Insight: Les Menuires
Insight: Les Menuires
Fresh snow has fallen overnight in the Belleville valley, evidence of which we see during the steady climb from Chambéry during late December. After passing Saint Martin de Belleville, looking as pretty as ever, we turn towards Les Menuires. Our hotel is on the far side of the village in the Les Bruyères area, and our apartment offers us interesting overviews of goings-on around the modern gondola lift.
Cruising from Les Menuires
Next morning, despite the fact that the location is as close to ski-in/ski-out as it gets around here, we decide to head down to another lift, for a haul up to the Pointe de la Masse (2804m) on the opposite side of the valley. As we’d hoped, the early morning conditions here are just perfect, with few signs of ice to unsettle our skis.
Just 100m or so along the Red-graded Fred Covili piste we pass Le Bouquetin, a 3.5m-high mountain goat in larch by wood sculptor Marc Georgeault. Here the piste divides, offering another Red-graded alternative (Crêtes, which feeds onto the Lac Noir Black) but we continue onwards to join the network of Blues spreading out from the lifts lower down. Ahead of us we can see the whole of the upper valley, revealing for the first time Les Menuires’ surprisingly sheltered location. By now the gradient has eased slightly, and our final drop back to our starting-point is a gentle cruise.
More than enough
Now we head over to the Roc des Trois-Marches gondola to see how conditions are shaping up on the opposite side of the valley. On the ride up it’s looking promising, so at the top station we ski over to join the Mont de la Chambre chairlift for a haul up to 2850m. From here we could drop straight over into neighbouring Méribel, but having done that last season we decide instead to get better acquainted with Les Menuires’s own terrain.
There are any number of routes back down to the village, most of them Red- or Blue-graded, and if you were staying for a week or so you could do worse than spending a morning skiing right here without ever quite repeating yourself. Sadly, we don’t have that luxury, so we work our way slowly and deliberately over towards the Bruyères area, above which we stop for lunch at the Chalet Hotel Kaya. It turns out to be an inspired choice, with a satisfyingly varied menu and a large sun-deck overlooking the pistes.
We emerge from our meal feeling far too relaxed to power up the energy levels for awhile, so we’re more than happy to join the other skiers taking it easy on the gentler terrain on this side of the ski area. But not everyone feels the same, judging by the steady flow of freestyle skiers keen to develop their tricks over in the snowpark. You can’t help but be impressed by the confidence and flair of the new generation of skiers and boarders who are changing the outside world’s perception of mountain activities, but our self-preservation instincts override any temptation we might secretly harbour about joining them.
In any case, we’re elated enough by the sheer magic of skiing our last runs of the day, as the sun slips below the nearby peaks and hints at the kind of sunset which counteracts the gathering chill of evening.
After a great day’s skiing from Les Menuires we head back to the hotel in a reflective mood and prepare to enjoy an evening meal at the legendary (two) Michelin-starred La Bouitte Chalet Restaurant, over in Saint Martin de Belleville. Which is another story…
Feature by Roger Moss, © 2020