The law of averages fully caught up with me on Day 2 of this visit. As mentioned in the Châtel report, in addition to a week of way-above-average temps and overnight freezes that created a scratchy base, a brutal half-day rain event punished the entire northern Alps on Sunday. It had been forecast for more than a week in advance and arrived exactly as predicted. Only the highest ski areas (Zermatt, Val d'Isère/Tignes, etc.) were allegedly spared, so Sunday was basically a lost day saved only by a great afternoon of conversation and beers with the team from Chatelweb, which has been a helpful weather/conditions site for the Portes du Soleil.
Early morning Monday, I had to head back to Geneva airport to pick up my wife and thanks to hideous rush-hour traffic, what would normally be a 45-minute drive turned into a two-hour death march. We zipped out of town and headed an hour south toward the Massif des Aravis, home to renowned La Clusaz and neighboring Grand Bornand. It's part of the larger Savoie Mont Blanc region, which is where we'll be for the next six days. But after exiting the Autoroute and turning into the mountains, we were met by rain and thick fog. You can imagine the ambiance in the car as I had to struggle not to go into drama-queen mode wondering how much more of this visit was going to be compromised by poor weather.
Luckily, by the time we pulled into the cute, traditional village of Grand Bornand ("Grand Bo" to locals) late morning, the low clouds lifted and an hour later the sun came out. We later learned that the clientele for both Grand Bornand and La Clusaz continues to be predominately French in contrast to many resorts that have been partially colonized by other countries.
At the base area, we met Geoffrey, another instructor from the École du Ski Français (French Ski School), and boarded the gondola. Like a fair number of French people we've met on this trip, he has an English first name. He laughed when we mentioned that our son has a French first name.
Grand Bornand got pounded by Sunday's non-crystalline precipitation just like the other low-elevation ski areas, but when we got a quarter up the mountain, things looked more than presentable. The snow had been transformed into beautiful velvety sugar; there was zero ice; it was soft as could be: early April two months early. Most of the trails are intermediate/upper-intermediate, so it's well known as a great teaching mountain, but there were all sorts of legitimate steep shots with a bit of hiking/bootpacking:
We opened with some sweet ungroomed runs from the top:
Then hit a few groomers that were luscious -- by this point, my wife and I were laughing about how depressed we'd been a few hours earlier and now we were in ski heaven:
Throughout, Geoffrey pointed out the sights:
We rode a few old-school Poma "teleski" platters:
Went down the backside and skied by an old chapel:
And my wife made friends with the pooch at the mountain-top restaurant:
We wrapped up with a dinner at this fantastic restaurant in La Clusaz called La Scierie (The Sawmill), which had a beautiful rustic ambiance and excellent cuisine:
Vichyssoise Soup: spectacular
Dessert: a Dame Blanche sundae and Café Liégeois
In short: a perfect payback for Sunday's weather mess.