I’d hate to be a bus driver in La Clusaz. The roads are windy and sometimes narrow. Add in snow and a few obstacles such as a broken-down truck and a police car, pictured, and the bus drivers really have their work cut out for them.
They also have to deal with customers who are annoyed that their full-day lift pass doesn’t cover their bus journey from one ski area to another. These customers, who have already held up the queue by arguing with the bus driver, have to rest their skis and poles somewhere, take off their gloves, find some money, then put their gloves back on, pick up their skis and move up the aisle. Filling a bus in La Clusaz can take some time. People with a lift pass that covers more than a day can use the buses for free, as can the holders of the French Carte d’Hote (hotel card) Why aren’t the buses just free? Most people get on for free anyway. Why not extend it to the few who have day passes or are just pedestrians?
But it gets even better. By April, most of the tourists have left and the bus timetables change. Services are reduced, and some lines are cancelled altogether. From Saint-Jean-de-Sixt, the buses that normally run twice every hour to both La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand ski resorts switch to once an hour, with a long lunch break in between. By the way, a season pass is the only type of lift pass that can be used on this bus. Those without who don’t hold a Carte d’Hote have to pay in each direction. But I digress.
I took this bus to La Clusaz a few days ago, then skied to La Balme — the highest area of the resort with the best snow. The main access via Fernuy was closed after an avalanche late last week, leaving just the slow green run to La Balme. I discovered later that day that the only way back to the village of La Clusaz was via the bus (Fernuy lift was closed and the green piste back had no snow on it). The queue for the bus was massive. Easter holiday-makers were stranded like me, and after fifteen minutes, a bus on the reduced timetable finally turned up. Yes, there’s absolutely no other way back to the main resort, and it’s Easter holidays, but La Clusaz hadn’t thought to put on any extra buses. Not everyone squeezed on the packed bus, but at least the driver didn’t insist on seeing everyone’s lift pass. By the time it made it back to the La Clusaz bus station, the bus for Saint-Jean-de-Sixt had already left, with the next one an hour away.
I learnt my lesson. Yesterday, a friend and I drove to La Balme instead, potentially saving ourselves hours in waiting for buses and feeling like sweaty sardines. We found a great car park just near the lift, and we booted up. Then we discovered the whole area was closed because of high winds. Fed up with trying to find the best snow in the resort, we took our boots off, got back in the car, swore a bit and had lunch in town instead.
The moral to this story? Go to a resort where the buses are free and often!