TR: #vterinthealps, part 2 (culture, pow, and one seriously decadent meal)

If you missed part 1 of the story, click here

words by J. Auerbach

Saturday April 4

We had been planning on riding Saturday and taking Sunday as a rest day so that we’d be fresh when we met up with Arnaud on Monday.  But, the weather on Saturday looked pretty shitty with nair up fairly high, and thick clouds above that.  It really did not seem to be the day to be up in the mountains.

After hemming and hawing about what to do, we decided to turn it into a “cultural day”.  We got ourselves some coffee and breakfast, moved rooms1, and then hit the road.

First we took a trip to the picturesque village of Gruyères and paid a visit to the H.R. Giger museum where we saw some, ah-hem, interesting pieces of art2.

Next, we continued past Bern and down around to Thun.  Why go to Thun?  To see some professional soccer3, of course….it happened to be the site of the closest match we could find: FC Thun playing host to FC St Gallen in the Swiss Super League, and les supporters de football among us really wanted to see some live football4 while in Europe, so why not?

We consumed some delicious sausages and beverages outside the stadium, and then headed in to our seats.  The stands were pretty empty, but at least they were covered5 and the match was an entertaining win for the home team6.

The day is summed up nicely by this photo montage from Mr. Stephen Waud

Culture! (photo credit: S. Waud; )

and this photo from Mr. Jason Chung

SW, JA, and RK (photo credit J. Chung)

After the game, we made the long drive back to Martigny7.  When we got back to the hotel, I took a look at the weather and it seemed that there would be a decent amount of snow coming fairly low that night.  Some of the crew really wanted to make sure not to tire themselves out before the intense week that we had ahead of us, but with the prospect of fresh snow and clearing skies we finally came to a compromise to go hit Les Marecottes in the morning for some pow laps before driving across the border to Chamonix later that day.

Sunday April 5

We packed the car and drove up to Les Marecottes for what would be our second and last real lift served day of the trip.  As we arrived at the base of the télécabine8, things were looking pretty socked in. But we were there, so we bought the ticket, took the ride, so to speak, and we headed up.  Just as we approached the top of the télécabine9 the skies above us were looking surprisingly clear.  As we got to the top of the télésiège10, it was looking really nice, and we were getting stoked.

Jason and Roger are stoked (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

The place was absolutely empty and we were able to get some fluffy first tracks.  Some small slides that we were able to release right under the lift reminded us to proceed with caution, but we were still able to get in


S Waud goes deep right under the lift (photo credit: J. Chung)


Josh likes easy-access, no competition pow (photo credit: J. Chung)


Roger's turn (photo credit: J. Chung)


Sending it (photo credit: J. Chung)


Sending it off a small rock (rider: J. Auerbach; photo credit: J. Chung)


shreddin' it (rider: J. Auerbach; photo credit: S. Waud)

Then with the snow starting to get warm,  visibility sporadic, and us wanting to save our legs for the next 5 days, we decided to call it quits.

We took the télécabine back down, got in the car and headed for France.

When we got to Chamonix we were able to check into our hotel early and then go into town to do a bit of laundry, eat some food11, and get some skis waxed.  Then it was back to the hotel to prepare for the next day, rest up, and get ready for dinner.

Besides our days with Arnaud, the only other thing that we had planned well in advance  was one seriously heady meal.  Jason had made reservations at the 2-Michelin Star Albert 1er12 for that evening.

(photo credit: R. Kappe)

We ate some amazing food, drank some amazing wine13,  and really enjoyed the gluttony of the thing.

le menu (photo credit: J. Chung)

(photo credit: J. Chung)(photo credit: J. Chung)

(photo credit: J. Chung) les fromages (photo credit: J. Chung)

(photo credit: J. Chung) (photo credit: J. Chung)

smiley faces (photo credit: our waiter)

I probably won’t have a meal like this again for quite some time, but it was a damn enjoyable experience, and a great way to prepare for the next 5 days of intense physical activity in the high mountains!

Monday April 6

Feeling a bit groggy from all the wining and dining, we still managed to get in the car, make a quick stop for espressos and croissants, and be in the Flégère lot in time to meet Arnaud before the first tram14.

SW in the lot (photo credit: J. Chung)

While the weather was calling for clear skies, there was a North wind shutting down many of the other lifts in the area.  This caused Flégère to be quite a busy spot that morning.

Arnaud evaluated our original plan of Le Col de la Floria as too risky given the fresh snow,  and so we, as well as many other people, climbed up to Le Col des Crochues

Heading up to Le Col des Crochues (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

AJ was pretty stoked to get to the top.

SW and RK top out (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

From there we descended a bit,  traversed over, and put skins back on for a climb up the couloir to La  Pointe Alphonse Favre.

Descent du Col des Crochues (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

The couloir was definitely getting some sun and we witnessed one good release come past us as we were putting our skis on our backs.  We did not linger long and quickly climbed up and out of the colouir,

J. Chung boots up the top of the couloir (photo credit: S. Waud)

and then made our way up the ridge.

Stephen is having fun (photo credit: A. Bayol)

We got to the top, climbed down a bit, and found a good, safe spot to change over and have some snacks.  I think everyone was pretty happy to be there.

SW, RK, and JC enjoying being up high in the Aiguilles Rouges (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

When we are all set, Arnaud headed off across the slope to lead the way down the Glacier du Mort.

Arnaud leading the way on the Glacier du Mort (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

He brought us to a small drop15

sending it "gracefully" (rider: J. Auerbach; photo credit: A. Bayol)

after which we were really able to open it up through the cold, dry powder.

cold smoke (rider J. Auerbach; photo credit: S. Waud)

coming out the flats (skier: S. Waud; photo credit: J. Auerbach)

Yep, that was fun.  Just look at the smiles on these guys Chung and AJ are happy to be here (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

From there we got some more nice turns, but the snow was starting to turn.  Eventually we got below tree line where it was getting quite hot.

take off them layers (photo credit: J. Auerbach)

We then had to maneuver and shimmy our way through a bob-sled track with questionable coverage, many stream crossings, and several hesitant skiers.  Quite the adventure16, but after a total descent of about 1500m17, we at last made it to Le Buet.  Too bad there was no train back to Chamonix for two more hours.  Guess we’ll just have to hang out and have beers in the sun18.

Eventually we packed 5 people into a tiny automobile and managed to get back to Chamonix.  No big dinner plans that night, just some pub food at the MBC19 and early to bed, because the next day we’d be heading up into la haute montagne for several days and nights of adventure….


to be continued.





  1. We decided it would be easiest to sleep one more night in Martigny rather than driving around with a packed car.  However, we had to move out of the quadruple room, because someone else had it booked.
  2. Follow that link to see some examples if you’re not familiar.
  3. football
  4. soccer
  5. It was raining fairly hard.
  6. The St Gallen defense played pretty horribly
  7. Long for Switzerland: about two hours.
  8. gondola
  9. Which is really the base of the skiable terrain almost all of the time.
  10. chairlift
  11. Some really bad pizza right by the Aiguille du Midi–one of the few bad meals of the trip.
  12. Not to be confused with the Refuge Albert 1er, where we’d be staying the following night.
  13. Slightly too much for what we had planned the next day?   nah!
  14. téléphérique
  15. I think it was a test ;-).
  16. Especially on a splitboard.
  17. 4900 ft
  18. No photos, unfortunately.
  19. Embassy

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