SkiBike Tour 2011-12 - Part Deux

Posted: Tuesday, 14 February 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Having returned from a monumental trip to Flaine, I had to endure a week of miscellaneous work related tasks before I was free to continue the SkiBike Tour 2011-12. For this next leg it was necessary to cram "Uncle Fester" the tired old Ford Fiesta with all my skibike paraphernalia and head South the 700 miles to Geneva.
By happy accident, I broke the journey down into a couple of chunks as covering a distance almost equivalent to John O Groats to Lands End in a single day is more than I can bear.
My first proper break was at Amneville near Metz, home to SnowHall the second largest indoor ski slope in the world. Driving along the motorway I caught sight of a gigantic grey slash in the landscape that trained skibiker and skier eyes wouldn't fail to miss. The French seem to have a knack for keeping secrets and I wonder if they don't want to share this amazing resource or perhaps they don't appreciate its worth. Either way, signage off the motorway is minimal and you are more likely to end up in the neighbouring retail park, as I did, as find SnowHall. The area around it is somewhat like some of the pretty outskirts of Coventry (Binley Woods, perhaps). The building looks remarkably like all the other snowdomes that I have seen, it particularly resembles Hemel Hempstead's SnowCentre only much, much, longer.
I was able to confirm from the reception staff, that SnowScoots are allowed on Thursday evenings only and do not mix with other slope users. One has to have lessons and pass a riding test provided by a local man. They did not know what a skibike was and my attempts to describe other manufacturers and methods of riding met with glazed expressions. However, this venue is certainly worth further investigation, particularly for the French SkiBike club where it would make for the perfect summer training camp. If time allows I will call in again and test it on SnowBlades.

SnowHall Amneville - just like Hemel only bigger
Heading onward, the weather turned progressively more wintry as I skirted the Vosges and Jura Mountains. I found myself driving for around 100 miles on an inch or two of wet snow. I was very thankful for the Cooper brand winter tyres on the front wheels, they inspire great confidence and I never felt the need to fit snow chains. My only caveat is that they should really be on a four corners of the car, as the rear end could be quite skittish and attempt to overtake the front. Luckily I cut my teeth on rear wheel drive cars, such as the Opel Manta and opposite lock is second nature.
To avoid high ground in the steadily worsening conditions, I ignored my sat nav's preferred route over the top of the Jura Mountains and decided to head for Lausanne via PontArlier following the low route. Maybe the frustrated genius TomTom programmer added in a sadistic passive/aggressive feature to the algorithm. Either way within sight of the lights of Lausanne it exacted its revenge by steering me back on to a remarkable route through the high valleys of the Jura mountains. In the dead of night, with jangled nerves, I rolled through places that I knew from Internet research only, such as; Le Bois d'Amant. I had previously thought of the Jura mountains as the rough country cousins of the chic Alps. The breathtaking beauty of some of these hitherto unseen locations makes me think that they will be worthy of future visits.