Anyone been to La Grave?

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Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby ChrisC » Fri Oct 21, 2005 4:33 pm

I was wondering if anyone has been to La Grave? I was planning a trip this winter and looking for advice.
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Patrick » Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:34 pm

I haven't made it, yet!!!

I was planning to go in March 2003, but I got caught in a timing conflict, I switch for Chamonix instead. Anyway, I had already done Jungfrau (4 days) + 3 vallées (6 days).

I had planned a trip somewhere in the last 2 week in March after the first part of my trip, but everything (guides) was in preparation for the laGrave ski derby (or whatever it called) for the first week in April.

I can't remember the exact details of cost etc., but I was going to team up with snowlegends guides. Next time, the main part of the trip will be La Grave (mind you I will probably not be 5 weeks in Europe also. :shock:

Here are a few website:

http://www.la-grave.com/

http://www.lagrave-lameije.com/us/winter.htm

Plus what seemed the best guide operations for what I was looking for. Contact them for their advice, they might be able to help you on when the best to go.

http://www.snowlegend.com/ :shock:

I presume you already know a bit about LaGrave, if you want more info and can tell you more about the place and how to get there.
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Oct 22, 2005 3:11 am

La Grave was recently announced as one of the Extremely Canadian World Tours next March 11-18: http://extremelycanadian.com/skitrips/lagrave.htm.

This was the week I had considered skiing in the Alps before my solar eclipse trip to Egypt March 18 - April 2. During last ski season some potential date conflicts arose and I scheduled my destination skiing for 2006 elsewhere earlier in the season.
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby ChrisC » Sun Oct 23, 2005 9:25 pm

I was invited to ski La Grave with some Euroland friends in late January/early Feb.

I was just wondering about:

Conditions. Will most things be open by that time? Crevasses filled in, chutes filled....I don't want to go too early. (Tony - do you snowfall for this area at all?)

Terrain. Wondering what to expect. I know one or two routes are skier packed -- but curious about what off-piste is like.

Guiding. If anyone knew good guides? We expect to hire a guide every day for obvious reasons -- it's La Grave.


What it looks like I'll be doing:

Skiing La Grave for 4 days and 1 day in Alp d'Huez.

Will stay in La Grave.

We're thinking about using this guide service... skierslodge.com.

I'm thinking about staying a few extra days --just taking the shole week -- maybe skiing Val d'Isere/Tignes.
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Re: re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Patrick » Mon Oct 24, 2005 10:04 pm

ChrisC wrote:Conditions. Will most things be open by that time? Crevasses filled in, chutes filled....I don't want to go too early.

Terrain. Wondering what to expect. I know one or two routes are skier packed -- but curious about what off-piste is like.

Guiding. If anyone knew good guides? We expect to hire a guide every day for obvious reasons -- it's La Grave.

Skiing La Grave for 4 days and 1 day in Alp d'Huez.

Will stay in La Grave.

We're thinking about using this guide service... skierslodge.com.

I'm thinking about staying a few extra days --just taking the shole week -- maybe skiing Val d'Isere/Tignes.


Alpe D'Huez and other areas:

1 day in Alpe d'Huez is interesting and off the beaten path. I skiied there a few times, a good area, but far from the best that France as to offer. The whole Tarentaise region has all the prime French areas with Val d'Isère/Tignes at the very end (my favorite in Europe).

Other neighbouring areas not to far from La Grave includes Deux Alpes and Serre-Chevalier (heard good thing about this place). There is also small Chamrousse just above Grenoble which was the mountain used for the 1968 Olympics (skied there once).

Guides and questions:

The skiing at La Grave is pretty much all off-pistes, there are two marks routes I believe.

I don't remember seeing skierlodge guides when I did my shopping around in 2003.

Check the websites I listed, I believe you might find a few answers that you are looking for. I don't remember seeing skierlodge guides when I did my shopping around in 2003. If not, call the Snowlegends (guides) or the other guides and asked them about the place. I heard good things about the snowlegends guides and there responded to my emails.

The skiing at La Grave is in fact all off-pistes
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:15 am

With regard to snow I have no hard data but I would expect March to be the prime month based on altitude, steep terrain, etc. The fact that Extremely Canadian's trip is March 11-18 is supportive of that impression. They charge a premium price for a first class product and judging by Las Lenas I think they do their homework.

Val d'Isere/Tignes has a good snow reputation and I think the annual snowfall there is a around 300 inches. Of course I have no idea where that would have been measured, and with the big verticals in the Alps there are usually big huge differences between upper and lower mountain snowfalls and base depths.

