Roubion, FR: 02/06/18

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Roubion, FR: 02/06/18

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:13 pm

More than any of the other Alpinforum trip reports that convinced me to plan a Maritime Alps ski visit, this one posted four years ago about Roubion really hit my sweet spot: comparatively small for the Alps at barely 1,600 vertical feet, rolling hills, and about 18 miles of marked trails. Still, check out the visuals on a bluebird day with clear views of not only the Mediterranean, but also Corsica 150 miles away (!) and what looked like really cozy slopes that wind intriguingly through the forest -- kinda like a Bobcat in the south of France! Even though there are a half dozen off-the-beaten-path ski areas in this region, Roubion was the one I really wanted to fit in on this visit.


Immediately after exiting the well-traveled route between Nice and Isola at the village of Saint-Sauveur sur Tinée, I downshifted for a narrow twisting road that zips up through a deep gorge with reddish rocks and felt like it had been teleported from northern New Mexico.
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Within 15 minutes, the cliffside village of Roubion (the name is a provençal French variation of the word "cliff"), in existence since at least 1067, came into view on the right. There are quite of few of these scattered throughout this region.
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Only 30 miles as the crow flies from Nice, Roubion is the newest ski area (1975) in the Maritimes Alpes region and prides itself on being a family-oriented option to industrial tourism, both skiing and otherwise. As I drove further uphill, it became apparent that following the previous day's powderfest in Auron the skies weren't going to clear up. Atypically for the region, I was in for a gray, flat-light day, meaning that breathtaking full-color photos captioned "Corsica in the distance" weren’t in the cards. When I arrived at the modest base area, there was some additional less than delightful news. I’d read their operating hours incorrectly: they weren't running their lifts that day. But after speaking with Michel, the gentleman in charge of grooming, he felt bad that I'd flown all the way from the mean streets of New York City just to visit their ski area and generously offered to give me a few rides uphill.

As a sidebar: I can tell you that it doesn't hurt to be an American in southern France. Despite their antipathy for the present occupant of the White House, virtually everyone I spoke to the entire week seemed to be huge fans of the U.S. and especially NYC; in fact, it was often difficult to change the subject! People had all kinds of stories of what they'd done and experienced during a trip to the Big Apple. They were surprised to learn that the state of NY and the northeast in general have so many ski areas. I told them the same thing in reverse -- that very few people in the U.S. are aware of their ski region in the south of France, which was why I was there in the first place.

Before getting started, Michel insisted on a shot of their NYC/NJ visitor in front of his Pistenbully:
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And up we went. I asked him a bunch of questions about operations and he said that like all of the comparatively low-elevation ski areas with limited snowmaking, natural precipitation was their biggest variable and that the previous three seasons had been especially tough:
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A look downhill from the summit at 1,920 meters/6,300 feet, which has an impressive 360-degree panorama in person:
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While the views from the top weren't as nice as they'd be on a bluebird day, it was great to get a private-ski-area experience and take advantage of the additional six inches of powder that'd fallen since the day before:

"Les Écureuils" Trail
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Reverse Shot
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"Pommier" Trail
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Reverse Shot
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"Les Blanchons" Trail
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Reverse Shot
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Arriving back at the base area:
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Their big infrastructure news is a fixed quad chair purchased from Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys region, which should be operational next season. They're also building a bunch of new wooden chalets for overnight visitors and restoring some old stone houses at the base, but it ain't cheap so they're doing them gradually:
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This dog ran across a trail I'd skied earlier; he came down to say hello:
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Luckily, this cute restaurant was open for business and I had a tasty lunch:
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Since it wasn't even 1 pm, I headed back to the village of Roubion and chatted with tourism office employees Sophie and Anne about the rental electric mountain bikes that are becoming a big thing over there. The four levels of electric backup don't replace pedaling; the point is to give non-hardcores of all ages the ability to ride terrain on which they'd otherwise give up. After giving it a try, I understood how electric mountain biking is a pretty inclusive idea:
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It was lunch time -- as you know, the French take long lunches -- so they joined me for a quick ride around the village with great views at every turn, old churches, etc.:
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Eventually, we walked through the village itself:
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And eventually ended up at the mayor's office -- yep, they have these type of photos over there too!
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In summary: while the weather didn't necessarily cooperate, I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth -- a handful of morning powder runs at an empty mountain and a visit to a type of "ski village" that doesn't really exist in North America.
:bow:
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Re: Roubion, FR: 02/06/18

Postby EMSC » Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:18 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:I’d read their operating hours incorrectly: they weren't running their lifts that day. But after speaking with Michel, the gentleman in charge of grooming, he felt bad that I'd flown all the way from the mean streets of New York City just to visit their ski area and generously offered to give me a few rides uphill.


That HAS to be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read in a TR.
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Re: Roubion, FR: 02/06/18

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 13, 2018 2:00 pm

After the closed upper lift situation at Val d'Anniviers last year, I think this is a subject James needs to nail down in advance when seeking out the more obscure locations. This situation is not unheard of in North America. Several of the out-of-the-way ski areas in Montana only operate 4-5 days a week.

jamesdeluxe wrote:also Corsica 150 miles away (!)

That noses out the 135 mile distant view of San Clemente Island from Mt. Baldy.

For future notice to James, Corsica has a couple of ski areas: http://www.skiresort.info/ski-resorts/corsica-corse/

At any rate, when weather or other factors upset one's ski plans in Europe, there are always interesting tourism options available. And of course James gets personalized local service for that. :mrgreen:
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