Snowshoeing Hike @ ValDisere, France

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Been there, Done it…amazing in retrospect!Snowshoeing is a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the peace and quiet of snow-filled landscapes. Nature-lovers  can admire some of the most breathtaking scenery that the mountains have to offer, savour the back-country that begs to be explored. Easy to learn, snowshoeing opens up a world of wild valleys and craggy summits…

I was lucky to get ace snowshoeing leader Michel Gavet (http://raquettesvaldisere.com) as my guide. On 24th January 2012, at 0900 hrs we started our snow shoe hike. Little over 20 minutes of drive from my Hotel L’Aigle des Neiges at ValDisere, we reached the new skiing town of Bonconseil. After donning the oversized Raquette (snow shoe- works by the principle of distribution of weight over a larger area- thus preventing sinking in fresh snow) over my trusted Skechers, i was given a 5 minute tutorial on walking on snow. It looked easy, but after few steps I realised the difficulty of wide based gait…also realised the difficulty in walking on a slope, where your right foot is at a lower level than the left…First few steps were like a duck walk. Fresh snowfall compounded my problems…it would crumble if you don’t place your foot flat on. First destination was L`Echailon, with few summer houses (abandoned during winter). Second river side village was Chenal Gite with St Lawrence Church. Here we took a 20 minute break for a hot cup of Lemon Tea brought by Mr Gavet (Lemon Tea never tasted so divine- whether it is the altitude or the setting, which made it so tasty, I still do not know!), Orange and sandwiches. Our base here was the balcony of an abandoned house. Mysteriously even in freezing weather, there was a tap with running water! Third stop was at Le Monal – probably the highlight of the snow shoe expedition…with stunning landscapes. Landscape changes quite quickly in the mountains! Then started the painful downhill walk…which was a bit faster. Reached the start point at 1530 hrs. I could not wait to get rid of all the layers of thermal wear…After a sumptuous dinner at the Hotel and a warm hot water soak in the bathtub, slept like a baby for next ten hours!

(Logistics: Private expedition with Mr Michel Gavet with hotel pickup & drop: Euro 280 (Group tours cost less Euro 80/person), Peak Performance Thermal Jacket Euro 300, Thinsulate Gloves Euro 48, North Face thermal headgear Euro50, Overall experience: Priceless! Carry Enegry Bar, warm beverages, fruits for the refreshment break. Dark glasses with UV protection, sun screen are absolute essentials for personal care). Make sure you have a good camera, which works even in extreme cold. My Sony Nex500, did well!

Click here: Earlier post on ValDisere

My first visit to the Alps

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The Red Devils school of skiing

The Red Devils school of skiing

My first visit to the Alps! Nothing can be more exciting than a knee course in the Alps in Winter! I visited ValDisere in French Alps in Jan 2012.

Val d’Isère is a village in the Tarentaise Valley, in the Savoie region (Rhône-Alpes region) in southeastern France. It lies 5 km from the border with Italy. It is on the border of the Vanoise National Park created in 1963. During the 1992 Winter Olympics, the Face de Bellevarde was the site of the men’s downhill race. Other alpine skiing events held during those games included men’s giant slalom and alpine combined. Val d’Isère regularly hosts World Cup alpine events, usually for the men in early December, and hosted the World Championships in 2009. It is ideally located in the Savoie region with good transport links in and out of Lyon, Geneva and Chambery. Altitude here is 1850M.

:-( Accommodation during ski season can be pretty pricey. I had stayed in L`aigle des neiges, which was situated very close to the piste- the ski slopes. Route: BLR-DXB-GENEVA, Onwards by road to ValDisere by Bensbus. Alternatively one can travel upto Chambery by train & reach ValDisere by road. Within the village, one can use complementary shuttle service.

Things to do: Ski, Ski & Ski, Snowshoe expeditions (I did it with Michele Gavet of raquettesvaldisere.com for a private tour costing 280 euros); Ride the Funival- funicular train. If you buy a ski pass for the number of days in Valdisere, you can use the ski lifts/ chairlifts/ funival any number of times, moreover saves time in long Q at the daily ticket counter. A six day pass costs 45 euros.

Things to buy: Homemade cheese, honey, rose candies. For daily supplies there are dept stores- Sherpa/ SPAR.

Accessories (which I would never need in my native place!): Thermal head gear from NorthFace (50Euro); Thermal jacket with goose down inner by PeakPerformance (300Euro); Thin thermal gloves (so that you can handle your camera)by Thinsulate (48Euro); Plenty of SPF 50 sunscreen