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Escapaders Continue – Tony, David, Wayne and Paddy

Tony, David, Wayne and Paddy from Sussex attempted the challenge for the first time in very mixed conditions on 20 March 2022. Freeze thaw meant awful ice in the morning and slush in the afternoon. Their comprehensive report below…

We started our skiing adventure in Courchevel so Foret was our first run. 

We had worked out that we needed to average around 22mph and ski top to bottom without stopping on most runs. We theorised that we should finish at about 4.20pm with forty minutes to spare… our last lift was forecast to close at 5pm.

However things never go as planned, the lifts opened 6 minutes late and Wayne’s ski binding came loose on the second run so we lost another precious few minutes.  

At 10.30am we stopped for a bathroom break in Meribel and slipped another 3 minutes behind. A water stop in Les Menuires made us doubt that we were ever going to complete this task in a day, putting us 15 minutes behind schedule.

The Chasse run was closed, and we ended up skiing down and coming back up and lost about 10 minutes tackling Bruyeres twice! We had to go all the way up Bruyeres 2 to VT and ski all the way through VT so this added 20 minutes to our route – a big deviation from the original plan.

If you can ski off piste from the back of La Massee its much quicker to get to Plan de L’Eau and would have saved 20 to 30 minutes of ski time but this is virtually impossible in March slush so added delays to our route.

Whilst in Orelle we encountered another issue as the Piste was closed for ten minutes whilst the Rescue Helicopter landed…. by this stage we had slipped further back and were now 34 minutes behind…. 

According to the times that we copied from the web site we had just six minutes to spare… we were really tight for time and there was no margin for any further errors or delays for the next three hours. We knew at this stage that only a faultless performance for the rest of the day would lead to success!

To make matters worse, the cloud came in and we lost the Sun….. we were skiing in flat light and were very worried that our attempt was over….

Fortunately, although we had lost the sun at this point, the cloud base was still high so we were still able to maintain a constant speed. We switched from sunglasses to goggles and pressed on with our quest!

It was a huge relief to make it back into the Courchevel Valley, at about 3.50pm we hit Pas Du Lac with zero queues. A few lifts to go and an hour before lift closures it was looking like we would be successful so we dropped the pace to avoid any injuries or accidents and finished at 4.38pm with 22 minutes to spare so we went up Swiss and did a final run from the top back into Courchevel.

I know tradition says to have a pint in the Ski Lodge to celebrate but we were so hungry and dehydrated that we waited until lunch time the next day to have that celebratory pint in the Ski Lodge. 

It was a tough challenge, we didn’t stop for food; minimising down time by eating and drinking on lifts, skiing top to bottom. We were blessed with quiet March slopes and the later lift closing.  However, the Spring slush on the low runs really slows the pace down.  The icy mornings  and the afternoon slush meant that conditions weren’t optimal but lift queues were kind so there were pros and cons. 

Anybody else thinking of doing this, what did we learn? If we had carried water, we could have saved ten minutes.  We should have checked run closures on the online apps as we could have saved another ten minutes.  You really burn a lot of calories and need to carry more food than we did as we were all starving by the end of the day. Another helpful hint would be to learn the route as there isn’t any time for map reading or stopping at junctions. Whilst we made it with 22 minutes to spare over 34 lifts/runs that is about 40 seconds a lift slower and we would have failed….  

Also 4.38pm at the last up lift works in March but if this was January again we would have failed. This is an extremely hard challenge;  it takes fitness, stamina, and sheer determination to finish. We were averaging ski speeds of approximately 25 mph in the morning and this, of course, drops with tiredness and Spring lush at the end of the day. I think I came in at 21mph as my average speed for the day which was a little behind my target of 22mph. 

Saulire lift  was closed for the season  and we took Vizelle instead. 

Col lift was closed, however we did three extra lifts; Swiss, Plan de Mains, and Brynne Two to make up for this lift closure. 

Good luck to anybody else that tries it.

Tony, Paddy, David and Wayne.

What’s this all about?

The 3 Valleys Escapade was the lift company promotion of visiting (originally in 2006) 14 points across the Three Valleys and gaining a certificate & badge over the period of your holiday – then we had the idea of doing it in a day…

It’s probably the toughest day skiing ever for a recreational skier but lots of people have got involved over the years so we feature them in our Escapade in a Day Hall of Fame

This is no longer being promoted by The 3 Valleys but we’ll still stick you in the Hall of Fame if you complete it – send a Ski Tracks or similar trace in plus a pic of your group.

What started out as a late night “is it possible?” discussion became a challenge the following week – the history and our original route are here

Originally punch cards had to be stamped at each check point until electronic passes arrived – they could then be checked by the lift company. The original Escapade was 30 lifts, 13000m vertical and 70km and 2016 peaked with 34 lifts, 17000m vertical (twice the height of Everest) and around 100km total distance. It became a little less for 2017 and 2018 saw the use of the Roc de Tougne fast new chair instead of the drag plus we lost the Montaulever drag altogether. In 2019 we gained the new faster Legends chair out of Méribel and then an improvement in speed on the Mont Vallon lift too. 

It’s certainly getting easier with the improvement in lift infrastructure and we should make it harder for 2023 – there’s now the new Pointe de La Masse and Orelle-Caron Gondolas too! However, it’s still a big, big day out with every run top to bottom and all the planning, chatting, moaning (and lunch) kept for the time on the lifts…

The 2020 PDF route with the 19 “Escapade Lifts” in bold

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REMEMBER: You do this entirely at your own risk, act responsibly, take full ownership for your own actions and all of those with you, respect other people (& the mountain), ski & ride within your limits, always obey the skiers & snowboarders code, observe all signs, pay attention to all notices, advice & instructions from Pisteurs, only ski off piste if fully equipped & knowledgeable, it’s not a race (and you won’t be insured), think about the safety of others as well as yourself but above all, take care, don’t wreck things for others & don’t even think of blaming anyone else if it all goes horribly wrong…..