The Isère and its Raging Rapids
Following the rapid descent from famed ski resort at Les Arcs (average slope of 6.1%), the peloton follows the Isère River for the next 58-kilometers. Starting at Bourg-Saint-Maurice through Notre-Dame-de-Briancon, the riders skirt through the Tarentaise Valley. Among its winter sport association, the Isère is also known for its whitewater rafting and kayaking adventures from Bourg-Saint-Maurice through Centron, a 22-kilometer trip. Over this period, the river drops 300 meters, making for excellent with Class II through Class IV rapids. The rapids at Aime are particularly well-known. Several companies offer trips down the river. Check out Reve d’Eau or Francecraft for all kinds of activities and skill levels. Even if you’re not up for getting wet, it’s always fun to watch the rafts come barreling down the river and navigate the rapids with skill and grace … or not so much.
Strolling the Cascade du Morel
Feeding into the Isère is the Morel River, although more like a little creek. In Bellecombe, the Morel is nothing to scream about, but one kilometer upstream is the tranquil and serene system of dams that over the course of another kilometer leads to the Cascade du Morel. An easy path strolls along the system of 57 stone dams that were built in the 1800s to slow the flow of the Morel into Bellecombe. The result is a slight yet steady stream that looks as if two mirrors were reflecting each other to create a seemingly never-ending path of water. Some 500 meters along the path, it begins to rise more steeply, to an overlook of the real waterfall. In total, it’s not the waterfall itself that is the destination, but the journey along the way that holds the visitor’s attention. It is a family-friendly yet quiet place to enjoy a bucolic yet essentially man-made interaction with nature. Regardless, it’s a nice place to see the Tour and still experience the essence of Alpine beauty.
A Saint for the Alps
In the heart of the village of Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves, among the hordes of skiers and snowboarders who venture through this obscure hamlet, is a unique Baroque church that is worth a stop if driving through. The Eglise Saint-Saturnin was built in 1603 and dedicated to Saint Saturnin, a Greek who became the first Bishop of Toulouse before being martyred in the 3rd century. He is honored in this part of the Alps as the protector of cattle, which historically has been a major agricultural industry in the mountains. The interior of the church is intimate, with exquisite Baroque sculptures and paintings. While the inside is small and colorful, it is the exterior that really draws one’s attention. With its unusual tin roof and often exposed rock walls, the church gives a rustic yet refined feel. This is only made more pronounced by the mortuary crowns that adorn the exterior walls to prevent the items from being covered in snow and breaking. The church offers group and individual tours to visitors looking for more explanation about this distinctive tradition.