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ESCAPADE 2023 – Doug, Brendan & Henry utilising the Zip Wire from the 4th Valley!
Escapade – Saturday 18 February 2023
Team: Doug (46); Brendan (47); Henry (16).
Background: Doug (your narrator) and Henry have been coming to the 3Vs every year (bar Covid) since 2018 at the UK half term. From the off, I became obsessed with skiing as much of the 3Vs as possible before I even knew about the Escapade. In 2020, we attempted an official Escapade, but I stupidly stacked it on the bumps run shortcut from Loze Est to the Biollay chair after some 20km of downhill, tore my calf, and skied home in shame on one leg. Brendan joined the team in 2022, but terrible conditions (total whiteout on Geai and elsewhere) put us more than an hour behind schedule by the time we got to Val Thorens. Brendan never forgave me (I was by now was easily the weakest skier in the team), and vowed that 2023 would be our year. Conditions looked good (barring the lack of base that would have made the Vallon de Lou off piste shortcut more viable), so we planned it for Saturday, a changeover day on half term week, which from our experience meant the pistes and lifts would be relatively quiet. Wind conditions even made La Tyrolienne zip line a viable possibility.
Equipment: Me on my trusty Black Crow Captis, a 90mm floppy “resort” ski that is superb in slush. Brendan on Elan Amphibio 14s, a narrow-waisted 78mm all mountain ski. Henry on Black Crows Vertis Birdie, an 85mm women’s ski (he weighs <50kg). One backpack containing 8 cans of Red Bull, 2 bottles of water, 24 chocolate granola bars, 2 pains au chocolate, 1 croissant, 2 packets of haribo, and 8 fun size Kit Kat bars. One Courchevel Village ESF etoile d’or bib, sized for a 9-year old. Henry planned to use it to sneak through the ski school queues.
Expected complications: The FIS World Championship was ongoing, which meant we needed to avoid closed pistes. This turned out to be no big deal, although we did ski the top part of Roc de Fer which still had the paint for the professionals.
Several of the lifts were running s l o w l y. Probably as an energy conservation measure, but lots of the lift duration times below are nearly 2x the advertised times. Finally, La Tyrolienne is shut for an indeterminant time at 1245, which turned out to be around the time we got there.
Lift timings and commentary:
We set out from our chalet in Morel at 0827 and waited around for first chair. I think the liftie took pity on us and started the Morel chair spinning early.
TS MOREL 08h45 (dur c. 6:00)
We decided we’d prefer our last run to begin from on high, so we ticked off Méribel Village first. Not quite early enough to get first chair on Golf, but we were probably 4th chair.
TS GOLF 08h54 (dur 8:15)
Turning right off the chair, we hit the Rope Tow and skittered down to Chaudanne. There were maybe five chairs’ worth of people in front of us.
TS LEGENDS 09h09 (dur 6:16)
Moving well, we skied down to Olympic Chair, ignoring a lot of signs we didn’t really read until we were on the chair.
TS OLYMPIC 09h19 (dur 6:04)
Oh yes, those signs would have told us that Verdet was closed. We argued for precious minutes about whether we should duck the rope. Verdet was one of our nemeses in 2022: rock hard frozen-over chop that was barely skiable in the prevailing whiteout conditions. Sanity prevails and we skied back down Roc de Fer to Cherferie.
TS CHERFERIE 09h31 (dur 4:42)
Afterburners on for Jerusalem/Biollay to St Martin. Henry and Brendan tapped their watches as I hockey stopped, panting, at the bottom.
TC ST MARTIN 1/TS ST MARTIN 2 09h43 (dur 18:58)
Finally some terrain that challenges Henry. KM after KM of flat cat track. It was the first and last time I finished a run ahead of Henry. We skied down to Le Bettex, in parts a fun sheepish ski, but it had so many flocons and snowploughers. Le Bettex has some smart-looking new built chalets.
TS BETTEX 10h16 (dur 3:55)
Skied down to PdlM basestation through the always lovely centre of Les M. There was a long queue at the basestation, c. 15m. Henry, using his ESF bib, went through the ski school line. At the bubble he was accosted by another ESF instructor who asked where Henry’s instructor was. Henry said “up ahead” and dove into a bubble before the instructor could follow him. Brendan and I waited in the civilian queue.
TC POINTE DE LA MASSE 10h27 (dur 20:49)
In the bubble, Henry stripped off the bib, switched goggles for shades, and at the top, ran for the toilets and hid. Brendan and I found him and we had a fantastic ski down Fred Covili.
TS REBERTY 11h00 (dur 3:55)
TC BRUYERES 1/2 11h05 (dur 16:15)
We realised that we didn’t really know Val T all that well and after several false starts and traverses across pistes, we eventually found Corniche. Warning to others: Val T is confusing for those who are normally based in Courchevel/La Tania, a recce is recommended.
FUNITEL PECLET 11h36 (dur 11:45)
Our run of good snow ended, and we ski back down into Val Thorens on a steep and icy (with sugary moguls) Christine.
TS PORTETTE/THORENS GONDOLA 11h57 (dur 19:40)
Portette stopped for an alarming amount of time, twice. But eventually it got moving again and we were rewarded with the delightful Lory on the ski down into Plan Bouchet.
TC ORELLE CARON 12h24 (dur 11:39)
Against my objections, we took the bubble up to Cime Caron as Henry thought it was critical to tick off the summit first if it turned out that the Zip Line scheme was viable. Alas there is only only one way back down to Plan Bouchet, Combe Rosaël. I lost the ability to deal with the large but soft moguls and traversed almost the entire face (skiing is primarily a mental sport), but we eventually made it down.
