SkiBike Tour 2014-15 - Valmorel, Punching Above Its Weight

Posted: Monday, 6 April 2015 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

It was such a slow season to get started, with the recent fresh snowfall and a shift to much colder temperatures it now seems reluctant to end,. The timing couldn't have been better for an Easter Monday jaunt to Valmorel in the company of John and Thierry. Thierry and I made a similar visit at the end of the 2013-14 season and were highly impressed with the scale of easily accessible, gentle and fun off-piste riding that this resort has to offer.

There was even the prospect of finding fresh powder snow to ride, which with the possible exception of the few high altitude resorts, is highly unusual in early April in the Alps. But Valmorel has a knack of punching above its weight and delivering better conditions than mere statistics would first suggest.

Valmorel - has a knack of punching above its weight 

Thierry and I travelled together from St. Jean de Sixt and made a rendezvous with John who had journeyed over from nearby Les Menuires. We kicked the day off with a trip up the Altispace chairlift and followed an open off-piste route running parallel to the La Froide piste. John, although well accustomed to the high altitude snow available at Les Menuires and adjacent Val Thorens, was still somewhat blown away by the presence of such a huge powder field at relatively low altitude and immediately demanded a second bite of the cherry.

Valmorel - easy, open off-piste

We moved steadily on towards St. Francois/Longchamp re-discovering an off-piste area we had previously nick named "The Mountains of The Moon". In the cool and crisp air the snow glistened like a carpet of diamonds, even the air sparkled and for once I had the pleasure of putting virgin tracks through a hidden gully, turning it into a joyous natural half-pipe.

We headed for the top of Soleil Rouge chairlift

Not wanting to waste a precious moment we headed for the top of Soleil Rouge chairlift for the intimidating big mountain terrain underneath. In many ways the conditions were perfect for skibiking with a foot of un-tracked powder over a firm icy base. The substrate gave predictable control, with the powder lending an awesome amount of float. Had it been deeper we would have needed a snorkel to breath and a periscope to see where we were going. The riding conditions were sensational, it was unequivocally the best off-piste riding so far this season and for me, a revelation of just how good powder riding can be, we simply had to do it a second time.

The riding conditions were sensational

Feeling elated we headed for the two runs off the top of the Lauziere chairlift, which had been closed on our last visit, but this time was fully open, thanks to the recent snow. We split our routes back down; with Thierry and John following the precipitous black route, whilst I elected to play safe and follow the Reverdy red route. Sadly though, we had missed our moment, the sun had already rendered the snow wet and heavy, making both turning and speed control difficult. We made it down safely if not elegantly, but unanimously agreed that it was more of a technical challenge than fun.

The afternoon was moving on and we were all feeling tired, so we slowly retraced our tracks back towards Valmorel, focussing on the easier runs and generally larking about till the close of play.

Afternoon - we were all feeling tired

In conclusion, I can't think of any other resort that has quite the same scale and depth of off-piste as Valmorel. If you like half-pipe riding there are so many little gullies to exploit. If you think that this is just an easy family resort, try out the long and steep off-piste routes available at St. Francois/Longchamp and re-evaluate your opinions. Add to the mix a thoroughly skibike friendly outlook, which allows use of all but one chairlift and you have a winning combination at Valmorel. John was even considering whether to defect here from his regular 3 Valleys haunts for next season and that is all the recommendation you really need.