Over the first half of my week in the Maritime Alps, I visited three pretty diverse ski areas and #4 was equally different from the others.
Late afternoon on Tuesday, I drove a half hour from small, atmospheric, and proudly throwback Roubion to the animated but relaxed ski village of Valberg that averages more than 300 days of sunshine a year.
At dinner that evening, I got chatting with a few French visitors at the next table about the resort and wondered aloud why a town in the south of France, only 32 air miles from Nice, had what seemed like a Germanic place name. I was quickly corrected -- Valberg is a contraction for “Vallon des Bergers” or the Valley of Shepherds. Founded in 1936, it’s both the oldest ski area in the Maritime Alpes (celebrated its 80th anniversary a couple seasons ago) and the closest full-service ski village to the Cote d’Azur with all sorts of options, including snowshoeing, swimming, horseback riding, sledding, and that week even a standup comedy festival.
Having had so much fun on my evening snowmobiling two days earlier, I signed up for a group ride departing the following morning at 7:30. While staying in bed for another hour would’ve been my preferred activity, I was glad to have come along within a couple minutes of getting on the sled. The quality of light at sunrise -- which unfortunately doesn't quite come across in these photos -- was gorgeous:
Not as challenging as the ride in Auron a couple days earlier, but a nice, leisurely outing surrounded by beautiful scenery: worth the early wake-up. About 30 minutes in, the monsieur in charge unpacked a breakfast of coffee, tea, and croissants.
By 9:15, I was booting up and looking forward to a circuit similar in layout to Park City's The Canyons:
A series of rounded peaks with 54 miles of trails, a vertical of 1,900 feet, and as always over here, tons of lightly-touched offpiste. Valberg skied much wider than it looks in the trail map above.
In addition to high-speed cruising on buttery soft groomed trails, I found a bunch of nice shots with several inches of leftovers from two days earlier:
Had a great lunch with locals Lionel and Rémi next to a snowmaking basin known as Wapiti Lake:
Toward the end of the day, I headed back into town:
And checked out the Twizy, a two-seat electric car from Renault, The town has a small fleet of them that you rent, similar to a Citibike.
You put your planks in the back and cruise around town instead of clomping around in your ski boots:
I zipped up the hill and just missed the sunset, but still a nice photo opp:
In short, a beautiful ski area with mostly relaxed upper intermediate skiing and a cute village.
Camp, we've never met but I briefly thought about you during the three snowmobile rides I went on over there last week. I grew up slednecking on my father's AMF Ski-Daddler west of Syracuse. Felt great to get back on the horse!