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Without ski lifts, Les Gets re-enchants winter sports

On the eve of the February holidays without chair lifts or ski lifts, we tested a resort in the Portes du Soleil area, and discovered another mountain.

The February holidays are this year unheard of. In winter sports resorts, we are getting ready to experience a special season. After the Christmas period, these four new weeks of school leave normally represent the bulk of the activity. Passing in front of a stationary chairlift or gondola breaks the hearts of regulars. Especially since the snow cover is exceptional this year.

Far from being overwhelmed, the resorts are getting ready to welcome holidaymakers, some of whom are determined not to deprive themselves of winter sports. And they are numerous, despite the halt in downhill skiing. As for accommodation, apartment and hotel residence rentals are popular. After having tested in Les Gets, in Haute-Savoie, the ordinary of a resort in these extraordinary times, a review of initiatives that give a little color to our snow holidays.

Unique landscapes

In Les Gets, Nordic skiing allows you to evolve in landscapes unsuspected by regulars of downhill skiing. OT Les Gets

Discovering the resort of Les Gets when the ski lifts are closed seems almost a challenge. “It’s a bit like going to Saint-Tropez on August 15 with a ban on swimming and partying,” remarks a native. And yet… As Dominique Maire, a snowshoe trek guide, breathes, “until now many came to ski, but very few were interested in the mountains, perhaps this is the opportunity to change”. Les Gets, a village resort in the Portes du Soleil area known for the quality of its downhill skiing, is less so for the beauty of its site. So, once past the snow front and the regrets, head for our first activity: Nordic skiing in the Chavannes sector.

Florian Letondeur, our ESF instructor, with a masked smile for the occasion, gives our small group of beginners his first advice: “Above all, lose your downhill skiing reflexes. “We lost it, just as we started off at the first small descent, a sketch of a snow plow to brake puts everyone on the ground. We raise our heads in the face of difficulties. Little by little confidence returns and the memories of alpine skiing fade. The landscaped track is the one that passes over the golf course. A loop of a few kilometers that makes us slide into the magic of winter. On our left, a flow of daylight illuminates an undergrowth, the point of view of which leads to Lake Geneva, lurking in a bluish mist. A painting. We ski slowly, still a little wobbly, but amazed by the silence and the majesty of the place.

Exhilarating ride

The starting point for the snowshoe hike is a few kilometers from the center of Les Gets, in the hamlet of Places. OT Les Gets

This same impression is found the next day during our second activity: the snowshoe outing. A brief survey indicates that among the participants, all accustomed to downhill skiing alone, this again is a first. Dominique Maire, our mountain guide, essential to learn and above all to discover new landscapes without getting lost, shows infinite patience in the face of the confusion of city dwellers, who have been left idle by the lack of ski lifts. “If I had been told that one day I would snowshoe,” Kévin grumbles. The starting point is a few kilometers from the center of Les Gets, in the hamlet of Places which we reach by car via a vertiginous road.

Once we put on this sort of unsightly plastic spatulas, a ski pole in each hand, we take our first steps like Russian soldiers in Red Square. We win a spruce wood. Our feet sink lightly into the pristine powder. The first hundred meters, let’s face it, are difficult, because the ascent is steep. Suddenly, we flood our guide with questions, hoping that each answer will stop. On the ground, he points out the traces of a marten. Those fresh from a hare worry us, especially since after crossing the footprints of a fox… They suddenly disappear.

In a heavy silence, we think of the sad end of one under the jaw of the other. The more we climb, the more we keep silent, because snowshoeing is also a sport even if this activity adapts to each level. The undergrowth makes our stroll exhilarating and everyone gets involved. Hearing a Great Spotted Woodpecker singing draws smiles, admittedly a little silly, on our faces reddened by the effort.

A smell of hay and cattle

An untimely stop is caused by a sort of shrill cry that resounds in the distance. Everyone jumps. False alert for a possible dahu. “It is quite simply a dog”, reassures our guide … In a last effort, coming out of the woods, the mountain pasture hamlet of Mont-Caly appears in extreme solitude, facing Mont-Blanc whose relief stands out against the azure sky. A wow rises like an alleluia to nature rediscovered. How beautiful it is. “Many of those I accompany tell me that even when the ski lifts reopen, they will come back,” says Dominique Maire. The return is all the more joyful as we are downhill and our guide offered us a little tea break. Like a herd smelling the stable we hurry.

Back in Les Gets, we will experience a third Covid-compatible activity, just as unexpected for a team of sportsmen: the pottery workshop. A big laugh welcomes us, our presence seems so incongruous, but we are going to live a rich human experience. Anouk Bonhomme, daughter of a goatherd, offers in addition to an initiation, to rediscover the ancestral gestures of this art craft. She shapes in front of us with her bare hands a pot which takes shape on the lathe. More reasonably, we aim to make a saucer …
And then, leaning against the workshop, is his sheepfold. About sixty sheep await us and almost as many lambs, with whom we share a certain excitement. Anouk talks about his profession, working the land, his life here and what it was once for the elders. We listen to him attentively, smelling of hay and cattle. Unforgettable moments. So of course we missed downhill skiing. But everyone was also able to discover another mountain that by dint of descending, we ended up no longer looking …


Travelogue

And aller

Aim for Annecy or Bellegarde-sur-Valserine by TGV; otherwise, by car, by the A40. The station is 40 minutes from Annecy. Yes.sncf

Housing

In a luxury hotel residence in Annapurna, apartments for 2 to 12 people, located in the heart of the resort and inaugurated last year. The wellness center, open to residents only (by reservation), has a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and hammam. Each apartment has an equipped kitchen, but also a home chef service and dishes to be ordered from room service. Special February holiday rate: from € 1,000 per week. 24-41, route des Grandes-Alpes, Les Gets. Phone. : 04 22 32 60 93; alpine-residences.fr

 

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