Isola, FR: 02/04/18

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Jamesdeluxe Jamesdeluxe
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Isola, FR: 02/04/18

A few years back while reading the German-language Alpinforum -- where I steal all my ideas for off-the-beaten-path ski areas in the Alps -- I noticed a number of enticing trip reports from France’s Maritime Alps region, just north of Nice. Like most of us on this side of the Atlantic, I don’t instinctively connect the Côte d'Azur/Riviera with skiing, but those reports made me realise that the region had more than enough for a week-long road trip, with views of the Mediterranean on clear days as a value-added bonus. I've been looking forward to this not only as a skier but also because more than three decades ago as an undergrad I spent a half year in Nice and hadn’t been back since.

To give you an idea of the itinerary, here's the route in the extreme southeastern corner of France:


And a zoom-in with some of the region's ski areas:



After a quick change of planes in Zurich, I arrived in Nice at 10 am. Just walking through the airport, which is directly on the Mediterranean and decorated with plants from the region, was an odd feeling -- kinda like arriving in southern Florida for a ski trip. I got my car and headed north on Autoroute 8, the Route de Grenoble:



Within 15 minutes, it becomes a narrow two-lane road that zigzags through canyons and small villages:









I arrived at Isola at 12:30 for lunch with Cécile and Christian.



Christian and I then got cracking with a 2.5-hour ski tour up through the trees, which was a great way to head off any thoughts of impending jet lag:







That night, I had a fantastic dinner where you take a groomer up the mountain to an atmospheric chalet and hang out with new friends beside a roaring fire, drink lots of wine, and eat fantastic food:





The next morning, I was on the snow by 9 am. Isola is the closest destination ski area to Nice, directly on the Italian border about 32 miles as the crow flies from the ocean. It's officially known as Isola 2000, referring to the ski village's elevation in meters (the actual village of Isola is much further down). As always in the Alps, the trail map doesn't convey how big the ski area is end to end:



On weekends and school holidays, Isola is hugely popular with people from the Côte d'Azur and offers all sorts of activities for families, including those who don't ski or snowboard. Like many French purpose-built resorts from the 1960s and 70s, there are a number of concrete buildings at the base (similar to Snowbird in Utah) that they would certainly build differently today, but the dramatic Alpine scenery, spectacular views down to the ocean, and impressive snow record (absolutely no rain this high up during winter, similar to Colorado) make up for it.



I started on the far looker's left and made my way over to Isola's premier terrain sector, Saint Sauveur:





 







One of several cute mountain huts -- the owner is a French gentleman who also lived a couple decades in Canada and became a citizen there too, as the flags demonstrate:



Here's the view from the top; the Mediterranean is just below the clouds in the far left:



A couple of the ski areas I'll visit in the coming days are on the right:



Along the Italian border, there are a number of military fortifications from WWII, including barbed wire and other detritus:







Looking into Italy, that's a monastery in the distance:



A late afternoon beer at the Solarium hut:





They fine you for not taking a photo here:


JasonWx JasonWx
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

looks like paradise...

Beaches and world class mountains with a hour or so
"Peace and Love"
JTG4eva! JTG4eva!
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
Always interesting destinations and great reports!  

How much snow to those mountains get a year on average?
We REALLY need a proper roll eyes emoji!!
campgottagopee campgottagopee
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

Bravo!!!! Great report and pics as always - thanks
Jamesdeluxe Jamesdeluxe
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

In reply to this post by JTG4eva!
JTG4eva! wrote
How much snow to those mountains get a year on average?
I'm hoping to have the number soon. In the meantime, here's Alps ski weather expert Fraser Wilkin's rating of Isola, which is surprisingly high given how far south it is:
https://www.weathertoski.co.uk/european-resorts-a-z/isola-2000-france/

nepa nepa
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

In reply to this post by campgottagopee


You should have a show on the Travel channel!!  Your TRs always kick ass!  Thanks again for taking the time to share.
Z Z
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

nice report

have you skied in Spain at all?  Would be a similar vibe I think and I've been thinking it would be really a fun and different experience from the Alps.  Plus my Spanish is better than my German and my wife is fluent in Spanish and our French skills are zero.
if You French Fry when you should Pizza you are going to have a bad time
x10003q x10003q
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

Great report, drool worthy
I always thought it would be nice to live in Nice. Beach and great skiing.
JasonWx JasonWx
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

In reply to this post by Z
Z wrote
nice report

have you skied in Spain at all?  Would be a similar vibe I think and I've been thinking it would be really a fun and different experience from the Alps.  Plus my Spanish is better than my German and my wife is fluent in Spanish and our French skills are zero.
I have skied in central spain  Valle Nevado.. http://forum.nyskiblog.com/Sierra-Nevada-Spain-tp4051806.html.

My daughter skied in Norther Spain , just south of Santander..
It was more of novelty experience..In conjunction sight seeing I would recommend it..

I heard the skiing in Andorra is worth the trip..
"Peace and Love"
raisingarizona raisingarizona
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Re: Isola, FR: 02/04/18

Beautiful. The mountains kind of look more like Utah or Colorado there than the traditional Alps settings of Cham or any of the other classics.

You sure do get after it. Good for you man!
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