Without doubt their are many sweet spots for riding or skiing throughout the French Alps. Most of these dreamed of powder runs are accessible without too much exertion to the untrained weekly snowboarder and skier, others, however do require a larger degree of commitment, physical and mental to achieve your goal.
One such place can be found in the Portes de Soliel area, the "Pepsi Max" a decent from the Point de Vorlaz, at 2346 metres ( the second highest peak over looking the resorts of Avoriaz and Morzine) to the village of Lecherette at an altitude of 1480m. This off piste beauty will take you from the windswept heights to the protected tree covered valley below.
For those of you who find this place a decision will have to be made on reaching the summit; which bowl to descend.
Stuart, a fellow seasonaire had decided on the right hand bowl, mainly due to the majestic beauty of it when viewed from the bottom for our first descent. A classic, the natural form of the mountain pushing us away from the 50 metre cliff face which straddles the bowl. The open faces to either side a paradise for snowboarding, the descent awesome as we dropped off into the valley below.
Panoramic Views of the Haute Savoie
Arriving at the bottom, we had agreed to not revisiting the Pepsi Max again this season. 24 hours later, I was on my way again, with Rollo and friends, the need for the second bowl had got to me. This time, I knew what the ascent had in for us and unlike the first time, I had armed myself with an ice axe.
Portes de Soleil
Nothing in life is free, the Pepsi Max is no exception. To reach the summit, the hike will take you up to 40 minutes if the trail is already broken. On your way to the top; a trail of nearly 2 km rising through 300 metres has to be negotiated. Beginning with a rising traverse across mixed ground. Turning right and upwards at the rock face will lock you onto the knife edge ridge and the half way marker. If your timing is good, here is a good place for a rest. So chill out and check out the spectacular views of the Dents Blanches and Les Hauts Forts in the distance.
The physical part, although not over, makes it way to a more mental requirement. The remainder of the trek takes you along the precarious knife edge ridge, the drop offs either side, keeping the adrenaline flowing, the only thought, that if the snow gives, I must jump right..( left is over a 150m rock wall).
On reaching the summit many emotions are felt, achievement is the sensation that pushes its way to the top of the stack. Lower down the fear and anxiety rise up as you reflect through the last hour. The Pepsi Max is all about the feeling and not just the ride down.
To the first timers the view is mouth watering, the 360' panoramic of Morzine and the Haute Savoie is at its best. To increase your appetite; a 3000m run with 900m of vertical will wet your palette. If you get it on a "blue bird powder" day. It will be the ride of your life