Le Semnoz is the mountain on the west side of Lake Annecy. It’s the highest road-bike cycling climb in the area. It made its first Tour de France appearance in 2013 as a very challenging mountain top finish – won by Nairo Quintana. (The summit is also called Crêt de Chatillon)
Here is a link to a post describing 5 mapped routes up this great mountain. (My favourite is the 5th option)
My plan was to cycle up the tough, north side, through the woods, starting from Annecy – and hopefully rent cross country skis at the summit. It was overcast down low, and I hoped to quickly get though and above the clouds, but it took me well over an hour to see the sun. I took a mountain bike but the road, while wet, was perfectly clear.
My first “bike-up, rent XC Skis” was at Col de Joux Plane last winter see here.
The views near the summit of Le Semnoz were just too good:
I didn’t know if I could get to the very top – and I certainly didn’t expect the south side to be open. But I could and it was – this is fairly new. Traditionally, the south side has been closed for months and been a Cross Country Ski trail. But good news:
At the summit is a small ski station – 18 downhill pistes. There are also 46 kilometres of cross country skiing trails (and plenty of snow-shoes trails). The cross country ski area is split into 3 areas – see here.
I wandered into the restaurant at the summit and asked if rentals were available. Yes (!) – upstairs. The summit cross country ski sector has a Red (7.5 kms), a Blue (3.5 kms) and a small Green trail. Perfect. I rented equipment, decided I didn’t need my bike helmet, and managed a shortish but nice XC ski on tired legs: a red loop and a blue loop. The views are superb. Too much fun.
After cross country ski-ing – I somehow forgot a celebration summit beer – I put my helmet and bike shoes back on and headed down the south side. It’s a long, long, way down to the lake this way. Maybe 25 kilometres (see map at bottom)? At Col de Leschaux (half way down), I was below the clouds with a frozen face and toes. So I just took the direct way from there – instead of the scenic detour via St-Eustache. At the lake, I rejoined the bike path, headed back to the start, and Bob’s my uncle.
Wow, hard work, but so much fun once I made it above the clouds. The only flaw to my bike-ski plan is how tired I felt XC skiing. 🙂
A few more pics: