Lift openings 2018: Houston we have a problem.

Late March or early Autumn riding, depending on which way you look at it.

Like all good popular quotations, it’s not quite right. “Houston we’ve had a problem” was the live version, but who’s going to argue with Tom Hanks?

April 11th 1970, Apollo 13 launched from the Kennedy space centre Florida with the intention of being the 3rd manned mission to the moon. Despite some wee issues on the way up (the Saturn V rocket is a ridiculous bit of engineering, its design started in the era of the pencil and is still the most powerful rocket ever made, the max carried low earth orbit payload of 140,000kg being a long way more impressive than Space-X’s Falcon Heavy and its Tesla car, {It wasnay so good at being re-used right enough, and don’t look too closely at the history of some of the lead engineers} but that much fire power with that little processing power makes fine control a touch tricky and on this launch it had a go at some pretty huge “pogo oscilations” which frankly put any tank-slapper you’ve ever had to shame) the mission had survived 2.5 of their 3 days kicking about in space preparing to nip down for a spot of golf on the moon when there was, in the words of the crew, “a pretty large bang”.

Cue the infamous exchange:

Astronaut J Swigert: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”
Houston: “This is Houston. Say again, please.”
Astronaut J Lovell: “Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Lorne coming in to land, but the face would suggest that there was a slight issue on take off.

The problem what they had had turned out to be the small matter of two of the oxygen tanks emptying into space, leaving the crew in somewhat of a pickle. Not only was that oxygen intended to be breathed in the near future, but more importantly it was also to be used for the fuel cells powering the module.

What followed is one of the more impressive stories of ingenuity and problem solving under stress and should serve as hope that us humans, if we really put our minds to it, can do some gosh darn amazing things. If I were you I’d leave this page now, and go and lose yourself down the internet procrastination wormhole reading about the next 6 days of the mission. You can start most interestingly here, or more quickly here, but given the option definitely take the first read.

Oli loving the April/Autumn conditions, with some fine colour co-ordinating on the backdrop.

Of course, I can do that because I already know what’s written below, you’re probably here because you want to know when the various lifts are open and are well pissed off at having to wade through all that purple prose above.

Soz not soz.

It might feel a bit dreich, but there is a wheen of grip when the trails are like this!

Chamonix, usual CdMB caveats apply, and whilst we’re on the subject, how can a company as rich as CdMB create a website as atrocious as this?

Planpraz: 12th June – 16th September (thanks to the issues with the Midi lift, this opening date has been all over the place, best check the CdMB website for most up to date guess)
Bellevue: 16th June – 23th September
Le Tour: 16th June – 23th September
Flegere: 16th June – 16th September, then 20th October to 4th November
Tramway du Mont Blanc: 16th June – 16th September
Brevent: 16th June – 9th September
Prarion: 23rd June – 16th September
Grands Montets: 23th June – 9th September (*although CdMB have also claimed 16th in emails….)
Vallorcine: 30th June – 2nd September


Apologies for breaking from tradition again with this wee edit, but here’s MORE useful information! The Tabe chairlift is getting replaced this summer, so as a result the 4×4 trail from Logon lift to the start of the Trapette and Lavancher trails is closed to walkers and bikers, and so is Pierre a Ric. Which doesn’t really leave many options for getting down from Grands Montets on a bike. There is a trail down from the Logon Refuge that might sneak past the bans, but it’s likely bikes simply won’t be allowed up this summer. Will update when I know more, but in the mean time, here’s the legal bit.

Amazing what you can find a stone's throw from a motorway. And yous thought Chamonix was all mountain gnar and endless backdrops.

There’s more to the Alps than Chamonix, what other dates are there:

La Thuile: 30th June – 2nd September (is an educated guess, as ever, dates not up, but that’s the usual)
Megeve: 7th July – 2nd September. When I say Megeve, I mean Jaillet. None of the other lifts, including all the lifts you need for the bike park, are open this summer. Again
Megeve take 2: Mont d’Arbois 22nd June, Rochebrune 30th June, Petite Fontaine 7th July to 2nd September. Megeve is now 2 separate companies with 2 separate approaches to bikes
St Gervais: 22nd June – 2nd September. Longer hours this year. Woop
Les Contamines: Yay, a resort that can give lift opening information less than1 month out from the date. 30th June – 2nd September
Grand Massif: Assorted start and finish times across the area, and they’re not online yet, but basically between 30th June – 26th August
Pila: 23rd June – 9th September (as ever, hopefully longer….)
Portes du Soleil: 29th June – 2nd September, but with some a bit earlier and later (details in the link, I’m not going to spoon feed you)
Verbier: Weekends only from 9th June then all the days from 30th June – 28th October

Oli on the "braap" section of the Servoz freeride trail, air to corner, always good for throwing fun bodyshapes.

But, Uh Houston, we’ve had a problem.

Aye, it wasn’t a completely random intro that.

This winter’s been a record breaker, if you use the records recorded since the late 1990s at least. There is a metric shit-ton of snow above 2000m in the alps just now. On first of April Meteo France was reporting 360cm snow depths on north facing slopes at 2000m. No joke.

1400m altitude in the Chamonix valley, end of March. This, Houston, is a problem.

This is a problem. That snow ain’t going anywhere in a hurry, and even as it melts, it’s going to be busy saturating everything below it for a while to come yet. Normally we’ve got no problems riding the valley trails in late March but instead we’re stuck in Servoz or further down the valley in St Gervais. At least the train’s running fine this year, strikes excepted.

Fortunately the Servoz trails are in great condition now, mostly down to some great trail maintenance work. Many beers are owed to Dave for his fine chainsawing of several bloody big fallen trees and to Oli for making Trois Gullies flow better than it ever has, cheers!

Yes, that's snow falling in shot. Has nobody told the weather it's spring?

Now whilst Apollo 13 was a good news story thanks to human ingenuity, the current human solution to getting rid of lots of snow is to raise the global temperature by a couple of degrees, which whilst undoubtedly effective, is mibbies not the best solution overall.

A fine example of how to air off a root, aim vaguely at the corner below you, and let the wonders of modern mountain bike technology deal with your incompetence.

A few years ago Whistler dug the snow off its bike trails to allow an on-schedule opening of its trails, I wouldn’t hold you breath for that happening in Yaute so perhaps start looking at the lower altitude bits of your maps for the first half of summer this year…

Silver lining time, if you canny ride the normal trails, you need to go explore and find new spots. Like this.

Cheers again to Dave, Wayne and Oli for the trail work, and Lorne for taking most of the photos.