We spent three nights in Annecy, both due to my health and a predicted storm Thursday/Friday. Thursday it rained all day, I went to a doctor and got lots of meds and spent the rest of the day in our hotel, much of it sleeping. The storm only lasted one day, so we did some sightseeing in Annecy as we still weren’t quite up to skiing. Liz escaped the worst of my illness, but Friday was the day she was a bit off and thus not tempted to go skiing on her own.
On our last day in Europe Saturday we drove about 45 minutes to La Clusaz, which has been on my radar since James’ tip several years ago.
We drove through town and parked at Le Fernuy, which offers faster access to the best skiing at Col de Balme. That is La Clusaz’ high point at about 8,100 feet. Saturday’s weather was not as nice as Friday’s as it was overcast most of the day. However the clouds were usually above the ski area and there were a few sunny breaks. During a break around 11:30 we got the views off the back of Col de Balme.
Heading down from Col de Balme:
The skiing up here and on the next bowl over Torchere is wide and expansive with rolling fall lines. The powder had been hit fairly hard by the locals on Friday though and it was not smooth skiing off piste. Another factor is that then last storm before Thursday had been the strong but wet one two weekends so the subsurface was somewhat irregular. The bottom line was that the snow was in that awkward “chowder” stage between Friday’s powder and the packed skiing like we had at Grands Montets Tuesday.
Lower down the valley floor around 4,000 feet comes into hazy view.
The good news is that Thursday’s snow had a low rain/snow line and thus resurfaced the lower half of the mountain that had the rain two weeks ago. The ridge between Col de Balme and Torchere is impressive too.
From the Torchere poma we skied 3,500+ vertical back to Le Fernuy. We were off piste for much of the upper third of that.
Note the poles marking the black Vraille trail. This was left ungroomed, more like a yellow “skiroute” in Austria of Switzerland. At most places in the Alps pistes marked blue, red or black are always groomed.
Temperatures maxed at 19F, and even though there was no wind the overcast and perhaps our less than 100% health called for a quick thaw break around 1PM. We rode the Fernuy gondola and the Aiguille chair the top of La Clusaz’ central terrain pod at 7,700 feet. This was then only sector which had some cloud/fog at piste level, and also to little surprise the highest skier density.
To ski into town you divert skier’s right a bit farther down. The easiest slopes are down below and you can cross the road in town and ski a circuit of smaller terrain pods to Belvedere.
But we had relatively little time and thus skied fall line to the short Transval tram, which crosses the road above town to Belvedere directly. Belvedere rises to 6,500 feet and I took my first run there between the trees and the piste above here.
Our second run was the black Tetras, which was ungroomed soft moguls on its upper half. At the bottom of Tetras we got a good view of the Transval tram crossing the road and the town of La Clusaz farther down.
We ascended two Jument lifts and skied a long red piste down to Le Fernuy. View of some of the upper section of Le Fernuy:
There is plenty of scope to wander off piste in this sector too, but it was 3:30 and we were getting cold again. We skied 19,900 vertical from 10:45 – 3:45.
We got a good survey of La Clusaz overall and appreciate the advice from James as well as Fraser of weathertoski.co.uk. La Clusaz is another area like Grands Montets where you can get in a lot of off piste skiing without a guide. It is high proportion north facing with abundant snowfall per Fraser but its altitude range is about 2,000 feet lower than at Grands Montets.
Glad that you rallied to ski there with your health issues. While you didn't get perfect conditions, the snow looked better than what we experienced three years ago. It doesn't look like there were many people given that it was a midwinter Saturday at a top-shelf ski area so close to Geneva.
Just a note: my perfect (now 6 for 6) record with airline luggage on trips to the Alps is still intact.
When we landed at JFK Sunday we found that our ski bags did not make the connection in Amsterdam. With the deliberate 18 hour layover we thought they might catch up to us by the time we got to LAX today, but no such luck.
Tony Crocker wrote:Just a note: my perfect (now 6 for 6) record with airline luggage on trips to the Alps is still intact.
Wow, you are cursed. Because there was a line of planes waiting to depart JFK, we took off late and I had less than 40 minutes to go through customs and sprint across terminals at Zurich -- but Swiss Air got my skis and boot bag on the flight to Nice. Maybe try a different airline alliance?
KLM did in fact give the ski bags to LOT Polish Airlines when they did not get on our Sunday morning flight from Geneva to Amsterdam. They went from Geneva to Warsaw Monday morning on LOT #418, then from Warsaw to LAX Monday afternoon on LOT #23, arriving about 8PM.
