SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Valmorel Paradise

Posted: Saturday, 29 March 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Today Thierry and I visited Valmorel, yet another ski resort that you are unlikely to have ever heard of; it's never even made it onto my wish list of places to visit. Its close proximity to both the Three Valleys and The Espace Killy leaves it somewhat overshadowed by its glamorous neighbours. Few of the cars zooming along the autoroute turn off for the town of Aiguebelle which serves as the gateway to this resort. After that it's just a 15 minute drive up the hill to a modern faux alpine village that forms the heart of the resort. As with other more recent French developments, the style of the; apartments, restaurants and shops are very sympathetic to the environment and don't grate on the eye the way infamous concrete developments of the 60s and 70s do.

Valmorel - doesn't grate on the eye the way infamous concrete developments of the 60s and 70s do

At first glance the Valmorel trail map might be a disappointment to the intermediate or advanced skibike rider. The majority of the runs are motorway style cruising blue runs which flatter the average person regardless of whether they be; skier, snowboarder or skibike rider. But once you actually get on the modern and rapid network of detachable chairlifts a very different picture presents itself. The area has an abundance of snow bowls, even better still, the geology has created a multitude of gentle gullies that in winter become natural half pipes, a feature that is quite unlike any other I have seen in Europe.

Valmorel - an abundance of snow bowls

It has to be for this reason that we saw as many snowboarders as skiers riding the chairlifts at Valmorel. The lift operators appeared to have never seen a freestyle skibike before, but they had certainly seen no end of SnowScoots. They were unphased by our presence and most were friendly, curious and highly supportive, a couple asked us why we didn't have foot skis. Thierry's answer was a stroke of pure genius - because they are not homologated for the type approval certificate of this design of skibike; we would love to use foot-skis, but it would be contrary to the rules of the agreement.

We had some horrible ice hard re-frozen snow in the early morning to contend with, but this would be much the same anywhere else in late March. Fortunately there was plenty of full sun and the situation transformed quickly to be near ideal by 11am. There was slushiness to contend with on the lower slopes by late afternoon and the shaded runs were quickly re-freezing back into boiler-plate.

The situation transformed quickly to be near ideal by 11am

The cost of a lift ticket was around average, but above average value, due to the scale and scope of the domain. It was just €1.50 extra to access the adjacent skibike friendly area of St. Francois - Longchamps, so this option was a "no brainer". There was a price reduction for weekend visitors, free parking at the bottom of the resort with a shuttle bus or paid parking closer to the lifts. You could also use the paid for parking for a few hours for free, perhaps as a drop off point, if you felt the €4 a day fee to be beyond your budget.
The cost of a drink in the resort bars was slightly below average, there was a fair bit of change from a €10 note for a couple of small beers.

Valmorel - lift infrastructure biased towards modern detachable chairlifts

Getting around from one area to the next at Valmorel was a joy, the lift infrastructure is highly biased towards modern detachable chairlifts, drag lifts are few and far between. We were surprised to see a couple of people riding the slopes on Yooners, in most places these are limited to the nursery slopes and sledging hills. We even spotted a couple who had managed to sneak a metal toboggan onto one of the upper slopes, something I have never seen before anywhere else in France.

We spent a great deal of time exploring the bountiful off-piste, our two favourite places were the gullies below an area we nick-named the "Mountains of the Moon" and the huge bowl off to the right of the Soleil Rouge chairlift. We had so much fun we turned a day's visit into a two day trip and hope to be back next season providing it remains as skibike friendly. The thought of getting into those bowls and gullies on a powder day leaves me all a quiver.

Valmorel - the thought of getting into those bowls and gullies on a powder day leaves me all a quiver