Ken Roberts - - Cross Country Skiing

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ski visit to France

posted to rec.skiing.nordic 05mar21:

Subject: a ski visit to France

After sampling some of the XC ski centers in Austria and Italy, the skiing in France felt better than ever.

Chapelle des Bois -- -- in the Jura mountains not far from the Geneva airport. My first time there, good 2-dimensional trail layout, fun for skating, connections to lots more km of trails, good recommendations from other skiers.

La Feclaz -- -- near Chambery and Lyon. More fun every time I ski there. There are places with more spectacular mountains, but for just plain fun skiing, this is the best I've found so far in Europe (including Norway). And closer to a major autoroute highway than lots of Euro XC centers.

Les Saisies -- -- sorta near Albertville. The more I ski there, the more I like it. Fun 2-dimensional trail network, the only drawback is that it's hillier than La Feclaz, and I haven't found much really gentle or flat terrain there. But almost every hill climb is rewarded by a wonderfully-designed downhill run of moderate slope and with fun curves and dips. And wonderful views of surrounding mountains, including giant Mont Blanc.

Autrans -- near Grenoble. I was less happy here on my latest sampling. At least as hilly as Les Saisies, but without the rewards. Too much of hard uphills (steep or long), followed hard snowplowing down the other side. Yes there's that one La Sure trail with great views, but from the trail map that looks like getting to those views requires 300 vertical meters / 1000 feet of climbing. Does anyone know some XC skiing near Grenoble or in the Vercors that's more targeted for fun by non-racers (and closer to the autoroute highway?)

Argentiere -- next town up from Chamonix. Better than I expected for a place which is world-famous for radical downhill skiing from the Grands Montets, and the start point of great mountain ski touring adventures. I skated there for a couple of hours in the afternoon (after crampon up a couloir in the morning with two Brit partners, ski down 1500 vertical meters into a little village in another country, and hitchhike back). Argentiere crammed as much XC skiing km and fun design as they could into the space they had -- unfortunately the connector trails south to the XC ski trails of Le Lavancher and Chamonix had some pretty serious hills (by XC standards). Not enough to justify a special visit for XC skiing for me, but I'm glad I brought my track skis along for some fun exercise. Made me eager to also try the lower trail network in Chamonix.



Date: March 22

Mark wrote [ in response to my report on La Feclaz ]

I'd visit that site !!

But I'm not saying La Feclaz in France has more fun skiing than North American ski centers like Sovereign Lakes BC or Mt Van Hoevenberg or Mohonk in NY or Royal Gorge in California. Fun trail networks like La Feclaz and Les Saisies stand out in the context of Europe -- because most of Europe (including Norway) takes cross-country ski trail design for granted.

Seems like most of Europe thinks of cross-country skiing as a kind of winter hiking, a way to get from one place to another and maybe see some view along the way. So most XC ski trails feel like snow-covered walking paths or farm roads. They don't have the concept of XC skiing as a magical motion whose magic can be brought out by creative trail design.

Too often the European attitude is that they groomed a trail for skiing to the next village up the valley so be grateful. "Creative" trail design means that they groomed a second walking trail up the valley so you wouldn't have to ski back down the same way, and so you should pay a trail fee for the privilege.

I don't think most North American should be flying across the ocean in order to find more fun XC ski trails -- like Mohonk and Mt Van Ho are already wonderfully fun for me in New York near home. The reasons that make sense are to ski among spectacular mountains -- and to experience the non-skiing culture of mountain villages and big modern-ancient cities and driving on the Euro roads and bicycling thru vineyards. So for North American visitors, it could make sense to deliberately choose a ski region with less fun ski trails than La Feclaz, but more of some special Euro things.

And for Sharon and me the big reason to go to Europe is to enjoy fun XC skiing as one component of a vacation which also includes the world's greatest collection of easily-accessible backcountry mountain ski tours and off-trail downhill ski runs.



posted to rec.skiing.nordic 05jan11:

Subject: Re: Place to ski near Geneva??

