Alf Alderson checks out the new Mont Valaisan freeride zone in La Rosiere
Most people think of La Rosiere as a sunny, cheerful family-friendly resort with wide, open blue and red pistes and the undeniably attractive option of nipping into the linked resort of La Thuile in Italy.
So how come, then, that I’m here in La Rosiere and standing atop an airy ridge at 2800-metres looking down into a steep, powder-choked bowl that, even four days after the last snowfall, offers fresh lines of varying degrees of excitement?
The answer is that I’m exploring the resort’s new Mont Valaisan freeride zone, which opened this season and has in one fell swoop totally changed what La Rosiere is all about. Sure, families and intermediate skiers can still have a blast here, but where those riders who look for something more challenging were once not that well served, as of this season, they’re spoilt for choice.
Two six-seater detachable chairs can transport well over 2000 skiers an hour up to the resort’s new high point at the aforementioned 2800-metres (over 400-metres loftier than the previous high point of Fort de la Redoute); it’s a project that took nine -years to complete and has taken into account all manner of environmental considerations, from minimising the number and height of the pylons to reduce the visual impact to making the area beneath them a protected ‘biotope’ zone in summer.
It offers some truly excellent freeriding on slopes facing predominantly north and south, thus ensuring good snow in most weather conditions. I visited in the second week in February; there had been a good dump a few days before but given that it was the first week of the French half-term holidays I was expecting to have to queue for the lifts and search hard for untracked lines.
Not a bit of it; I didn’t encounter a single lift queue as I lapped Mont Valaisan time after time, and it was still possible to find your own lines with a bit of sniffing around.