Does anyone remember the arcade game where you stood on skis? I loved that game, and one of the interesting tracks in the game goes through a cave. Ever since playing the game I have wanted to experience skiing underground. This week I was visiting Alpe d'Huez, France, and my wish was fulfilled. The "Le Tunnel" slope begins with a 200 meter tunnel through the mountain. And then continues as the most difficult black run the ski area has to offer.
The experience was interesting, albeit not quite like in the game. The tunnel is very narrow, and has only a 3% downgrade. So there was no high-speed skiing. More like pushing myself through. The tunnel is at an altitude of 3000 meters.
|A ski-through cave
|Climbing down a small ice fall
And if you are wondering about the skis and clothes, we skied this route a long time ago -- somewhere in the end of the 1990s.
|Exit from the Village ski run at Alp d'Huez
Also, Alpe d'Huez sports another oddity: a chairlift that runs under an airport runway. The altiport (IATA code AHZ) has one downward-sloping runway that ends in a concrete block through which the ski lift goes. By the time the planes reach the end of the concrete block, they better be in the air!
But more about this airport in my next blog entry...
|The end of the runway
|Inside the concrete block and under the runway
All in all, there's surprisingly small amount of underground skiing. I even asked Steve Duncan, an urban historian and underground explorer for hints. He didn't have any.
Is this really all underground skiing there is on this planet? Please tell me it is not so!
And while you ponder that question, maybe some of you will enjoy a video of Steve's explorations. It is off-topic for my blog, but I'd say that this is as close to the definition of ill-advised adventuring as you can get. Not to mention illegal and suicidal. But it is an amazing video, check it out:
Photo and video credits (c) 1998-2013 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth. The Chourum de la Parza video by Simon Christy and Steve's video by Andrew Wonder.