As some of you may remember, my friend Johanna Davidson, the Swedish explorer (yes Johanna, I think we could call you an explorer with pride now) was planing her trip to the South-pole last year. Not only did she plan it, but she also started to walk last December - ending up being the fastest woman ever skiing to the South-pole, and beating everyone on her way back. wow! - its just so inspiring to follow your achievements.
But why would I mention Johanna in this blog about my latest trip to France? Well except from the obvious reason, bragging about my friendship with a person now to be mentioned with people like Scott and Amundsen, Johanna is actually indirectly the cause for me going to France. Going to the South-pole is not only challenging in the first place, but its rather expensive as well. Helping Johanna raise money for the trip, her brother in law Fred, made a lottery where the price would be a week of skiing in Maurienne with him and his fellow guides at UP ski & mountain guides. Well guess what, I won myself a week of joy.
Barely having time to resettle after just moving out and ending my job career for now, I set sail for the southern parts of the French Alps. My destination - the Maurienne Valley. The Maurienne valley is the neighbouring valley to more famous ski-resorts like Tignes and Val-d'Isère, and is pretty much directly west of Torino or Milan. For me going there, the best way was to fly down to Geneva, and take the train down to Modane for a pick up. The Valley have lift-system after lift-system, but do not have the same problem as other places, that is overcrowded slopes. The Valley is more known for local French tourists, the main part being families, and therefore giving you decent odds of being fairly alone in the off-piste. My stay was during the French winter holidays, making the slopes pretty full from time to time, but we usually managed in the off-piste.
Before coming to the Valley, it wasn't much snow, but finally two days before my arrival, the sky opened and white gold fell down. The dump was the first real dump of the season, saving a somehow dry season. It was great snow, and I think the pictures talks for themselves. The lack of a proper sole was of course not super ideal, and could be rather troublesome if not dangerous in the lower parts.
During my stay, I stayed in a small, cosy and seemingly deserted little French Village. We almost never saw any people there, like people were hiding. I stayed in a shared apartment with Fred, the Swedish guide Oscar, the driver August, the French Champagne-maker Thibault and some Norwegian powder hobos, Ørjan and Jonas. The crew was nice and smelly as they should be, and we enjoyed good food and drinks during the evenings, even though most of us was just longing for bed after a long day out.
Normally Fred and UP Guides are helpful in giving a package for every group that is coming, setting up what is the best for you. There are variable options for shared flats, Gites and hotels - an option for most price-classes and desires.
The skiing is based in any of the many facilities in the valley, depending on the snow, visibility and where the guests have been. You are sure to get variated skiing anyhow. If the snow is good, as we mostly experienced, we stay in the ski-facilities, doing laps and getting as much good skiing as possible. When it starts to get less snow close to the slopes, its time to start walking.
There are several places close to the lifts, giving ideal skiing with minimal effort. If your short on time, this is probably what you want. walking 15 minutes to get untouched snow for as loong as you can see is not to bad is it.
Well France is known for its kitchen, and it dosnt disappoint, either its Raclette or Fondue, or just some good local cheese and sausage. The area have some good restaurants, and if your a food-lover, I'm sure you'll enjoy the dinning.
For the sunnier days, when most places got tracks, and the feet needs some rests, its time to go ski-touring. We got some great smaller trips, and the last day we had a nice 4 hour walk to the top of a mountain, all in sun, before skiing down the north face in dry and good powder. A day to remember.
a big thanks to UP guides for hosting me a beautiful week in France! recommendable.
see you up -north.