SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Wayne's Le Weekend

Posted: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 by Waynemarlow in Labels: , , ,

OK being involved with The Skibiker Shop at Internet distance is one thing, but at some stage you have to get into real time and as the saying goes “if you want to talk the talk you have to be able to walk the walk”. Sooner or later Mark and I were going to have to meet up in the Alps and put all this Ski Bike waffle into real time action. We plotted a very last minute excursion to France to meet up and not only enjoy a bit of skibiking together; but to also join others off the Facebook Group, visit some new resorts, make lots of beer and wine fuelled conversation about an awful lot of, well not a lot really and just to really test me, try my latest ski bike iteration out on the slopes.

Time to try my latest skibike iteration out on the slopes

So not a lot of pressure then when we finally met up on Saturday at Combloux ( particularly as I had a rather tender head from where a good friend living the Swiss way, near Geneva, had kept me up rather late the previous night supping a delightful local vintage, catching up on the previous year since we last met. ) to meet up with Mark and five other local French ski bikers. Firem VS skibikes, I perhaps thought and sure enough five Firem VS skibikes of various guises with five very typically French gents astride.

So to finally meet up and get some ski biking action in, was a bit like a star spangled night, they don’t come along very frequently and you must take the moment to its fullest. Well seven kids aboard seven skibikes hit the slopes on a beautiful sunny day, down the gentle blues for a quick first run, then straight into the Boarder Cross gates where five hit the first corner together, a bit of nerfing action between the front runners eliminated a couple, then I was just behind the front pack taking things steady on only my second run on the skibike and then it all broke loose.
The three bikes in front hit their brake and those big ugly claws spawned big rooster tails of snow and ice, straight at me. Now that’s dirty but what a laugh. What was even more of a laugh was how five middle age gents all revert to what we thought we used to be able to do, as soon as we hit the gates. What a wonderful and rewarding day in a stunning smaller French resort, highlighted by seeing Serge ( Firem VS skibikes designer ) bin his bike out of the top of a berm, overtake the skibike, with legs pin wheeling to its stopping point, get back on board and still beat us all down, I think that was adrenaline doing the talking. A magic day.

Group ride at Combloux - a magic day

So onward to Les Houches, near to Chamonix and to meet up with a fellow self builder, Thierry, to talk about bikes and skibike design and snow and the sun and swap bikes and play in the powder and simply enjoy a great day out. Les Houches is very much a steeper resort and not one for the learner although it does have a number of blue runs, it is taxing at times, but one of those resorts which makes for a great day out. Learning the Firem VS skibikes way of tackling steep slopes fascinates me, simply put the claw in and head straight down the hill, you reach a slow fast speed and then the speed simply tops out. My skibike doesn’t have that luxury and given its head would be off at warp speed. From being a total anti-brake man to actually thinking well it does have a purpose and it does work, was an eye opener to say the least.

Les Houches - a steeper resort and not one for the learner

Monday was a gentler day at Les Carroz and Flaine and for me a reminder of why I no longer ski in France. Long wide blues and not so steep reds all leading to the bottom of the hill where the restaurants and infrastructure want to relieve you of all your available jewels and baubles, without giving anything back. Sorry I just don’t get why so many want to visit these large manufactured resorts, when there are the likes of Combloux which has better quality lifts, less lift queues, cheaper costs and far nicer architecture.  Enough said.

Monday our last day, Mark had advised to visit a nearby resort called Praz de Lys - Sommand, it's near to Morzine, but a small resort on its own, totally French speakers only and a small but well formed resort. Nice with some really tough blacks, with their slick and hard packed snow intermingled with bits of ice, but a rewarding challenge and they had to be ticked off.
Some easy blues but absolutely no detachable chairs and the quite antiquated infrastructure makes it limiting to experienced skibikers only I’m afraid.
I’m all for these smaller resorts but I have to say France really has fallen some way behind Austria and on a like for like basis the smaller Austrian resorts are far more advanced in the quality of infrastructure and quite some way cheaper in the beer and food department. But France does have its upsides, the smaller resorts do have a rustic sort of  charm and it is an easy commute for the Brits with our return journey from Praz de Lys - Sommand taking only 6 hours door to door, it is very commutable for le weekend.

So a trip well worth the time, great days out and everything a skibiker would want.