Alex wrote

I am looking to book a trip in February. Somewhere near Geneva Airport would be good, because it is the only destination from our local airport that is near snow. I would like to find a snow-sure Nordic Skiing resort where the skiing is a bit more interesting than round an alpine valley on the flat. We want to ski on trails prepared for skating and classic. If it can be accessed by public transport, so much the better.

I'll guess that no one has responded because Alex is asking for a lot of things at once.

The Jura mountains are close to Geneva airport, and seemed interesting the one day Sharon and I were there. But the reason we have not been there more than one day is the lack of "snow-sure". And the fact that February is the heart of the French winter-school holiday time. Perhaps Laurent has a strategy for

For more "snow-sure" in range of Geneva, I'd suggesting renting a car and finding lodging less expensively down in the valley somewhere in range of like Albertville - Chambery. Then each day drive your car to wherever there is skiable snow. La Feclaz near Chambery is lots of fun, Les Saisies is interesting, Autrans near Grenoble is worthwhile and has some great viewpoints. Bessans high in the Maurienne valley is surrounded by spectacular mountains and perhaps the best bet for "sure snow", but it comes close to failing one of Alex's requirements, since it's something like an "alpine valley on the flat", though it has hilly trails along its edges.

It's hard for me to imagine spending a whole week cross country skiing at only one of those places -- none has a really enormous network. But it's hard for me to imagine spending all the money for airfare and lodging in order to get a whole week skiing only cross-country anywhere. (Even in Norway I spent a day on the downhill lifts, and I notice that Philip Nelson in his recent trip to Norway spent two days skiing downhill.) The region around Geneva is one of the great downhill-skiing (and high-mountain ski-touring) places in the world: I'd recommend taking advantage of that.

And there are so many other wonderful non-skiing places to visit in the Geneva region, it makes sense to take a day or two off from skiing, and use that rental car for other good purposes. A favorite of mine is the city of Annecy, and an hour or two spent skating or bicycling on the beautiful rail trail near the city will help make up for snowpack deficits; Chamonix and Grenoble are surrounded by intimidating peaks, etc.

[quote] trails prepared for skating and classic

I cannot remember finding a groomed cross-country ski trail in France that is not set for both skating and classic.


Austria + Südtirol places

posted to rec.skiing.nordic 05mar20:

Subject: Südtirol vs Ramsau or Obertilliach: where to ski

I did some driving around the European Alps and I found some rather pretty places with fun skiing in the Sudtirol region in Italy. I'd favor it for a cross-country-skiing focused holiday, over Ramsau or Obertilliach in Austria. (but not over France)


Südtirol is the German-speaking region in northeast Italy. I stayed in Toblach ("Dobbiaco" in Italian), and I liked the architecture and character of the town better than Ramsau. The cliffs and mountains are more jagged and vertical than either Ramsau or Obertilliach. The prettiest skiing trails in the Hochpustertal area around there can be reached by the skier shuttle bus, though I had a rental car. I remember I was driving south on the road to Cortina, and I saw some people skiing, and I had to stop my car right there and get out my skis, it was so pretty by the Durrensee ("Lago di Landro") -- first time that's ever happened to me for XC skiing. Then it was so much fun skating there along the Toblach - Cortina trail (gentler and prettier than similar trails elsewhere) that I skied lots more distance than I expected.

Another very pretty and fun (but small) XC ski place I found was the Fischleintal ("Val Fiscalina") near Moos. Other people have mentioned Val di Fiemme, but I didn't get there this time, even though it's in that Sudtirol region.

Snow assurance? A number of the trails in Sudtirol are as high or higher than Obertilliach, and seemed better laid out for fun skiing (because in wider gentler areas). Except for doing lap after lap on a little loop up there somewhere on the glacier, the main trails of Ramsau are less high than lots of trails at Sudtirol (and less high than Bessans in France).


Actually this is a short drive from Toblach, has a remote feel, pretty village. For me it seemed too small to spend like a three-day holiday there, but it would work for me as one component of longer vacation in Sudtirol. Indeed they now sell a Dolomites-region nordic skipass that includes Obertilliach together with Toblach and Hochpustertal (even though Obertilliach is in Osttirol, whose mountains looked less spectacular than Sudtirol). The trail layout was mostly up-or-down-a-single-valley, like lots of places in the European Alps -- but I prefer a trail system wider and more two-dimensional. Seemed like the main village is up on a substantial hill -- good if you're name is like Bjorndalen and you want a convenient location for your Lactate Threshold repeats.

