La Grave – Feeling the Love

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Ken Fuhrer

in La Grave there are literally 8000 ft runs on offer.  The venerable two stage telepherique delivers skiers to 3200 meters and a short t-bar brings people to the Dome de Lauze.  Nowhere to go but down from there.

When it's on in La Grave, there are literally 8000 ft runs on offer. The venerable two stage telepherique delivers skiers to 3200 meters and a short t-bar brings people to the Dome de Lauze. Nowhere to go but down from there.

It is true, the ample snow and cold conditions make for great skiing far above and well below the French village. While there this past winter on a week’s trip, we Colorado skiers (and one Californian) managed to hit it just right and you could too.

 If La Grave has been on your list, get it done.  We know the Wild Snow faithful prefer to earn their turns, but here is an exception worth considering!

If La Grave has been on your list, get it done. We know the Wild Snow faithful prefer to earn their turns, but here is an exception worth considering!

In addition to the obvious Vallons and Chancel routes bringing you straight back to the town, more complex adventures are possible. The Valle de la Selle sends you over 7000 ft and almost ten miles to St. Christophe. A connection through neighboring Les Deux Alpes brings the skier equally as far to tiny Cuculet.

 All the fantastic drops to the highway--the famous road runs below the village--are in including Freaux, the incredible Voit double 40 meter ropes for rappel

All the fantastic drops to the highway--the famous road runs below the village--are in including Freaux, the incredible Voit double 40 meter ropes for rappel.

The incomparable Chirouze that does clock in over 8000 feet to the river!

The incomparable Chirouze that does clock in over 8000 feet to the river!

If you ski a direct lap with that much vertical, it will change you no matter how long you have been skiing, trust me.

Two laps a day around here will rack up as much vert as skiing from the summit of Mt. Blanc to sea level.  Time for a beer!

Two laps a day around here will rack up as much vert as skiing from the summit of Mt. Blanc to sea level. Time for a beer!

However, La Grave is all about the skiing. The evenings are spent reveling, dining and plotting the next move. We would certainly recommend the Hotel L’Edelwiess for sleeping and eating; the bakery rules and the cheese shop delivers, too. There are plenty of gear stores for any skier needs and a bustling guide bureau will take questions.

The ski area is unique; no marked trails and no ski patrol give the place a wild feel.

The ski area is unique; no marked trails and no ski patrol give the place a wild feel.

Think Silverton to the 100th power. There are decent maps, but Joe Vallone, a Colorado guide in his 7th or 8th season there, says the guide book is a piece of bleep not worth bleep. He would be a great guide to seek out for sure.

So in short, fly to Lyon, rent a car, drive to La Grave and ski your brains out. (The season for La Grave is in general the winter and early spring ski season for the Alps, check conditions by contacting guide services or other sources in the Alps.)

Check?

Check?

Check out Ken’s Dalbello Virus’ at Backcountry.com!

Ken Fuhrer is a veteran ski schooler in Telluride, the head guide for Ryder/Walker Alpine adventures in summer, and the technical director for Alpenglow Ski Safaris, which specializes in town-to-town ski treks in the Alps.

Comments

22 Responses to “La Grave – Feeling the Love”

  1. Rob April 13th, 2012 1:09 pm

    I skied La Grave both last year (March) and this year (Jan), and I second the motion…it’s an amazing place. Where else can you ski a wild mountain with almost no other skiers around, and still find a nice hut that serves a killer lamb dish with rosemary sauce?

    Hotel L’Edelwiess is indeed a great place to stay…the UK couple who run it are great folks, and a good source of local knowledge!

  2. ptor April 13th, 2012 3:29 pm

    All photoshop and lies! Chamonix is waaaaaaaayy better!

  3. Craig April 13th, 2012 4:07 pm

    AW Ptor! You just don’t want anyone to ski your stash! Chamonix is also pretty amazing.

  4. Mark W April 13th, 2012 9:56 pm

    Sounds like a place to put on the list for certain.

  5. colin April 14th, 2012 3:44 am

    Warning! conditions have radically changed and most of the runs mentioned in the article have all melted/avied out. we got new snow but nothing like our Swiss and Austrian neighbors who continue to get nuked daily. go north for the pow experince.
    la grave is good now for mushroom picking and walking in the flowers.

  6. Oscar April 14th, 2012 3:45 am

    I thought La Grave was one of those places that everyone had heard of? Aparently i was in the wrong…

    Oh well, has been on my list for a looong time, too bad it will probably stay on the list for another couple of years.

  7. colin April 14th, 2012 3:47 am

    also, I didn’t know wildsnow is into promoting lift companies, specific guides etc. the writer of this article is also obivously into promotion of his company Alpenglow Ski Safaris. a bit to fluffy and hype-like for the objective and neutral Wildsnow.

  8. brian h April 14th, 2012 5:49 pm

    HEY KEN! Stoked to see the world is treating you well! Excellent photos, that place certainly has the rep and your story is food for the fire. Although I think Mr. Ptor has helped stoke it once or twice. Beers on me at the Ranch if you EVER find yourself in Dango…

  9. Lou April 14th, 2012 11:11 pm

    Colin and all, we did need to do a bit of editing on this article so it was clear that it’s now spring conditions in Europe and these guys are talking about a winter trip. Sorry about that and thanks for pointing it out as well as sharing specifics about how the snow is swirling around Europe these days (we just got back from Otztal, where yes it’s still snowing up high), I’ll go in there in a moment and fix, just changing a few words is all it will take. And, finding any good mushrooms around there (grin)?

