Day 14: To Val d’Isere – a day of contrasts

This morning we left the refuge D’Entre le Lace in the parc Vanoise, a typical basic refuge with approximately 20 guests last night. It had its own two cows that were milked twice a day. Any willing guests were welcome to a free milking lesson.

This morning we had freshly milked milk with our breakfast – certainly a new experience for me. No skim/soy milk Starbunesque choices here.

After breakfast we headed off to a small pass above the refuge which took us about 25 minutes. Then a nice, slowly ascending walk through a beautiful valley while the sun slowly climbed to peak over the high mountains. As we walked we saw numerous marmots scurrying about, looking for breakfast it seemed. They are lovely little creatures. The picture with this post is taken from the end of the valley, looking back. We both agreed that this part of the walk was definitely one of the highlights so far.

The walk carried on for another hour and a half through beautiful mountain terrain until we started to approach the ski slopes of Val Clares and Tignes Le Lac. The guidebook had warned us about the sudden appearance of these ski towns filled with high-rises and it was right. It was a strange site peeking down on these developments designed to warehouse as many people as possible close to the slopes.

We had read about a free shuttle service from here to Val d’Isere, just a few miles down the road, and had decided to take the bus rather than hike along these urban developments. So we happily descended to the walkway along the lake and at the first park bench exchanged our hiking boots for our sandals.

It was just about noon and I wanted a coffee. In the end we decided to have lunch as well, since it was early and we were done hiking for the day. After lunch we checked the free shuttle service, which we had seen going by ever fifteen minutes or so. It turned out that they were local buses only; the bus we needed would not leave for another 3 hours! Roy momentarily regretted his pint of beer at lunch as we decided to hike rather than wait around. We opted to use a local walking trail instead of the GR5 because it would only be about one hour instead of two and required less climbing. It was a great trail except for the part along a steep cliff, high above the river and lake. Fortunately it was equipped with cables and we did fine, but it was a bit of an unanticipated adrenalin rush. Eventually we walked into town along the highway as planned.

Val d’Isere reminds me a lot of Whistler with its nonstop hotels and restaurants and shopping. Not bad for what it is, but compared to the quiet valley, spectacular mountains and marmots of this morning, it was a huge contrast. Only a 3-4 hour walk away people are living in a stone cabin with solar power and had to milk their cows for breakfast, and here we are back in the world of commerce and consumerism.