The Val d’Isere Files – 3

Sunday, April 01 2007 @ 10:30 AM UTC

Contributed by: james

The second half of the week was a curious mix of January skiing with a fair bit of March sun. The amount of powder about plus the cold temperatures were how they should have been at the beginning of the season. The light was that of spring, not winter. If the wind stopped a restaurant in a sunny spot became balmy.

The best quality snow was up ay Le Fornet. Thigh deep powder in some off-piste places. Having done a little bit of off-piste, particularly in La Rosiere, I now look at it completely differently, and became aware of quite how much of readily accessible, decent but not too steep off-piste there is there. Skiing down making lovely shapes in the powder was superb. I did get a little carried away. I went down one slope that wasn’t that steep at all, and was really quite deep. I came to a halt as it flattened out. The next 15 to 20 minutes were spent by me trying to get about 3 yards in thigh deep soft fluffy powder. Absolutely nothing to push against. Exhausting!

The pistes were perfection. I suppose you would say they were a cross between powder and soft packed. Firmish, in a soft sort of way.

We made a couple more lunch visits to Tignes Les Brevieres, partially it was the amazement of being able to ski down there so easily this late in the season. Tried other restaurants. Top recommendation for a place called “La Sachette”. It’s a real suntrap. Normally I wouldn’t dream of eating outside – skiing in January is rather chilly. But with this combination of January snow and March sun we had a marvellous time getting slowly cooked. La Sachette, by the way: ski down to TLB, ignore the first, most obvious place you come to – Etoile des Neiges – and cross the bridge. Turn left and walk along the road, into what passes for a town centre (there’s a shop, a tourist information office and a church, so that’s as “town centre” as you will get there). La Sachette is 100m or so on the left opposite the church.

For the scientifically minded, you may be interested in our lunch on Thursday at the Signal restaurant at Le Fornet. I must say that I was very interested in it: Souris d’Agneu, which is not a lamb's pet mouse, but a shank of lamb. Absolutely superb. OK a little bit more than we would normally spend, and I wasn’t actually able to finish my meal at the chalet that evening. Anyway, back to the science. We were eating outside, quite nicely warmed up in the windless suntrap of the restaurant terrce. Naturally enough we had a bottle of Gamay de Savoie. The air was warm, and the air in the glass too was warmed by the sun. There then was a bit of gentle air movement and our warm bit was replaced by cool. The warm moist air meeting the new cool outer air caused the wine glass to have its own micro-climate. Cloud were formed and tumbled out of the glass.

Friday – some cloud, more powder, then sun to finish off. More superb pistes. The only issues were the cordoned off race tracks on la Face and Solaise for them to run competitions. It was worse on La Face when you were all forced down a narrow area on one side – which inevitably became crowded, crudded up and mogully.