SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - The Grand Massif

Posted: Monday, 24 February 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

The last couple of days have been challenging but rewarding, I have learned some new techniques off Wayne and I think he has been surprised at just how well you can ride a skibike without needing to be standing on the pegs the whole time.

As contrast to the steep runs of Les Houches, I wanted to take Wayne and Lucille on a leisurely tour around the Grand Massif domain. By selecting only the most modern lifts to ascend and mostly cruising wide blue and red runs to come down, I hoped it would be a relaxed ride.

There were really big lift queues at Morillon, a very unusual scenario which didn't bode well for a stress free day. If it was busy here, it meant that the resort was running at 110% capacity. My fears proved to be correct, but the crowds were good natured and didn't resort to some of the pushing and shoving I have experienced in the past.

There were really big lift queues at Morillon - which didn't bode well

In any case the trip heading from Samoens and Morillon towards Flaine always seems to be slow process, because you are actually ascending a fair amount. The plus side is that end of the day, you get a lot of "free" vertical range to exploit. We finally made it to the Flaine bowl by late morning and stopped for a quick vin chaud in the bright sun.

The break gave me a chance to test Wayne's "emergency freestyle footskis", they a very tricky (for me) to use as they are so short, the sensation was exactly the same as roller blades, another torture device designed to put me on my ass at every opportunity.

We took advantage of both of Flaine's gondola lifts to explore the high bowl, but we were receiving a roller coaster ride of strange and conflicting messages from the lift operators. One thought that skibikes, were now and for the first time, allowed to use all the chairlifts in Flaine whilst another thought that the old rules applied and it was just the two gondolas that we were allowed to use. We tried a chairlift anyway, but were turned away; the worst news came when leaving Flaine via the Grand Vans chairlift, which has been skibike friendly for the last 4 years. The operator announced that skibikes have been banned from all the chairlifts in Flaine for the foreseeable future, including Grand Vans. We were allowed one ride to the top to get home, but wouldn't be allowed a second!

Wayne - not impressed with Flaine

Without this lift, riding from Flaine towards Les Carroz, Samoens, Morillon or Vercland would mean using the dreadful "navette" shuttle bus service I experienced earlier in the month. In effect this really will sound the death knell for future skibike riding in Flaine, which would be quite a blow. That said, there are now many more skibike friendly destinations in France than there were 4 years ago, skibikers will just have to take their skibikes, friends, families and spending money elsewhere.

We stopped for a hard earned beer at the start of the Sairon piste above Morillon the sun was getting low in the sky and it was clear that most people there were taking a break before their final run home. A band assembled and started playing Gypsy Jazz a personal favourite of mine. We then rode down to the top of the gondola station. Once again the queues were enormous, so Wayne and I took our chance on the closed piste running down to the village, whilst Lucille opted to join the scrum.

Sagely advice

Perhaps I am getting better, this time I was able to keep going till the snow ran out and there was nothing further to ride on but mud. I can confirm that skibikes do not work on mud, but do remarkably well on the bare minimum of snow over grass.

Skibikes work well on the bare minimum of snow over grass.

It was a fitting end to what had been a very taxing, but immensely enjoyable few days; now I have to turn it all around before my next adventure starts in exactly a week.