I am 1800m up a mountain. It is wet, cold and miserable. In consequence, I am a tad miserable, though not wet and cold as I am inside, thankfully, although I would rather be outside tramping the mountain trails in my Lederhosen, yodelling. snow skiers
As a distraction (from the weather, not the Lederhosen), I decided to write about something snowy and the snowiest thing I could come up with was The Three Valleys Escapade, possibly the hardest days skiing you’ll ever do (although I did 60 slopes in the Porte du Soleil on my 60th birthday in weather not unlike today and I am able to reliably report that it was not easy).
You may have heard of the Escapade; you may even have completed it. For those of you that haven’t and haven’t, here’s a bit about its history, what it is today and why, maybe, you should just be bonkers enough to give it a go.
It was originally devised in 2006 by the lift operating company, the Société des 3 Vallées (S3V) as a way of enticing folk to the Three Valleys. The idea was that during your holiday (usually a week), you would visit most of the major landmarks in the Three Valleys.
The itinerary consisted of 30 lifts with a combined vertical height of 13000m, with a total skiing distance of around 70km. Before the introduction of electronic ski passes, you had to get your card stamped at each check point. Once electronic passes arrived and Big Brother took over, they could tell where you’d been and there was no need for a stamped card.
Once you had completed the Escapade, you proudly presented your highly stamped but rather limp card, or your rather more resilient pass, at any major lift pass office in the Three Valleys and received a free certificate. The accompanying badge, though, you had to buy.
S3V haven’t promoted the Escapade since 2017, which is odd, really, as it was very popular (but then I am often puzzled by the logic behind the decisions made by Les Chefs of many French businesses).
So much so, that it lives on and has become something of a legendary challenge. In fact, since 2017 it’s had its ride pimped and now is an outrageous monster of its former incarnation. Think of – oh, I don’t know – Dr Bruce Banner and The Hulk.
The concept is as simple today as it was in 2006: you have to ski all the resorts, the perimeter and the classic summits of The 3 Valleys. There are 12 resorts and 12 ‘peaks and perimeters’. There is a suggested route which I have included below, but really you can start anywhere and choose any route – just as long as you hit those resorts and peaks. I am hopeful that it will come as no surprise that to be able to do this you will need to ski between the lifts in the list below and may very well have to use some other lifts.
The difference is that, today, the itinerary has expanded to around 34 lifts with a combined vertical height of 17000m and you’ll cover around 100km of pistes.
And you must do it in a day.
I suppose I should take the walk of shame here and confess I have never attempted it, although it is on my ‘to do’ list for next season as long as all my bones remain intact (while I am cleansing my soul, perhaps I should declare that I’m rubbish at off-piste and have never skied the Couloir, although I have done The Wall in Avoriaz, which as everyone knows, is much harder and scarier).
Here is the point as which I should ask “are you up for the challenge?”, but I know my market and they’re not towelling-robed, posh wine drinking hot-tubbers. Mainly because we don’t supply towelling robes, posh wine or hot tubs. So why pose a question to which I will get a raised eyebrow and a look of mild and amused puzzlement?
It is, I am told, a really tough test for good recreational skiers. If you do decide to give it a go, even with good planning, good navigation and a good pace there’s always a chance of lift breakdowns, piste closures, bad weather or unexpected queues, so you may not complete it at your first attempt. Plus lunch is out, unless you would prefer the ignominy of the navette back from Courchevel or Le Praz. The best you can hope for is a salami baguette on Bruyères 1 and 2.
Here is the suggested route (courtesy of the guys at latania.co.uk)
The received wisdom if that if you plan on completing the challenge you will need to move fast. Well, there’s a thing. You must be out early to get first lifts. Who’d have thought? Plan to go for it on a clear day with nicely groomed pistes😏. Any wind may cause lift closings, so ask your hosts to cut down on beans, if on the menu. Snowy pistes may slow you down more than you can afford, so stick to grass. Stick a filled baguette somewhere safe for lunch. Drink plenty of water. Don’t eat snow, especially the yellow kind. Remember: no stopping – pee in your wetsuit.
The record for the fastest time to complete the challenge is just under seven hours but most people take closer to eight or more hours. Remember: THE ESCAPADE IS NOT A RACE
- ALWAYS CONTROL YOUR SPEED
- You take on the challenge entirely at your own risk
- Act responsibly
- Take full ownership for your own actions and all of those with you
- Respect other people (and the mountain)
- Ski & ride within your limits
- Always obey the skiers & snowboarders code
- Observe all signs and pay attention to all notices, advice & instructions from pisteurs
- Only ski off piste if fully equipped & knowledgeable
- Think about the safety of others as well as yourself
- Above all, think of other people, take care, don’t wreck things for others & don’t even think of blaming anyone else if it all goes wrong…..
Good luck! snow skiersEsacapade route