2011 News and events

Even if the mood is quieter now than in the heat of summer, the French mountains still have much to offer as we move into fall, notably lower prices and the natural beauty of the season.  Ceaselessly innovative, the resorts continue to provide exciting activities, be they athletic, cultural or gastronomic.  Overview.

Mont Dore Volcanic Blues (Auvergne, September 22nd – 25th)

Even if the mood is quieter now than in the heat of summer, the French mountains still have much to offer as we move into fall, notably lower prices and the natural beauty of the season.  Ceaselessly innovative, the resorts continue to provide exciting activities, be they athletic, cultural or gastronomic.  Overview.

Mont Dore Volcanic Blues (Auvergne, September 22nd – 25th)

This blues festival brings the party to Mont-Dore.  Over 30 free concerts will be taking place in the bars and restaurants of the resort, with groups coming from France, the USA, Canada, England and Italy.  Among the artists on the billet, Marc-André Léger, Dana Gillespie, Wes Mackey, Loretta and the Bad Kings and the Volcanic Blues Band. www.volcanic-blues.com

Fisherman’s friend Strongmanrun at Bresse-Hohneck (Vosges – October 16th)

A training course worthy of the American marines, but this one is all fun, no pressure.    Sign up for the second edition of this exceptional race where participants, dressed for Mardi Gras, run through the mud, the tunnels, scale boulders or bales of straw, and climb rope ladders – and all that with a smile!  www.strongmanrun.fr

A walk in Mont d’Or country at Métabief (Jura – September 25th)

This festive occasion is a celebration of the famous Mont d’Or cheese, and it is the perfect occasion to (re)discover the Jura.  Follow the marked trails to move from one alpine chalet to another.  In these chalets, you will discover a wealth of activities: an artisan’s village; the Alphorn, a traditional instrument; production of shakes (wooden shingles made from split logs), discovery of the local flora, exhibitions, and more.  And of course, you can sample all the different dishes made with the delicious Mont d’Or cheese.   

Observing the démontagnage

After having led their animals up into the mountain pastures at the beginning of the summer -l’enmontagnage – it is now time for the shepherds to bring them back down into the valleys.  Rounding up the cows and sheep, they care for the wounded animals and bring the animals back to the stables, giving priority to the females, who are ready to give birth.  The démontagnage is a gruelling day for the shepherds, but a delightful experience for observers, who get an inside look at this singular tradition.  

Foire des Aillons (Savoy – September 11th)

Vendors come from all over the region to display their wares at this fair.  Regional foods, artisanal products, numerous exhibitions and activities for kids are all to be found here.  But the main attraction, which takes place at Aillon-le-Jeune, is the famous pot-au-feu, whose preparation begins at 6 a.m!  To round out this delicious meal, try a piece of the delicious tomme des Bauges and a blueberry tart for dessert, accompanied by a good Savoyard wine. 

Battle for the crown at Houches (Haute-Savoie – September 25th)

This grand alpine tradition, equally appreciated by locals and visitors, is still very popular in Italy, in the Aoste valley, in Switzerland, in the Valais, and in France, in Haute-Savoie.  Heren cattle, classified by size and age, are judged in order to select the « Queen » of the herd.  The weigh-in begins at 8:30, the competition at 11, and the selection of the « Queen of queens » at 17:00.  This free event takes place at the Houches ice rink.

Race to the peaks

A practice still in its early days, trail, or mountain foot racing – is attracting more and more of a following.  Surfing on this success, the resorts have created permanent racing trails.  At Font-Romeu in the Eastern Pyrenees, you can train on trails from 10 to 40 kilometres long, ranging in altitude from 1700 to 2700 metres of altitude. Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse (Isère) offers similar possibilities, with hiking-racing trails from 10 to 40 kilometres long, technique training points, and a section running from the village up to the summits, as well as facilities such as showers, changing rooms and a sauna. 

