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HELISKIING IN REVERSE - Alf Alderson, Les Arcs
Sunday March 25, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Our correspondent Alf Alderson is a Les Arcs 'ambassador'. Sadly his latest communique does not make happy reading.





It was all going so well.

Along with friends Chris and Chris (yes, there were two of them), Ian, Abi and guide Andre I was enjoying a fine day out on the Bellecôte.

The impressive peak that looms between Les Arcs and La Plagne, lording it over the Paradiski area.

Bellecote, north faceBellecote, north face















We'd picked up touring equipment at the Intersport shop in Plagne Bellecote which, unlike most ski hire shops, has a fine range of touring skis and all the associated paraphernalia to go with skinning up mountains.

We set off from our base in the charming village of Champagny-en-Vanoise, where we were staying in the super-friendly Hotel Ancolie adjacent to the village's single gondola lift.

From here a series of ski lifts took us from 1,250-metres all the way to the top of the Glacier chairlift at around 3100-metres (how many ski areas can boast that amount of vertical?), on the upper slopes of the mighty 3,417-metre Bellecôte.

Then a mix of boot packing and skinning took us up onto the east shoulder of the peak.

Touring above Paradiski, FranceTouring above Paradiski, France
















On a gloriously sunny spring day we took time out to enjoy a truly astounding panorama.

Three countries (France, Italy, Switzerland) and a magnificent array of peaks including Mont Blanc, Grand Combin and La Meije.

This is why people sweat and grunt their way on skins to the top of the Alps; to enjoy a view like this with just a few friends and the sound of the wind soughing across the mountain ridges is one of life's finest pleasures and fully justifies all the hard work involved.

Touring above Paradiski, FranceTouring above Paradiski, France














Touring above Paradiski, FranceTouring above Paradiski, France















What's more, you get to ski down deserted slopes after you've enjoyed the view.

Touring above Paradiski, FranceTouring above Paradiski, France















However, the snow on the Cul du Nant which we were descending wasn't the best, a mix of powder patches and long, tricky sections of crusty stuff.

Here is another of PlanetSKI's reporters, Ian Davis, on some of the tricky stuff.

Touring above Paradiski, FranceTouring above Paradiski, France














Ian will be filing a full piece on the rest of the day as my account of the skiing now comes to an end.

An abrupt end.

I took a tumble at some speed.

My bindings didn't release, but my knee ligaments did.

As my fall came to a halt it was one of those sickening moments when you just want to turn back time because you know that ahead lie weeks, if not months of pain, discomfort and inconvenience.

I knew straight away that the ligaments in both knees had been seriously compromised.

Chris #1 rushed back up the slope to assist me in getting my skis off.

"Take your time mate, there's no rush," he said reassuringly as Andre also enquired as to my well-being.

"Can you turn your legs from side to side ok?"

"Yeah, kind of" I replied.

"Let's see what it feels like once I'm back on skis".

One turn was enough to know that it wasn't going to be possible for me to ski well over a thousand vertical metres back down to our finish point in Champagny-le-Haut.

"Do you want me to call the helicopter?" asked Andre.

Reluctantly I had to say yes, knowing that this was the end of a great day out and probably the end of my ski season.

Ten minutes later I was sheltering from a blizzard of rotor-driven snow as mountain rescue arrived on the spot.

Impressively fast, hey?

And impressive views as I was whisked back down to Champagny-en-Vanoise in about five minutes.

I'm a sucker for a ride in a helicopter through the mountains, but "reverse heliskiing' as Ian later described it is not really the way to do it.

And so now I must bid you adieu from the Ambassador's Residence as my season in Paradiski comes to an enforced end.

It's obviously not the way I would have liked to end the season, but I still have those views from the top of the Bellecôte to take home with me and act as inspiration to get my knees back in working order for next season.

And I suppose I did get to "reverse heliski" too.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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