Photos by Mike Brindley/Tristan Kennedy
If you’ve ever found yourself shuffling tentatively through crowds of ski schools and 20 person strong groups determined all to get on the same lift as you wait in line, you know the feeling.
There’s very little getting around the fact that a rammed resort can be really shit – and halfway through a trip to the Tarentaise region last winter, there was a little growing seed of worry in my mind that that was exactly what I was heading for.
We’d just spent two days in the relatively quiet spots of La Rosiere and Sainte Foy, and for the second half of the four day tour we were off to Val D’Isere for (what is widely known as) the polar opposite.
“There’s very little getting around the fact that a rammed resort can be really shit, and halfway through the trip I was worried that that was exactly what we were heading for.”
The aim of the trip had originally been to explore backcountry lines: in the trees at La Thuile and the freeride areas of Saint Foy, before finding some of the quieter spots in the endless off-piste terrain available around Val, but the weather thus far wasn’t giving up the goods. A heavy dump followed quickly by rain had made for a thick frozen crust with softer snow underneath, leaving Saint Foy off-piste looking immaculate, but sadly completely unrideable.
So, although enjoyable, the original aim of our trip had been critically undermined.
Our guides from Evo 2 did their best to find good, rideable, deeper pockets (of which there were definitely a few), but the dream of slashing virgin pow and wide open lines, just a little beyond the piste boundaries, was looking a little dead in the water.
Nevertheless, in true Knut Eliassen – Bad Weather Day Tricks style, we did our best to make the most of it. Taking the advice of our gracious hosts from France Montagnes, and sampling whatever non-shred activities came up along the way…
So did the quieter resorts still seem like shining havens when the weather wasn’t playing ball? Or was the bustling hub of Val D’Isere a welcome sight in the end?