    Regardless, I liked this informative guest blog and didn’t mind a bit of PR thrown in. Note along those lines how we compromised and did not do the hyperlinks for the guides, And NO, we’re not going to make a habit of doing PR articles. For balance, how about you leave a comment mentioning your favorite La Grave guide? That would be useful for our readers.

  10. colin April 15th, 2012 3:42 am

    snowing up high here, and melting out down low. could be fine touring conditions in the Parc des Ecrins in May, if and when the low pressures leave. RE: Guides, they all have their unique attributes, and it all depends on what the client is looking for. People are free to contact me if they want to know conditions here, etc.
    Big Dumps continuing in Switz. and Austria. Fat!

  11. Lou April 15th, 2012 3:51 am

    Sitting in Austria at the moment watching rain on skylight, planning on getting back to the higher alpine soon, office day today, it’s whiteout up high so I think we’ve got the timing working…

  12. Ken Fuhrer April 15th, 2012 11:10 am

    Hey wildsnow, like to see the comment thread going here. The conditions have changed since we had that highlight week of skiing in La Grave last February, but as I write from the center of Switzerland the forecast is for a hammer dump in the Western Alps. Looks like anywhere from Zermatt south through the Val d’ Aosta and the Isere valley will be buried. Lou, thanks for the guest blog spot and maybe think about heading west!

  13. janice Walker April 15th, 2012 5:09 pm

    I am so proud of Ken and his terrific photos and reports.

  14. Wookie1974 April 16th, 2012 2:10 am

    Got about 10 cm of fresh in the Stubaital on the weekend, and the Wetterstein in Austria looks deep…should be touring above 1800 into the end of May, early June. Still getting new snow above 1800 all along the north side of the eastern Alps!
    Now – if we could just get some sunshine!

  15. janice Walker April 16th, 2012 9:29 am

    Ken,

    Keep the European articles coming. It is interesting to learn about the snow conditions and amazing runs in the Alps. Maybe next year.

  16. Jamie April 17th, 2012 7:17 am

    Think Silverton? Silverton requires you hire a guide and its $139 a day. . La Grave is 40 euros or $52 dollars,and you don’t need a guide, it’s crazily all up to you. La Grave has a vertical of close to 7100ft whereas Silverton has a lift served vertical of 1900ft. La Grave has glaciers where Silverton does not. La Grave has a sweet village at the bottom of the lifts, Silverton doesn’t have much. Sorry but there is no comparison there.

  17. brian h April 17th, 2012 7:58 am

    I believe it was “Silverton to the100th power”. The idea was to start with what Silverton offers and multiply. I’d say that the main reason why you have to have a guide at Silverton is the sue happy culture of America, notably absent in Europe. I have had some great days there, during their “unguided” weeks.

  18. Ken Fuhrer April 17th, 2012 10:51 am

    Thanks Brian and Jamie, I think you are both correct. The idea is that La Grave is bigger, not better. Silverton is great for so many reasons. Lou, so glad the weather cleared for you today! We could just about see you from the Diavolezza, hope it stays sunny, Ken

  19. Joe P April 19th, 2012 1:21 am

    jamie, you’re absolutely right. there is no comparison between La Grave and Silverton. too entirely different animals. Aaron describes Silverton as the La Grave of Colorado. Ha!! it couldn’t be farther from the truth. he has a product where he gets to dictate when and where you ski and at what price using guides that have never really been guided in a big mountain setting. his staff needs to experience what La Grave has to offer and then bring it back home. our joke all winter long came after we’d ski one run to the road in La Grave; we’d comment: “well, that’s a day at Silverton”…..then we’d ski another road run and finish by commenting that now we’ve had a week’s worth of skiing at Silverton without a guide telling us that we had to ski to the right or left of his track. want a real mountain experience??? don’t just put La Grave on your bucket list, book your ticket now for next season.
    and a little update on Colin’s weather info….we’ve been skiing powder all week long and it’s snowing again today with the biggest part of the storm set to arrive over the weekend.

  20. Ken Fuhrer April 23rd, 2012 11:02 am

    Joe, glad the good skiing in La Grave continues, that’s great. Our trip there was so good we wanted to put it out there! The intent was never Silverton bashing. I live in Telluride and Silverton really enriches the mix of things that can be done around here. It is no way big like La Grave but I wonder, what is? It was Brian who commented about the unguided streches of the season in Silverton and when they have the snow, it rocks. Anyway, back in Colorado and the San Juans are looking pretty white!

  21. JCoates February 10th, 2014 4:37 am

    I’m planning a last minute trip this weekend to La Grave. Anyone have any updated recommendations on guides (Ptor, are you available)? My girlfriend and I are looking for the crusty type who has been there and done that–and doesn’t have anything to prove anymore. Also, how are the conditions there right now? Thanks in advance.

    -Josh

  22. Joe P February 10th, 2014 5:06 am

    Josh, come visit in LG. we are here for the season and don’t mind skiing with a few folks. Ptor is in Kirgystan for the next month. i can recommend a few guides around here but if you’re needing a semi-local (lived here for the two previous seasons), we would ski with you when a guide is not necessary, but then throw you to a guide as the situation arises. when are you coming? catch me on my email: skitour@youngminds.com Joe

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