SkiBike Tour 2014-15 - Valloire Galibier

Posted: Sunday, 8 March 2015 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Valloire and Valmeinier are two adjacent ski resorts in the Maurienne valley, yet another mysterious and almost mythical winter sports destination that I have had in my sights to ride. Geographically, it is the next valley due South of the ever popular 3 Valleys domain. The piste map for Val Thorens hints that it is accessible by heading over the Cime Carron and down via Orelle. My impression was that it was uncharted territory, a bit like the "Here there be dragons" marked on the navigation charts of the ancient mariners.

To make the trip to Valloire, even giving it my best shot, it would be 120 miles each way and that's a long way from Geneva, even more so for a day trip, especially on my own. Miss the correct motorway exit for Valloire and after Modane, the locals will be speaking Italian.
Mamma Mia, che diavolo è questo Inglese facendo qui!

Fortunately for the Italians, Thierry has also been planning to break new ground here, thus I only had to make the hour or so journey to his chalet and for the remainder of the journey I would be chauffeured there in the new Skibike Tour Bus.

Valloire - Miss the correct motorway exit and the locals will be speaking Italian

This is one of Thierry's many "Big Boy's Toys", a Dodge Ram Pick-up, a monster of a thing, the pictures on the Internet don't quite do justice to its leviathan proportions. With a 5.7 litre petrol V8 engine. it will consume more fuel per second sitting at the traffic lights than my little Fiesta will running at full tilt. Thankfully for the French gross national debt, it has been converted to run on L.P.G.
With its 4 x 4 transmission and low range locking differentials engaged it will plough through 50 cm of fresh snow, without even needing chains on the tyres; whilst the automatic transmission and well insulated cab provide a truly "magic carpet" ride quality.
Yes, I have to confess, I was seduced then taken by the brute; sometimes when a lady says "No", she really means "Yes". I could never own such a beast, not for any environmental or even economic reasons; it's simply too long to fit on my driveway and having any vehicle in London with a 10 km turning circle is an exercise in futility.

Dodge Ram - I was seduced and taken by the brute

In the surreal early morning sun light, wafted down the Autoroute as if by some mighty and unstoppable force of nature, the views of the massifs and buttes looked as American as the vehicle we were travelling in. Before I knew it, we were climbing the hairpin bends towards the resort of Valmenier.
Thierry had already received confirmation from the Valloire Galibier tourist office that we would be able to ride our skibikes all over the domain, both in Valmenier and Valloire. However the lady in the lift pass kiosk was having none of it and insisted that this would not be the case; instead we would have to go to neighbouring resort of Valloire where our perverted hybrid sports were tolerated.

Valloire - where skibiking is permitted

Therefore we didn't actually hit the snow at Valloire till 11:00, which at the end of the day was probably no bad thing, because even then some piste were lethally icy. The "blood wagon" stretcher was notably in action at various points during the and even the helicopter and Gendarmerie were present at the scene of one accident.

Luckily we skibikers were off having a ball playing in the off-piste, weaving round obstacles and grinding over rocks with impunity. We were obviously somewhat of a novelty to the lifties, but as has happened elsewhere, many turned out to be serious downhill mountain bikers and were very curious about our rides. In deference to their way of doing things here, we wore our leashes even whilst riding. Hopefully by now they have seen that we are just crazy old geezers out having some fun and not even at anybody else's expense.

Valloire - we are just crazy old geezers out having some fun

To avoid queuing and avoid some treacherous icy spots, we played around on some nice easy runs, before heading off-piste, once the crust had softened enough to break through to the soft snow underneath. We skipped lunch to make the most of the limited riding time we had left, including a memorable flat out run down the blues and greens back to the base station at Valloire to end the day, spraying slush and water in all directions.

With a 04:00, early morning alarm call and just 3 hours sleep the night before, I was exhausted and fitfully dozed between conversations on the way back, as did the driver. Sorry Thierry, I don't know how coherent I was, my French isn't that strong and the soporific waves kept flooding over me; next time I will take drugs!

Valloire - the skibikers were having a ball playing in the off-piste

In conclusion, with easier access from Italy than France, Valloire would make a great spot for a novice Italian skibiker from Milan or Turin to get in some riding experience. Particularly as their homeland has yet to wake up to the possibilities offered by skibiking.
Although Valloire has charm and a distinct Gallic/Italianate cross-over vibe, it is a little too remote to recommend for the average foreign holiday maker. The lift infrastructure at Valloire was very good for a smaller resort and the attitude in Valloire commendable, which is more than can be said of Valmeinier, which quite frankly, can "Kiss my Chuddies" buddy for wasting our precious time.

Many thanks to Stephan for the gift of the Myrtle berry beers that was a most unexpected treat, I shall find something suitable British to endow upon you next time round. Special thanks to Thierry for handling all the correspondence, setting up the trip, driving the two or so hours each way and once again resolutely refusing to accept my offer to pay for my share of gas and tolls.