Far from the world, we experienced an extraordinary 3-day exploration of the snow-covered valleys of the Aravis mountains.
We were 6 friends keen to get together for a ski-touring session. We had varying skiing levels, so went for an “average difficulty” option to ensure we would all enjoy ourselves. Didier, a mountain guide from Thônes, put together the perfect itinerary for us. Starting at the Col du Marais, Ludo, Nico, Lolo, Romain, Yannick and I set off behind Didier for the Arbarete summit. At the top, we took off our skis to remove the sealskins before skiing down to the Envers de Sulens. A nice little warm-up to prepare us for the 2nd day, when we headed for the Orsière mountains to spend the night at the foot of Mont Charvin. On this evening before our 3rd and last day, it was great to be able to choose our route together, in line with our preferences and our physical state. We decided to head for the Sulens mountains, which meant we could avoid using the transport service and ski back to our vehicles instead.
We spent 3 fabulous days in glorious sunshine, encouraging each other on the climbs and zig-zagging down in the powder snow of our dreams. Despite a few not-so-perfect turns ending in fits of laughter, we left some beautiful curves on the immaculate slopes of virgin snow. All in the ultimate mountain setting with a panorama of the Tournette, incredible views over the Aravis mountains and, of course, with Mont Blanc as our backdrop.
Arriving at the refuge at about 5pm left us plenty of time to get together, chat around the fire about the day’s highlights, and enjoy a drink as Didier told us a few little stories and revealed the secrets behind his evening speciality, Sopa Diot, or “soupe aux diots” (in local patois, a nod to the name Sapaudia, meaning “conifer country”) to which he adds bacon and a slice of melted reblochon cheese flavoured with a conifer twig. It’s absolutely delicious and a serious rival for the must-try fondue savoyarde that was on the menu for the 2nd evening!
The great thing about this long-distance itinerary is that the refuges are well-equipped, which means you can travel light by carrying only packed lunches, a change of clothes and a sleeping-bag liner. Needless to say, it’s much more pleasant skiing with just a thirty-litre backpack. And Lolo would be the first to agree!
On the 2nd evening, considering the excellent weather conditions and the enthusiasm of our group, Didier suggested we get back on our skis for a night session by the light of the moon and our headtorches. Without a moment’s hesitation, we were on the slopes at the foot of the Charvin for a truly unique experience! Night skiing is very different, it’s an amazing feeling. Above all, it’s exhilarating as it heightens the sensation of speed. This was one of the highlights of the whole trip! But if you want to try night skiing without going on a long-distance trek, that’s possible too. We’re certainly going to have another go…