TS PEYRON 12h52 (dur 4:54)
TS BOUCHET 12h59 (dur 9:00)
We waited for access to the La Tyrolienne zip line and it took about 30m of faff while the guys finished their lunch and got the kit back up from the other side. It was pretty scary and expensive (€56 pp), I won’t do it again—I never even approached 60kph as I was a little underweight for the grade of sliding mechanism I was given, which meant I spent a lot of time dangling 1000m above the ground—but it added some spice to our attempt. On landing and working out the shakes we skied back down into Val Thoren.
TS PIONNIERS 13h55 (dur 5:04)
TS 3 VALLÉES 14h00 (dur 5:38)
At this point, we were getting a little worried and rued the initial error with Verdet, my terrible bumps technique on Combe Rosaël and the time taken to deal with the Zip Line. I asked Brendan whether I was really *that* slow? Brendan didn’t answer. But we were at least an hour ahead of our attempt in 2022, so pressed on, skiing down to Mt Vallon.
TC MONT VALLON 14h14 (dur 12:24)
We then skied down to Mottaret, following the dreadful Ours having concluded that popping up Plan de Mains wouldn’t save enough time. Henry built up enough speed on Combe Vallon to take Ours without polling.
TC PAS DU LAC 1/2 14h43 (dur 15:30)
The lift took twice as long as it should, bloody energy crisis. So it was time to speed up, we skied down Creux and on our way to Moriond.
TS CHANROSSA 15h04 (dur 7:17)
Afterburners on again. Skied all the way into Moriond 1650 with Henry catching serious air.
TC ARIONDAZ 15h21 (dur 11:51)
Quick, needed to close out Moriond! Blast down Bel Air.
TS CHAPELETS 15h36 (dur 7:36)
Back to Courchevel proper, an hour left, we could taste victory. Brendan warned us not to get complacent just because we were back on “home” territory.
TS AIGUILLE DU FRUIT 15h48 (dur 6:27)
And then it started to go pear shaped. I was on a different chair to Brendan and Henry (there was a queue and I hate not filling chairs), we hadn’t really discussed the route to Courchevel Village, and frankly everyone was getting nervous. Unfortunately, Brendan and Henry are considerably quicker than me and tore off (they had planned the route, but didn’t realise that I was a bit sketchy about this bit). Pretty lost, I headed vaguely in the direction I knew we were supposed to go, but ended up at Grangettes rather than Tovets. I took the bubble, figuring it still counted. Passive agressive WhatsApp messages ensued: “no you guys go ahead, I’ll call an audible on whether to ditch <sniff> La Tania”. Subsequent timings are mine.
TC GRANGETTES 16h07 (dur 7:03)
It was time for me to dash to La Praz to catch up.
TS FORÊT 16h19 (dur 8:03)
With little more than half an hour before Dou des Lanches closed, I started feeling better. I raced down Folyéres, but was still at least a stubborn 5 minutes behind.
TC LA TANIA 16h32 (dur 10:42)
The La Tania bubble stopped several times. In the WhatsApp chat, the breakaway group agreed to wait for me at Dou des Lanches, but I was not entirely convinced they would as they sent me minute by minute countdowns to last lift. But they waited in the end and I finally arrived at 1643. No apologies they said, because they knew I would have wanted the team to finish even if it meant I was left behind in the wrong valley.
TS DOU DES LANCHES 16h44 (dur 5:52)
But the last joke was on Brendan. He dropped his phone as he got on the chair. We got to the top of Loze in triumph but had to wait for the liftie to send up his phone. Phone retrieved, we saw that Boulevard de la loze was shut, so it was Pic Blue and the rope tow back to the Ronnie, arriving bang on at 1715.
ESCAPADE 2023 – 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 – doing it in a day was a bit tricky though!
It all started out as a late night “is it possible?” discussion – the history and our original route from 2006 are here
Originally punch cards had to be stamped at each check point until electronic passes arrived and then the use of a lift was recorded – now we use Apps such as Ski Tracks or Relive to prove our route.
Note that the Escapade is no longer officially promoted by Les 3 Vallees from Winter 2017 but we still record successful tracks for anyone who is interested in being in the sought after La Tania Escapade Hall of Fame
The original Escapade took 30 lifts, around 13000m vertical with 70km length and by 2016 reached 34 lifts, 17000m vertical (twice the height of Everest) and around 100km.
This is NOT a race
ALWAYS CONTROL YOUR SPEED. 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 (you won’t be insured), think about the safety of others as well as yourself but above all, think of other people, take care, don’t wreck things for others & don’t even think of blaming anyone else if it all goes wrong…..
Changes through the years
2006 – First year and cards with hole punches stationed at lifties huts are used.
2008 – Electronic lift analysis is now used – no use hiking out the 4th Valley now!
2010 – The piste map did not include the top of the 4th Valley and the Col lift in Val Thorens.
2011 – The X-Wing Discovery was launched but only had 10 check points and doesn’t count!
2012 – Peclet included and Biollay / Vizelle used for Saulire access.
2015 – Foret used instead of La Tania gondola.
2016 – Mont Vallon is included for the first time plus the Montaulever drag lift.
2017 – Chapelets replaced by Petite Boss drag and La Tania’s Bouc Blanc chair replaces Tovets.
2018 – The new Roc de Tougne chair replaces the drag lift of the same name.
2019 – Legends replaces Roc de Fer and the Montaulever drag in Les Menuires has been removed.
2020 – Cime Caron now back in use.
2022 – New Pointe de la Masse and Orelle-Caron Gondolas (for example) could be used.
2023 – Using the new lifts, we ski all the resorts, all the perimeters and classic peaks – ESCAPADE 2023