New Moon News, Skiing/Rollerskiing

Tour de France…on skis!

Following the Tour de France this July brings back fond memories of the first Lumi Experiences trip to France last winter. Particularly the Tour’s 8th stage from Dole to the Olympic Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, which rolled right through the village of Les Rousse, where we stay for the Transjurassienne Worldloppet Ski Marathon trip in February. In fact, the route goes right past our hotel and, for about 10 km, the Tour de France and Transju’ Worldloppet courses run parallel to each other.

Skiing through the French countryside.
Skiing through the French countryside.

There are many parallels between the Tour de France and the Lumi France trip – a Tour de France for skiers, complete with multiple stages, stunning countryside, impeccable trails, cultural immersion and haute cuisine.

The Tour de France often starts in a different country. This year’s tour spent several days in Denmark before heading south into France. Guests on the Lumi trip fly into Geneva, Switzerland. Sure, you can arrive the day the trip starts and get whisked north to our Nordic paradise in the Jura mountains. But most of our travelers arrive a couple of days early to recover from jetlag and explore the Swiss lakeside city of Geneva. The site of the European United Nations headquarters, Geneva, is an international capital and home to the Red Cross and United Nations museums – where both of these organizations were founded. A special highlight in winter is the Bains des Pâquis: an outdoor spa on Lake Geneva, where you can take a hot sauna then go for a dip in the scenic lake.

Lake Geneva in winter with the iconic Jet d'Eau from the Bains des Paquis spa
Lake Geneva in winter with the iconic Jet d’Eau from the Bains des Paquis spa (Geneva Tourism).

From Geneva, France’s prominent Nordic ski regions are both within about 90 minutes: the Alps to the south and the Jura to the north. Like the Tour de France, our trip visited both.

Skiing with views from Les Saisies in the French Alps.
The views from Les Saisies in the French Alps.

Albertville was the site of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games and nearby Les Saisies was the cross country ski venue, located on a plateau high in the mountains. At around 1,600 m above sea level, this mile-high village offers excellent snow conditions on its 120 km trail network. We offered an optional pre-trip extension for our France guests last year to spend 4 days skiing in Les Saisies before the main trip started.

Olympic-quality chocolate.

One of the highlights was a visit to a small chocolate factory, where guests learned how chocolate is produced, then got to get their hands chocolaty as they made their own. As the trip coincided with the start of the 2022 Olympics – 30th anniversary of when Les Saisies hosted the Olympics, the chocolate shop produced a series of special edition treats. Yum!

Making chocolate in Les Saisies.
Above: Olympic-quality chocolate; below: making chocolate in Les Saisies.

If you’re watching this year’s Tour de France, stages 10, finishing in Megeve and 11, starting in Albertville, take riders along many of the same roads that our coach bus took guests from Les Saisies back north up to Les Rousse, in France’s Jura mountain range.

Geologically speaking, the Jura are considered “pre-Alps.” The mountains in the Jura region are much lower and more rolling than the steep, jagged peaks of the Alps. The trails offer something for everyone, with flat trails in the valleys and rolling trails in the hills. 

Crust skiing in the Jura Region of France.
Ideal crust cruising conditions.

Similar to the Tour de France, the ski trip includes stages of skiing throughout the week. Many days are loops of concentric circles, so travelers can choose to ski a smaller or bigger loop, depending on how much they want to ski. Other days are point-to-point with bus pick-ups available if people want to ski less than the full distance. Each day we ski a different trail network, so we get to experience different areas.

Sunshine and perfect corduroy Nordic skiing in France.
Sunshine and perfect corduroy.

Similar to the team managers in the Tour de France, the Lumi trip leaders take care of all of the logistics on the tour. As French speakers, they are our connection to the local culture. Unlike Austria, Switzerland and Italy where you can walk into a trailside hut at any time and order a quick bite or drink, the trailside huts in France follow a very strict schedule. Reservations are required and a full menu is served. Lumi trip leaders make reservations at their favorite huts, so a warm meal is waiting when we arrive.

Lumi trip leader Annette skis in her yellow jersey.
Lumi trip leader Annette sporting her yellow jersey.

Our two leaders are experts in the region. Annette is the former race director of the Transju’ ski marathon and she knows pretty much everything and everyone in the region. Imagine having Ben Popp lead you around the Birkie trails and all the history you’d learn and people you’d meet throughout the week. Adele is a bike tour leader in the summer and pilates instructor. Her morning stretching clinics helped everyone get ready for the day and her sense of humor kept everyone laughing throughout the week.

The trip finishes with the Transju’ Worldloppet ski marathon. Similar to the Birkie, there are distance options for everyone, from a 20 km classical “experience” event to the 68 km freestyle main event. Two days of events help spread everyone out and keep a low-key feel for the Transju’. I chose to ski the 50 km freestyle, which also earns a Worldloppet Gold passport stamp, without having to ski a full 68 km.

Skiing the Transju’ race course.
Skiing the Transju’ race course.

The course connects many of the different trail networks we skied on throughout the week. It was a fun way to get an overview and appreciation for everywhere we’d been. Some of my favorite Worldloppet events are the ones that go through towns and bring out lots of spectators, like skiing down Main Street in Hayward or through Italian villages in the Marcialonga. The Transju’ does just that and the race organizers bring snow onto the streets of Les Rousses.

The Tour de France is known for its mountain climbs lined with spectators. In the Transju’, the Queen and King of the Mountain points are awarded at the top of Optician’s Climb, which draws huge crowds – this climb is definitely a spectacle!

Finding friends at the end of the Transju.
Finding friends at the finish is always a highlight.

Of course, finishing a ski marathon calls for celebration! During their laps around the Arc de Triomphe and along the Champs-Élysées, Tour de France finishers are known to raise a glass of champagne while riding their bikes. After the Transju’, Adele and Annette met Lumi finishers with wine and Panaché. No, not “panache” in the English sense of the word, though they certainly have style. Panaché is a drink similar to the Radler, which is a combination of lemonade and beer and means “cyclist” in German. Panaché is the French equivalent and a refreshing way to rehydrate after a ski marathon. Santé!

Party at the end of the trail during the Transju.
Keep the party going!

If watching Le Tour this month inspires a trip to France, we still have limited space available on the Lumi Experiences France Transju’ trip this winter. Book by July 31 and save $200/person during our Tour de France sale. We would love to host you on your trip to France this winter!

See you on the trail,

Garrott Kuzzy