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I always wanted to see La Grave but it never happened. Whatever reason crossed my plans and it almost looked like i fucked it up.

The last two years it was not clear if La Grave will continue to be the most sought-after freeride destination in the Alps. The lease for the lift ends in June and it was long unclear if and who will take it over.

The end of La Grave as we know it?

Some voices already claimed the end of La Grave, and the local community was just as afraid of a scenario with a big company taking over. By installing a ski resort (or connecting it to Les Deux Alpes) they would ultimately carry to the grave what La Grave is famous for: open terrain, raw mountains and the atmosphere that comes along.

“Signal de La Grave”, a crowdfunding campaign wanted to claim the future of La Grave, but didn’t make it into the final bidding round. As “Compagnie des Alpes” who runs nearby Les Deux Alpes and some of the major resorts in the French Alps pulled out in mid March, it was up to SATA to take the lease. The company in charge that also runs nearby Alpe d’Huez seems to be the second best option for La Grave.

As alpedhueznet.com stated, the La Grave village council approved the proposal last Friday (28.4.) and the contract will be signed somewhere around the end of next week. It involves the renovation of the existing facilities and the construction of a new gondola to the top of the Dome de la Lauze at 3’586m. SATA will take over operations by June, 15th.

Even though winter just had it’s last uprearing, we can finally start dreaming about the next visit in La Grave. And it will be in powder conditions, that goes without saying.

gravityking explore

Sometimes less is better than nothing.

I wanted to see la Grave for almost 20 years but somehow never made it. This April we were around the corner when we visited Sestriere with Maverick Snowboards. I knew this was the best opportunity I’ll ever get and with a difference of 15 minutes between driving home the way we arrived and driving through La Grave, it was a quick decision to make it happen. A parking full of ski bum vans at the bottom of the cable car indicated that we arrived in the Mecca of freeriding. 

La Grave probably really is the ultimate freeride destination.

We just couldn’t find out because the snow conditions were on the terrible side of the spectrum this spring. Like almost anywhere in the Alps. But why not taking the opportunity and go for exploring while getting into the vibe?

The weather didn’t allow for too much sight seeing, but the views we got were spectacular. And we definitely felt the vibe, be it the French skiers straightlining mogul sections with ease or the significant amount of monoskis, a long forgotten concept that unites the disadvantages of snowboarding and skiing altogether in one equipment.  

Spectacular terrain all the way down.

The world famous “Téléphérique des Glaciers de la Meije” covers 2’150m of vertical drop from the top all the way to the bottom, 50m below La Grave itself. The lower part wasn’t skiable so we had to cut in to the first station P1 at 1’800 meters. 

Needless to say, a vertical drop of this extent covers a wide variety of terrain. From the glaciers and the really challenging alpine stuff at the top it drops into the “Valons de la Meije” all the way down to the river over wide meadows. You will find countless options for your lines and that’s only one of the two possibilities. You could either take the turn-off into the “Valons de Chancel” instead, with terrain at least as spectacular. 

Be aware that most of the top stuff involves alpine techniques. Rapelling into couloirs is a common challenge and lots of the lines are on glaciers. So you need to know a bit about rope handling and crevasse rescue. For most of us, hiring a guide is the best option anyway. I am pretty experienced in freeriding but getting into new terrain is always a bit intimidating. Having someone who knows where to go helps.

If you’re more into tree skiing, check the birch-tree spawned lines between stations P1 and P2 at 2’400m. To some, these tree-runs are the best La Grave has to offer.

How to get there.

The shortest way to get in is from Grenoble. Unfortunatley, the main road has ben closed due to landslide risk since 2015. There is a makeshift relief road but it’s closed quite often during winter so the best bet is to get in from the Italian side trough Briançon and the “Col du Lautaret”.

If you make it at daylight it’s a very scenic drive by the way and you could check out the vast ski area of Serre Chevalier on the way. La Grave is definitely worth a visit and we will do so next winter. Subscribe and/or stay tunded for more.

 

While winter staged a comeback for the Easter holiday, we already quit and stored our snowboard gear in the cellar. For us, the end of the winter season has come. Somehow it was hard to miss two seemingly good powder days. But then, on the other hand, I was pretty ok with it as the rewards are quite nice. Two days left until we fly into another surf adventure. The Azores, São Miguel in particular, await us. 

There are tons of nice memories from our last trip to the Azores. Be it the perfect south swell we scored at Ribeira Quente “by accident” or the world-class surfing right in front of our eyes at the Azores Pro including a nice Jet Ski wipeout. Be it surfing naked at Santa Iria, wandering around the craters of Sete Sidade or just relaxing in the hot pools at Poça da Dona Beija. Want to know more about the Azores? Check out our destination page here.

How we happened to ride Maverick Snowboards.

