Our skiing trip in the Jura
Three intrepid people, (Camilla, David and Roger) from the Sheffield Nordic Skiing club decided to attempt the Grande Traversee du Jura in January 2016. They joined a group set up by Tracks and Trails (via KE Adventure) and led by Tania Noakes. The group consisted of ourselves and Stephanie and Michael. We would like too particularly thank Tania for her support and unstinting encouragement. She was great! The photos in this `blog' were taken by Camilla, David, Roger and Tania. Click on them to see enlarged versions.
The group met in the bar of the Hotel de France Sainte Croix in Switzerland. Our journey there had been smooth though it would have helped if we had realised in advance that we had to change trains at Yverdon-les Bains. The second train was a small regional train that wound its way up into the mountains amidst superb scenery. We took a short walk around Sainte Croix and then settled in and met the other group members, Stephanie and Michael, recently retired GPs from mid Wales, and our leader Tania, a cross country ski instructor and a high mountain guide. Stephanie and Michael were both dauntingly super-fit but were less experienced at cross-country skiing. This meant that we made a cohesive group - Michael generally powering his way ahead, but not toofar, and the rest of us staying broadly together. The dinner was a salad followed by perch (a local specialty) and then by decision time: absinthe parfait or tiramisu. The former was delicious.,/p>
Les Fourges to Métabief
We left the hotel at 9 and had a taxi to the French village of Les Fourges to begin the first, and shortest, leg of the traverse. After sliding around on the icy pavement, we put on our skis and began with a short (about 7 km) circuit on a well prepared ski track. Here Camilla managed to lose a cap from one of her bindings and, after a short unsuccessful hunt, we set off on the traverse. The scenery was gentle hills and woods and the snow was for the most part in good condition. The parts through a couple of small towns, apparently named for the ages of their hospitals, were not so good and we had to carry our skis a short distance. We arrived at our accommodation in Métabief at about 2:30 having skied just 19 kms in total.
In the restaurant we were presented with a helping of the local Mont d'Or cheese, melted in its box. "Helping" may not be the right word; we afterwards were told it was 300 grams. Very fine it was though a tad filling. Dessert was chocolate brownie with rhubarb compote. The brownie was surreptitiously saved for the next day by some.
Métabief to Chez Liadet
Today the skiing was tricky at both ends of the day but wonderful in the middle. There had been a freeze over night and when we set off the snow was somewhat 'crusty'. The first part of the trail went gradually uphill but undulated so there were several downhill bits that were difficult in the ice and brought some of us to ground too often. So our early progress was slow but, once we were on the plateau, the track improved, as the snow softened, and the sky was clear blue. Sunglasses were put on, sun cream refreshed and we had a lovely ski with great views over rolling countryside. We occasionally had a glimpse of the alps in the distance.
Going down was tricky as the track was still quite icy in places and had bare patches so skis were taken off for some parts of the descent. Tania, after our slow start, had decided to get a taxi for the last bit so we only skied 25 km of the 29km. We spent the night in a friendly family-run gite with basic accommodation requiring our sheet sleeping bags to be aired. This was the first and most crowded of the dormitory nights spent on route. Here the term "family-run" was literally true: some of the running was by charming and enthusiastic children. The clear highlight of the food was the tarte framboise. How do they make that pastry?
Chez Liadet to chez l'Aimé}
Today was wonderful, starting with a gradual uphill to the plateau, where the track undulated nicely, and skiing down a lovely wide white valley. We had really good snow conditions and clear blue sky. Towards the end we visited a great pastry shop where one member's solution to the choice between citron and framboise (again!) was to have both. How do they make that pastry? Total distance skied today was 26km. The night was spent in another gite, this one providing more space and comfort. Here the wine was the best of the trip.
chez l'Aimé to les Rousses
Today's snow conditions were again good and we had a lovely day's skiing with a touch of adventure for some. There was more cloud in the sky but the weather was very pleasant. We again started with a gradual uphill onto the plateau and our aim was to ski to Chalet Gaillard to have coffee. Two of us managed to miss this treat by taking a wrong turning when skiing at the front of the group at a junction where the GTJ split two ways with clearer signs in the wrong way. This resulted in some excellent extra skiing augmented by anxiety for both the lost and the found. The two that were lost found there way back to the others just as they were leaving the café. They were obviously a bit bothered by our disappearance but were not too annoyed with us. Tania had tried to find the miscreants and claimed she enjoyed the fast ski round the loop looking for us. We added about 7 or 8 km to our distance. We did enjoy our extra ski, particularly before we realised we had gone wrong.
In Les Rousses we left our skis at the hotel and went to have tea. Two of us indulged in Tarte Tatin. Camilla then bought some new skis! The evening meal, in a local restaurant, was excellent with trout deliciously poached in a bag.
les Rousses to Chalet Jean Lemaitre
Today was initially a little tricky as there had been a small amount of rain overnight leaving a sheet of ice on the tracks. We set off on a local track to join the GTJ and then headed mainly uphill. We stopped for a short coffee break in a nordic ski school and then continued to Chateau de la Frasse where we had lunch. Some had soup but others had Tarte Jurasessiene which turned out to be a version of 'cheese on toast' with the local comte cheese and a creamy sauce. %After lunch which took quite a long time as there was a large group in we continued on our way enjoying some long gentle downhill runs.
At night it was time for sheet sleeping bags again as we stayed in an unmanned gite with ingredients provided for a do-it-yourself breakfast. We had skied just over 25km.
Chalet Jean Lemaitre to Giron
We made a slightly earlier start than usual as we had a long ski ahead and were to stop both for coffee and lunch. The morning was quite misty but warm enough for there to be no ice. We undulated uphill, the mist began to clear and there were occasional glimpses of sun. When we arrived at the place for coffee, La Dalue, it appeared to be closed but other skiers arrived at the same time and we went in. Although the landlady declared she did not serve until noon, she was persuaded otherwise and we had tea and coffee. We then skied on to Berbois where we had lunch. This was a sort of lodge with tepee accommodation. Most of us had soup but others had the local cheese on toast, cheesier than that of the previous day with Bleu de Gex and Comte. Lunch was rather slow so we only set off at about 2:30. At first the skiing was an easy descent but we then passed a warning sign and found ourselves skiing down a track made on a road cut into the hillside. The snow was patchy so we had to take our skis off occasionally and proceeded slowly. Things improved for a while but we then came on a bare patch of road and some changed from ski boots to walking shoes which had been carried in anticipation. But this turned out to be premature as the snow improved to allow for skiing again. But eventually we came to a point where the track was closed for skiing and we had to walk the last kilometre + to Giron. The day's distance was 28.5km.
The celebratory raclette dinner at the hotel, featuring Bleu de Gex, was later than planned as we were to share the table with another group who had been delayed. Beer and aperitifs, several in one case, comfortably filled the gap helped by some delicious savoury pastries. How do they make that pastry? Two indulged in a powerful colourless kiwi-based digestif in an unlabeled bottle. Now where did that come from? Commercial kiwi liqueurs are bright green.
This is a great trip to have done and to look back on. Given this winter's strange preference for warm conditions, we were lucky to have snow on the ground for almost the whole trip and to have dry and sunny weather. We enjoyed lots of hearty local food washed down in an appropriate way with local drink.We tracked almost the whole trip using the Viewranger app on an Android phone. one bit was missed when we forgot to stat for the first kilometre or so.