So I would pass these questions along to Patrick, who has been all over the Tarentaise region. Are the Tarentaise areas similar in snow conditions at the same elevation, or is Val d'Isere/Tignes a high snow microclimate? If you visit multiple areas on the same trip, it's not hard to figure this out. When I rolled through Wolf Creek on an extensive Southwest road trip in April 2001 the place looked like it was on another planet vs. the other areas in its region. Same thing with Grand Targhee a month earlier. And most of us have seen the Park City/Cottonwood Canyon constrast.

The other question is whether Patrick has been to any of these areas in the same late Jan/early Feb. timeframe Chris is inquiring about. If so, was most/all of the expert stuff open? And what did the locals say about conditions relative to later in the year or other seasons?

My guess is that this time frame is right on the borderline (think Colorado). Most of the time you're OK, but in the lower snowfall seasons it's too early.
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Re: re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Patrick » Tue Oct 25, 2005 7:33 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:With regard to snow I have no hard data but I would expect March to be the prime month based on altitude, steep terrain, etc.


I always prefer March (regardless where), because the snowpack is generally at a maximum. Mind you in March in the Alps, spring has already started.

Tony Crocker wrote:Val d'Isere/Tignes has a good snow reputation and I think the annual snowfall there is a around 300 inches.
(...)
Are the Tarentaise areas similar in snow conditions at the same elevation, or is Val d'Isere/Tignes a high snow microclimate? If you visit multiple areas on the same trip, it's not hard to figure this out.


The major areas in the Tarentaise are (order has up follow up the Tarentaise river upstream)(+ my experience with each of them):

les 3 Vallées (Les Menuires, Val Thorens, Meribel, Courchevel - it was the world biggest area, don't know if it's still is?). 6 days / March 16-22 2003

La Plagne (a link to Les Arcs was done in 2003)

Les Arcs
2 days late January 1993

The small Ste.Foy (which I saw refered in a US ski magazine lately)

Val d'Isère/Tignes
2 days late January 1993 + 3 days mid-December 2000


Tony Crocker wrote:The other question is whether Patrick has been to any of these areas in the same late Jan/early Feb. timeframe. If so, was most/all of the expert stuff open? And what did the locals say about conditions relative to later in the year or other seasons?


Having followed World Cup since I was a kid, I know that generally Val d'Isère is one of the few places on the World Cup Circuit were there is snow in really bad years. Val d'Isère also has the first downhill of the season in the first week of December. I can't really say if and why it gets more snow? If so, is it because of a micro-climate or simply due to the general higher elevation of the whole area around it?

Bad snow year:

We experienced this ourselves just prior to Christmas 2000. There wasn't any snow to run any type of WC competition across the Alps. A GS had been canceled at Les Arcs down the valley (40km). Val d'Isère has extensive snow making at the bottom elevations (1800-2500m), conditions were marginal on natural snow trail up to maybe 2500m. Mind you this varied generally because of exposure of the slope. Tignes and Val d'isère also has glaciers. Had great fun and was able to ski some steep stuff.

Normal year?

In first visit to the region was in January 1993. If I remember correctly, if hadn't snowed in 3 weeks when we arrived at Les Arcs. Stayed 4 days, skiied the first 2 day at Les Arcs and the next 2 at Val d'Isère/Tignes. Although the trails conditions were relatively hard (for the Alps and the West), snow was excellent on the steepest runs/chutes at Les Arcs. Snow was also excellent at Val d'Isère/Tignes regardless of the lack of new snow. Also skiied Alpe d'Huez twice that year during the Christmas holidays, conditions were good higher up.

Late January/early February?

I would say in a normal year, you should be fine. In a bad year, Val d'Isère/Tignes is probably one of the few remaining good places. The size of this place is amazing.

Late February/early March:

BEWARE!!! I believe this is PEAK time when schools are on spring break.


Here are a few numbers from resort guide ski magazine (1992-3) - the 350 for Val d'Isère seem odd when compared to the others.:

Snow on the ground at the bottom (cannot find total snowfall):

Tarentaise Areas from East to West:

Val d'Isère (alt: 1850m): dec: 25cm, feb: 350cm, apr: 130cm
Tignes (alt: 2100m): 80, 120, 150
Les Arcs (alt: 1800m): 110, 190, 90
Val Thorens (alt: 2300m): 90, 150, 60 (connected to Les Menuire / higher up just south)
Les Menuires (alt: 1850m): 60, 100, 90


Areas close to La Grave (skiing from top of La Grave to Les Deux Alpes is possible)
Alpe d'Huez (alt 1830m): 54, 90, 89
Les Deux Alpes (alt: 1650m): 50, 80, 40
Serre-Chevalier (alt: 1350m): 50, 80, 70
Chamrousse (alt: 1650m): 60, 80, 30 (just above grenoble)
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Oct 26, 2005 3:41 pm

Ski Club of Great Britain has compiled weekly base depth history for many resorts in both Europe and North America. This info is now unfortunately only available by paid subscription. However, it was formerly free and I downloaded the 7-year averages from 1993-94 through 1999-2000.

