Originally published 23 December 2017
The view down the valley, Le Tour resort, France
I am an old man. Next week I turn 55. I do hope to get a lot older…but I’m not young anymore. In my younger days when I skied for a living, I dreamt of skiing in Chamonix. I was in my early 20’s, and it was a far away place across a huge ocean, where they spoke another language, and everything was different.
While I dreamed about skiing Chamonix I never really thought I’d get to do it. It was one of those dreams of youth that you think about, but you sort of let go. I got to ski in Germany last year on Zuspitze. The snow was not that great…..okay, in reality it was crap. Only a very small part of the mountain was open….but I’ll take it. Because I am an old man and thought that was as close as I would ever get….and I was so lucky to even have that chance.
This morning I stood on my skis, on a snow cornice at the edge of a trail. I looked in awe, down the valley at the town of Chamonix. It was more gorgeous than I ever imagined…….breathtakingly magnificent.
I am an old man……but I am not yet dead. Today, I shared a dream of my youth with my wife, who for thirty years has inspired me to do things I didn’t think I could. Now I share it with you.
Yes....the snow is that deep
We started out this morning in the ski rental shop. The friendly French guy that set us up yesterday was there again this morning. We followed his suggestion and walked downtown to the bus station and boarded a bus for a place called “Le Tour”. Le Tour is the last stop up the valley towards Switzerland and about a 25 minute bus ride from town.
Our lift ticket covers the buses and trains up and down the valley as well as several attractions. While skiing has never been cheap, the lift ticket here is a bargain compared to the states at around 60 bucks a day. As mentioned, it covers transportation, all the lifts, the cable car ride to the top of the tallest mountain in Europe (some people ski down with a guide but most just go to look), the train to the glacier caves, toboggan rides at one resort…….. It’s actually a really good deal.
We get off the bus and board a gondola, or a telecabine as they call them here. We go far up the mountain and disembark. The view down the valley is simply awe inspiring. We take the obligatory photos, snap on our skis and board a chair lift which goes the rest of the way to the top. These are big mountains, and the trip up is a long way.
The resorts tend to be up on the tops of the mountain. You take a lift up to it and ski all day. Sometimes you can ski down all the way to the bottom. Sometimes you can ski all the way down only if you’re really good. Sometimes you can ski all the way down only if you’re clinically insane AND really good. There are plenty of all three here…but we’re pretty rusty yet. We’ll figure things out as we go.
I take a tumble on the first run because I dug a shovel (the front part of the ski) into a deep area and it unbalanced me. I fell onto the groomed part and hit pretty hard. I may have a bruise or such but I’m okay. I dust myself off and head on down the mountain. Later in the day I feel a little stiffness on that side, but I’ll remedy that with a Meloxicam (an anti-inflammatory) when I get back to the apartment.
A nice photo of Laurie on the cable car
The snow is a little stiff, but as the sun comes up, it starts to soften up. We stop for lunch and afterwards the sun has lit the entire valley. The heat from the sun makes it actually quite pleasant. The snow conditions are simply fantastic with a huge base. Lift lines are non-existent. It is not possible for it to be any better.
We start to notice we are tired. We are at a high elevation, we don’t do physical activity this intense often and realize we should be smart about this. We ski down the back side of the mountain and ride a telecabine down the mountain to an entirely different town from the one we took the lift out of. We have coffee for me and a red wine for Laurie in a small restaurant at the train station.
We board the train, which is included in our lift ticket, and head back towards Chamonix where we are staying. We chat with several people from the U.S. on the train. One is married to a French ski guide and is babysitting two children for a vacationing family. Another is a woman from the U.S. who actually lives in Switzerland but comes here because it is so much cheaper to vacation here than in Switzerland.
We get off the train at a stop which is a short distance from our apartment. We walk to the apartment, and I tell Laurie I will walk to the ski rental place a few blocks away and retrieve our street shoes. I walk in and the friendly French guy that outfitted us is working with more visitors. He asks how it was. I know a very small amount of French and cannot do the day justice. I manage an understated one word reply to him with one of the few French words I know.
Chamonix slide show day two