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Traveling Back in Time on Chairlifts From the Sixties in Montgenevre, France

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Snowboarding and Skiing on the French-Italian Border

The ski station of Montgenevre and Claviere is part of the greater Via Lattea arena that includes the italian resorts Sestriere, Sansicario and Sauze d'Oulx. This article will focus solely on the french side of this ski area for the simple reason that I have not yet been venturing in the direction of Sauze d'Oulx.

Montgenevre already appeared in my article Top 5 Unknown Snowboarding Destinations In The European Alps That Will Rock Your Socks Off because of what it has to offer. Its unique selling point is the availability of untracked powder snow even days after a serious snowfall. On snow days, when low visibility above the treeline prevents you from going out of bounds, you can find amazing free-riding possibilities in the forest on the north face of the resort. On sunny days you can go higher up into the powder fields or work on your tan on the south face.

Montgenevre Powder Snow
Credit: Ervine Roodselaar

The view from the Rocher de l'Aigle chairlift in Montgenevre, France.

To Montgenevre and Beyond

Montgenevre can either be reached from Briancon on the french side of the border or Torino on the italian side. From Briancon it takes less than 30 minutes by car, from Torino 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Torino also has an airport for those who want to come by plane. If you decide to rent a car at the airport please note that you will have to pay road tax when taking the highway towards Montgenevre. These roads were built for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games because the existing infrastructure was not at all suited for hosting an Olympic event. Italy got into some serious debt paying for everything including the necessary bribes to be awarded the Olympic Games instead of Sierre in Switzerland that actually already did have a suited infrastructure. The result is that we will be paying road tax here for the rest of eternity to make up for those costs.

From the airport there is also the option of public transportation. First take a train to Torino central station where you change trains in the direction of Oulx. 1 hour and 12 minutes later you will arrive in the town of Oulx from where you can take the bus, also referred to as 'navette' in French, to Montgenevre. The bus departs from the train station three times a day at 11:45 AM, 16:00 PM and 19:45 PM so keep that in mind when planning your trip to avoid paying an expensive taxi to fulfill the last stage of your trip.

The bus company exploiting this line is called ResAlp and it is the same bus people take when arriving in Oulx by TGV from Paris. Because of this fast and direct TGV connection with Paris there is also the possibility to travel to Montgenevre by train relatively easy. Even from cities like London, Brussels and Amsterdam one can travel to Montgenevre within a day with Paris functioning as a hub. You could even spend one or more nights in Paris to add a bit of diversity to your travels.

The ResAlp bus company will bring you from Oulx to Montgenevre in 25 minutes and continues in the direction of Briancon and the ski stations of the Serre Chevalier valley all the way up to Monetier les Bains.

In Montgenevre there are plenty of apartments, restaurants, bars and a few hotels. Be aware that most of the apartments in the resort itself can only be booked from saturday to saturday, especially in peak season. If you want more flexibility to choose the dates of your stay and you are traveling by car then I recommend booking a hotel or apartment in Briancon down in the valley on the french side. This is definitely the thing to do when you are planning a snowboarding trip last minute.

From Briancon you will also have the opportunity to check out resorts like the adjacent Serre Chevalier or at a 30 minute drive the ski resorts of Puy Saint Vincent, Risoul and Vars.

The resort of Montgenevre-Claviere in France is found on the border with Italy and is part of the greater Via Lattea domain.

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Montgenèvre, France

The Never Ending Conflict Between North and South

When going up to Montgenevre from Briancon by car I recommend parking at P11 halfway Claviere. From here you can buy your ski pass next to the 'Tremplin' chairlift that takes you up to the north facing side of the resort. Opposite of 'Tremplin' you will see the Telemix 'Serre Thibaut' that will take you to the south facing slopes.

Now you may wonder what a Telemix is and actually it is a mix of both gondolas and chairs going up the same cable. You will find this wondrous creation also on the 'Chalmettes' lift next to P3 on the west side of Montgenevre.

The reason I choose parking at P11 is because it is less crowded, gives you access to ski lifts to both the north and the south face of the resort and provides a quiet ski pass office where you can buy your ski pass without having to wait in line.

