As we start February, half term is calling. Not only do we have a couple of weeks of the UK holidays, we also have the French holidays – and the German / Swiss / Austrian / Italian… Safe to say there are A LOT of people on the hill throughout February. So much so, it can often seem like it’s not worth heading out there. Which is a shame as now is usually when we have the best snow of the season.
So we’ve had a chat about it here at EDGE headquarters and we’ve put together our best ideas to help you keep calm and keep on cruising. Before we get stuck in, here are a couple of great piste maps for Paradiski so you can have a look at where we are talking about!
Timing is Key
So the main contenders on the mountain are all the kids in ski school – annoying in the way that they are often better than you! So the key to avoiding the masses is to avoid the school times. In La Plagne the group ski school hours are 10 – 1230 and then roughly 2 – 5 in the afternoon. So head out around these times.
First lifts is definitely the way to go as most people won’t get out this early. If you’re lucky, you can get fresh tracks and then head into work afterwards.
If you can’t make a 9am start, then grab yourself an early lunch and then head out between 12 – 2.30ish. People are like sheep. Not only has ski school let out, but all the adults are programmed to stop for lunch between these hours. So eat early and then make the most of a quiet mountain. Whilst everyone else wastes their time in overcrowded restaurants.
You’ll find the mountain quiet again at the end of the day, so if you’ve got time to make it, head out after 3pm. You’ll get a surprising amount of runs in as everyone else knocks-off for après or to pick up the kids.
Avoid ski school routes
Another note on the ski schools, there are certain places that instructors will head first thing with their budding students. For example, from Plagne Centre at 10am all the groups will head to the Bergerie chair. So if you are starting your day at 10am, don’t bother getting this chair. Try the Grande Rochette or Colorado for a couple of runs first.
The same is the case in every village across Paradiski : Arc 1650, Arc 2000, Plagne BelleCote – everywhere. So scope it out on you first day and then head in the other direction.
Find the Shortcuts
If you’re on holiday speak to your chalet staff. If you are chalet staff you should know them by now! But avoiding big feeder chairs and taking a couple of smaller chairs will often get you places quicker than the 1 chair. Think about it – you want to get up to Roche de Mio (and maybe to the glacier) and so you could just get on the bubble from BelleCote to Roche de Mio. But you’ll probably find this crammed with people awkwardly trying to get their skis into the lift and panicking that their boards are going to fall off the holders. Avoid this by heading to the Blanchette lift and then taking the Carella up to Roche de Mio. Yes, you won’t have a comfortable bubble lift to sit in, but you will find shorter queues and less people.
One chair usually has several runs
Often certain chair lifts have multiple runs branching of from them. But for some reason there is one top run and the rest are ignored. Imagine the top of the Roche de Mio again. There are several awesome runs here – Levraset, Les Sources, Inversens. However, the Inversens is often ignored because it is a bit of a dead end and also the Inveresns chair lift is loooooong and sloooooow. However, if you are game, the piste usually has ½ the amount of people on it – and hardly any ski schools will venture down here.
The same goes for many chairs. When you are on the way up, check out the pistes below to figure it out. You’ll often see the majority of people sticking to one run over the rest.
Avoid Tourist Traps
There are certain spots people are heading to just so they can check it off the holiday bucket list : L’Aiguille Rouge is a perfect example. You can easily spend ½ hour queueing for the final lift to get to the peak. Whilst it is breath-taking once you are there, if what you are looking for is riding time, then don’t bother. The short run down is often chopped up and full of people. The quality of the run is not worth the time spent in line.
-No pushing or elbows needed
-No stabbing people’s skis or boards with your poles when trying to move faster
-Don’t stand sideways in the queue, why would you do that?!
-Don’t get to the chair and then stop to wait for your mates letting several empty chairs go. Seriously, you can spend 5mins without them!
Some of the chairs have single person queues to the right hand side of them. So if you are on your own you can slip into empty spots on chairs.
The Lower Villages
Don’t write these off your list just because some guy in your hotel told you they were all icy/stony/whatever. The lower villages usually have a great selection of runs heading in to them. As we pointed out earlier, you’ll often find one is more popular than the others. So yes, the blue might be icy or chopped up, but the red to the side is actually pretty untouched and in great condition. The ‘helpful’ guy in your hotel just wasn’t good enough to try it!
So there we go, just a few pointers to help you try to stay sane and keep on riding through Feb! Enjoy!