“Fall-and-die” skiing in France


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Week of September 18-24, 1997
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“Fall-and-die” skiing in France
Question: I want to ski in La Grave, France. I need information on lodging and on the area. Where should I look?

Erwin Petschauer
Glendale, NY

Anarchic ski areas in La Grave, France, offer freedom and powder

Adventure Adviser: Seventy-five miles southwest of Chamonix, La Grave is a tiny skiing mecca where the steeps are steeper, the weather is wilder, and much of the terrain consists of “you-fall-and-you-die” rocky crevasses and couloirs.

With no ski patrol, no boundaries, and virtually no marked runs, you’re on your own, which is why people who ski there need to know what the hell they’re doing. As one magazine writer put it, “Show up without backcountry skills and you’ll get spanked, hard.”

If you’ve never skied there, you might want to consider hiring a guide. But don’t think that’s a sissy endeavor because skiing with a La Grave guide generally means you’ll be forced to follow him down stuff scarier than your average extreme skier cares to conquer.

La Grave’s main street is not much more than a cheese shop, a bakery, and a bar called Marcel’s, so you probably won’t find an 800-number for reservations. Instead, you’ll find a few hostels where the wine and cheese flow freely and chances are you’ll learn about 14 new languages, as most of the skiers come from the far reaches of the globe.

La Chaumine is one such hostel. Here you’ll get meals, transportation, and daily guide service, as well as a non-stop party atmosphere (keeping up on the slopes is nothing compared to keeping up with the partiers who frequent La Chaumine).

You can get in touch with the hostel by e-mailing or calling 011-33-76-79-90-28. A few other handy numbers are the regional tourist office at 011-33-76-79-90-05 and Meije Promotions at 76-79-92-46. You can also try the Hotel Edelweiss at 76-79-90-93.

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