I hear some French sentences blurting out on the satellite phone, then I hear the snapping sound of the spring brake being pulled away. Before I realize what just happened, I am sliding down from the top of this 3230mts mountain in the French alps. The wind picks up immediately and I can feel the gust rub against my cheeks. My feet dangle off the 1000mts void that separated me harnessed to the steel cable and the void below. I could spot skiers in orange and blue jackets going down the snowy valley that I am roaring past. An exhilaration that lasted for over a minute comes to a grinding halt at the other end of the cable. I just survived the highest zipline in the world and with it the extreme chill that comes as a bonus at this height.
La Tyrolienne in the heart of french alps is a zipline that runs from the top of Orelle to Val thrones at 300mts and zipliners can gain speeds of over 100kmph. While we have ziplined over the wild forests of Mexico, we never imagined a zipline to run at this height and we certainly didn’t expect we would partake in this activity when we started off on our ski trip to the les 3 vallees(three valleys) area this season. In fact we would have never spotted the zipline station from its hideous location over a small snow slope just at the end of the Bouchet chairlift. It was at the lunch table when one of the skiers from Britain gave an account of his experience from his run up the zipline we found out about it. So you get an idea how underrated this activity in 3vallees is.
We didn’t have enough time after our languid lunch to make the run up to the top of Orelle as we were based in Meribel which was couple hours away on skis. But we were determined to come back and got an early start the next day. We got off with our spirits in full high, took the skis off and made the few meters uphill walk to the zipline station. It was surprisingly empty except for the lady at the other side of the window of a tiny wooden hut. We find out from her that the heavy winds forced the zipline to be closed. She had no estimate when it would open or if it would run that day at all. Seeing our shrinking faces she suggests that we try again later in the day.
We made our second trip up to the top of Bouchet chairlift. and this time the elements were in our favor. We see a skier hooked up to the zipline with his skis strapped on the back ready to take off. A screeching sound of the cable followed by a loud scream and he was off our sight in few seconds. We make our way to the deck and wait for a go message on the radio from the other end. Praveen was the first to try out, I watch him as he glides down and disappears into the white on the other side. A huge valley now separates me and the other end of the zipline while towering mountains covered in thick snow fringe the horizon. Even with the whirring wind I can hear my heart beat heavily.
With cold feet and a deceiving smile I say “bonjour” to the guy who kits me with a harness, straps my skis on the back, checks all the safety gear before letting out a “you ready?” Despite all the fears running in my head I mutter a “oui” and I am off. I glide past the deep gully and over the snow field below, I get an unobstructed view of the alps in every direction I see. For a minute I played silly and imagined myself flying over the mountains. I arrive at the other end with a huge smile and to the doting face of Praveen. I let out a sigh of relief for making it out unscathed the most unique winter only ziplines I have ever tackled. An exhilarating ride together with the stunning views and we must say this is a not to miss experience in the French alps.
- Tickets can be purchased at the zipline station itself (no online booking possible), they cost 50Eur per person
- Weather drives the show here. To avoid disappointments make the way up on your first day in 3 vallees itself, so you can retry on subsequent days if weather plays foul
- Access to the chairlift is possible only by skis/snowboard (blue slope) or you will have to find a snowmobile to take you to the start of the chairlift.
- If you are in the ski resort for the first time we must say that getting on and off a chairlift isn’t as simple as from a gondola, be warned 😉
- Dress for chilly winds, extreme cold; bring along a balaclava and gloves. Don’t forget the sunscreen, the Sun can get really harsh at this height, even in winters.
- The Tyrollenian zipline is in the Val thorens/Orelle ski area and if you aren’t based out of Val thorens and are on skis or snowboard allow ample time to make it to the starting point of the zipline.