Snowbound: The French Alps with a Camera

Two weeks before the end of the working year, an email dropped into my inbox from Snowcoach offering last minute deals to Saint Gervais in the mountains of the French Alps for some Christmas Skiing and a nice snowy vacation.  As with all good things in life, there is a downside to the offer, spending ten hours in a coach with the best skiers in the world (apparently) through a long dark night to the resort.  But, at the end of listening to inflated egos, putting up with a numb bottom and sore bones, we are presented with mountain scenery, fresh air and lots of snow.

The general idea is that you travel through the night so that when you arrive you have a full day on slopes straight away.  Great idea but, of everyone on the coach I think only the children slept well which means, skiing and snowboarding in a dream state and by 2 pm, zombie mode.  Works well in principle but by the time I got to the hotel on day one, I was literally disjointed from the planet.  I got my first view of the room early in the morning, clean, adequate and to be honest if I was presented with a sack on the floor, I still would have slept like a baby.  I dumped all my kit, got changed and headed down to the minibus to be taken up to the slopes.

So this was the plan.  Prepare the cameras for a day in the cold mountains, grab snacks and ski around the Mont Blanc area to find some nice landscape photos.

From a photography point of view, I was after some vivid snowy landscapes of the mountains maybe with hovering cloud or striking shadows.  three out of the five days were sunny and the other two were snowy and cloudy, a good range of light to see what photos I can get.


Day 1:  This was the arrival day in Saint Gervais so the eyes were a little tired, to say the least.  A small 10 minute drive up the road in the minibus then jumping onto a gondola to be taken to the top of Mount Arbois.  Stunning views immediately from every direction.  The sun was shining, no wind and about +5c, perfect. A temperature inversion had settled over Saint Gervais and was the prominent sight so the camera got to work.  The below photo shows the whole valley covered with cloud.  The temperature below the cloud is about -2c and above the cloud +5c.

Day 2:   After a good nights sleep and meeting more of the guests and hearing stories of amazing ski feats and conquests, we all headed down to get the morning minibus up to the gondola.  This time I wanted to get higher and get more of an ‘On top of the world’ feeling.  Similar weather to the day before and the views just as amazing as day one.

Alpine Scenery

Foreboding Wall

Day 3: I did not know it at the time but this day was the last day I would be able to take the cameras out without having a chance of water damage.  The second image below is the impressive Mont Blanc.

The most snow in ten years

 

Huge Alpine Slabs

 

You may notice day four and five are missing.  The temperature was over 0c and it was snowing very hard.  As the snow landed on jackets and rucksacks it was melting so I felt the cameras would be best left at the hotel.

One thing that always amazes me on ski holidays is how a group of people can go out for a day on the mountains and rarely bump into each other.  The ski areas are huge with lifts everywhere, but still, I think on the whole holiday I bumped into 3 people from the hotel.  Two of them were staff and the other was guest who had portrayed himself as Eddy the Eagle.  That illusion was squashed pretty quickly when I saw the infamous ‘snowplow’ down the main slope.  But, as long as everyone enjoyed themselves on this holiday, this is the important thing, and I did, Very much.

 

All in all the break was exactly what was needed after a long year at work and the cameras behaved perfectly for three out of the five days.


Details

Saint Gervais is a cute little village high up in the French Alps with a thermal spa and amazing views and easy access to the slopes.  If I had not have paid £185 pounds for a ski pass I probably would have taken a day out to wander the village and take in the sites.  But what I did see in the last daylight of the days was a superb park for an evening stroll and mountain deer wandering around the mountain slopes literally twenty meters from the hotel.

Company: Snowcoach

Cost: Varies but from £279.00 for 4 days skiing. (PP)

Pass Included: No

Board: 3/4 Board.  Breakfast, Afternoon Cake and tea and dinner

Travel: Coach/Plane/Car (There is a cost for using their coach)

Rating:  7/10

Would I Recommend: Yes

Comments:

  • A nice experience on the whole.
  • They did exactly what they said they would do.
  • For the coach, take ear plugs.
  • For the hotel room take a travel kettle and tea/coffee.
  • The staff are generally knowledgeable about the area and hotel issues are dealt with speedily.
  • Don’t bother with the last meal as there are shops just down the road where 10 euros can go a lot further.
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