LOT flies between LAX and Warsaw only on Mondays and Fridays (we not Delta looked this info up Friday morning). So we decided to drive out to LAX early Friday afternoon, particularly after learning that bags might be sent off to a storage center in the Southeast if unclaimed after 5 days or more. Around 2PM Liz found out that LOT personnel did not arrive until 5PM so we went to a movie in El Segundo and came back. The LOT people were a bit late but helpful when they arrived. There are 50+ foreign airlines that use LAX's Tom Bradley terminal, and those like LOT with only a few flights a week give unclaimed bags to a local company like Matrix Aviation for storage. About 6:30PM Matrix gave Liz our ski bags, so we at last have all our gear in time for next week's departure to Canada.
Nonetheless a couple of questions remain from this fiasco. 1) In daily calls to Delta's baggage and Medallion lines, nobody seemed willing to tell anyone at LAX (one of Delta's hub airports with plenty of employees) to walk the 200 yards from Delta's terminal over to Tom Bradley and actually look for those bags. 2) Both ski bags had all tags intact including personal tags with our names and cell phone numbers. In 4 days no one considered picking up a phone and calling one of those numbers????
I know that flying to the Alps in winter is only one of your many international destinations every year so I'm not going to suggest ditching Delta, especially given the war chest of miles you're sitting on. That said; I find that it's helpful to be with an alliance that can keep you on the same (European) airline if you have to change planes, similar to how I'm on Swiss the whole way on this trip to Nice (I also have the option of Lufthansa). I assume that there wasn't a good itinerary on which you could have flown KLM the entire way to Geneva? Given your hideous record with luggage transfers, it's something to consider.
Speaking of Delta and Nice, it's a shame that they only offer nonstops from JFK from April through October.
Yes I'm rather committed to Delta with ~900K FF miles and Gold Medallion status giving us free baggage and occasional other perks. Overall Delta's customer service reputation is far better than United's. I have a United Chase credit card as well as Delta's Amex and so about 150K United miles but no status. That helps fill holes in the SkyTeam network, notably for the 2014 scuba trip to Yap and Truk, where airfares are exorbitant due to a United monopoly.
As far as the Euro trips are concerned, the flights to Geneva/Zurich are nearly always via Air France and CDG. You and others seem to agree that AMS is a better transfer airport than CDG and so we have come home that way the last two years.
This year's baggage fiasco had nothing to do with our transfer itinerary or the 18 hour layover in NYC to visit Liz' friends. Our ski bags never got on our FIRST flight leaving Geneva. We arrived in LAX about 10AM Monday morning and the bags arrived at 8PM that evening, not so bad really. If anyone at LAX had been on the ball, we could easily have had the bags before we left for Mammoth at 5PM Tuesday. Since they weren't we will be sending Delta a considerable shopping bill from Mammoth, which I expect will not meet resistance due to both the circumstances at LAX and my Delta status.
The 2016 delayed baggage on the way home was caused by fog in Amsterdam and a rerouted itinerary through Heathrow.
The 2014 trip to Zermatt was booked only one month in advance and the Geneva arrival time had to be coordinated with the Diamond Dogs' arrival from NYC. Consequently we changed planes in both NYC and CDG. One of the 4 bags (my regular suitcase) was delayed 30 hours reaching Zermatt.
In 2008 after La Grave I flew Lyon-CDG-Cincinnati-SLC and I'm sure James will say that itinerary was asking for trouble. This was the most annoying incident as I had to rent skis and boots for 3 of my 4 days at Iron Blosam. Boots and a day's worth of ski clothes have been in a carry-on ever since then.
We violated the above rule on the way home this time due to the NYC stop and that as of the weekend we didn't think we would be skiing right away when we got home. I was lucky that I packed my boots in my regular suitcase that was not lost. But Liz had boots, helmet and quite a bit of clothing in her delayed ski bag. Then she slept ~15 hours Monday and woke up Tuesday morning refreshed and eager to hit the Mammoth demo event Wednesday/Thursday.
The bottom line is that ski travel to the Alps is much more of an ordeal from the West Coast vs. the East Coast, and thus I was 51 years old before I did it, and that was for a subsidized NASJA trip. Similarly, I doubt James will be skiing in Japan before he retires, even though Hokkaido terrain and snow are a match made in heaven for him.