Argentiere - Jan 05

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The Winter of 2005 was a decent one for us and was based around three main trips. In January we were out in the Chamonix valley at Argentiere, followed by our annual Canadian trip in Feb/Mar before a return to Argentiere for the end of the season in May.
 
                                 Argentiere - Jan 2005.
 
It was a dull and damp day on Monday 17th January when we got dropped of at Glasgow airport for our  Flyglobespan  flight to Geneva.
There was no queue at check-in but this was no surprise as there were only 24 passengers on the 737 which has seats for about 150 ! The flights cost us less than 80 each return so were quite a bargain.
We arrived in Geneva slightly early,quickly picked up our baggage and were soon through customs and at the car hire desk. We got a Subaru Legacy 4WD from Hertz which was very nice to drive. We were soon on our way but encountered quite dense fog on way out of the city. Two Peage stops (€4.90) on the Autoroute was all that slowed us down and we were up at Argentiere by 21:15. Got checked in at the Hotel Couronne then took a walk down the road to the Rencard Bar for a beer and a bite to eat. They serve good pizzas and omlettes here. We headed up to the Office Bar for a nightcap before going back to the Hotel and sorting our kit out for the next morning.
 

The next morning we went across to the Office Bar for breakfast after which we drove up to Le Tour at the head of the valley. Got day tickets (€30 + €3 deposit for card). As we made our way to the gondola up to Charamillon (1856 m) it began to snow ,very light at first but got heavier as we got higher up. We put in some easy runs on hard pistes from the Autannes chair. There were quite a few bare patches showing as we made our first turns of the year. After lunch in the expensive self service restaurant at Charamillon we went back up on the chair and traversed along towards the Vallorcine gondola. The run down to Les Esserts was superb , with a nice cover of fresh snow and nobody about. When we got near the top of the Tete de Balme chair it became very windy and visibility was down to a few feet. It was not pleasant and as well as not being to see much it was almost impossible to move in the strong wind. It was a difficult job to find our way back over to the Bechat-Esserts piste and we actually dropped too low and it was only when visibility improved for a few seconds that we regained our bearings and were able to track back over to the piste markers. It was then a nice cruise down the Caisets run to the bottom station. It was now snowing really heavily as we drove back to Argentiere and dropped off our kit before taking a drive down into Chamonix.
This evening we had a few beers in the Rencard Bar before going to the excellent "Luigis" restaurant for dinner. They have good value set menus
(€16.50 and €22.50) for three courses. We had a nightcap in the Office then away to bed.
 
The next morning i was up at 07:30 and looking out i could see it was still snowing lightly. The Grand Montets was closed because of the avalanche risk and as visibility was still poor i thought it would be a good idea to head over to Megeve. This is one of my favourite places to board when its snowing as there are lots of sheltered tree runs plus the majority of clients in this chic resort dont like coming out to play unless the sun is shining !
It took about 10 mins to clear the 30 to 40 cm of snow from the car which had fallen since yesterday. It took us about 50 minutes to drive to the "Princesse" lift station which is situated a few km from the resort and makes an excellent place to access the Mont D'Arbois / Mont Jolly sector of Megeve. It was looking good as there were few cars in the car park at 09:15 and we were soon kitted up and making our way to the cashdesk for our tickets (€33.50). We went up on the gondola then took the Milloz red run back to the bottom. It was covered in knee deep untracked powder , a brilliant start to the day. The lower part of the run was still roped off but there were a couple of tracks going under the rope so we decided to head that way too and had great powder turns all the way to the bottom. Superb. I think the rope had been across the piste from the previous day when the run had been icy,broken and worn before coming back to full health with last nights heavy snowfall. We went back up and done a few runs from Mt D'Arbois down to the " Ideal" chair where there was tons of fresh snow all over the place and only a few people around. We then had an early lunch at the " L'Igloo" cafeteria on Mt D'Arbois, it was very quiet but again expensive with a Hamburger and fries costing €11.50. After lunch you could see the sun trying to break through the clouds but without too much success as we headed down to the big link gondola which takes you over to the Rochbrune sector of Megeve. We took the Caboche cable car up to Rochbrune at 1754m  where the on-piste snow seemed even better than over on the other side and we could still find some untracked powder at 13:30 in the afternoon. After a few runs we headed back over to Mt D'Arbois and the long run back down to La Princesse where we decided to call it a day at about 14:30.
 

After getting changed and packing our kit into the car we took a drive up through Megeve to Praz sur Arly, a small resort i had skied at a few years ago. We then headed back to St.Gervais where we parked up and took a walk round this lovely old town. As we drove back to Argentiere the sun was coming out. Could this be a change in the weather or was it just teasing us. Once back we bought some posters and got a few things from the supermarket we headed back to the Hotel for a long soak in the bath before going down to the Rencard bar for a few beers and a bite to eat. We walked up to the Stone bar for a few beers later on before going of to bed.
 
Next morning it was still snowing,probably harder than ever. This trip was turning out like last January when it snowed constantly for a week,really limiting our boarding possibilities. Went to the tourist office to look at the weather forecast before breakfast but there was no sign of a let up. We decided to go down to Les Houches where the famous Chamonix downhill race is held on the Kandahar run. A lot of the slopes down at this end of the valley are below the tree-line so its a good place to visit on snowy days. There are two areas to access the slopes, either at Prarion or where we usually go, Bellevue. Lift tickets this time were €26.90 for the day. We went up on the Telepherique de Bellevue which goes to the highest point in the area at 1800m. From here it is some what flat along the top and boarders often have to unstrap,especially when there is a cover of fresh snow. There are runs down owards St.Gervais but they were closed today because of poor snow lower down. We took the Kandahar run all the way down to the bottom. It was in great condition with a nice depth of fresh snow on top. It was difficult to imagine that just the week before the best downhillers in the world were racing down this course. Had a few runs and visibility was not too bad before we went back down to the bottom and headed across the road to a small restaurant where we had a leisurely lunch.
After lunch we had a few more runs and found some decent spots between the trees. We decided to head back to the car at about 14:30 when it began to rain lightly. By the time we got back up the valley to Argentiere it had turned to snow again.
 

The snow continued to fall for the next couple of days and was just like the previous January. We had a day off and spent some time looking round the shops in Chamonix and the rest of the time eating and drinking and spending time in the internet cafe next to the Office bar. On our final day we went back over to St.Gervais from where you take the Bettex gondola up to the Mt D'Arbois area of Megeve. Again it was quiet and the snow was fresh and deep. Jill got stuck when we were coming down off-piste from Mont-Joux where it waist deep at times. Visibility was not great and she hit a flat spot where it took quite a while to free herself. I only knew what had happened by calling her on the two way radios. Eventually she got down ok and we headed back to the car and got changed and our kit all packed away. We then started to make our way back to Geneva for the evening flight home. We stopped at Annemasse to visit the large Go Sport store where there are plenty of bargains to be found in a wide range of sports equipment and clothing.
In no time we were handing the car back and boarding the flight back to Glasgow. It had been a good trip even though there was a bit much snow at times and Mont Blanc stayed hidden for the whole week.