Skibiking At Le Crozet / Lelex

Posted: Wednesday, 15 February 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

In spite of the exhausting drive yesterday, I still managed to drag my lazy carcass out of bed and prepare for my first investigation. I munched through a few juicy clementine oranges whilst peering through bleary eyes out of the window of the Geneva flat. The day looked dull and overcast with occasional flurries of snow. From my vantage point both the Jura and Alps were obscured from view, this could mean hill fog or fresh snow, I wouldn't know till I was up there.
My one certainty was that today could never be a "BlueBird Day" so rather than head for the high mountains and risk being stuck in whiteout on some featureless moonscape, I decided to play close to home and at relatively low altitude amongst the forests of the Jura mountains. From my base at Ferney-Voltaire I made the brief 20 minute journey by car to the ski base station at Le Crozet. Imagine that a proper ski station just 30 minutes from Geneva airport!
On my last visit to Le Crozet high winds shut down most of the mountain infrastructure, leaving just a short nursery slope to play with. This time it was going to be different, in spite of steady snowfall the whole area was open and running at 100%. Le Crozet has a gondola lift station which takes you much higher up the mountain where the pisted runs begin. There are only a few short runs on the South facing side looking towards Geneva. They are perfect for lessons, practice and a few warm up runs, but the hidden gem is terrain available on the North face heading down towards the small village of Lelex situated in a long valley.
I tried a few funs and as the day progressed the snowfall steadily increased. On the many tree lined runs, this wasn't too bad as the trees broke the force of the wind and helped tremendously with orientation. I wasn't out to break any speed records today, it was all about being slow and steady and living to ride another day. I soon settled in to a Zen like state, loving the feeling of fresh soft snow gliding under the skibike. On a couple of occasions, I got caught out by ice freshly exposed by the action of so many snow users and fell incredibly painfully on my left side somehow crushing my wallet into the side of my thigh. No doubt I will have quite a bruise to remember this holiday by for a while.
I met a group of SnowScoot riders on the piste and (I hope) amused them greatly by riding by shouting my best "Rock'n'Roll maaan" in a terrible faux American west coast accent coupled with a few Rebel Yells, on my substitute Harley Davidson overtaking their Lambretta Scooters on skiboards
I enjoyed myself so much that I lost track of time and was lucky to get literally the last chairlift ride back up the mountain to the Geneva side.

Whiteout at Le Crozet - scary stuff!
I hadn't appreciated how sheltered my riding trails had been, on the summit of Monthoisey's exposed peak the conditions were scary heading towards terrifying. It was like Scottish skiing on a good day, with pelting wind blown snow and almost no visibility. With helpful and much needed instructions from the lifties I made it back to the safety of the gondola station. I heard them send a radio message out "the biker has arrived" it had felt very lonely riding that last kilometre with no one else left on the piste and it was reassuring to know that I wouldn't have been left on the hill overnight. As I stepped out of the lift safely back at Le Crozet base station, I heard them shut off the traction motor. Wow, last man down.
The cost of my day's adventure was a measly 23€, this is about what you would pay in the UK for an hour on a badly maintained, killer, dry ski slope. I was told by a local skier that for loyal users there is a "pay as you go" season pass, getting cheaper with every visit, Mr Thrifty thoroughly approves.