The Hunt for White September

So…’s officially autumn in the Alps.

This means that it’s finally quiet in town, work tapers as everyone goes away for inter-season and the trails are empty but…..unfortunately it also means that the lifts have stopped just as the first snow arrives at altitude – boo!

I find myself in the very smug position of having somehow managed to snag myself a nice little window of riding opportunity this week! I’ve just finished a big job and my wife hasn’t yet dropped our 3rd (and by crikey it’d better be final) child and so I hatched a cunning plan…..

Over the last few days I’ve been gazing longingly upwards and noting the increasing amount of white fluffiness above 2000m and dreaming about the coming winter and the fun days that lay ahead…..

After consulting the ‘maternal oracle’ (that is my heavily pregnant wife) I managed to secure a morning pass to ‘go and play for Christs sake*’!

*as long as said play isn’t further than an hour from the house should you receive a ‘BABY ON ITS WAY’ distress call.

And so it transpired that I found myself slogging up a 30% incline at silly o’clock this morning on an ill advised (and unlikely to prove fruitful) quest to find some early season snow on my trusty titanium beauty (Travers ‘Bat Fastard’).

The plan was simple enough – keep heading upwards until I found snow to play in! How hard could it be?

I checked the webcams in the valley at first light and discovered that the snow had retreated higher than forecast overnight and so my original route had to be abandoned and a new one devised. No worries though as I had a backup route in mind that went higher and therefore should enable me to bag some pre-season silliness.

I parked the car up at around 1400m alt and knew that at the very least I’d have a two hour ride (read: hike-a-bike) up to 2200m where, in theory, the holy grail awaited!!!

The cloud was sitting heavily in the valley and so it was impossible to ascertain what the conditions were really like above me and so I just plodded on with hope in my heart and a spring in my step…..

Once I’d passed the top of the first lift on the route I began to see signs that the elusive ‘white gold’ might indeed be on the menu for today and so with ears full of great music I headed ever higher to see what was in store…..

A short while (and a few hundred meters higher up the mountain) and…..


Jackpot! I’d done it, I’d only bloody gone and done it!

But there was a problem…..not long after hitting the snow line I discovered that it wasn’t going to be all smooth sailing on stunning snowy singletrack – oh no!

The trail I was on didn’t linger at the altitude where the snow was light and perfect but instead kept right on climbing with no chance to turn off until I was over 2200m. The snow kept getting deeper and deeper until I was wading through 3ft snow drifts in places. Was a great morning of adventure but not exactly rideable for the most part.

Eventually I passed the refuge at the top of the Col de Balme and conditions began to level out and the fun began in earnest.

Great trails with varying depths of snow (you know, to keep you on your toes!) was blasted slightly too fast and many smiles were on show to the world but there was no-one else to see it – I had this rooftop wonderland all to myself!

I traversed the mountain until I hit the top of the Le Tour downhill run and it seemed rude not to take advantage of a great way to get back down to the car and so I dropped my saddle and shot off to get my Gnaar on!

All too soon I was back in the car park and my little adventure was at an end.

But boy what a taster of things to come…..

I’d (as I do every year) forgotten just how energy sapping fatbiking in the snow is but it was great to get some snowy trails in the bag – in SEPTEMBER!!!

Bring on winter proper, it’s gonna be a doozy!

Author: Gairy

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