La Grave:

Month Week Upper base(cm) Lower base (cm)

November 1 n/a n/a
December 2 124 27
December 3 126 26
December 4 147 24
December 5 140 20
January 6 139 20
January 7 147 21
January 8 159 24
January 9 171 29
February 10 172 35
February 11 221 58
February 12 248 62
February 13 249 56
March 14 243 59
March 15 238 54
March 16 239 48
March 17 233 52
April 18 224 37
April 19 222 54
April 20 194 84

Val d'Isere:

Month Week Upper base(cm) Lower base (cm)

Nov 1 110 49
December 2 87 37
December 3 105 48
December 4 133 59
December 5 147 75
January 6 173 91
January 7 182 91
January 8 187 95
January 9 190 102
February 10 226 112
February 11 237 118
February 12 251 126
February 13 251 134
March 14 267 146
March 15 255 138
March 16 241 121
March 17 238 119
April 18 220 113
April 19 226 107
April 20 223 106

The good news here is that the upper base depth numbers at La Grave are close to those for Val d'Isere. The bad news is that at least on the average, 2nd week of February (season week 11) looks like the start of prime season at La Grave.

I'd worry about those lower base numbers at La Grave too. Does the lift system have a mid-station so you can stay on the upper slopes?
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Re: re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Admin » Wed Oct 26, 2005 3:44 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I'd worry about those lower base numbers at La Grave too. Does the lift system have a mid-station so you can stay on the upper slopes?


Yes. IIRC, there is a succession of 2 or maybe 3 lifts to span the complete vertical.
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby ChrisC » Thu Oct 27, 2005 11:38 am

Thanks Tony and Patrick for the info.

I wrote a La Grave guide service about what to expect. Here was the reply.

Weather and snow systems are very hard to predict. Last year we had a north western trend of weather that lasted for four month. The northern alpes had a great winter. The southern alpes did not. It is very rare that the wind directions come from one angle like last year. If you stay in La Grave we are surrounded by micro climates. Within a 25 minutes drive to a hour we can ski Alp d Huez, Vaujany (snow from north east) La Grave (snow from south east) Serre Chevalier (snow from south east) and Montgenvre (snow from south and from northeast)

If the trend of heavy snow fall in November December then January can be the powder month here. The cold fresh snow stays cold at all altitude top to bottom. The snow bridges are weaker then in end of March. April is the rainy month and we usually ski the glaciers in powder but the lower altitude 2000 meters is rotten.

I think around 21st of January is fine to ski early season / latest 25th of March for spring.

It is very difficult to tell,,,,,, If La Grave have a lot of snow near x-mas, don?t miss January skiing, no people, cold snow conditions even on the southern slopes.

I hope I am to any help.


At this point is looks like I'm going to do this trip.

Overall, it looks like Val d'Isere would be fine and La Grave a bit of a risk. Personally, I would love to go later (March 1), but one key friend is busy (Olympic sponsorship for the Turin games). Also, the quality of skiers is high - no whiners.

I don't mind if all of La Grave is available -- just the top 2/3 or so. The pulse gondola has 2 mid-stations, so access should be OK.

Also, I thought Alp d-Huez was a bit higher more interesting than Serre Chevalier?
Last edited by ChrisC on Thu Oct 26, 2006 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby ChrisC » Thu Oct 27, 2005 2:20 pm

Plus what seemed the best guide operations for what I was looking for. Contact them for their advice, they might be able to help you on when the best to go.

http://www.snowlegend.com/ Shocked


It looks like we might use them because they're cheaper. (Oh no!)
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Re: re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Patrick » Thu Oct 27, 2005 2:37 pm

ChrisC wrote:Overall, it looks like Val d'Isere would be fine and La Grave a bit of a risk.
(...)
Also, I thought Alp d-Huez was a bit higher more interesting than Serre Chevalier?


La Grave is one of a kind, next time in Europe - I definately be my number #1 destination the next time i'm in Europe.

I heard some great thing from both. I've never ski Serre-Chevalier, but I skiied Alpe 3-4 times. Alpe d'huez is huge by North America standards, but the bottom 1/3 is pretty flat with green runs. The place can get pretty crowded (get ready for the famous French liftline etiquette), it's close to Grenoble and within day trip from Lyon.

