Wondering what else the Haute Maurienne valley has (in addition to wonderful Bessans) for a longer holiday, Sharon + I tried some of the most promising other places there. (Some website said these other places could be reached by shuttle bus from Bessans).
Sardieres is around 1500-1600 meters altitude. Its trail network is named "Monolithe" because of a rock tower near one of the trails. Its trails are high enough to hold snow -- the problem is that many of its trails face south. So we found that the surface had turned very icy (this year) -- and appropriately the trails were marked as Closed. But I tried some of the closed trails anyway . . .
the loop that goes up to the Monolithe. The climb up was pretty interesting (total vertical difference about 130 meters (perhaps about 180 vertical meters of total climbing includinng interesting ups + downs + curves).
The upper downhill part was much less interesting, just a road -- but with nice views out across the valley to the snowy slopes + peaks on the other side. I think maybe the road continues down to Aussois (lift-served downhill ski station). The lower section of the descent back to Sardieres was more interesting, tho not as much as the uphill climb - (so perhaps an overall more interesting tour might just descent the wrong way back down the uphill climb section).
There were also some shorter trails on the other side, but not enough were open for me to assess how interesting or fun they are.
Initial assessment: Worth a visit in good snow conditions if staying multiple days in Bessans and enjoy hilly trails.
Bramans is near Sardieres but closer to the main road. The low trails are around 1230 meters altitude (not holding enough snow in this bad winter, though higher than most of the Jura), so we could not sample them this time.
Instead we tried to drive up to le Planay, which has a 10 km loop and a 6 km trail at around 1700 meters altitude. But we found that the road is closed to normal vehicle traffic in winter, so we couldn't drive up there. Next we tried at the tourist office, and found out there's a free shuttle bus (navette), authorized to drive up that road to le Cernay at the departure of the ski trails. But the bus didn't run on Monday. So we didn't get to try those trails either.
(so instead we drove up to Bessans and had a great time.)
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