We connected to Mats from Maverick Snowboards a while ago on Instagram and finally met in Stuben at the Longboard Classics where he allowed me to race one of his boards, the “177 Cheater”. His planned to visit friends in Sestriere, Italy after the event and we had some time and were keen to see some more of the Alps. So we joined, because after all, we never snowboarded in Italy so far. The fact that Sestriere was expecting a big dump was even more tempting. Maybe, this would be our first and only powderlapse-day this season and I think we really deserved it.

The local crew from the shoppe.

Maverick snowboards
PLP in the Kronicle Magazine.

In the morning the sky had cleared from the strom and we met up with Gionata, Ettore and their friends and family from the local snowboard shop “Surfshoppe Sestriere”. Those guys are going back to the roots, building their own powdersurfboards since 2012 unter the brand Peace Love & Powder. Those things are huge and heavy but at least as fast. Even with the “Cheater” I couldn’t manage to catch up. Was really nice to meet up and have an awesome shred day with them. Another nice thing about being on the mountain with locals is the car that suddenly picks you up when you end up on a random road and drops you right at the station in front of the queue so you’re the first one when the gondola opens at 10am.

The “Cheater”.

Maverick snowboards
Me hiding behind my “Cheater”.

Mats has two boards on offer, one of them is the “Pipeliner” at 185cm and the other one – my favourite – the “Cheater” at 177cm or 5’8″, respectively. It really holds what Mats promised: it pretty much flies above the powder and if you attack the groomers, this thing from another world. I’ve been riding quite agressive boards throughout the years, including the custom made full-carbon-core boardercross-machine. But nothing matches with the power of 140cm of effective edge. It just goes and it feels like snowboarding on rails. If the slopes are crowded though, it’s the wrong board. I’m really happy to call one of the “Cheaters” my own now and wonder how fast it can go. We’ll find out next winter.

Every year when spring comes around the corner it’s that time of the year when you have to work for untracked lines. We joined forces with Basecamp Andermatt to do so. Around Andermatt you’ll find tons of options for split boarding and the Gondola to the Gemsstock makes for easy access. We chose the “Winterhorn” which consist of a rather short ascent towards the “Gloggentürmli” ridge from where you can ride down to the road over the Gotthard pass, where the ascent towards the object of the starts. 

 

Maybe you have heard of Zeus and his buddies living way up in the mountains of the Olympos Oros? In fact, the ancient Greeks believed that this impressive mountain range in the northeast of Greece was home of the 12 ancient Greek gods. It rises up to 2,918 meters and, due to it’s relatively flat surroundings, it is one of the most prominent mountains in Europe.

Skinning on Mt. Olympus though is hard work. The terrain is very remote and involves long ascents and long hikes back once you finished your line. But don’t get me wrong: the awesome views, the flora and the sheer prominence of the mountain reward for every drop of sweat. Mt. Olympus is a must for every Greek freeriding adventure.

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I’ve been dreaming of it for quite a while and yet it never happened: surfing and snowboarding the same day.

Last week we came pretty close. A nice swell was lighting up the west coast the day we arrived and the snow from the incredible performance Mr. Winter showed in January. We already managed to do both within 24 hours and keep on hunting the “all in one day” thing.

Surfing around Parga

Kastro, with small morning waves. Look at that beautiful setup!

Parga is a small town near the ferry port of Igoumenitsa, where we arrived from Italy. Hidden behind a big rock with an old castle on top, one of Mediterranean’s gems lies waiting for you: Kastro. A nice lefthand pointbreak on the corner of a beautiful beach. To a traveling surfer, it might be surprisingly good, but the locals know that this is one of the best waves in the Mediterranean. As soon as the conditions line up. Talking about conditions: it’s pretty hard to know which wave will work at what conditions and when these conditions will line up. But the locals are incredibly nice and will help you out if you treat them with respect. They even told me where I can find better waves when Kastro went smaller the second day.

Almost perfect waves in offshore winds in Lygia Beach.

Lygia is a 30 minute drive south of Parga and offers long stretches of open and exposed beach breaks. As expected I met the local crowd again in the lineup and let me tell you: the waves were firing. Personally, I wasn’t making a good impression, so I got lots of whitewater on my head because – and that’s be the biggest difference to beachbreaks around bigger oceans – there’s a wave coming every 6 seconds. Not that much time to breathe between one duckdive and another. But you will definitely improve your paddling and duckdiving skills!

16 hours later: snowboarding .

About 6 hours south of Lygija on the Peleponesos peninsula we found one of Greece’s most famous ski resort in Kalavryta, also known as Helmos. 20cm of fresh fallen the day before we arrived compensated for the bad visibility and the gusty winds. The ski resort is on the highest mountain around so it’s very exposed to whichever weather Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds, throws at it. As most of the Greek resorts it’s rather small in Swiss measures (two chairs and one t-bar) but it’s big enough to have fun for a couple of days. Towards the end of the week, conditions got better and better and allowed for incredible sunset-sessions around the peaks. Check back next week’s “Every Monday Morning” for some eye candy!

In the Greek mountains it’s incredibly moist so snow sticks to almost everything.