Here are all the stuff you ever wanted to know about ski areas in France. Link to all of France's areas.

http://www.skifrance.fr/
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Oct 27, 2005 3:18 pm

It looks from that map like you're in good shape if you can ski to the station at 1800 meters but somewhat constrained if you can only ski above 2400.
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re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby ChrisC » Tue Nov 08, 2005 3:00 am

Tony - While researching this trip, I found a website that had a lot of French snowfall information. Unfortunately, it is more about snow bases than snowfall. Could you extrapolate? Anyways, check it out. Maybe you have not come across it yet. http://www.pistehors.com/resorts/christian-gibert/

(By the way, I think you can still can get historical bases on the GB Ski Club site - although it's supposedly restricted. Simply ask for historical report. They give last season. Then click again for historical snow reports and it still says last year -- but most likely it's the running average.)

Looks like La Grave for 4 days is the first part -- with a day at Serre-Chevalier (since it has trees and bowls) if it snows. (Alp d'Huez does not have trees -- but it looks like there is great skiing off the top. It got vetoed.) I have read that THE LIFT at La Grave is closed on average 1-2 days/week -- therefore one day back up is necessary.

Next, it will be Val/Tignes -- very excited. One of my mates -- did a skip year -- or whatever the British call it -- as a guide. (However, the same one who showed my around in Chamonix -- at Le Tour, he managed to take me over a 6-7 ft waterfall to a reservoir practicaly in Switzerland -- and we had to hike for 30 min. Great run. Unsafe. Tons of BS about knowing the terrain).

Looking into it -- Les Arcs looks a great day trip -- especially the slopes arpund Arcs 2000. I don't want to even comprehend the Three Valleys -- but a day at Les Arcs looks really nice.


Just a note about Europe skiing costs. I think it can be quite reasonable. Airfare from SFO to Geneva is maybe $50-75 more than going to Telluride or Jackson Hole. But once you are there -- the ugly high-rise Franch apartments are cheap (college dorms -- I'm OK with that), the lift tickets are cheap (maybe $40/day) , car rental is high, food is about the same -- to high-- only because it is often sooo good -- and part of the experience. (I am tempted to have fondue for 12-15 euros for lunch -- beats a burger on a beautiful sunny day -- and waited on too.)

Patrick - are you Franch Canadian? Looks like you spent a lot of time there. (Patrice?) Anyways, I really enjoyed my trip to Chamonix lat year -- and frankly, skiing Europe is really great. Nothing is closed. Only recommended.

Well, I have to ski La Grave before all my friends are pregnant and expecting. Wives, that is. Just in case you fall in a no-fall zone/couloir.
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Re: re: Anyone been to La Grave?

Postby Patrick » Tue Nov 08, 2005 12:41 pm

ChrisC wrote:Looks like La Grave for 4 days is the first part -- with a day at Serre-Chevalier (since it has trees and bowls) if it snows. (Alp d'Huez does not have trees -- but it looks like there is great skiing off the top. It got vetoed.) I have read that THE LIFT at La Grave is closed on average 1-2 days/week -- therefore one day back up is necessary.


Sounds great. I think I mentionned this before, the bottom of Alpe d'Huez is pretty flat, but you're right about the top. I think you choice of Serre-Chevalier is also a good one (from what I heard about the place).

ChrisC wrote:Next, it will be Val/Tignes -- very excited.
(...)
Looking into it -- Les Arcs looks a great day trip -- especially the slopes arpund Arcs 2000. I don't want to even comprehend the Three Valleys -- but a day at Les Arcs looks really nice.


Val d'Isère/Tignes is my favorite in the Alps.

Les Arcs 2000: Slopes like Aiguille Rouge are great fun (memory and the stuff on the skiers right next to the speed skiing). You can also try the speedskiing at Les Arcs, you get two(?) time runs and a pair of 223 skis (not the 240). Something to try one day, I didn't take the time on my 2 days back in January 1993.


ChrisC wrote:Patrick - are you Franch Canadian? Looks like you spent a lot of time there. (Patrice?) Anyways, I really enjoyed my trip to Chamonix lat year -- and frankly, skiing Europe is really great. Nothing is closed. Only recommended.

Well, I have to ski La Grave before all my friends are pregnant and expecting. Wives, that is. Just in case you fall in a no-fall zone/couloir.


Comments about wife, kids and ethnic origins.

I'm 50% French Canadian from my mother side, but the name is Patrick. My dad was Irish Canadian. But that doesn't explain my trips to France. My wife is from France, thus my (initially in Dec-Jan 93)/ our many trips to visit family (east of Lyon). And the kids part? Well the last trip in March 2003 was during a parental leave for my second daughter.

Our next trip to France is either in summer 2006 or spring 2007?
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