SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Les Diablerets

Posted: Monday, 17 February 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

On a typical day I either head South towards the Alps or North towards the Jura mountains; today was a little different as I headed East, toward the French speaking Vaud region of Western Switzerland and an investigation of the resort of Les Diablerets.

The mountain communities of the Alpes Vaudoises are replete with legends and folk tales and Les Diablerets, its name meaning “abode of devils” is no exception. It is one of those lesser known places, that you may have heard of but can't quite place where it is. To give you a rough idea, Geneva is situated at the Western end of Lac Leman, Montreux is at the Eastern End and Les Diablerets is 1500 metres above Montreux.
It is roughly 80 miles from Geneva airport and thanks to a fast motorway connections, took 90 minutes door to door. As you would expect, the Swiss motorway system is exemplary, tolls are not charged, but you do have to buy an annual "vignette" which costs around £30 for a car. You leave the motorway system at Aigle and head up some steep mountain roads. The region is a big wine producing area, the vertiginous South facing slopes are meticulously terraced to Swiss precision and replete with vineyards.

I arrived at Les Diablerets and more by luck than planning found myself at the base of the Glacier 3000 cable car station. It was just before 9am, the car park was empty and the few people I saw looked pretty hard core judging by the kit they were carrying. I didn't bother to ask about permissions I just assembled the skibike, got dressed up, bought a ticket and went for it.

More by luck than planning - the base of the Glacier 3000 cable car station

I'm happy to report that there we no problems with access at Glacier 3000, in fact no-one so much as raised an eyebrow. A huge cable car takes you from the road up to the middle station then a smaller one makes the trip up to the glacier level at 3000 metres.
It gives access to a very short red run, served by a chairlift, perfect for my early morning warm up runs and a number of longer blue runs served by T-bar drag lifts. Bear in mind that at this height they are able to run summer skiing and I think they build a snowpark up here too.

3000 metres - at this height they are able to run summer skiing

The only way to ride back down involves crossing the glacier and taking a black run down to Oldenegg. The piste was both steep and quite narrow and was a test of one's abilities, but I seem to be getting the hang of these black run things and made stately progress down the run. There were plentiful off-piste opportunities too, but the avalanche risk is currently very high, I am riding alone and there's no-one to miss me if I end up down a deep hole.

I am riding alone - there's no-one to miss me if I end up down a deep hole

Arriving safely back at Oldenegg I found the chairlift that gets you back to the Glacier 3000 middle station. Alongside the chairlift is a fun and challenging red run, which I gave a jolly good seeing too. I could have continued playing in this sector for the rest of the day, but this was a data gathering mission so I headed back down to investigate the runs out of Les Diablerets village.

One very big cable car

The town itself is the sort of place you find pictured on boxes of Swiss chocolates, it is mostly chalets, with none of the unsightly or inappropriate developments the French have a taste for. In many ways it is very similar to Morzine and judging by the accents, equally popular with British holiday makers and ex-patriots. Though unlike Morzine, in Les Diablerets wealth doesn't shout, it whispers.

I duly presented myself at the Isenau gondola station and the lifties pointed out the part of the piste map I had not noticed yet.
Mountain bike conversions, Snow Scoots, Sledges, Dogs and Pedestrians are neither allowed on the lifts at Les Diablerets, nor the pistes.

OK then, back to the car, soft boots off, hard boots on, clip on SnowBlades and off we go. Initially the area seems quite small, but it is a surprisingly large area and very spread out, I covered about half in one day, it would certainly keep you entertained for a long weekend.
It is vexing that they are anti "Nouvelle Glisses", the infrastructure is ideal, there are plentiful low speed detachable 4 and 5 seater chairlifts, plus cable cars, trains and gondolas. There are many cheeky red runs and gentle cruising blue runs, plus plenty of little off-piste stashes that would be entertaining and challenging to ride.
But for the moment no; still, at least we have the glacier to play on, things may yet change at Les Diablerets.