Festival de la voix soliste (solo voice) Vercors at Méaudre and Autrans (Isère – September 9th - 11th)

As the name indicates, this festival is devoted to the voice, that sings, speaks and dances.  Concerts and other events celebrate the voice in all its forms, from classical singing to Austrian yodeling, as well as the operetta, tzigane music and chanson française – all musical styles can be appreciated here.  You can also delight in the tales of talented local and regional storytellers.  http://www.voix-soliste.com

Mountain biking

You have already experienced the thrill of the downhill trails this summer, why not try cross-country?  Cross-country mountain biking is the perfect autumn sport, and since there is no need to take the chairlifts, it is completely free.  Take in the beautiful colours of autumn and feel the leaves under your wheels.  Numerous mountain biking events will take place in September : the Coupe de France finals at Super Besse (September 9th – 11th), Derby de la Morte at l’Alpe du Grand Serre  (September 17th), Enduro des Portes du Mercantour at Valberg (Septembre 3rd – 4th), Coupe Rhône-Alpes de VTT downhill finals Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse (September 25th), Closing Party at Gets (September 10th – 11th), and more.

Festiv’Air at Villard-de-Lans (Isère – September 30th – October 2nd)

For three days, the sky over the Vercors will be bursting with colour for this hot air balloon festival.  From the sky or on the ground, it is really a sight to see!  Try this exciting activity for the first time, in a fixed hot air balloon, see a demonstration in miniature, join a kite-building seminar, and come out for batucada and great concerts.  All this in addition to, of course, flights in a hot air balloon (approximately 150 euros for a one-hour flight.)

Take to the waters

There is no better way to relax tired muscles after a day of hiking or mountain biking than a soothing hot bath.  From Serre-Chevalier to Aix-les-Thermes, passing by Vaujany and Val d’Isère, numerous resorts boast natural hot springs or jacuzzis, part of larger aquatic complexes, havens for well-being enthusiasts.  

Festival Equilibres et Gourmandisesat Brides-les-Bains (Savoy – September 15th – 19th)

This event, formerly known as the « Festival du Goût » (Festival of Taste) proposes seminars, thematic conferences, workshops for kids, fashion shows and also cooking advice straight from the mouths of some of the finest chefs of Brides-les-Bains.  The objective: to show that a balanced diet does not mean sacrificing taste, and that healthy cooking can also be festive and enjoyable. 

Observe the animals

Fall is on the way, but that is no obstacle for hikers, especially those who enjoy thematic hikes and the observation of animals.  The second half of September is the rutting season for deer, at which time one can hear the famous bellow of the males.  The battles between two males fighting over a female are always a spectacular sight, and there will also be opportunities to spot chamois, whose coats will change from their summer grey-beige colour to a dark brown shade, three layers thick, to protect against the coming winter cold. 

The Praz-de-Lys Eco-Trail (Haute-Savoie – Septembre 18th)

This mountain foot race begins on the Sommand plateau, in the heart of the magnificent pastures of Faucigny, an idyllic, protected natural environment.  Participants can choose between two tough, technically complex trails, 20 km and 1401 metres of difference in altitude for the short version, 50 km and 3735 metres of difference in altitude for  the long version, as well as an eco-hiking trail for kids and families.  http://www.ecotrail.fr


With the summer only just over, you are already dreaming of hitting the slopes?  Great news – in the French mountains it is possible as early as October. 

The Tignes resort opens over 20 kilometres of pistes on the Grande Motte glacier, between 3 000 and 3 456 metres of altitude, from October 1st.  This year, it will be the first station to open.  Go to www.tignes.net for more information.

The doors will be open to the Val d'Isère glacier on November 26th, with the season continuing all the way until the first of May 2012. More information at www.valdisere.com

Deux Alpes will open October 22 and 23rd for the Enjoy the Glacier event.  Two days of celebration, films, shows and tests to start the season off right.  For more information go to www.les2alpes.com.

Photos : Corinne Bomont

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