Hanging out .....at 12605 feet above sea level
We woke this morning and eventually dragged out of bed. We skied quite hard yesterday and were not as ambitious this morning. We did, however, struggle out of bed and get ready for our next day on the mountains. The Meloxicam (anti-inflammatory) I took yesterday did its job and I was able function. We had breakfast, I put the brace on my knee, we dressed and headed out.
We have a bus stop about 1 ½ blocks from the apartment. Walking in ski boots is never fun so the closer the better. We walked down, boarded a city bus (covered by our lift ticket) and headed down the valley this time to a ski area called Les Houches. The fog had lifted and our AirBNB host told us we should try Les Houches. He said the trails run through the woods and are quite pretty.
We arrived and the area is more of a family ski area than others. Chamonix is the “extreme skiing capital of the world”, so a lot of the areas are too difficult for families. We’re old and creaky so we should fit right in. We boarded a telecabin (gondola) and headed to the top.
The views from the top were of course gorgeous. We went maybe 100 yards to board another lift further up the mountain. It turns out it was the bunny slope lift and is heavily used by the ski school. An instructor asked if we would mind riding up with a child and we said we would be happy to.
The view from our table at lunch
The kids don’t really need help with the getting on and off of the lift part….they’re pretty good at that. They are too short at 5 or 6 years old to raise the bar so they can get out of the chair. I rode with a little French girl who yelled at a family below on the slopes and waved furiously. I asked her “mama? Papa?” She replied “oui, oui!” and said a bunch of other things in French. I smiled and nodded obliviously due to my lack of French as she furiously waved at her parents and sister.
Laurie drew a little boy and she spoke to him in French. He looked at her oddly and she asked him in French if he spoke English. At this point he lit up and told her he was from Russia and spoke English and Russian, but no French. They chatted on the way up and he told her (using a pinching motion with his index finger and thump) that he was “this close to being six!”
At the top we raised the bar and our ski school charges skied off to join their class. We began skiing off the back side of the mountain through wooded terrain with the “normal” fantastically gorgeous scenery for here. The snow continued to be amazing, the skiing fantastic, and the temperature was rising to the “downright pleasant” range. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The ski area is quite cool as the slopes are scattered with little restaurants in the woods and along the slopes. We saw one and heard live music so we decided to stop for lunch. A jazz/swing trio was playing and having a great time at it. It was led by a woman who was, at the time, playing a tenor sax.
Two years ago, we saw a similar band at the Christmas Market, about 200 miles away in Montreaux, Switzerland. They too were very talented. I looked at the woman playing the sax and the guy playing the banjo and said to myself…”no……it can’t be.” I spoke to the woman between songs and on the side of a mountain, at a tiny slopeside restaurant in France…..we ran into the same band!
We keep running into these guys!
The band members were as amazed as we were, especially when I showed them a photo I took in Montreaux of them. We chatted a while, and had a great lunch of alpine food. I had tartiflette, which is basically potatoes, cheese, onions, and bacon, all cooked together. Laurie had a garlic bread with cheese and ham combination. It was a wonderful lunch with great entertainment and a fantastic view.
We skied a bit further down the mountain and were nearly to the bottom. We had decided to make a short day and do one of the big attractions in the area. We stopped to look at the view again and I told Laurie that the gang at work chips in for lotto tickets every week. I also told her that if we won…..THAT would be my house. The pic of it is above and I could get quite used to living in that place.
We arrive at the bottom, board our bus and head back to the apartment. We arrive, shed our ski stuff and head downtown. Our ski pass covers one ride on the cable car up the Aguille du Midi. It is a mountain very close to Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe and the tallest cable car ascent in the world. The top of Aguille du Midi is around 12,600 feet. Mont Blanc is another 1000 METERS taller. It’s UP there.
We were walking towards the cable car and ran into a kid from India in town who asked if we spoke English. We told him yes and he held up a brochure and asked us if we knew where something he wanted to see was. It was the Aguille du Midi and we told him to follow us as we’re headed there right now. He tucked in behind and we all went up the cable car together.
The kid was a student, studying in Germany for a PhD in chemistry. We chatted a bit more on the way up. He headed off with his friends when the cable car got to the top. We did learn that while our ski pass covered our trip, most of the people riding up were not skiers but foreign tourist who actually bought their tickets. We also found out that they paid 62 euros for their trip (around $74). That was a bit of a shock.
Eye to eye with a helecopter tour
The altitude affected me a little and while I did fine, I went slow for a while. We wandered around, climbed steps, took amazing photos, and watched a helicopter tour BELOW us. They eventually came up and hovered just a short distance from where we were standing. We could see the people in the helicopter waving at us and we waved back.
We headed down to the ice cave. It is exactly that, a cave carved out of glacial ice that leads out to a point on the mountain. I had seen videos of this but wanted to see it in person. When you exit the cave, there is a gate, leading out onto a razorback ridge. You can just walk right out on it.
It’s there because people hike a short way and actually ski down the glacier all the way to town! You have to have special equipment, including these huge spikes for your boots called “crampons”. It is not recommended to ski this unless you are both an expert skier and have a local guide to lead you. The guide will have the equipment you will need for the dangerous hike, and knows the way down the mountain.
It’s important to have a guide. Just like in the movies, you can fall into a crevasse and DIE! Or you can get killed by a dozen other things short of a Yeti. Lots of people do it as we found out today when 3 people geared up and skied down. It was cool to witness in person though I have seen videos of it. Maybe someday…..but I’d have to do some heavy physical training first. Laurie was quite clear when she said she would NEVER do it. I probably wouldn’t…..but you never know.
Our new UK friends, at The Monkey Bar
We headed back and got on the cable car back to town. When we got there we headed for a very famous ski bar here called “Monkey Bar”, planning on having coffee. It was close to dinner time so we had dinner and a drink instead. Laurie struck up a conversation with another couple near us who were from the UK and were a riot! We had a great time hanging out with them!
I had three drinks with Russ and Anne Marie, our new British friends. This is three drinks more than I normally have. As I am known to do, I cut myself off. We’re skiing tomorrow, I’m writing tonight…..more drinks would have made all of those things much harder for me. I’m a cheap date with a three drink maximum.We made some loose plans to get together with them tomorrow as we are all skiing a place called Brevant. More fun will ensue.
It’s been an epic Christmas Eve. Skiing, going up huge mountains, meeting new friends. That’s a pretty good day.
Goodnight Everyone. I hope your holiday is as fantastic as ours has been so far.
Chamonix slide show, day three