Is it a dying winter fad or possibly just returned to its roots and soul?
Snowboarding emerged in the late 1980’s and its peak was in the early 2000’s, after 2006/07 winter Snowboarding has reduced in numbers and has declined. But it will always be here and is still very popular.
3 Vallees – pistes
Snowboarding around Meribel and the 3 Valleys is unique, it is diverse, challenging and also rare to find any of those flat areas that the snow boarders so hate. Maybe I know where they are and simply avoid them but I still believe that Meribel and the 3 Valleys are unchallenged for piste snowboarding. With the beautifully groomed Courchevel pistes in 1850 and the quietness of Courchevel 1600 area around Chapelets and Signal, there is much to discover in the Courchevel area. But returning to Meribel is where the fun is at with the two completely different sides of the valley. The Saulire side has some fantastic red runs like the Chamois and Mauduit and the Renard off the Dent du Burgin lift. The sun is on this side of the mountain until late on and especially later in the season giving you fantastic last runs of the day down in to Meribel. The tougnette side has sun in the morning and then firms up after giving you good, grippy pistes. Take the Cherferie drag lift for the excellent piste choucas or the Roc de Tougne drag lift for the lagopede piste. Both drag lifts are worth the effort for the snowboarders. Other blues and reds down off Tougnette 2 are nearly always good too.
One of my clear favourites for snowboarders is taking the Cote Brune chair lift and then either the pluviometre or the mont de la chambre piste down to Val Thorens or Les Menuires. There is a little track which takes you to Val Thorens at the end of the pluviometre which is great short cut to VT. These pistes are always quiet, well groomed and often with plenty of areas off the sides for jibbing. The gradient and pitch is good and gives you some fast carved runs and with plenty of space and mostly quiet, these pistes are just great.
The DC AREA 43 Park
Has been in Meribel for 5 winters now and has been a huge success. It is now an infamous feature of Meribel and the envy of all French ski resorts, and riders from all over the world come to the PARK to go shredding ! The DC Park was designed and shaped by Benjamin Ravanel and helped by Nicolas Marduel, both great shapers and worked on the European Winter X Games in Tignes on the Superpipe and head up the Hilltechnics Snowpark Consulting. There is even a DC chalet in Les Allues Meribel where the sponsored riders and guests live for the season.
New this season are decorated shipping containers, free WIFI, a new fun bordercross piste and entertainment every Tuesday and regular ‘DC parties’ with contests.
The Moon Park in Meribel is now called ‘The Elements Park’.
Eating on the mountain whether you are a snowboarder or a skier is an acquired taste ( excuse the pun ) and is dependent on budget as ever ! Whether snowboarders have a different budget to skiers is very debatable. The stigma and generalisation of snowboarders is that they go to burger bars and eat nothing but burgers, chips and swill it down with a couple of beers. Not far off to be honest ! But as we move on with age we all refine our tastes a little and even snowboarders enjoy good food.
Mottaret has some good cheap eating places, in 2015-16 season the Café Del Mott was probably the best. A daily BBQ and 3 different self service menus. 9.95 Euros gets you the green menu. Mixed salad, 100% beef burger, chips or jackets potato and a drink ! Bargain.
There is always the Mountain Burger Café too.
New this season will be the Snack Bar at the ‘La Sitelle’ restaurant which is just below the DC Park near to the Sitelle chair lift. Good news for all those looking for something simple, cheap and quick on the slopes and not having to descend down to a resort. Perfect for all the shredders.
Hikes / Off-Piste
Glacier du Bourgne hike, snowboarders can do this hike on snowshoes or with a split board, it is easily accessible from the lac de la chambre piste which is on the return from Val Thorens or you take the Cote Brune chairlift. This hike is intermediate as it has some steep parts to it for ascending and descending. Once you reach the summit of the Glacier there is a wonderful view of the Vanoise Parc and the glacier de Gebroulaz. I wouldn’t stay long at the top depending on what time of year and time of day it is. Sort your kit out, get some food and drink down and then start your descent. The first turns at the top are often the best, the aspect of the slope means that it holds powder up there for almost all the winter, then there is a steeper part which is equally as good, then more good descending until you reach the flatter area. Once you see your exit route make sure you hold your line to enable you get out of the lower areas where the pitch can get shallower and more flat. You will pop out on to the piste and be elated with your recent conquest.
Other great walks and hikes in the 3 Valley area are all accessible to snowboarders whether you have snow shoes or a split board. Obviously there is a certain level of fitness for these activities but a little enthusiasm and dedication and effort and you are there. There is some good hiking in the Vallee des Avals and also in the Vallee des Encombres along with hikes in Val Thorens.
In the Meribel –Courchevel Valleys are one of the leading snowboarding schools in France. Rob Sanderson, one of the co founders has an impressive array of experience in all areas of snowboarding. He has been teaching snowboarding since the 1990’s and was part of the group that co-wrote the first ever BASI Snowboard Instructor manual and has been an examiner for BASI since 1997. RTM offer lessons in all aspects of snowboarding, beginner lessons, intermediates groups, advanced groups, off-piste, backcountry, freestyle coaching sessions, split-board touring and BASI Instructor training for levels 1, 2, 3 ISIA and ISTD.
Alternatively if you ever have the chance then head to Chamonix and hook up with Neil McNab, who is one of the Worlds leading Back country Snowboard & SplitboardGuides with over 25 years experience as a Professional Freeride Snowboarder, Snowboard Teacher & High Mountain Guide & holds both the International IFMGA/UIAGM High Mountain Guides qualification and International ISIA/ISTD Ski and Snowboarding Teaching Diploma’s that qualify him to teach & guide in the high mountains anywhere in the World. If you go snowboarding with Neil, it’s an experience you will not forget.
The types and shapes – Freestyle, Freeride and All Mountain. Traditional Camber, Reverse Camber / rocker ( park and powder ) true twin, flat camber, camber combination, asymmetrical twin, some Powder Boards now are called fish shape and have a tapered tail ( They are larger too ), sometimes with a rocker nose ! All of this is quite confusing especially for beginners. The generalisation is that smaller boards are for freestyle and park riding so you can rotate more and then larger boards for freeriding.