SkiBike Tour 2014-15 - Areches Beaufort, Heading Off The Grid

Posted: Wednesday, 4 March 2015 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Today I headed back out, to ride with Kevin in Val Thorens and later Thierry in Les Arcs. En route I will be stopping at somewhere I found whilst pouring over the regional map and spotted a load of lifts marked where there really shouldn't be any.

The place in question is Areches Beaufort and early this year I was told that it is now skibike friendly, how could I resist the opportunity to try somewhere new? The town of Beaufort is situated on the D925, a small provincial road that forms a high mountain pass between Albertville and Moutiers. The pass remains closed in the winter, leaving Beaufort to exist in splendid isolation for much of the year. There are few other ski station nearby, Hauteluce being the closest, some 15 km away, vaguely accessible as the back mountain area of the more well known Les Contamines.

Areches Beaufort - existing in splendid isolation

It is very much a rural area, focussed on wood processing, with timber yards and mills aplenty, It is quite characterful and it is hard work to remain focussed on the road and not gawk at the sights.
The ski station at Areches is just above Beaufort town; down in the valley it had been overcast, but on arrival it was exactly like a kitsch snow globe with masses of light snow floating down gently all around.

I had left Geneva at 09:30 and taken the back roads route, so it was nearly 13:00 by the time I reached the kiosk all ready to ride, I was able to buy a 4 hour ticket which cost just €24.70.
Areche has two detachable chairlifts, Grand Mont is right in the centre of town, there was no queue and I just hopped on, no questions asked, just a jolly "Bonjour" from the operator.
At the top, there is a good choice of runs, I picked the Perches red run that leads straight to the other detachable chair called Piapolay.

There was about 3 inches of fresh powder snow on top of a base of icy hard packed artificial snow, giving the run somewhat of a "Iron fist in a velvet glove" feel to it. It was gorgeous on the flatter sections, but with a bite to it on any sort of gradient.
At Piapolay the only way back to Areches is via the Boullevard de liaison, a small piste that follows the river down through the woods, it is a delightful run to enjoy pretty views of the many chalets and trees. I would guess that when the snow is poor there must be a shuttle bus to serve the same purpose.

Areches Beaufort - it was 13:00 by the time I was ready to ride

I popped back to the car for some munchies and the clouds began to lift and the majesty of the surrounding mountains was revealed from behind their veil. I took this as the perfect cue to bag the black run down from the top of the Grand Mont chairlift. It didn't seem that difficult viewed from the chairlift, but once on it the pitch is unnerving, it is also rather ridge like, opportunities to run off are few and of course it's all bumps as a result. To my advantage it was all soft, fresh, natural snow so I plotted a steady path down using lots of short swing turns, although I do feel that I deserved an "I was brave" badge at the bottom.

I do feel that I deserved an "I was brave" badge at the bottom

With a couple of hours left, I pottered around testing out the many trails, it should be noted that some are only accessible by drag lift, such as those on the Col de la Forclaz.

In conclusion, Areches is a charming small resort, which in many ways serves as a glimpse into a less commercial past. There's no modern glitz, no giant screens shouting advertising at you wherever you look, a pleasant relief from the marketing overload that so many bigger resorts can exhibit.
This type of place has nothing to offer those who come just to show off, instead there seemed to be a broad mix of all ages present, busy using all the many types of snow sliding disciplines which now includes freestyle skibiking.
Blog reader Roger may also be keen to hear that there are winter footpaths, including one for snow shoes all the way to the top of the Col de la Forclaz, with an altitude of 2320 metres.
It is unlikely you would want to come here for a whole week of skibiking, but there's certainly plenty enough to keep you entertained for a long weekend skibiking at Areches Beaufort.

Areches Beaufort - plenty enough for a long weekend skibiking