Insight: La Clusaz
Insight: La Clusaz
We last skied in La Clusaz a long time ago, and much has changed. The replacement of the Beauregard cable-car by a high-speed gondola really improved access to the eastern terrain where we and many others like to begin our days’ skiing. The ride up provides a dramatic overview of the village and its unmistakable setting, before dropping us at 1635m. Ahead is a large children’s area, while to the left and right tree-lined Blue or Black pistes head all the way back down again, but we take the gentle Blue-graded run over to the nearby Croix-Fry area.
Views of Manigod
The landscapes, looking pristine after a long night of continuous snowfall, are a picture, and Croix-Fry sits among them like a tiny ski-village in a world of its own. There’s another beginner area here plus a selection of Red and Blue runs, but we take a lift up and over the Tête de Cabeau (1650m), where we pause briefly to take in the definitive overview of the Manigod valley before dropping into the Merdassier sector. The change of mood is accentuated by the dramatic backdrop of the Massif de l’Etale looming some 2400m before us.
The Col de Merdassier is a pleasant area, and we take the Chevreuil lift back up to the Tête de Cabeau to repeat the run before taking an early lunch-break and moving across to confront L’Etale. The majority of runs on this side of the valley are Red-graded and served by drag-lifts, the steepest of which (Le Grand Chamois) hauls us up to a vertiginous viewpoint above a narrow adjoining valley. On the bracing run back down we peel off to join a gentle, Green-graded cruise round to the Grands Laquais drag-lift to join the Blue-graded Les Joux piste. Once down we transfer to the modern Transval cable-car across to the Combe des Juments. The onward haul via two chairlifts up to L’Aiguille (2257m) puts us way above the popular Crête du Merle area and allows us to pick up the Red-graded Fernuy piste for the long and exhilarating plunge to the foot of the La Balme gondola.
The snow below the 2477m Col de Balme holds up well in the afternoon, encouraging the kind of E-W progression which has brought us so far from our starting-point. It’s worth the effort, as we discover while exploring as much of the Red and Blue-graded terrain above us as time allows before we have to think of our return route. We could be sensible and take the relaxing La Motte return Green run back to the upper end of the village, but instead ride the Fernuy gondola up to Côte 2000. By now it’s getting late, and we emerge from the gondola into a bitter wind, determined to let our skis run on the succession of Red and Blue pistes which will take us back to where we began. It’s a long way… much further than we’d imagined, but doesn’t involve another lift – a reassuring thought at the end of the day.
Return to La Clusaz
By the time we’re cradling steaming mugs of vin-chaud back in a snug piste-side bar in La Clusaz’s charming village we’re in no doubt that you can cover a lot of ground in a determined day’s skiing here. With the benefit of a longer visit we could have seen even more and explored each of the areas in much greater depth. Next time, maybe; for now we’re happy to settle for being hugely impressed.
Feature by Roger Moss, © 2019