The 2014/15 winter ski season will surely go down as one of the most eventful in Cool Bus history. We fought through many challenging days behind the wheel but were lucky enough to have an awesome team behind us without which things could have much harder! Here’s a quick run down of the highs and lows…
Back in December things were looking pretty dire. With what was widely reported as the worst early season snow conditions for 40 years, many resorts in the Tarentaise were unable to open at all for their first week. Others such as Les Arcs and La Plagne opened with only two or three runs of artificial snow. Amidst all this doom and gloom we were doing our best to cope with our busiest week of the winter, providing transport for the “Festival de Cinema Europeen des Arcs”! Squeezing 200 transfers for the glitterati of European Cinema into one hectic week is no mean feat and the drivers and office staff at Cool Bus were already demonstrating the sort of determination that would prove vital later on in the winter!
And then from one extreme to the other… Having struggled to squeeze a few centimetres of snow together for skiing through the busy Christmas period we then saw 40cm fall in a couple of hours during the early morning of Saturday 27th December. The chaos that ensued was widely reported in the UK press. For the full low down see our blog post below. Suffice to say our drivers and office staff were stretched to the limit and beyond with gridlock throughout the local area and journey times running into double figures just to get to Geneva airport (never mind getting back again)! The mayhem continued all through Sunday as well with the customers of lesser transport companies left stranded in airports, train stations and town halls across the area. The one silver lining from this weekend was the incredible feedback we got from our customers praising the superhuman efforts of our drivers who persevered through the worst conditions imaginable!
January started in a much more sedate fashion. Always the quietest period of the season, we were blessed with a few weekends with very little traffic and even the weather was kind to us. As we approached the end of the month though, the snow reports were bringing warnings of an impending storm. This time the worst of it fell on Friday morning rather than Saturday but it still made for a pretty challenging weekend!
The snowy weather continued into February and we had some pretty fun days both driving in it and skiing/snowboarding on the mountain. Here’s a little time-lapse driving video from our Vimeo channel showing what conditions were like that week.
As the snow continued we experienced another interesting saturday at Geneva airport when they shut the runway for over an hour! This was right in the middle of the day on the 21st February – one of the busiest saturdays of the season, falling during UK half-term and French holidays. The result was many of our clients got diverted to Zurich, Basel or Lyon and then bussed back to Geneva 4 or 5 hours later. Another challenging one for our Geneva airport rep Sara to deal with!
The very next weekend saw yet more disruption, this time in the form of a 50 tonne boulder which rolled down the hillside to finish up right in the middle of the main road up to Val Thorens! With this happening on Friday afternoon there was nowhere near enough time to get the road cleared before the peak traffic on Saturday morning (again still inside the French Holiday period!). The authorities diverted traffic onto a much smaller side road and allowed only descending traffic (cars but not coaches) to pass during the morning and then opened it up to those arriving in the afternoon. This resulted in a huge tailback of arriving traffic which built up steadily to Albertville through the morning and which did not clear until late into the night. Despite having very few transfers to the 3 Valleys we were still effected as the main route into the valley was blocked. Once again our drivers pulled out all the stops and their considerable knowledge to find alternative routes via every backroad available around Albertville!
March provided some much needed respite as the snowfall eased off again and things returned to near normal! Despite the good snowfalls of february, most resorts still lacked a decent amount of base due to the dry december. At this point it was looking increasingly like we might see a very early end to the season and we took advantage of the good on-piste snow conditions to get a few sneaky runs in on our mountain bikes!
And then April delivered! A good solid snowfall that seemed to last for a whole week provided just what was needed to see out the season. Even the snowpack (which had been incredibly unstable for most of the season) improved hugely meaning there was some awesome conditions to be found off-piste. With all of this happening just after the Easter holidays, the resorts were relatively quiet and we finally had the chance to really enjoy the snow! Here’s a little video showing one of our late season day trips to Ste. Foy.
And then just when you think its all over… there’s a landslide in Moutiers! On the day of the landslide itself (Wednesday 8th April) delays of up to 3 hours were affecting traffic into and out of the valley. Once again our drivers local knowledge was put to the test with some interesting shortcuts being devised along gravel roads and through forests! With most of the debris landing on the railway it was the trains that were worst affected and the Snowtrain was unable to complete its journey up to Bourg St. Maurice for the following 3 weeks while repairs were carried out!
With such an eventful season its seemed only right that we see it out in spectacular fashion and so the end of April saw the inaugural Cool Bus Grand Prix take place at the karting track in Albertville. Nearly all of our drivers took part, competing in pairs that were picked at random. In the end it was Charlie Ward and Graham Gilligan that took the chequered flag with Emily Horridge taking the honours for fastest female around the track.
From here celebrations moved on to Charly’s Factory in Bourg St. Maurice where Christophe and Agathe served us up an amazing meal. Then onwards to our, now famous, End of Season Party in Malgovert Forest, Les Arcs with all the usual trimmings – a boot full of Kronenbourg, huge open fire, glowsticks, balloons and DJ Carpetface!
Huge thanks to all the drivers and staff at Cool Bus that made the 2014/15 season what it was. You are the best! And not forgetting our customers who have been incredibly understanding and cheerful through some of the toughest times we’ve ever seen out on the snowy roads of the French Alps!
See you again next winter, its been emotional…