It is said, perhaps somewhat jokingly, that driving to resort is more dangerous than skiing. If the N90 from Grenoble to Les Deux Alpes on the day of the Ski Mondial is anything to go by there is more than a grain of truth in this old saw. The long straights and bends from the ruins of Sechilienne through the post industrial wasteland of the lower Romanche valley up to the Lac du Chambon are one long, high-speed race track. The day before the road had been closed for sometime after a head on.
Despite overtaking that would put Schumi to shame the trip passed off without incident apart from a fire at the Pechiney aluminium works at Livet that had brought out the local fire brigade in their vintage tender… “what a real fire?” - Pugh Pugh Barney McGrew Cuthbert Dibble Grubb would be envious (you have to be a Trumpton fan to appreciate this).
Les Deux Alpes was busy but no heaving. There were no queues on the two stage DMC to the glacier and no snow in the village or anywhere below the glacier for that matter. We shared the lift up with a couple of mountain bikers auditioning for Robocop 4. At the 3200 meter glacier they headed off down the mountain, not on the track but straight down a 35 degree scree slope. Nutters.
It was sunny but the wind was getting up. The test village was closed this year with a high security fence. You checked gear in and out with barcode reader toting guys on the gate using a special test card. It wasn’t obvious what the advantage of this system was for testers, except for reducing the number of people milling around the stands. If you didn’t get your pass in the village you didn’t get to test skis. There was a queue for the hotter models and stands such as Movement’s, R-Idea/Bumtribe and Zag’s were busy. We chatted with Stephan Radiguet, Zag’s shaper and renewed and to Frankc Bernes-Heuga, Zag’s Pyrenean rider who we had not seen since the slopes of the Pic du Midi. Frank had been on the beach a couple of days before enjoying temperatures in the high 20s. Chez le Bumtribe Alexroub offered us some very alcoholic homemade Genepi and a madeleine and we said hello to Powerstef and promised to make a date for ski touring in the Bauges this winter.We also admired the Roxy skis on Dynastar’s stand, first fruits of the Quiksliver link-up.
The conditions on the glacier were good for testing. Nice snow higher up, crud midway towards the edges of the pistes and ice lower down. There was even powder high up on the Face. Queues were not a real problem and we managed to do quite a bit of skiing and build up a good picture of the skis we tested.
The Mondial remains an excellent pre-season event, even if we were not treated to thigh deep powder to the village. The ‘reserved’ lift for ski testing didn’t really seem to work with a bit of a free for all. The resort could have restricted this to people carrying test cards and directed more skiers down to the funicular but these are minor quibbles.