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Cheese 1Skiing and vin chaud, Ant and Dec, Mountains and Cheese – all are natural partners that belong together.
The high mountains in summer provide the perfect environment to grow grass and for cattle to graze. They also produce a sufficient surplus that is harvested and stored as silage to feed the animals in winter when they have to be kept inside.
In times past, before refrigerated transport and the invention of the internal combustion engine, the milk they produced had to be converted into a stable non-perishable product soon after milking.
Hence, the plethora of mountain cheeses throughout the Alps.
Each valley has its own. Here in the Haute Tarentaise it’s Cheese 2Beaufort and Tomme. Hop over pointy mountain to Morzine and it’s Abondance.
All the mountain farmers are fiercely proud of their cheese heritage and their local cheese. Accept no others!
I dropped in to Restaurant Le Forperet, just above Montalbert where three times a week they demonstrate the cheese making process.
It’s simple enough; 100 litres of fresh milk are gently warmed to blood temperature in a copper cauldron and a natural rennet added. This causes the curds (the solids) to separate from the whey (the liquid). The mixture is then gently sliced to break the curds and gently agitated with, unless my faltering French let me down, a hand-made pine stirrer for about 20 mins. Once a certain temperature Cheese 3has been reached the whey is syphoned off leaving just the curds. These are then piled into perforated plastic tubs, inverted and left to drain. In short order, a soft plug of cheese is produced about the size of a tin of Quality Street.
The cheese is then stored to let the flavour develop as the initial soft curds are remarkably tasteless.
The longer the cheese matures, the stronger the flavour, whilst the time of year also influences the taste; Summer Beaufort (Beaufort d'été) is full of the flavours of the lush grass and alpine flowers as the cows have grazed on the spring & summer pastures, whilst Winter Beaufort (Beaufort d'hiver) has a more muted favour as the cows are indoors and fed on silage.
Cheese 4Both, however, are fabulous, so don’t forget to take a large slice home! And if you buy it locally it’s great value.

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No reservation is necessary to watch the cheese making and it takes place on Tuesday @ 3pm, Thursday & Saturday @ 10.30am. It’s also free of charge. Any morning visit would be an easy ski from Les Coches or La Plagne – just head for Montalbert and Restaurant Le Forperet is adjacent to the du Gentil piste.
The restaurant is fabulously situated on a sunny slope complete with magnificent views of the mountains – so why not stop for coffee or lunch?

Monsieur Mogul

 

Monsieur Mogul – Our man in La Plagne

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author

alone and not those of Ice and Fire Ski and Snowboard Holidays

 

AlbanMy host during my time with SAP was Alban Martinod.

Alban is a nationally recognised 12 year pisteur veteran who started young, riding shotgun in the cab with his father who was a pisteur. Dad is now Head of Operations for the snow grooming section of SAP.

October saw Alban in Stelvio in Italy, constructing the Ski-X course for the French national team to sharpen their skills, prior to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. March will see him in Megève, working on the Freestyle - Mogul and Skicross Skiing World Cup course prior to the final being held there that month.

Back in La Plagne, Alban completes regular piste grooming activity, but also has special responsibility for building the kickers, rails and other items in the snow park. He and a small team also build, maintain and improve the Funslope that runs below the Arpette chairlift. This is hugely popular with all ages, skiers and boards alike and is great to watch whilst on the long Arpette lift.

The tool he uses to do all this work is a super modern specialist Prinoth Bison X CAT. The bug-eyed cab has every comfort and affords a full 360 view of the piste. It’s all fly-by-wire. The left hand regulates the speed and movement of the tracks, whist the joy stick control in the right hand controls everything else. The nearby screen displays everything you need to know, and indeed, some things you never knew you needed to know! Think Playstation. A 250,000 Euro Playstation.

The CAT is special because the front and rear shovels can move through a full 90 degrees to vertical, enabling Alban to mound snow and to shape it to the desired profile. During the season the pisteurs spend time in each other’s cabs to share best practice and improve skills.

Whilst out on the mountain the pisteur often glimpses the wild life. Deer, hares, rabbits and chamois are all common, thought most recently a wolf was spotted at Bellecote having been recently reintroduced to the mountains.

You can tell Alban loves his job by how passionately he talks about it. He loves working close to where he was born, the solitude of working alone and the satisfaction of building the snow park and being part of a team delivering perfect pistes for 9am.

I didn’t catch him polishing his CAT – but it was way too shinny for him not to have a spray gun of Autoglym somewhere.

As a skier I have always had a healthy respect for the pisteurs; having seen what they do and the seriousness with which they undertake their tasks, it’s just got stronger.

My thanks to SAP and Alban for their time, hospitality and showing me around.

Monsieur Mogul

 

Monsieur Mogul – Our man in La Plagne

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author

alone and not those of Ice and Fire Ski and Snowboard Holidays

 

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