The slopes on the south face are only worth checking out when it is cold, either on a nice cold winter day or early morning in spring. The snow gets slushy and sticky really quickly here on a sunny day in spring. The black slopes around the 'Rocher Rouge' chairlift are protected from the sun though and offer the best free-riding possibilities on this side of the resort.

The remaining slopes here can not compete with the potential of the north face. Feel free to check out the red and black slopes on the top of the 'Chalvet' chairlift but you will probably find that these slopes are not worth the 15 minute ride up with this ancient Poma two-seater chairlift from the nineteen sixties and that your time is better spent on the opposite side.

The Secret Behind the Equal Distribution of Powder

On the north face it's the french Rocher de l'Aigle and italian Colletto Verde mountains that offer a sneak peek into what a powder day in heaven can be like. The only drawback about this area is that chairlifts are incredibly slow and when going down the Colletto Verde side into Italy you will need to take at least 5 (!) different chairlifts, all slow in their own right, to reach back on top of Rocher de l'Aigle and Colletto Verde for another run.

For argument's sake let me spell out which lifts and slopes you will have to choose to get back on top after descending the number '100' red or black slope or the powder fields that surround them. Of course this is also critical information if you want to follow in my footsteps and will save you a lot of time not having to figure it out yourself.

But before undertaking such expedition to come back on top of Colletto Verde one could enjoy this part of the resort by taking the 'Cime Saurel' chairlift up once or twice to check out the free-riding possibilities down from Col Saurel. This is one of the few places where you could attempt transforming the mountain into a pile of spaghetti by making lines all day.

Once you are ready to attempt your expedition back to the top of Colletto Verde continue down the '100' red slope to Refuge Gimont and take the 'Gimont' chairlift (1/5) up to Colle Bercia. On top take your time to make sure you are taking slope '93' down towards the 'La Coche' chairlift and not the '23' down to Sauze d'Oulx because your Montgenevre/Claviere ski pass will no longer be valid on that side. Also make sure you don't take the '95' or the '97' red slopes down because these will bring you back to the start of the 'Gimont' chairlift and then you will have to try again.

When you have successfully located the start of slope '93', take it down past the 'La Coche' chairlift and onto the blue '91' slope while keeping left wherever possible. If everything goes well you will find yourself at the bottom of the 'Col Boeuf' chairlift (2/5). Take this chairlift up and go right after exiting, follow the red '99' slope down and stick to the left again in order to end up at the bottom of the 'Tremplin' chairlift (3/5).

Take 'Tremplin' up and take the red 'La Doire' slope down to the chairlift called 'Le Brousset' (4/5). From the top of 'Le Brousset' go down the blue 'La Traversee' slope to the chairlift of 'Rocher de l'Aigle' (5/5) which will bring you back up again to the top of Rocher de l'Aigle and Colletto Verde.

If all goes well and you make no mistakes navigating the slopes you will be back on top of Colletto Verde in at least one and a half hour, ready for descent number two. As you can imagine the powder runs on the Colletto Verde side do not get tracked out quickly, not by you nor by anyone else.

From Rocher de l'Aigle you can also choose to stay on the french side where you can find some amazing descents down to the 'Le Brousset' chairlift. Making laps here only requires taking the old and slow "Le Brousset' and 'Rocher de l'Aigle' chairlifts which will allow you to rest your legs for about 25 minutes each time before going down again.

Montgenevre Rocher de l'Aigle Chairlift
Credit: Ervine Roodselaar

Going up in the slow Rocher de l'Aigle chairlift will give you plenty of time to plan your next powder line and the opportunity to give your leg muscles a rest.

Saying Goodbye to 'Powder Stress'

If you have never visited Montgenevre before and you are going here on a day trip from Briancon or any other place close-by try to choose a sunny day. As goes for all new snowboard destinations it's always a lot easier navigating when you can actually see where you're going.

Also for navigation purposes it is advised to check the resort map (online) before going and putting together a plan based on the information provided above. It helps when you already have an idea of what the resort looks like and it will save you a lot of time and frustration when trying to find your way around.

Apart from the many old and slow chairlifts the resort of Montgenevre really is a nice place with huge opportunities for amazing free-riding experiences. As mentioned before, nothing gets tracked out quickly here so your stay should be relatively 'powder stress' free. Enjoy!

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