Venice the weekend before and then I was back at Bristol Airport with my partner this time. We both have a love of snowboarding and my Christmas Gift to Matt was a trip to France, snowboarding, to stay with friends in France. I’d been a bit nervous in the weeks leading up to our departure, as there had been hardly any snow. I’ve been visiting Le Chinaillon in the Haute-Savoie area for quite a few years and usually they start getting snow before Christmas, but it had been a slow start in a lot of places. It’s much lower than the usual tourist spots. Finally, though, there seemed to be enough snow for some fun.
We flew into Geneva and picked up our hire car. It was meant to take a little over an hour to get to our destination. Cross into France was our first instruction. Do Not Go Enter Geneva. Unfortunately, due to road works on the exact road we needed, we were unable to get on to the main road to France. I was designated driver, M was co-pilot. Luckily, he had wifi on his phone and he tried several attempts for us to access the main road at various points, leading us further and further away. A quick phonecall to Wink (our hostess with the mostess) to explain our predicament and she suggested we go back into Geneva. M said, “Let’s just try this first”….. Oh the relief when it worked! We had managed to get back on track (no idea how). We sailed through the border and gradually started weaving our way towards Le Grand Bornand. The temperature started to drop as we started to climb and then finally, just as we were entering the lower village, we started to see a few piles of snow, here and there. I could feel the disappointment from M that there wasn’t meters of the white stuff (he’ll deny it) and I tried to keep up a jolly patter about how there shall be enough snow for us to enjoy ourselves
I woke early in the morning and went outside to admire the early morning view. It was good to be back.
I had come on in leaps and strides on this hill, more, I suspect from the fact that I got to know the runs really well. After a hearty breakfast, Brett (our other host) very kindly drove us down the hill to hire two boards, a helmet and boots for M. I had managed to get my boots and helmet into our luggage. We hired from Reves d’Hiver. They also have warming lockers, so we were able to leave all our sports gear there, before we trudged back up the hill (warm down).
We bought our ski passes and then the moment of truth. It’s all some form of ski lifts on the hill, be it button, t-bar or 4 person lift. M is more used to bubble transport (cable car) so was slightly apprehensive at being thrown straight into it after 6 years or so. My last snowboard had been probably about 18months previously in Val d’Isere, but was quietly confident on the seats.
First dismount done, with a slight wobble, and then it was a slow green down to the lifts at Terres Rouge. It’s quite a long lift up to the top, but it happens to be one of my favourite rides. A steep start and is wide enough not to have people bunching around you.
We did a couple of the same run and then decided to take a break for lunch… it’s hungry work! Bar Le Terres Rouge has a delicious array of food, from Plat de jour to soup or steak hache. I went for the Plat du Jour, as the are nearly always a good choice.
The wind was starting to pick up as we left and the visibility was starting to go with a flat light. We boarding back down to the start of Terres Rouge and then took the long lift up to the top of Floria, to explore the other side of the hill. The start was a bit icy, but once we descended enough to get out of the wind, the run was smooth going. Visibility came and went, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying a few more runs for the next couple of hours. We spent about 5 hours boarding that day and then we felt it was time to stop. A small beer, apres ski style, and then we had the 15 min walk up hill to Chalet Balaena.
The weather started to change that night. We had dinner, with a guest invited from Saint-Jean-de-Sixt and it had just started to snow. When she left later, more snow had fallen and it carried on until the morning. I decided to walk down the hill to the boulangerie to buy some fresh croissants and stepped out into a winter wonderland.
The morning walk was silent where I could only hear the crunch of my feet, through the snow. Fresh croissants and pain au chocolat bought, I walked back up to the chalet, enjoying the beauty of the morning.
As we could hardly see anything that day, it was advised that we stay low and keep to the routes that had trees. This helps us to see the runs a little bit better. So, after collecting our (dry) gear from the lockers, we ascended the hill. As the lift slowly climbed, the sun made an appearance so we took the impulsive decision to go back up to Terres Rouge. The sudden clarity was amazing.
We had a couple of perfect rides, where we could see every lump and bump. It doesn’t take long for hunger to kick in for me so lunch was back in the same place. When we finished, we stepped out to a different world. The wind had picked up and we could hardly see anything. For us to get back down the hill we had to once again ascend Floria and we alighted to fierce winds. The lifts had temporarily stopped and we battled to get our boards done up. We had to get down and as quickly as possible. We slipped and skidded down that first hill. It had gone icy with the wind. It seemed to take forever to get to the bottom and we both decided to turn in for the rest of the day. We had made a wise decision. We got back to our chalet just as there was a massive clap of thunder and the storm started.
Dinner was out that night, with the lodgers downstairs. B drove us to Hotel l’Alpage where a table was set for the 8 of us. They served us the most amazing wine and food and when we came out a couple of hours later it was still snowing. Tomorrow was looking promising.
We did make a decision to stay low and in the trees. We were both feeling a little body weary, so it was nice to do some short runs and there was so much powder. The snowboarders came out in force that day and we whizzed around the lower slopes, trying out different routes and even having an unplanned bit of off-piste. I’m not too hot at this but M thoroughly enjoyed it. We managed a few runs that day and stopped off on the way back to the chalet to have a vin chaud (me). Once again, we had the best of the day as the weather turned as we walked back up the hill. We had planned to have dinner, just the two of us, in Le Chinaillon village and after a small debate, we went back to the same Hotel as last night and had the same food, again, because it was Just. So. Yummy.
And so ended our little snowboarding holiday. Our flight back the next day was a respectable 15:30 so we left (after digging out two cars) at about 11:00 and I experienced my first proper drive in snow as we slowly made our way back down to civilisation. It had been perfect and we were so lucky with the weather. Hopefully , this shall keep me going until my next little adventure.
We stayed https://chaletbalaena.com/ in Le Chinaillon, which is part of Le Grand Bornand, a genuine French Alpine village about 40 minutes from Annecy.