Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Flags - not just for Australian beaches

Spending half our lives in Australia we are well used to looking at Flags for information, they are the way Surf Lifesaving Patrols warn of conditions and where is safe to swim at the beach. A similar system operates in the Three Valleys at the points where you can move from one valley to the next. Years ago it was necessary to seek out the blackboard of information at the top of the lift stations and although these still exist the flag system is simple, easy to spot even from a distance and easily understood whatever your language you understand. 

Over the last two weeks we have had a couple of days of high winds including one day last week which managed to knock over the large festive snowman which marks the entrance to Les Allues and numerous large signs around the resort. On very windy days you don't really need to be told it is windy but it frequently happens that the wind increases during the day which can lead to lifts being closed and ultimately you can be stranded in the wrong valley. 

The flags are positioned where you transition from one valley to another and look like this:

This is of course the favourite flag - Green for all good, links are open and no problems anticipated. This is followed by Amber which signifies that crossing over to a Valley other than the one you are staying in is "not advised":

This is probably the toughest one because lifts will still be open and you may be tempted to cross to another Valley but be warned the weather can change very quickly and taxi fares home are expensive. 

The final stage is the red flag - which I don't have a picture of - which signifies the links are closed. This can cause confusion for some people as Pistes leading to the next valley will be open however you will not be able to get back to the top as the lifts will be closed.

The flag system is not the only way the lift companies keep slope users informed there are still the blackboards and message boards as you get on and off lifts. If in doubt don't be afraid to ask advice from either the lift operators or the Piste Patrol in the huts located throughout the area. It is in their best interests to keep you safe, they are friendly, approachable and have the best knowledge of the area.

Finally the weather here in Meribel is a little grey and snowy today but we are promised a return to sunny days for tomorrow followed by a light fall of snow on Friday to freshen up the Pistes. Perfect really and to end this post a picture taken on Monday which really was the most perfect day to be enjoying the snow in Meribel

Monday, 3 February 2014

Lovely day for a picnic.....not!

Wild weather

January definitely ended in a more traditional way weather wise than it started. According to a local newspaper the first 10 days of the month were the hottest on record, the last 10 days probably didn't break any records but it was certainly cold. On Saturday we ventured over to Val Thorens, ready to take advantage of the empty slopes and hoping to be able to walk straight on to the Cime de Caron lift without waiting. As we skied down into VT we had a stark reminder of how weather conditions can change dramatically from one valley to another. 

We left Meribel under blue skies and light breeze, as we were half way down the Pluviometre piste we could see the clouds of snow rolling down the main pistes in VT. The top lifts were closed but we were able to make it into Orelle - the Fourth Valley - where even though one lift remained closed the skiing on the freshly blown snow was a dream. The facial exfoliation we had to endure to get around the top of Col de Rosael was worth it and Orelle was all ours, we have skied the area in quiet conditions before but never in such solitude.

Top of Combe de Rosael
Cime de Caron did open at lunchtime which allowed us another jaunt into Orelle and the the inevitable happened - we became hungry. Most days we take our lunch and a flask of hot chocolate with us. Aside from the cost of eating and drinking on the mountain taking your own lunch means you can stop when and where you want or at least it does unless it is blowing a gale and freezing cold. Those January days just a few weeks ago of sitting in glorious sunshine enjoying a picnic have gone so thank goodness for the increase in the number of "picnic areas" in the Three Valleys many of which provide shelter from not so nice weather. The size, standard and facilities vary, the one we used on Saturday is semi-open but definetely an improvement on being completely exposed.

Lunchtime - top of Plateau drag lift VT

One of the most recent additions to the picnic areas of The Three Valleys is the Chaudanne Lounge in Meribel. Situated at the Saulire Express 1 this really is more than a picnic area with a section of comfortable lounge seating, free WiFi and Microwaves. Ideal as a meeting point as well as a very warm, comfortable spot for lunch or just a rest. 

Special mention is also deserved by Plan des Mains at the base of Mont du Vallon. This is both a Restaurant and a sandwich spot where they have generously provided an area of deck-chairs for those bringing their own lunch. All they ask is that you use the bins provided to keep the are tidy, not too much to ask really.

Picnic areas are marked on the Piste map with a picnic table sign, worth checking out even if just for a 5 minute breather between runs or a handy meeting spot.