SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Bernex

Posted: Saturday, 12 January 2013 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Today was a beautiful Saturday morning with no rush hour traffic to contend with on my drive through Geneva. Lake Geneva was mirror smooth, as calm as a mill pond, reflecting an image of the snow on the Jura mountain tops. By the way, if you think Lake Geneva is a village pond, be aware that it is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in Europe and is something around 50 miles from one end to the other.
About 30 minutes later I made a quick pit at the town of Saint Paul stop for fresh "Pain au Chocolate", a bit like a mixture of croissant and chocolate bits, quite delicious and only €1.80 for two, bargain. I ate one straight away and saved the other for later.
5 minutes later and a few hundred metres higher above the lake I had arrived at Bernex.

The base station is situated in a very picturesque valley, surrounded by a bowl like arrangement above. The backbone of the uplift is by a detachable chair lift. There are two further older and smaller chairlifts taking you, in stages, progressively higher. A selection of drag lifts serve the nursery area, some expert terrain and as traversing interlinks. I was able to ascertain that "Les Nouvelle Glisses" such as skibikes and SnowScoots are not permitted at present, so it was to be another ski safari.

Bernex - situated in a very picturesque valley

The snow was in exceptional condition, I don't remember snow this good since my first ski trip to Meribel nearly 20 years ago.  Yesterday's fresh snow had only been lightly prepared, was still soft and had a lot of give. It actually squeaked and crunched slightly under your weight. You could glide forward as if on Teflon, yet just a hint of edge, yielded grip. As a consequence, when I tried a steep red red, I found it to be quite manageable, I could actually get plenty of grip with my skis edges, biting delightfully into the yielding snow.
As I moved higher the conditions just got better and better. All slopes are North facing and the temperature was a couple of degrees below freezing, so little changed as the day progressed.

Around 12 I began to feel cold at my extremities, so returned to the sunny car park to warm myself up and raid my food bag for some low nutrition, high calorie snacks. Task completed, I put on my big Helly Hansen jacket, a warmer hat and gloves before heading back up the mountain. The change of costume worked well and I continued to ski until the last lift closed, such was my enjoyment of Bernex.
Everyone here skis very well, both on and off piste. I am probably the best I have ever been, skiing in a very precise and tidy manner. Skills that would only rate as average in Bernex.

Skiing in a very precise and tidy manner (and taking self-portraits too)

I got some flack for my recent negative appraisal of skibike friendly Morzine. Sorry I am an inverted snob, I despise bourgeois "noveau riche" values.

These are the things I loved about Bernex:

No rip off prices; lift pass €19.50, smart tag for the pass €1 and parking for free.
An unpretentious atmosphere, if you are here, it means that you have come to ski, not show off your Range Rover, in fact I only saw one very functional 4x4 in the car park.
Few other English vehicles, this isn't a Westfield shopping centre, this is proper Haute Savoie France, full of Gallic nuances, savour the experience, you're not at home any more.
No ugly Croydon les Alpes architecture, no massive faux environmentally friendly condos, just lots of mountain, trees, big skies and little wooden and stone chalets.
Easy, quick access from Geneva, much better than the "darling you simply must visit" big names nearer the Mont Blanc.
No lift queues at all, even on a Saturday, with lots of kids lessons.
No problems with traffic or parking, drive right up to the lift, put on your kit and go.
A surprisingly good vertical range for a ski station, probably a shade over 1000m or 3000ft.

All that remains is to get the management to allow access to skibikes and the place would be near perfect, here's hoping.

Bernex - with access to skibikes the place would be near perfect