There aren't many places that have the legend that surrounds La Grave
It is a magical place of freeride and epic terrain where some of the best skiers go to test themselves.
If you don't know, La Grave is located deep in the French Alps. Its high glacial terrain is serviced by two ageing but iconic cable cars, and it is all considered backcountry skiing.
We arrived at 8am, on a late March morning. In the car park at 1400m, there was fresh snow. The clouds at the summit were burning off in the sun, and we knew we were in for a day to remember.
We joined the lift line with locals and visitors and waited patiently under the moody summit of La Meije. Once on the rails, the lift shunts its way up the mountain. This is no time for impatience. This is time to take in the majesty of the area and plan your descent.
The assistance ends at 3600m giving you around 2000m of descent to play with. The snow was deep, the adrenaline and altitude started to make us pump with excitement. A last beeper check, and we were skiing.
The first run started with fresh turns, then into a gully, flying out the bottom, find another terrain area, spy a nice line head for it, take it, admire it.
Spot the next. Breathing hard. More lines. Then into the trees.
Looking for clearings. More clean snow. Hit the traverse track. Weave back to the telecabine, find a few snowy pillows, bounce. Arrive, ascend for more.
We had four runs like that, Plotting our way and finding power. Then the final run has to come. Legs were aching and not ready for a chopped snow descent. But the shade and cool glacier air had protected stashes where we drew more S's in the snow.
We often talk of being in the Zone and looking for the Flow. The energy on that day and the intensity of La Grave focused our mind, and we truly were zonal, flowing, using every part of our body and mind to ski at our limit and experience endorphin overload.
This day truly put our backcountry layers to the test. And we were thankful to be wearing them.
Backpacks full of kit and long body working, spring powder descent created a lot of body heat and sweat. The design of the layer worked its magic, and before the next lift station, we were dry inside and maintaining our temperature.
Having a layer that drys fast is crucial to motivation and keeping fatigue on long ski days at bay. It's also handy if you are sleeping in a campervan at altitude and need a snug, dry and warm sleeping suit.