, just up the road from
Grand Bornand, it too potentialy offered restricted access to skibikers. An e-mail from the tourist beareau suggested that there were a number of chairlifts on offer as well as plenty of telecabines. Having located Le Fernuy where there were two telecabine stations offering uplift, as a precautionary measure I waived to one of the lift attendants and he confirmed that a veloski could be used on the chairlifts higher up.

I chose La Balme telecabin first, a small 6 seater, mounted the rear but not front ski in order to make it all fit well. Coming out at the top I was keen to get even higher and headed to the Col de Balme chairlift, sailed through the gate and positioned myself ready for the chair to arrive, the machine slowed, I thought the operator had done this to make it easier for me but instead the motor ground to a halt.
He stepped out of his cabin and explained that velo ski was not permitted, I could use telecabins but not chairlifts because mine was not homologated? I sauntered back to the top of La Balme run and decided that it would be good to warm up on a nice easy blue blue and make the most of it.
I found myself on a narrow mountain access road, that doubled up as a run in winter season.

Ah sunlight!
It was in a shaded area and the ambient temperature was -9 degrees, icy was an understatement but hey at least there were stones and rocks poking through to slow you down! Having survived this once I went round for a second go just to prove the first wasn't a fluke.
My next option was to take the Fernuy telecabine up to Cote 2000. At this point you emerge from the gloom into full sunlight and lovely buttery snow, but don't expect it to last if you follow the Fernuy run, as it soon "turns to the dark side" and the terror can begin.

You follow another narrow mountain access road for a while, to your right is a wall of ice, to your left a vertiginous drop and you do your best to skid your way along without running down nervous skiers pulling a snowplough in front of you.

The road ends at the top of a slope that at first appears vertical, but in reality is probably 30 degrees at the top. It is sheet ice in the middle and icy moguls at the sides, so don't even think about easy traverses.
I started my slide across this slick surface seeking out tiny patches of scraped snow to change direction on, knowing that this had to happen before I reached the ball busting mogul field.
I had quite a few quite terrifying moments sliding on the ice waiting for the laws of physics to return to the equation. Lower down artificial snow was being made and by sticking close to the snow cannons things became a lot easier. The run ended when it met the Acces Balme green run and I was able to get my feet up on the pegs and glide the last kilometer.
I made a 2nd run and filmed the result but after that decided life was too good to loose and chose not to test my limits any further.

I met up with my cousin who had found a natty combination of L'Aigille then Le Dahu then Louveteau to return back to base station. This was slightly uphill in places, so I had to get off and scoot, but it did give the opportunity to ride pegger style, which was blissful at slower speed. Pegging feels much more like true skibiking and could well be the future for me.

In conclusion, not a bad resort if they could see sense and let skibikes use the chairlift system and get access to the full gamut of slopes on offer and not the ghetto of shaded icy killer slopes accessible for the gondola system. I'm not being sarcastic, if anyone from the La Clussaz lift system reads this, please, please contact me, The French Skibike Association would love to open a dialogue with you.

Till then it is best avoided for skibiking unless there are no other skibiking options available.

La Clusaz by skibike - the gloomy side of the mountain source -