SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Massif Des Brasses

Posted: Tuesday, 5 February 2013 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , , ,

This morning the weather outlook hadn't changed much from previous days i.e. stormy and changeable, we decided to remain low and find pistes sheltered from the wind. My choice was to revisit the Massif des Brasses in the Valley Vert, an area that appears to be known only to the savvy locals. You rarely see a car with a UK registration and definitely not a Range Rover.

Our closest access point was just a stones throw from the oddly named town of Onnion, close to St. Jeoire and under 30 minutes from our base in Cluses door to door. Arriving around 10 in the morning at the Chenevieres chairlift I was surprised to see the ticket office closed. But at times of low demand you pay the lift operator for a self-adhesive ticket, designed to be worn on a metal paper clip thingy attached to a convenient zipper, a system I have only seen used in Scotland before.

Indeed the topology of the area is very reminiscent of Scotland too, with rounded and rolling hills, interspersed with both coniferous and deciduous trees. The weather was most definitely Scottish flavoured too; my cousin Paul, somewhat of a fair weather skier, was put off by the level of extra sensory perception needed to ski in whiteout. We were also treated to the full menu of meteorological options; snow, wet snow, hail, rain and even a dust devil or should that be a snow devil?.

Treated to the full menu of meteorological options

There were brief spells of clement weather on and off, even a brief glimpse of blue sky at one point. This was when we both opened up the throttle and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

There are a good selection of intermediate runs available, but both beginners and experts might find themselves limited for disparate reasons. Even the red runs here might be only graded as blues elsewhere. There is only the one black run and the drag lift serving it appeared to be unmanned during our visit.

The area is very reminiscent of Scotland too

Like so many of the other smaller ski stations in this area the Massif des Brasses is such good value at just €18 a day. The price for refreshments are reasonable (for France) too, €2.50 for a very fine Vin Chaud (mulled wine) at the restaurant Chaine d'Or.

For this visit I was on skis, but when I last visited in the 2011-12 season and was able to ride my skibike without restriction. There are 3 chairlifts, one of which is a detachable, with slow loading and unloading speeds, perfect for the skibiker. The others are of the older style and one is just a two seater, not an impossible prospect, but you would benefit greatly by having a chat with the liftie first. They seem to be accustomed to slowing the chairlifts for utilitarian purposes; I saw rubbish bags, pedestrians and a school party heading down on the lift. The soft conditions and extensive off piste would have suited the skibike and I may yet return to give it a spin.

If you happen to be in the area and want some simple skiing, snow boarding or even ski biking then when the conditions are right the Massif des Brasses is a winner.

When the conditions are right the Massif des Brasses is a winner