Ramsau am Dachstein

I had a fun day skating there in the sunshine, but the trail layout is skewed to favor Classic skiers. Indeed on a Wednesday afternoon in early March, looked like 95% were skiing classic. Funny thing was that 90% of those were "shufflers", just like at any American XC ski center. It was surprising for me to be the fastest skier out there in Ramsau -- guess all the racers were somewhre else that day.

The trail layout is broader and more "loop" options than Obertilliach. I did the 30km skating loop, and most of another skating loop which overlapped it. Most of these had a similar layout: straights and broad curves, well-graded climbs including long ones (paired with long descents with broad curves). I encountered lots of places on the main skating loop where I had to take my skis off to cross a road, and places where I could see the trail looped back onto itself. (Truly first-class trail designers are careful to hide that, so it feels like the trail is taking me to a new place, e.g. the layout at Mohonk or Mt Van Ho). What I missed most was that I didn't find much of the tight curves with fun dips and humps which I find really fun at places like La Feclaz in France or the rollercoaster hills at Mt Van Hoevenberg (NY).

But I wasn't there long, so perhaps somebody on this newsgroup can tell us which are some of the more interesting loops (and if they allow skating on them). As a skater, I didn't get real excited about Ramsau (give me La Feclaz or Les Saisies or Mohonk or Mt Van Ho or Royal Gorge) -- but it seemed like lots of experienced classic shufflers have been coming back there, so if you like Classic striding, maybe you'll love Ramsau too.


Utah skiing places near Salt Lake

posted to rec.skiing.nordic 05jan20:

Subject: skaters + snowmobiles

Daniel's Summit

Yesterday I found a special place for ski-skating in Utah. It had interesting + fun trail design, the best mountain views, perfect grooming, plenty of snow-depth -- and that wonderful mix of evergreen and aspen trees which is quintessential Wasatch forest skiing for me. Best groomed-track cross-country skiing experience I've had in Utah.

It's a snowmobiling place. Walking to the start of the trail, I went past an army of red snow machines parked ready for rental.

But on that perfect sunny Tuesday, there were almost as many skiers as snowmobilers. All the snowmobilers I encountered were polite. And from the looks of the tracks I could see, seemed like lots of the aggressive wilder sledding gets done off the groomed trail -- not where I'd usually be skating anyway.

Now I don't think an out-of-state skier can just drive to Daniel's Summit randomly and expect to have a fun skiing experience. Some ideas:

  • check The Utah Nordic Alliance website for info + reports:

  • Difficulty: Daniel's Summit would be "advanced" / "most difficult" terrain by the standards of most cross-country ski centers. Bring strong legs and solid downhill skills, there's lots of hill to climb, and get back down.

  • Altitude: Much of the skiing there is over 2500 meters / 8000 ft altitude -- so if like me you're coming from sea-level, don't try it on the first day of your visit. Wait a few days to get acclimatized to altitude.

  • Timing: unless you like being around much faster + heavier things with engine noise and diesel smell, go there mid-week, or maybe try very early on a weekend morning.

  • try to get there just after they groomed -- call ahead and ask. I called the Store at the phone number at the bottom of this web page:

Mirror Lake Highway

Next day I thought I'd try some other snowmobile-shared trails on another perfect sunny day. I drove out east past Kamas on Rt 150 to the end of the snow-plowing. There they were in the parking area: Snowmobiles with their noise and fumes. So of course I waved and said, "Great day to be out here". I skated south up to Soapstone Pass and back, and then east on the Mirror Lake Highway up to the Upper Provo Bridge. While out there skiing, I counted more skiers than snowmobiles. And again, all the sledders I encountered were polite. I tried to wave to each of them (just like I do with cars when I'm out rollerskiing and skating on the roads). I didn't catch that area on a good grooming day, but still it was overall a positive skiing experience.


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